Published on December 2nd, 20146
Turning Lemons Into Lemonade in Paute
Though I strive to ever dwell on the positive (I avidly believe it’s a c.h.o.i.c.e.), alas some adventures don’t always turn out to be chock-full of fun and frivolity. Indeed, every so often, life tosses you a lemon or two just to ensure you don’t go flying off into Rainbows-and-Unicorns-Land permanently. This is the tale of one of those lemon tosses.
A simple little trip to the nearby town of Paute – less than an hour’s bus ride from Cuenca. As I’ve been pretty much a (happy) recluse here in El Centro for months now, a newly-minted gringa chum (that I’d only recently met briefly) invited me to her place in Paute, so I thought sure, why not? She wanted me to stay the weekend, but I (prudently, given our short acquaintance) begged off from a full weekend and agreed to but a single overnight.
She’d come into Cuenca for some errands, and the plan was to take the evening bus back to her place in Paute. The foray started pleasantly enough, with a rendezvous at my place and a short chat about each other’s travels, visa dilemmas, etc. and by 6 pm-ish we hopped into a taxi and headed to the bus station. Settled into the taxi and exchanging the usual string of “Cómo estás” with the driver, we sped over the cobbled streets when suddenly…
A motorbike (traveling seemingly at the speed of light) T-boned us head-on into the side of the taxi as we crossed an intersection!
Seriously swerving from the impact, our taxi fish-tailed wildly, but blessedly came to a stop before crashing into the tiendas lining the street. Our taxi driver jumped out and I opened my door (my chum’s door on the other side wouldn’t open as it had suffered the main impact) and stepped out to see the (nervously expected) carnage of the poor motorbike driver. I fully expected the worst: a lifeless body sprawled inertly amid a cluster of broken glass and metal.
Whew! He was moving! Up on all fours at least, as witnesses rushed to his aid. To our driver’s credit, he checked that the poor lad was alive at least, exchanged animated rapid-fire Spanish with witnesses, and then… abruptly jumped back into our taxi and sped away from the scene. Indeed, it is common knowledge that here in Ecuador – no matter the circumstances – traffic accidents are viewed by authorities as “guilty until proven innocent” – including the passengers!
Thus our driver, understandably shaken – proceeded to high-tail it madly across town. Indeed, so recklessly in fact, and I was certain that we’d enjoy yet another crash before reaching the bus station. Needless to say, all 3 of us were on edge, and the driver finally stopped – not at the bus station, but rather miles away at (apparently) his own home. Gingerly stepping out of the taxi, it was clear that my new chum and I would have to now find our own way/another cab to get us to the bus station.
Suffice eventually (after much wandering and repeated unsuccessful taxi hailing) we did. Though… not without a curious turn in the ambient temperature between me and my new chum.
Not sure why really, but suddenly most anything I said was met with lightly veiled hostility. The stress of the accident, perhaps? The frustrating wander to find the bus station? Dunno, but suffice the rapport between me and my companion headed swiftly downhill from there. Indeed, though I generally prefer to dwell only on the positive (did I mention: it’s a CHOICE), in this case, upon arrival after dark at her place, the hostility had become so unbearable that I had no choice but to save both of us from further grief and… calmly headed out into the night in search of a less lemony place to lay my head.
And thus the truly LEMONADE portion of this tale begins!
Seriously, not my druthers to find myself suddenly in a strange town in the dark, not knowing where I am, nor where the town center might be. Indeed, not knowing anyone, nor even IF there was a hotel of any sort (Paute is quite a bitty berg: pop. ~ 20,000). I might have taken a bus back to Cuenca (apparently, though I wasn’t sure – they run fairly frequently, though likely not after a certain hour). But suffice that after coming this far, I wasn’t about to let some bizarre turn of events keep me from at least exploring Paute in the morning.
Thus I stumbled with my small rucksack out to a main street, and politely explained my dilemma (in my best Spanish) to the hotdog vendor there. “Necesito un lugar para dormir” says I (I need a place to sleep). And ever so endearingly all the lovely Paute locals in the vicinity quickly jumped to my aid. Indeed, not only did they point me to a hotel, but one trucker lad offered to drive me to it! And while some might fret over jumping in a truck in the dark of night with a stranger, my (considerable) experience with such circumstances (i.e. trusting in the kindness of strangers all over the globe), I had no doubt that I would (and was) delivered safely to a most economical ($15) hotel in swift order. The lad even pointed out a good restaurant for breakfast along the way, and made sure the hotel had a vacancy before he deposited me safely on their doorstep.
So instead of getting to know a new gringa chum and helping her with her new website, I spent my evening cozily in a hotel reading my Kindle and munching on the leftover pumpkin pie I’d toted along to share with my new (now, not so friendly) chum. And in the morning, I had a lovely breakfast at a nearby cafe, and wandered the streets of Paute snapping photos and shopping for bitty purple Christmas lights and bulbs for my little Christmas tree back home in Cuenca. I met lots of lovely Paute locals and easily caught the bus (.35 – half price thanks to my tercera edad) back to Cuenca.
Thus what started out as an ominously gloomy (twin) turn of events – ended up a most pleasant little adventure. A true “Lemons to Lemonade” encounter here in my new Ecuadorian home, as evidenced by the many photos I snapped of a pretty little town (though not nearly as charming as Cuenca) and its many kind people.