Where’s Johnny?

Noah Hapke - Ecuador


September 21, 2015

This morning, the alarm rang at 5:00am sharp. I got up, showered, put on some clothes, packed my bag, and was off to Estacion Norte. From there, Madi, Miyo, Rose, and I transferred to another bus that took us on a two-hour adventure through the mountains. Finally, after running out of Katy Perry songs to listen to, we had arrived to the stunning city of Mindo, a small community full of life and beauty.

 

We got off the bus and looked around. “Now what?” we all asked ourselves as we stood in the middle of an abandoned dirt road. To our left was a man and a truck, and the man was waving at us four gringos. “Vamos! Vamos!” He hollered at us. So, obviously, we did as every mother would tell her children not to and got in the stranger’s car. And we just drove. And drove. And drove. And after ten minutes we arrived in the heart of the community, where dogs ran around and people sat in their shops.

 

And, as we fair-skinned Americans walked around, a man approached us with a giant grin. “Bienvenidos!” He said. He knew we were not natives. Madi explained that we wanted to go up to the waterfalls, and the man explained that the bus that goes up to it was out of service for the day. “Perro mi amigo tiene un carro.” And before we could respond with an answer, the man was gone. And then he was back in a minute. In a truck. “Vamos! Vamos! Es mi amigo!” And, again, we got in the back of yet another truck.

 

Our mouths sucking on the coconuts we had just purchased, and our eyes attempting to take in all the beauty at once, and our hands grabbing hold of the car’s rails, our ears were full with everything this man, or Johnny as he later introduced himself, was saying to us. We talked and laughed with Johnny and, after thirty minutes of driving in the bumpy back, we had arrived to our destination. We gave Johnny a “gracias” and the driver some money, and then we began the hike.

 

Down. Down through the trees. Down through the giants plants. Down past the little dog that became our future tour guide. Down to where our eyes and ears met once we approached the waterfall.

 

I think we were all speechless when we saw it directly in front of us, as well as a beautiful pool of freshwater that was calling our names. So we changed, put our bags on a couple of dry rocks, and went for a swim. And this was no ordinary swim. This was a swim where we were just feet from an immeasurable waterfall. Where our feet slipped on the smooth and slimey rocks, and our bodies floated in the cold but refreshing water. Where water poured into a new, and we were like fish just swimming in its glory.

 

We remained here for an hour or so, and then decided to head back up to the entrance so we could get back to Mindo central. But who would be walking down the mountain towards us with a new smile, other than Johnny himself. “Hola chicos!” He said, and he showed us the way back to the top. Once we finished walking (and it was a lot of walking), we sat down on some wooden stools and Johnny came over with some watermelon for each of us. And after that, we got in (yes) another truck. Down the hill to Mindo central.

 

“Adios, Johnny. Mucho gracias!” We thanked him and then walked around the community with for down-time. We checked out the local shops, hand-made crafts, and sat down at a little restaurant for some food.

 

I got up to use the bathroom and when I came back to the table, guess who was there. Johnny. Just chatting with the girls about other nice spots in Mindo to visit. After lunch, he called us another truck to connect us from Mindo to the bus that takes us back to Quito, which was a blessing in itself. I don’t know how Johnny knew where we were, and how we kept running into him miraculously, but it was great.

 

To say today was a gift would be an understatement, and Johnny played an important part in preparing this beautiful present. Johnny had been our travel agent, our cook, and became our new amigo today.

 

Gracias Johnny for everything.

 

 

 

Noah Hapke