One step closer to the Amazon

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South America » Ecuador » East » El Coca
March 5th 2014
Published: March 5th 2014
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Straddling the equator.
After the ranch we went to Quito, I was quite nervous because a bus going our same route was held up at gunpoint a few days before our journey. Thankfully we made it just fine though. We spent a week or so in the capital city staying at a lovely place that Eva had recommended, owned by Europeans, it was very nice and affordable. We went to the actual equator and had fun doing silly poses on the line!

We applied for our Brazilian visa's in Quito so we had to stay around longer than we planned. We went up to Mindo and went tubing down the river, hiked to various waterfalls which required riding on a cable car and was the beginning of conquering my fear of heights. When we returned to Quito I forced myself to go on a gondola for the first time in my life. The views were spectacular and I was so proud of myself for doing it. The journal below picks up on the day we left Quito.

April 17th - 18th 2013We took 3 buses in the city of Quito alone just trying to get to the terminal that we needed to be at to get to Coca. By the time we arrived it was a little after 10. The next bus to Coca was at 1:30. What irritates me about this is I feel that we should be able to pull bus schedules online and avoid long waits. The bus company we used didn't have Coca even listed as a destination online even though it was on the sign at the station. So often information on the net is incorrect and it makes it difficult. We have to just show up places to get the real scoop and that can be quite a task sometimes. That being said there was another bus leaving right away that would get us to Coca, it would take longer but we would still be there ahead of the 1:30 bus so we ran outside to catch it.

The scenery was beautiful, we saw lots of waterfalls and i'm not talking wimpy little streams of water falling off mountains, gushing water with different levels. I couldn't help but smile. The trees and grass were so green, thanks to rainy season. At one point we were in the clouds, it was raining and we felt

I'm very scared in this photo, forcing a smile.
like we were back in Monteverde in Costa Rica.

The beautiful drive was nauseating as expected and for the 2nd time ever Dan & I both remembered the "seat belts" that we brought with us which are just straps that buckle. I was glad we brought them, you never know when your bus might plunge off a cliff. The way these people drive is nuts. The belts also help you not slosh about your seats so much. I must admit I got lost in a day dream of being back home never riding on a bus in the mountains again!

The conductor of the bus was unusually unfriendly. There was a sign on the bathroom that said for woman only. Dan asked if he could use it and the guy stuck to the rule on the sign and said we would be stopping in 20 minutes. It was longer than 20 minutes though. They should have just pulled over for him to pee. I mean it's a 10 hour bus ride, how can they not let both sexes use the bathroom on such a long drive. It is however good for me, the guys here are absolute neanderthals when it comes to peeing. The bathrooms on the buses are disgusting because they can't aim apparently. I realize the bus is moving but sit down if you are unable to pee in the toilet. Anyway the bus finally stops, we both get out to use the facilities while the bus gasses up. We try to buy some food but it's taking so long at the register that we have to ditch it and run to the bus which is already moving. The conductor told Dan we would be stopping later for food.

Not too much later we stop and the driver and conductor get off, instead of announcing that we have 15 minutes of free time they say nothing and go eat themselves. Because we were hungry and knew we wouldn't be arriving at our destination until well after dinner we get off the bus and ask how much time we have. 10 minutes he says so we hurriedly eat fried chicken, rice and some pasta salad with a gelatin drink as that is all that is being served. It wasn't bad though.

The rest of the bus ride was uneventful until about the last hour and a half. The bus cleared out for the most part and the guy that was sitting across the isle from us moves up and sits next to another guy. The two of them haven't spoken before so I find it odd, they quietly talk and one of them looks back at us. Then the guy moves to another seat. I immediately figure they are talking about robbing us since Dan is on his tablet, a move I thought was risky. One of them periodically looks back at us. My heart is racing. I pull out a little something to defend myself and hold it while I put my other hand on my seat belt buckle so I can quickly lunge out of my seat if necessary. Everyone says if you get robbed just give them what they want but my blood is boiling at the thought. Two young punks robbing us, unarmed. I'm American damn it, I carry a gun at home, my stuff isn't a free for all, I don't care how poor you are, it doesn't make it OK to rob people. That being said I know none of my possessions are worth my life so relax my friends, I won't do anything stupid, if they are armed I will comply. I just can't help but wish I had my gun with me.

Next one of them moves to the seat right in front of us, now my blood is really pumping, it's not just my imagination, what are these guys doing!? Soon after this the bus stops and quite a few woman and children get on the bus, this makes me feel a little better. Maybe this will deter them from doing anything. I tensely sit up alert and ready for the remainder of the ride. The guy moves again, what the heck! We are getting close to Coca and I start thinking about them robbing us when we get off but I figure we can get our backpacks and get a taxi without incident. A couple stops before the terminal they get off. Whew! Dan thinks I'm nuts but for all I know they were going to do something and didn't because I was staring at them every time they looked back at us.

The terminal was quite nice for a city this size and very brightly lit, I take a deep breath and realize everything is OK. We get a taxi to a hostel we read about but it's full so we walk down the street to a hotel, they have one room left, it's $45 per night but we don't know if the other places have vacancies and don't want to hop around all night in this new city in the dark with our backpacks so we take it. It's right on the river, a beautiful view with pools and a water slide. We ate dinner at the restaurant in the hotel. I got soup because everything else was so expensive but turns out the onion soup was delicious and filling. Sadly the shower wasn't hot, I know the weather is warmer here but I'm still disappointed. For a $45 hotel room I expect hot water. I am so exhausted I pass out almost as soon as my head hits the pillow.

I wake up in the early morning and realize I have slept really well but I hear rain which is not optimal since we are getting up and looking for a boat to take us to the border. The alarm goes off at 7 and we get dressed and go look for a boat, when we find the one going where we need to go it's leaving in 5 minutes which isn't enough time for us to buy food for the trip, pack and get back to the dock so we buy tickets for the next day, they are $15 each for a 10 hour boat ride. It's another one of those things where you wish you could be more prepared but you just have to show up and figure it out. When you try to ask the locals about a boat they just attempt to sell you tour packages which is what we are avoiding since they are so costly.

We walk around looking for breakfast but all we see is people eating rice and we don't want rice for breakfast so we head back to the restaurant at the hotel and get Fruit, eggs, bread, tea and juice. I eat my fruit and drink my tea, the rest is blah. We head out the door and I pull Dan onto the covered patio sort of area overlooking the river. We stroll over to the rail where we see a gorgeous peacock, as we look around we see that there are at least 5 in the area. They are eating little yellow flowers, it's strangely fascinating to see the flowers disappear one by one so quickly. Then out of nowhere I see a tiny tiny monkey running up a rail, Dan claimed he saw a glimpse of one last night but I was skeptical 😉 It is so adorable and it gets quite close to us. Then it runs over to a woman's table and we follow, she says he's already made a mess. We see that he has knocked the sugar bowl over on the table. He sticks his whole head in a coffee mug (that is how tiny he is!) and then starts eating sugar out of the sugar pile. He has little granules of sugar all over his whiskers, I didn't even know monkeys had whiskers, not consciously anyway. It's like little beads of dew on blades of grass. He is so tiny, he's going to overdose on sugar!

We strike up a conversation with the woman at the table, she is from California, the only gringo we have seen in this town so far. Her friend comes over and they tell us they arrived on a night bus at 4 am and every place they tried was full so they slept on the couch in the lobby of our hotel for a bit. They are just waiting for a room to open up somewhere. We hang out with them for a while and then decide it's time to test out the pool. The water is a little cold at first but nothing compared to the river in Mindo we were just in. I go down the slide which is fairly slow but I still enjoy it and proceed to go down 5 or 6 times. As I am climbing the ladder for the last time I see one of the grounds keepers hand Dan a good size turtle. I slide down and get out to see it. The guy says she is 24 years old! There is a wooded area by the hotel that 4 turtles live in, they aren't water turtles, they are really cute and very heavy. When he brings over a male he doesn't come out of his shell but you can still see his face and it's adorable! I get a great photo of him. The guy doesn't know how old this turtle is but says he is younger than the female. What an amazing hotel with all these animals! There is also a boat with an old commercial plane on it. No idea if it actually works but pretty cool looking. We really enjoyed all there was to see at the hotel.

As we walk by the market I am terrified by the huge fish which they have obviously pulled out of the river. In case I was thinking of swimming in there that sealed the deal for me. There are bundles of crabs moving sluggishly around. Buckets of scrimp, tons of pretty fish and quail eggs. The town has a lovely central park with fountains and a nice playground.

We checked into the same place as the girls which was $15 a night rather than $45. We all had lunch at a Chinese place, it wasn't bad at all. Then I realize how late it is and we dash out looking for the immigration office since according to our research we have to get our exit stamp here before we board the boat. We go all over the place looking for the office. Finally we ask at the police station and they say it's across town. We take a taxi and much to my delight the office is not closed when we arrive. The one person inside says that the people who do that won't be back for an hour but tells us that we can get it stamped in Rocafuerte where we are headed which is news to us but means we don't have to wait an hour so woo hoo! We now set out to buy food for the boat ride and hammocks as we will be on a boat for 5 days soon and will have to sleep in hammocks, this is how we can afford to go to the Amazon.


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