Ecuador Days 12 and 13: Back to the Mainland

Palabra del día: devuelve, juguetón

We are up early the next morning to check out and catch a ride to the airport. Once we cross on the ferry to Baltra, we begin waiting for the next bus. After 15 minutes, our guide spots a truck heading toward the airport. She barters for them to carry our luggage to the flight for us, and I volunteer to ride in the back of the truck to keep an eye on everyone’s bags. I clamber over the wooden slats and into the back, meeting the other two gentlemen who are also hitching a ride.

When our little caravan reaches the airport, I wait another 15 minutes for the rest of  the group to arrive. Tired of waiting for the public bus, they finally catch a cab with another group. The flight over the ocean is wonderful, though my energy has been drained by the exhilarating trip we have just taken, and I wind up falling asleep.

On our return to the mainland, we return to the hotel, where we make dinner plans with another couple. We decide to go to Cosa Nostra, an Italian restaurant in the Mariscal Sucre district. The taxi driver asks where we are going, then stops to ask a question. I try to elucidate his meaning, but his Spanish is too fast for me to catch. It turns out he is nearing the end of his shift and wants to bring his wife on the trip with us so he doesn’t have to come back to pick her up. We uncomfortably decline, and he takes us the long way to the restaurant so that he overcharges us instead. We are in such a good mood, though, that we don’t care.

The food at the restaurant is delicious, and the company is even better. We return to our rooms, ready to get up the next morning and continue exploring.

We walk to the artisan market bright and early to see what is on offer. I am perusing for blankets and perhaps something made of alpaca wool for a friend. We find a few things, perfecting our haggling technique during our search. I play the girl who loves shopping (really, I hate it) and would just love to give the artisans my money, while the Other Half plays the cool, penny-pinching patron who carries the wallet. It actually works fairly well for us after a while.

The market is just down the street from the Casa de Cultura, a beautiful cultural museum which details the development of Ecuador and its peoples. Modern art on the top floor bleeds into golden Aztec heirlooms on the bottom. Unfortunately, no pictures are allowed in the museum. We leave after exploring only the first floor to head to the Super Maxi down the road to achieve my ultimate goal for the day: a brick of cane sugar.

Back on Santa Cruz, one of the people we spoke with mentioned the sugar cane bricks sold in grocery stores. I plan to bring several bricks back with us. The dry sugar itself has a lot of flavor, and heating the block in water over the stove forms a brown syrup very similar to molasses. Molasses is expensive in our area, but I absolutely love using it. We score a few kilos for less than $2 USD, as well as some coffee to take home. We stop for empanadas and hot chocolate at a local cafe before returning to Casa de Cultura to finish our exploration of the museum. After a few hours, we gather our belongings and head back to the hostel for the night. We drop our things before finding the pasteleria down the street to grab breakfast and heading back for an early night, as we are heading to the Amazon basin in the early morning.

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