Published: July 11th 2008June 24th 2008
I thought I might as well write a blog about somewhere I spend as much time whilst travelling as I do seeing stuff - ie. Sat on a bus. Now in England a ten hour bus ride would certainly be an absolute hell but here I think bus journeys are half the fun! Unlike England there is no need to buy snacks before you leave and sit quietly in your seat making every effort not to touch the stranger sitting next to you. For a start your neighbour is your best friend for the next x-number of hours and you will know their entire life story by the time you step of the bus. Or, depending on the level of mutual language at least be told 'you like Ecuador', 'very pretty', and 'you americana.' However emphatically you deny the last one and try to convince them that not every white English speaking person in the world is from the USA you are officially a gringa.
Secondly, in Ecuador, food comes to you. Whenever you start to feel hungry you can guarantee that some vendor will step onto the bus with hot food or at the very least crisps, fruit and
nuts as well as cold drinks. Now why we can't transfer this to England I don't know.
Next comes entertainment (if your neighbour isn't enough entertainment for the whole journey.) Short bus rides make do with salsa blaring out loud enough to burst your ear drums but with longer journeys this always involves some terrible film playing at full blast in Spanish even on overnight buses. I can say with complete confidence that I have now seen every Bruce Willis, Jean Claude Van Damme and every other truly terrible action film ever created. That and half the most gory horror films ever made as well regardless of whether half the occupants of the bus are under ten. Watching Texas Chain Saw Massacre with a five year old in the seat in front is not something that you would experience in England! Of course staring out of the window for hours on end is entertainment in itself seeing how beautiful and diverse Ecuador is. Southern Colombia was even more so once we'd crossed the border but the roads were far too bumpy to allow for photography from the bus window.
Buses come in every form in Ecuador from caminettas
and trucks to fully air conditioned comfy seats and on-board toilet. Yet all have certain things in common:
• Various stickers and posters of Jesus and Mary - often holographic
• A model Virgin Mary and baby Jesus on the dashboard (the doll often looking worryingly like a Barbie!)
• A baby's shoe hanging from the rearview mirror (I'm yet to work out if this is a good luck charm of the driver's child or a rather sinister souvenir from reckless driving)
• Something (usually several things) with the Ecuadorian flag on it - this has ranged from mere stickers to posters of the football team and full sized flags)
• The Ecuadorian equivalent of a page 3 girl next to the driver's seat.
• Extra holographic stickers of various saints (naturally always including St. Christopher) interspersed with stickers of footballers, models and Simpsons characters.
Stops are very rare (hence the reason we made our own stop in Ibarra on the 18 hour ride from Guayaquil to Tulcan - see photos) Our only stop on this particular journey was at three in the morning when the drugs police wanted to search the luggage compartment and pat down all the men (but not the women.) I
Notice the giant shiny Virgin Mary sticker!
guess I know how to smuggle drugs around Ecuador then! Slightly annoying to be woken up by a load of armed police with dogs and turned off the bus while it was searched but this has only happened twice so far so I'll forbear.
So far from complaining about the countless hours spent cramped up on a bus traversing some truly terrible roads I have come to the conclusion that bus journeys are the true South American experience and should be enjoyed. Just book yourself a massage at the next town!
There are more photos below