The Week Before Christmas

Appreciating the Road’s Many Gifts

T’was the week before Christmas and all through the screen-less shanty, mosquitos buzzed the thick equatorial air in search of more gringo blood to feast on.

It didn’t exactly have the ring of Major Henry Livingston Jr.’s “The Night Before Christmas’” iconic opening. But such would be the sugar-plums-dancing-in-my-head-like visions as I took in the sight of what was scheduled to be our home for the next month in the Ecuadorian coastal pueblo of Mangralto.

It didn’t look good.

Let’s just say the list of discrepancies between the images from the AirBnB add we’d responded to back in early November and the reality of what we were staring at six weeks later was an extensive one. But it was Kaia’s hypersensitive skin coupled with the absence of insect repelling screens on the ground floor unit’s windows that would prove the deal breaker and leave us in a bit of a bind.
Landing on our feet at La Gondola

A bind revolving around there being ‘no (suitable) room at the inn’ and, all this, with less than two days before the addition of another body to the equation. A Christmas guest in the form of an old mate for the next six weeks.

A half a lifetime ago, the situation never would’ve rated as problematic. But, as they say, those were the days.

Simple days. Days when the laisse fair decision making process affected me and me alone. And, as was proving to be the case now, days that didn’t involve a family of three the week before Christmas, all of spitting distance away from the major coastal surfing and party town of Montanita.

Now we needed a break and a relatively quick one at that.

The good news would be we’d get one as we stumbled into the beachfront setting at the simple but clean and tidy La
Overlooking La Gondola’s beachfront grounds.

Gondola Hosteria located at the quieter, south end of Montanitas. The bad news was the reprieve would have to be short lived with prior holiday bookings meaning we’d have to bounce between various cabanas starting a couple days before Christmas. All while having to contend with paying massively inflated Christmas and New Year’s Eve prices.

It wasn’t ideal but, Bec and I both agreed the short term solution bought us the invaluable gift of time. Time, our guest and card carrying member of the ‘Don’t Worry, Be Happy’ Club, assured us would see something reveal itself in the next eight days.

It was more than enough time, Tate reminded us with his trademark confident, casual smile before adding a line I’ve

heard him utter countless times before. “It’ll all work out in the end and, if it doesn’t work out, it’s not the end.”
Kaia loves her new home

We’d just have to wait and see, I’d remind him as we set out to find a couple surfboards to rent for the next two to three weeks. I knew a lot could happen over the next eight days but, still, subconsciously, as we walked into the hodgepodge party center of town, I was bracing myself for a Christmas that was bound to be as expensive as it would be memorable.

Of course, in the end, I of all people should’ve known better since in the almost 30 years after first meeting the guy at a party in a college dorm room, I’d seen Tate work his magic plenty.

And as Tate began holding forth with a friendly South African surf shop owner as only a friendly extroverted soul as he can, I began thinking of one or two.

There’d be the time we’d find ourselves on a deserted Easter morning in his Izuzu Trooper teetering on the ledge of an undercut driveway staring at a lapping Atlantic Ocean fifteen feet below. Ironically, Tate had brought me there to the row of otherwise condemned homes located near South Nags Head along North Carolina’s Outer Banks to show me how bad the erosion problem was. And just like that, we found ourselves with all the proof we needed.

And then there was the time we’d found ourselves stranded on the side of a Greek motorway with our thumbs out
La Gondola’s beachfront restaurant.

and frantically waving cartons of Marlboro cigarettes in an attempt to get anyone to pick us up. We’d suddenly realized we’d mistakenly boarded a wrong train in Athens and, now, a quick ride to rendezvous with our Italy bound ferry and our subsequent flight home was seemingly growing increasingly dimmer by the moment.

In the end, of course, we’d manage to survive both predicaments.

And today, as we rambled along in yellow taxi through a drought ridden Ecuadorian coastline in search of our fabled boards with Tate chest deep in his latest fledgling bromance, I couldn’t help but smile.

It’d be a smile that gave way to a nothing-to-lose moment on my part. A moment I decided to take advantage of…

Just as soon as the opportunity for a word in edgewise presented itself.
The south end of town’s boardwalk.

“Hey Aiden,” I’d finally pipe in from the back seat. “You know anyone that has an extra room or two to rent to four people for a couple weeks?”

It was a long shot, I knew and, to be honest, I was hoping for little more than a single lead and something resembling a hint of concern from the guy, at best.

Instead, I’d get a response of a completely different type.

“Actually, I’ve got two extra rooms and I’d love to fray the cost of some of my rent,” came the reply from the guy that was to become our new benefactor.

Twenty minutes later we had our boards and, more importantly, a tour of our eventual home to be, starting a couple days before Santa’s scheduled arrival.

I’d be lying if I said the morning’s events didn’t leave me giddy at our good fortune. But that said, I wasn’t about to go
Low tide rock scramble

so far as to call it luck.

The fact was Tate, Bec and I had travelled long enough to know out here

on the road, even more so than back in the real world, luck is made and not gifted. Like setting out in the first place, making a bit of luck begins with taking that first step, simply putting it out there and having an inherent believe that landing on your feet is always a very real possibility.

And ultimately understanding that out on the road, Christmas takes many forms and isn’t just reserved for a single day in late December.



  1. Auntie Margaret December 24, 2016 Reply
  2. Beth Pancoe December 23, 2016 Reply

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