The Road With Marilyn Ends In Ecuador

After about a year of nearly solid travel together, Marilyn and I had decided to go our separate ways. We came to this while in a sleepy hostel in the south of Colombia, but that isn't where we'd split up.

While I was pretty self sufficient, Marilyn hadn't traveled as much on her own in the fashion we'd been traveling together, nor did she speak a lick of Spanish, nor did she know what she wanted to do now that our "plan" of rolling ever-south down the continent together was busted.

She came up with a pretty good temporary idea pretty quickly, though, which was to find a gig through a work exchange website where she could pause and get her plans together in a stable spot. Even though we were set on breaking away from each other it wasn't on the worst of terms, we still loved each other quite a bit actually, so the idea was to trip around together until she found a spot she could get her planted in. She started searching for hostels she could work at on the Ecuador coast, and Ecuador is where we now pointed our thumbs towards.

Our first hitched ride came from a guy in an ambulance to Pasto, from there we hitched a ride from a couple heading towards Ecuador. With them we stopped for fruit, lunch and they even detoured us slightly so Marilyn could see this "world heritage church".

We hopped out on foot at the border, easily getting stamped out of Colombia and stamped into Ecuador, then hitching a ride from a family to the first little town of Tulcan. With a walk and a short ride from a guy in a van we got to the edge of that town where we waited past a checkpoint with our thumbs out. A niño caught me off guard with a drive-by shaving cream shooting... we were in the midst of carnival, after all.

We scored a ride to the next town eventually from a guy in the potato business, we waited a good while there until finally scoring a longer ride to Ibarra from an off duty cop who blasted rock music the whole way over the mountains.

Surrounded by urban cityscape we wandered about, eventually finding a quirky little "hotel" kinda building where we got ourselves a cheap room for the night.

Come morning we hopped on a fifty cent bus to Otavalo, a town we'd heard of know for it's markets and street food. We arrived and began walking around, the town really was just one giant market it seemed, lined with booths upon booths of alpaca this and that and clothes and trinkets of all sorts.

Feeling hungry, we gravitated towards a cafe with signs of ice cream inside; we ordered coffees, a pineapple full of ice cream and a banana split. The joy of such pleasures was quickly stifled, however.

"Where's my phone? That girl stole my phone!", Marilyn exclaimed in a panic. She ran to the door and looked both ways, but there was no one to be seen.

She'd been glancing at her phone while supping her coffee, placing the phone on the table in front of her in between the way so many people do at cafes and bars around the planet these days. Somehow, right in front of both of us, someone had managed to stealthily swipe it and slip out the door unnoticed until it was too late. It would be the hollowest of air in which to eat a banana split after.

We then had to track down a police station to file a report, not because there was any chance of getting the phone back, but to check a box for Marilyn's travel insurance report. After that little experience we set to find a hostel. Originally we'd perhaps just have poked around and hitched on to the next town, but the stolen phone was a day spoiler and plopping down seemed like a good move, we found a little hostel and checked ourselves in.

Luckily Marilyn still had her tablet, we found a bar with a balcony overlooking the epicenter of the town-wide market to sip on some drinks while she could latch on to the WIFI and begin the insurance process.

Later in the room we laid out on the bed while Marilyn gently wept, the emotion of deciding to split up one day and getting her phone stolen the very next day had set in. We talked about all of it, she also revealed that a hostel in the coastal town of Salinas had confirmed that she could work in exchange for a free place to stay. Now it was real, we were splitting up and now knew exactly where and basically when.

Her tears triggered the rain outside, lightly sprinkling against the window as we talked. I felt a bit conflicted over the whole thing, even though what was done was done. Despite the recent frustrations that come with the glued-to-the-hip nature of traveling together, I still loved bopping around with her and didn't want things to end all together.

I knew, though, that in some ways I was a unique kind of mutant, an anomaly, an uncommittable transient being that understood time too well and to a fault. I'd love Marilyn forever the way I loved so many others, I could go weeks, months or years without seeing her or needing to see her and like a blink I could see her again and fall back into the same beat. This is how I lived, on the go, blinking back and forth through time and relationships, inconsistency was ever irrelevant.

This is not the way of the world for many, though. Marilyn was already starting the conscious effort of moving on. It certainly didn't seem like it was easy for her at this initial stage, but I could feel her intention of erasing me, at least blurring me out and rewriting the emotions she'd associate with the memories that remained.

It hurt a bit, knowing that possibly I'd eventually be a faded and perhaps even demonized off-chapter in her life journey. It made me think of all the other girls I still loved who too had moved on, of all the friends I'd had who I saw so rarely now. There were now hundreds of near-tangible parallel lives I could have lived, but when given the choice of "this girl" or "this project", "this town" or "this life", I always chose the rambling road that whirled past the next set of vibrant possibilities. Forever dipping my toes in, and even if I occasionally splashed in or circled back, an ever-curious and ever-restlessness had me going, going, going.

The rain let up and we ventured out again into the town. We wandered through the market, loosely aware of the shaving cream and water gun toting niño militias scrambling about. I fiddled with an alpaca hoodie at one point, the woman selling it noticed quickly and somehow I was then inadvertently haggling a price, soon walking away with the fine fabric layer for next to nothing.

The night ended on the roof of our hostel watching the fireworks go off, chatting back and forth and taking in the night.

Quito was a short and cheap bus ride away the next day where we had a couchsurfing host lined up. We stayed there for a couple nights, our one solid day there we spent wandering the city streets and parks, sharing beers with our host in a little brewery.

We walked through a long tunnel on the morning we left the city, hitchhiking from the other side as we now headed for the coast, the city of Santo Domingo was our halfway point where we had yet another host lined up.

The hot day of travel started in the back of a pickup truck with headphone wearing girls and barking dogs, next a short ride from a couple to the highway and then another ride in the back of a greasy pickup truck that offloaded us in the midst of a carnival celebration, we were sitting ducks for the niño militia once again.

We walked a ways after that and finally hopped a local bus to get to a better spot, got a ride from there a short ways, then another ride from a truck driver, and finally a businessman ride right to the central mall in Santo Domingo.

We managed to find WIFI and get in touch with our host there, Alexandra, she showed up shortly and we went out for some beers and food before fading back to her place to chat and sleep. We spent the next full day there wandering about the city, looping around botanical gardens and generally exploring, ending our night eating and chatting with our host some more.

The next day we opted for a cheap bus instead of hitchhiking given the rain, it got us to the coast where we saw the Pacific Ocean from this continent for the first time so far, Manta was the city. Ceviche was eaten, beers were drank, a small room was secured for us to sleep the night out of the heat.

I the morning we were back to our thumbs, scoring a pickup truck ride then two more trucks that got us the short way to the smaller coastal town of Montanita. The place was far more touristy than we expected, but we found a cheap hostel outside of the madness, setup there and headed back to the madness without our packs to lug around. Altogether it was a chill day of drinking cocktails on the beach, sipping beer after sunset and scrambling past the loads of tourists traversing the narrow streets and big beach.

In the morning we got breakfast and coffee at a cool spot we'd discovered the day before. We pondered staying an extra day, but we were over it, we decided to head just a ways south to a town called Ayangue we heard was a little more chilled out. It only took one ride to get there, we then walked down a dirt road to a cheap hostel, stashed our stuff and headed for the beach, now armed with some snorkeling gear they had at the hostel for use.

It was another day of beach lounging, swimming, eating ceviche, drinking cocktails, beers and sipping straight out of coconuts.

The next day we'd hitch three different rides to get us to us to Salinas, our final destination together. The last couple that picked us up dropped us right in front of the hostel where Marilyn would be working. We popped up in there and met two of the girls who'd already been working there, one Belgian and one from the US. The owner came along and we met him briefly, then one of the girls began training Marilyn straight away and what her duties would be there.

I planned on staying for a few days, at least through Marilyn's coming birthday, before breaking away and continuing on solo for the first time in a while. The days were relaxing, staying put and drinking rum with fruit, making mango sticky rice and cooking up other meals between lazy beach and hammock lounging. The day of her birthday a group of us piled in a pickup truck for a full day at another beach to splash in the waves.

That night Marilyn hopped in the shower with me, as we had the moment alone I confronted her on something I'd discovered earlier. That morning I'd realized my phone had been tampered with, and some documents had been gone through. It didn't take Sherlock to realize that in the middle of the night, while I was sleeping, she'd unlocked it and gone through my daily notes.

Ever since I started falling behind on my blog I started taking detailed notes in my phone every day, essentially a bullet-point journal to jog my memory when I got to writing and recall quotes and thoughts I had. She knew I did this, and apparently wanted to sneak in and see what I'd been writing recently and even months ago.

When I was much younger I kept a journal and at one point my mom rifled through it. I was incredibly upset about it at the time, but anger is fleeting. What stuck with me was a lack of my sense of privacy, I've since maintained a "Truman Show" level of paranoia in my mindset; I just assume that everything I say and do and even think can or will eventually be seen by everyone.

So, I wasn't concerned so much with what she would have read, but just the fact that she'd secretly delved in. She admitted it, clean and quickly when I asked her. I quietly finished showering and hopped out.

The next day was my last full day there. Marilyn was on her shift, so I hopped from beach to beach, then eventually plopped myself in a hammock at the hostel. Marilyn was stressed, as one of her duties was to check travelers in, however many of them spoke only Spanish (we were in Ecuador) and she spoke none at all. How the owner thought "hiring" a non-spanish-speaking girl like Marilyn was still beyond me.

Our last night together didn't come without arguments. We strolled the dark beach as we talked, Marilyn was bringing up a California girl I'd been with, spinning around the minutia of the situation for the 50th time. We talked about how she'd gone through my notes, what she wanted to see, what she looked at and so forth. The tone was argumentative and circular.

She checked us into a separate hotel so we'd have privacy on our last night together. By then we were still talking into the night, while some tears still arose things were less argumentative than they had been on the beach.

We had a morning together, then breakfast and coffee before walking to the local bus that would take me away to a good hitchhiking spot out of the city.

It was a strange feeling. She was one of the more outwardly emotional girl's I'd met and it was impossible not to be sympathetic. She attached herself to me and now I was leaving, she was in a land where she didn't speak the language and now had to form her own plan going forward. We couldn't continue on much longer together. I knew she had to embrace the experience of free flowing travel as her own experience and own it. I needed to be independent again. Without some time for self reflection we'd both be passively miserable together.

And this was the moment we parted. One last kiss, one last squeeze, then it was on to the bus. On to the next southbound destination and on to the next chapter. Little did we know, it wouldn't be nearly as long as we'd thought until we'd see each other again.

February 13, 2015 to February 26, 2015