Returning to Guayaquil from a week in the Galapagos, we intrepidly rented a car to explore the Ruta Del Sol - Ecuador's coastline. After my first trip to Ecuador I returned home talking about the ruleless roads of Ecuador and vowed to NEVER drive in this country. Here I was a year later on my honeymoon boldly renting a car. Carpe diem. After checking in at the car rental counter, the kind girl said she didn't have the mid-sized car we reserved and was going to have to upgrade us to an SUV. Hallelujah I thought. A bigger car equals more safety. After completing the paperwork, we headed out towards the car. The scariest part was about to begin; getting out of city of Guayaquil. The attendant must have felt sorry for us, or maybe he thought we were crazy, because the sweet and helpful man got in his own car and we followed him to the highway. Exiting Guayaquil we felt the fear dissipate and we kicked back and turned on the I Tunes. Driving in Ecuador turned out to be a breeze.
After 45 minutes of enjoying Bob Marley and driving through desert with tumbleweeds blowing across the road, we were at the beach and cruising the Ruta Del Sol (Road of the Sun).We stopped at a roadside stand for our favorite local dish of humitas, which are similar to corn tamales, and a coca cola. We continued along the Ruta Del Sol, hugging the coastline, crossing over from arid desert to lush jungle, passing through dusty villages, palapa style restaurants and homes, honking at cows and waving at the bicycling children. The long stretches of beach, sandstone cliff line and the rolling waves reminded us of our native Northern California coastline. The views were breathtaking.
We arrived in Lo Manthang on the 19th of May and we were met at the gate to our lodging by the library management committee, armed with kataks, white scarves used in the Tibetan world to honor guests, and smiles. After lunch and a bit of time to wash the grime off our bodies, they returned to escort us to the library.
The building is amazing. It occupies both angles of a street corner, directly across from the entry to the royal palace, and is painted in the typical primary colors of red, blue, green, and yellow, as well as white. The main entrance was closed until the innauguration, two days later.
The library is on the second floor and the bottom floor contains 11 prime-front storefronts that are almost all rented now. Inside is a square courtyard space with a beautiful prayer flag pole in the center. Directly opposite the entrance on the second floor is a large meeting room which will also provide rental income to support the library.
As far as the eye can see the stones of the Kali Gandhaki riverbed stretch north, bordered on each side by tall brown cliffs and with the tips of snow capped mountains dotting the horizon. Walking along a path through the stones, worn by travelers - both local and international, horses, mule trains and now cars, tractors and motor cycles, you find yourself searching the stones to find one of the magical saligrams, fossils of fish, shells and other creatures that inhabited the Tibetan plateau thousands of years ago and now wash down with the river waters. To the Hindus and Buddhists, these fossils are not only sacred, a symbol of Vishnu, but a source of income from sales to tourists and pilgrims.
As you walk, there is no shade at all and the path alternates between steep climbs up onto the river banks and alongside stone and dirt walls and sandy unstable sharp drops back onto the riverbed. The dominant color is brown, brown walls, brown sandy dirt dotted with black stones. The only other colors, aside from the clothes of the hikers and animals is the bright blue of the sky with an occasional white peak of a mountain top.