Meandering around Machala on the Way to Piura

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.

Map of southern Ecuador and northern Peru.

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.

The house
Cecilla with her plants on the third floor balcony.


Efrain in the kitchen.








My bedroom is on the third floor and my new office is the balcony, complete with a hammock for naps.

My cute little bedroom.
A spectacular office









The hammock in the office.












Exploring the town

Machala – like all Spanish-founded settlements – starts at the central square and sprawls outwards. 

City centre


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

Birthday partying

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.

J and Senora Conchita

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 — private restaurant and Spanish teacher.

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.

The hacienda at the finca.

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.

Agosto playing the gorilla at a school event.

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

The garden in front of the house
Looking out over the forest








Event space
Wooden table at the finca.








Another shot of the garden


Part of the water purification system.
Out in the forest

Was That a Sign From the Universe? Possibly

Since I was still awake at midnight-ish I checked my phone when it beeped. This is something I usually don’t bother doing as most of the notices are about “special offers” from the phone company that I won’t want to miss.

This one was different.

Date: Thu, Nov 01, 2018 10:01 pm
To: <>
Cc: “Votey” <>
Dear Jody

Warmest Regards from TNTO Travel and Tours!

Apologize for our company not accept payment through MASTER CARD .

We accept payment by cash or transfer through any Bank in Cambodia .

Thank you very much for your well cooperation.

Should you need any  inquiries please feel free to contact us.


Last week, I booked a ticket to Colombo, Sri Lanka for 9 November as I am feeling restless again. Why not move back to Asia? Different country, different continent, they are about the same, really. I need to be done and dusted with Ecuador by 22 December.

J – making plans

Sri Lanka was ideal as I’ve never been there and it would be country number 108. The only person I know from Colombo is Anosha and she now lives in Singapore, but visits regularly. And I don’t speak Tamil. Neither am I likely to learn as I am still stumbling around in Spanish.

When I read the above message, I had a sudden flash that it was a puff of ju-ju smoke, an Insha’Allah, and a slice of karma.

The message – as I interpreted it – was that the universe wanted to keep me wrapped in its arms in South America.

Consequently, it is back to Plan A to go to Piura, Peru when my tourist visa expires in 47 days.


Moving to Peru

Piura – founded in 1532 – is the oldest city in South America. Just across the border, it is dry windswept desert to the north and the Pacific ocean to the west. It is billed as the “land of eternal summer” which translates as the temperature hovering around 30C all year.

After the cold and chills of Loja it will be wonderful to thaw. And according to the tourist literature, the city centre can be explored in a day.

There is work teaching English in Piura, but I think I’d rather work on-line. As I see it, teaching English on the net is the new waitressing job. Everyone thinks they can do it – wrong – and there is a high turnover

Lingering in Loja

I gave up my apartment on 27 October and had booked into El Cardenal for two days. Darwin and Nathan, his three-year old son, helped me move.

J and Darwin

As I really like it here, I decided to stay for a week before moving on to Manchala, a coastal city close to the border with Peru.

I’m still here and working on a website for the hotel with Remi. Not sure how much longer it will be, but I’d like to stick around until the site is operational.


J, Senora Christina, Remi at El Cardenal Hotel

Leaving Ecuador

When it is time to hop on the bus, there are some wonderful people I will miss here.

Besides Darwin and the Méndez family at El Cardinal, Agusto has carved an engraved place in my heart. I gave him the tablet as a parting gift. I’ve seen him since I moved to the hotel and he doesn’t really understand that I’ll be “gone.” We are just going to leave it at that.

Agusto with his tablet
Agusto and J









Another person I’ve become very fond of is Jose Luis, a bag-packer at the Supermaxi store.

Hey, when was the last time you got an ear-to-ear smile, a handshake, and a kiss on the cheek when you went to get groceries?





Making plans – subject to change

Logically – not that anyone has accused me of that lately – it makes sense to go and live in Peru for 183 days. By then it will be warm enough to head to Canada in June.

Sri Lanka is still on the possibilities map. And the more I check it out, the more I think it would be a good move for July 2019.

Such is the life of we visa-bound nomads who can’t settle long enough to become immigrants.



Featured image courtesy of FelixMittermeir at CCO