July 21: Latacunga from Mindo:
We woke up at 5:30am to catch our 6:30 bus back to Quito. After arriving at Terminal La Ofelia, we tried to do what the bus folks had told us to do in order to get to the south terminal, Quitumbre. First, we took a taxi for $2.50 (although the bus folks had told us it should cost a dollar) to the north terminal, Carcelen. Arriving there, we did our best to find the bus to Quitumbre, but none of the ticket sellers would/could sell to us and kept giving us the roundaround, sending us from one window to another. Finally, we asked one of the guards and he said we just had to wait for that bus to show up, then the driver would tell us what window to go to. We tried that, but the guy at that window wouldn't sell either, and by that time I had to Ecuadorians trying to buy one too. Finally, one guy who was trying to get his wife and mother on a bus to that same area talked a taxi into taking us there for ten dollars. I don't know if that sounds cheap or expensive,
as it depends on where you are, but in Ecuador, my experience was that it was okay for a longer trip. It turned out to be a VERY long trip and the guy should have asked for twenty dollars. We arrived at the Quitumbere terminal, after dropping off the other two ladies who'd chatted with my wife the whole way (something like 45 minutes), even giving my wife there address and phone number in case we were in Quito again and wanted to visit.
The north terminal, Carcelen was a chaotic madhouse with nothing in the way of ammenities except for tons of booths selling everything under the sun. Quitumbre on the other hand was ultra modern, with good security and everything. We bought two tickets to Latacunga for three dollars (they charge one dollar per hour of travel!), and went out to the departure gates to find our bus slot. Unbelievably, it was the only one with a real line waiting, so we got in line and waited thru one whole bus until the second one, on which we barely made it. People kept trying to jump ahead or climb on the bus even after the ticket guy
told them no. The armed guard finally had to chill everyone out. Even though we were in southern Quito, it took half an hour or so just to clear the traffic and get on the highway. I was under the impression that the panamerican highway was quite fast and well-maintained, but that was true only at its best spots and even then the bus didn't go very fast. The 50 mile trip took over two hours! At several spots along the way, there were folks crowded on the side of the road trying to get on our bus, and even though our bus was completely full, the driver did stop once and let a group of three and a young lady get on. If I'd been one of the folks back at the terminal that didn't make it, and knew they'd done that, it would have pissed me off.
Anyways, we pulled into the Latacunga terminal, grabbed our luggage and headed towards the hostal, or at least where we thought the hostal was. We dragged our bag up the stairs, over the pedestrian bridge and back down again, then walked the 6 or 7 blocks to where Hostal Tiana
was supposed to be, but all we found was a sign pointing up the street. We finally found another sign a block or two down and then located the hostal. Apparently, they had moved recently. Hostal Tiana is a fairly typical backpackers hostal, with free coffee, a kitchen, patio, and good information. We are splurging a bit this trip and mostly staying in double rooms with private bath. They run a bit more, for example it was $30 for our room here, but well worth it.
After stowing our gear and getting some information, we headed out to have a long overdue lunch, at about 3pm. The place the hostal lady recommended was back where we'd come from after the bus, but she swore they had the best chugchucaras in town. She said the place was called Chugchucaras Dona Rosita, but we went into the first place with a sign that said chugchucaras for $5 and are still not sure if it was the right place, but it was good. After the waitress described what came with one order, we opted to order just one, even though we were hungry. We were disappointed and didn't even quite finish it
Where we had a great milkshake,.
all. Chugchucaras is a plate with fried pork rind, chunks of roast pork, potatoes, popcorn, mote (boiled hominy), empanadas, baked corn kernals, and fried plantain. Everything was quite good and went well together. Since this was a major meal (for us), we decided we'd buy some fresh fruit for later on. Since we were going into unfamiliar territory, we didn't take the camera, but we may just eat there after the loop, so we'll get some photos then.
We walked back to the hostal, then to the Banco Pichincha to use the ATM and get some money for our 5-day trek tomorrow around the Quilotoa Loop. Since the loop consists of nothing but tiny villages, there will be no ATMs along the way! After leaving the money in our room (they give you a padlock for your door), we strolled around and picked up some fruit for dinner at the local supermarket. On the way back to the hostal, we couldn't resist stopping in a heladeria (ice cream shop) for a great milkshake.
The rest of the evening was spent doing my blog and photos, eating our fruit, and watching a movie online with NetFlix. Tomorrow we leave
Sitting on the patio at Hostal Tiana
Manoli reading, with her blanket and me doing my blog.
for the Quilotoa Loop, returning here 5 days later to spend another night and pick up our luggage. Since we'll be doing a lot of hiking, we are only taking our backpacks with minimal clothing, toiletries, camera, and computer. I'll try to make these next blogs as exciting and full of photos as I can, so you folks following us can get a good idea of how much fun we'll be having. Until then, buenas noches from Latacunga, Ecuador.
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