In Quito, Ecuador, Coen and I camped in a car workshop for a couple of weeks. We were surrounded by broken vehicles and mechanics whose overalls were black from grease and dirt, and the noise of a blaring radio. This was not the first time we were camping in a workshop; we had done so before during our then ten-year overland journey in Asia and South America.
You get used to many things when traveling for a longer period of time, but each time I am flabbergasted by the hospitality of people and the confidence they have in us.
Finding Your Way Around
When we arrived in Quito, Ecuador’s capital, we had to get work done on our antique Land Cruiser. We had two addresses from other travelers but one workshop no longer existed and the second couldn’t help us.
This is the challenge when traveling, isn’t it? In each place, each town, each country you have to find your way around again. You can’t rely on your address book with people / addresses / shops you know. No, you start from scratch over and over again. Here it was no different.
Meeting the Right People
During our search we passed an outdoor adventure shop. Since Coen needed new pants so we decided to take a look inside. We met Diego, one of the employees. After an inspiring chat he invited us for dinner that evening at his home. “So you can take a hot shower and do a laundry if you want,” he said. On arrival he handed us clean towels; such a small but profound gesture. It was the nicest evening, with his wife preparing a locro (cheese soup) and we contributing with a salad.
The next morning Diego sent us an email with contact info on the workshop where he got his car serviced. That’s how we ended up here. Coen was charmed by the place right away: A big indoor workshop, clean and organized for as much as workshops can be. He met Pedro, the owner, and quickly decided this was the place where we would get the Land Cruiser’s problems fixed.
We wouldn’t be able to drive anymore so we did have a problem as our bed is in our car. “No problem, you can stay in the workshop,” Pedro offered. “There is a bathroom and running water so you should be okay.”
Can you imagine the confidence Pedro had in us? Allowing us to camp in his workshop? Giving us the key so we could leave if need be? Think about it: We could have invited ‘friends’ to rob the place; we could have searched the other cars waiting for maintenance to take parts, we could have taken tools… I mean, we could do a lot of damage here if we wanted to (don’t worry, we didn’t). Let alone the fact that Pedro didn’t just leave his property in our care, this included a number of vehicles that weren’t his.
Where are those scary, dangerous people that are presented in the media, of whom our family and friends at home are so afraid? I think it’s been the biggest lesson of our journey: that this planet is home to incredible, beautiful people.
Yes, countries have problems and yes, there are some bad people out there. That’s the focus of the mainstream media. That, however, is not a proper representation of the world population. Like people in so many countries before, Ecuadorians were welcoming and helpful.
Small but Profound Gestures
One day, as we stopped at a gas station, another car pulled in as well. The driver got out, handed us a scarf in the rainbow colors of the indigenous people. “Because I think it’s great what you’re doing,” he commented.
We have been given permission to camp in the parking of a fire station (“Join us for a BBQ tonight”), and of a hospital (“Here, have a drink as we’re celebrating the end of the year”). We’ve been invited by people in their homes. The list goes on.
Throughout the years, we have taken thousands of pictures. Truth be told, I don’t recall which waterfall was photographed where unless I properly keyworded it. Pictures of people? We always remember. We may have forgotten a name or two, but the picture of a person evokes a memory, a smile, or even a nostalgic tear.
So here we were. Camping in a workshop. And it would become one of our warmest memories of Ecuador.
This blog post was first published as a guest blog on Wanderlusters.
I wrote another, more extensive blog post on Trusting People, including tips, on our Landcruising Adventure website. You can find it here.