Meandering around Machala on the Way to Piura
It was time to go, that feeling when the road stretches out in front of you and the suitcases are itching to explore new territory. Darwin thought I would change my mind, as I had extended my time in Loja by a week. This decision, however, was a done deal.
About six hours after I got on the 10:30 bus I arrived in Machala. It is a small desert town about 75 km from the border with Peru. Then it is another 308 km — which takes about five hours — to get to Piura.
The oldest city in South America may be my initial stop, but actually staying in a wind-swept desert town may not appeal in reality. Maureen – a migrant from the USA who became in immigrant in Cusco – suggests Arequipa.
Landing in town
Staying in a private house has led to some of my best and worst experiences of travelling. The worst was when I ended up getting altitude sickness in La Paz. At 3,640m it is the highest capital city in the world. The booking turned out to be in a crumbling compound in the middle of the city. The mother had died, and the daughter was staying with relatives as she sorted out the estate.
When the reaction to the altitude hit me in the back of the head at 02:05 there was nothing to do but wait it out. I didn’t have a phone or the Internet and there wasn’t anyone else in the enclave. And there was no way I was going to try to find a taxi to take me to emergency. Uncomfortable with the classic symptoms, but not fatal.
In Machala, it turned out to be the best. Cecilla and Efrain and their two adult daughters live in a three-story house. It is a quiet residential area without a tourist in sight. There are lots of small shops with the essentials a block and a half away. Bliss.
My bedroom is on the third floor and my new office is the balcony, complete with a hammock for naps.
Exploring the town
Machala – like all Spanish-founded settlements – starts at the central square and sprawls outwards.
The services I want – like getting a copy of The Little Prince in Spanish loaded onto my phone – are found there. Those Canada flag pins come in ever so handy for occasions when people offer a service without expecting payment.
On the edge of the city, there are a couple of malls where people go “shopping.” Ick. Why would I want to go there as it could be anywhere? Carol and I have our annual one-day shopping binge in Saskatoon and that is enough for this reluctant consumer.
Check some better photos of Machala lifted from the Internet
Cecilla invited me to a cumpleanos party last week. Numbers are difficult to learn in a new language, so I thought it was for a three-year old. Okay, so we all know I hate kids, but an invitation is an invitation and an opportunity to mix and mingle with the locals.
As it turns out, Senora Conchita had just turned 93. Well, at least I got half of it right.
There were at least two additional spin-offs from the birthday party. Maria – the senora’s daughter – looks after her mother 24/7. She is a great cook and offers a lunch delivery service. I’d had one of her meals before we met and decided to sign up as it is a bargain. There is enough food for both lunch and dinner for $2.50. Even if I could cook, I couldn’t prepare such tasty meals for the price.
Instead of Maria packing the lunch in containers that have to be washed and returned, Cecila suggested that I eat in-house. Perfect. It a three-minute stroll and I think of it as my very-own private restaurant, pretentious little thing that I am.
Maria agreed to help me with my Spanish on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. She is a brave teacher as having the structure inspires me to be more focused. And not being around anyone who speaks any English pushes me to really live the language. And if/when I get hopelessly stuck, there is always Google Translate.
Visiting the Bosque Fruta
Cecilla and Efrain invited me to go their finca – which translates as “farm” – with them last Friday. It is about an hour from Machala and the last couple of kilometers are a proverbial goat trail.
The house — that is set on about 2.5 hectares of forest — is charming and basic. No Internet and a true get-away in every sense of the word.
Bosque means “forest” and it is an apt description. In the course of the last eight or so years, they have planted over 1,000 fruit trees. The varieties include lemons, mangos, kumquat, tomate de arbol, papas de aire, guayabera, bananas, and others I can’t name – or likely pronounce properly.
Rather than planting the trees in a straight-line orchard, they are scattered throughout the bush in random order.
Efrain took me on a machete tour as there aren’t many established paths. He hacked off a couple of branches and asked if I wanted to try some guayabera. Delish. And it doesn’t get any fresher. No question about organic as this area has never sniffed a pesticide.
You can literally eat your way across the property.
The contacts in Loja are alive. Agosto’s parents send me frequent updates and photos. He hounds then everyday about when I am returning.
Darwin and I talk on the phone frequently in English. Remi sends me messages to make sure I am okay. So close, so far, so real.
To wrap it all up, nada mal por una mujer quien ha sido en la ciudad por una semana. That translates as “not bad for a woman who has been in town for a week.”
What adventures await?
More photos of Bosque Fruta