July 3, 2016
Whenever someone asks JC and I which part of our trip was the scariest, I always go back to the night we hitchhiked from Manta (Ecuador) to our home base in Puerto Cayo. We haven’t told this story to anyone aside from a few friends and JC’s mom and that’s even weeks after it happened.
Some people tend to brush off experiences they’ve never had as foolish or uninteresting no matter how frightening or amazing it was for whomever experienced it. I felt that only JC will understand the extent of fear I had that night, and no one, other than people who’ve had similar experience, would.
But first, day trip in Manta.
To The Beach
On our third (and last) weekend off from our work exchange in Puerto Cayo, we decided to head north to Manta. Compared to Montañita, Manta is massive. It has an international airport and is home to the country’s largest seaport, tuna fishing being the main industry.
Before heading to the beach, we stopped by a local market. We bought blackberries and strawberries ($1), a quarter of a squash (50c), and some potatoes (50c) to take home. I asked some vendors how we could get to Playa Mucierlago and they directed us to take the blue buses.Playa Mucierlago turns out to be very popular as loads of passengers also went down the bus after we did.
The beach was crowded with locals trying to cool themselves under the insane July heat wave. Playa Mucierlago is one of those beaches with wide coast, so wide that anyone can practically swim on their own spaces without bumping into another swimmer should they choose to. Or kitesurf in peace.
We did not stay for long, in fact, at 3:30 pm, was on our way out of the beach to the ovalo (roundabout). Although the traffic is good in that spot we didn’t have much luck in finding a lift so we continued walking, past empty fields, towards the main highway. Surprising we covered approximately 4 kms to get to our waiting spot.
Hitchhiking from Manta to Puerto Cayo
E15 is the quickest route from Manta to Puerto Cayo covering a distance of roughly 72 kms. Not too far that we reckoned we wouldn’t have a hard time finding a lift getting back.
We waited an hour in the middle of highway (below photo) before our first car stopped. An honest man who told us he’s just a five-minute drive away, we took it anyway. I mean, he still stopped for us and it was better than staying in the middle of the highway.
We had a great view of the ocean and a sun that was about to set where the honest man dropped us (below photo). It would be dark soon, we needed to get a lift PRONTO. The road between Manta and Puerto Cayo is not exactly the best place to be come nighttime.
No Magic Bus
You may be wondering, why couldn’t we have just taken the bus? Why be so cheap and risk safety?
Believe me, we would’ve taken the bus had we seen one. The few buses that run between Manta and Puerto Cayo apparently do not pass along E15 or the playa route. The late afternoon buses take the other, longer route which was on the opposite side of town but had no any idea whatsoever at the time. We didn’t have the luxury of mobile data but I do have my trusted GoogleMaps and Here maps.
A second car immediately picked us up but dropped us after 22 kms in a small town named San Lorenzo. Twilight was upon us. While waiting for our third lift, we ate a cookie given to us by our host that funnily enough I’ve been saving to eat since it was such a good cookie. Due to my habit of saving the good things for later (applies to food only), we had sustenance. I had no idea how long we would be stuck in San Lorenzo waiting for a lift that would eventually take us home. We still had 50 kms between where we were and where we needed to be.
A Night to Remember
Thirty minutes later we were picked up by three men driving a mini elf. We rode at the back, the night wind blowing on our faces. I understood that the direction they were headed is a small town called Rio Canas located far from the main road. It meant dropping us along the highway before they turned left away from the main road. We moved approximately 13 kms.
I honestly thought they would drop us somewhere safe where we could wait for yet another lift. By safe, I imagined a waiting shed or at least some place where there were lights.
They dropped us in the middle of nowhere where there was absolutely no waiting shed (or any house) and no electricity. Street lights don’t exist in this part of the world. It was pitch-black. The kind where your eyes need to adjust first in order to orient yourself.
- We were in the hilly area, a good distance still from coastal highway. Very remote. There’s a small piece of barrier in the form of dry trees that separate us from the cliffs.
- Our place is approximately 28 kms away.
- It was 7:30 pm. My phone has 16% battery life left.
- Traffic going south (our direction) is significantly lower than traffic going north.
We thought of walking the rest of the 25 kms but reckoned it would take us 5 – 7 hours to reach Puerto Cayo. We walked anyway and on the off chance that a car went by we flashed our thumbs. No one stopped so we kept walking, our heads filled with every possible horrible thoughts. I wasn’t sure if wild animals frequent that area but you could say that the idea did not escape us. *cringe*
I told JC that if I was driving a car on this remote part of Manabí Province, I probably wouldn’t pick us up, too. Here’s the scenario: It’s almost 8 in the evening. You are driving in a remote area of the province where you are certain no humans can be found walking then lo and behold you see two adults walking along a pitch-dark road holding their thumbs out. What would you do? Would you stop for them? I mean what were they doing there in the first place!? Everything seemed shady. I totally understood why no one was willing to stop for us. Aside from the fact that only about 7 cars passed in the 30 minutes that we’ve walked before someone stopped for us.
HOLY SHIT A HUMAN ACTUALLY STOPPED FOR US.
It was a massive lorry (Optimus Prime massive level). Initially, we didn’t realise that the lorry stopped for us that when we did realise we sprinted for the door and said a million thanks to the guy who picked us up. I am certain I asked for his name but then forgotten to note it down later so now I can’t remember. The kind man who picked us up was on his way to Guayaquil to deliver goods. He didn’t ask us the what, why, and how, only where we came from and where we’re headed.
I’ve never been so thankful to a stranger. A kind stranger.
So that’s the story of the scariest night of our travelling life and how we got home unscathed. We made sure a similar incident would never occur for the rest of our travel (I mean shame on us if it happened again, right?).
When we arrived in our host’s house, Anna was so pleased to see us. She was just happy that we got back safely after what we’ve been through. We were starving by the time we made it home so binawi na lang namin sa kain.