“Click. Click. Jangle. Jangle,” whisper the keys as they tango in his fingertips. The ignition tilts into place and our new cat purrs into submission. I glance through the corner of my big, square frames as a smile sneaks across my face. My husband catches my eye and offers a little wink, as we pull onto the water-stained cobble streets of San Clemente, Ecuador.
The kids sit behind us; thighs already sticking to the seats, squealing delight with each gentle bounce, bounce of the over-drive rhythm. I reach out to pull down my visor, to peak at their happy, red cheeked faces. But, there is no mirror there and I must wrangle around to spy in on their fun. I see two pairs of tiny feet. Their toes dusted with filth no matter how many times we tell them to leave their shoes on. They dangle over the edge of the seat, blissfully kicking and twitching; still years before they will rest on rubber mats below.
Behind them: the other two. Heads pushing through the air, fighting the seat backs for the space closest to the open windows. The mutts of course: lips and tongues flapping like sheets in the wind; splattering the seat backs and the tops of toddler heads. The kids are young enough to be amused, giggle over the mess, even reach back and ruffle the fur of their longest friends.
Satisfied, I turn back. I roll down my window the rest of the way and reach my fingers out to feel the hot, shiny surface of the side view mirror. I lean back against the seat and close my eyes, cataloguing each tiny detail of this massive milestone. In the wafts pressing against my face, I can pick out the scents of mid-summer. The ripe, flourishing smell of trees in full foliage. The sticky smell of soil tampered by rain and farming. A tinge of petrol striping its course through the heavy, salty air. But, it is not summer here. It is early March in Ecuador. Fully fledged in the midst of the rainy season.
But, time, date, and season are of no relevance. There isn’t much difference here. The sun sets and rises at the same time every single day, all year round. It’s raining. Or it isn’t. The bugs are out. Or they aren’t. There is ocean breeze or no relief. Those are the differentiating factors of the seasons in Coastal Ecuador. Therefore, this new adventure didn’t have to wait for summer. It only had to wait for the perfect candidate. The ideal capsule to house rowdy children, smelly dogs, and a couple of crazy folks like ourselves. The ability to carry us to mountains and rivers, rain forests and volcanoes.
This car spells opportunity. Potential. Possibility. Infinity. From here on, everything changes. From this moment we will become adventurers, explorers, investigators. Hikers, trekkers, rock climbers. Mountaineers, fishermen, kayakers. Campers. Campers!!! Maybe all of them. Maybe none of them, except for the last. We don’t know what we will become. What we do know, is that we will do it together. Husband and Wife, Parent and Child, Man and Man’s Best Friend. No one left behind.
Joey: this old dog loves Ecuador!
We are off to educate and assimilate. To give and to gain. To live and give meaning to life. We have made it this far together, and beyond we will stay. Where no dog goes, we don’t roam. Where no kids trod, we won’t trek. In this. Together. 100%.
We have a bit of practice to do. We are not experienced in this sort of thing. So, off we go for day trips and weekenders and longer excursions when they fit. We don’t know how to camp or to trek, or any of that. All we really know is how to be together. And from that, we will build our foundation of how to go, where to go, and when.
As for our host, we are not ready yet, for the big reveal. But, I can promise you this: it is not what you are expecting. Not the typical Jeep or shiny RV. Not a camper or a husky Dodge Ram. Something a little more unique. A little more rugged. A little more reliable. Something special, especially for us.