Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Paradise Is…Being Lost

"I was walking along looking for something, and then suddenly I wasn't anymore."
(A slight misquote of Winnie the Pooh)

On our recent trip to the Yunguilla Valley we had a bit of an unplanned side trip. We told the bus driver that we were looking for swimming pools in the valley (there are loads there). After a half hour from Girón the bus stopped and he signaled that this is where we wanted to be. We hopped off the dusty, empty side of the road and stood waiting for the bus to move on to see what awaited us on the other side of the road.

Turned out, more dust and emptiness awaited. I picture it as a scene in some National Lampoon movie: the bus drives away in a swirl of dust, revealing drowsy kids lethargically taking in the scene, holding the hands of their parents, who are themselves looking up the road, looking down it, cocking their heads to see around a corner, puzzled looks on their faces, wondering if there is a Spanish word that means "barren spot as far from water or anything else as possible" that sounds a lot like the word for swimming pool.

After staring around dumbly for a bit, we walked in the direction the driver had grunted. There was a dirt drive of sorts off the main road with a beat up old sign that said something or other was just one kilometer down the road. Before even that long we could see a large pool and recreation are down one side of the ridge we were walking along. Perfect. You just never can tell what back roads in Ecuador will lead to some hidden and treasure. So proceeding with that below on our left, we descended the steep road.

Our first indication that we might have wanted to turn around was finding the sign for the something or other referred to in the sign at the entrance. It was weathered and old and was on a locked gate with overgrowth. But there that pool was below us still…albeit a wee bit more behind and to the left than before. So, carry on, sally forth, buck up, and all that. I was led on several times by what looked like it could be a turn in the road back the other direction towards the first pool, or by another resort-looking building ahead.

Running into some campesinos doing some work just off the road I used my pool word, "piscina?" "Peshina. Dusty place in the middle of nowhere? Sí, keep going...no not that side road, the one you're on. That'll take you there. Sí, sí.

Ten minutes later down the road we also inquired of a pickup truck coming up the hill. "Piscina? No, you're headed to a dusty place in the middle of nowhere. back where you came from, gringo. Get in the back and we'll take you back out."

As we started to bump along I thought I caught a glimpse, just a bit further down the road, of a big pile of bones with tennis shoes and baseball caps scattered about. Weird. But we got back to the main road and realized that had we walked about 20 more feet on the main road we'd have seen the big sign around the corner for Agua y Sol resort and pool.

Diana and I have both gotten good and lost many times in our travels and have learned (though we often forget) that the world can be suddenly different with an unexpected switching of tracks. Your usually dominant analytical, planning right brain gets a bit back on its heels and your sensual, experiential left brain gets to enjoy time behind the wheel for awhile (if you can just shut that right brain up in the passenger seat: "can we just stop for directions already!")

"I'm not lost for I know where I am. But however, where I am may be lost." -Pooh

Getting lost is a good way to check your headspace now and again. If you're lost and fretting or stressed, consider whether you are generally consumed by what you want rather than what you've got. We sacrificed a little bit of pool time for our detour, but we were really proud of the kids trooping ever onward without complaint (a rare and golden moment in our hiking annals). We were treated to jaw-dropping views of the valley and got to spend a little quality family time just strolling along. Besides, the pool was too cold.

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