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Published: October 22nd 2009
This chapter of the travel blog will be a nice short one for 2 reasons. The first being that I've already been to Ecuador once before heading north to Colombia and secondly as a result of going North I don't have a great deal of time to get to Cuzco in Peru. I don't like making too many plans or sticking to time and dates, however you need to book the Inca trail in Cuzco at least 3 months in advance of going and I've already paid a lot for it, so I'm getting there by the 22nd October one way or another. I have also booked a flight from Lima in Peru to Cuzco on the morning of the 20th, giving me exactly a week to get through Ecuador and across half of Peru, i.e. lots of long journeys on buses.
13th October - Began if you recall from the previous chapter on a bus leaving Colombia (10 hours) In the early hours of the day and 1/3 of the way into the journey I started to realise I was in trouble, the mother of all stomach aches, followed by a temperature, sweating, then all hell broke loose. I'm not
Bus to Alausi
Practising Spanish with a 5 year old.
going to go into detail, all I can say is that I feel sorry for everyone on that small bus as I spent the majority of the latter part of the journey either rushing to, dying in or lying next to the toilet. Which I must add was the smallest toilet you've ever seen.
Anyway, we eventually arrived in Ipiales about 5am, I crawled off the bus and struggled with the rucksack into a collectivo (small mini bus that takes you from the bus to the border for 2,000 pesos, about 80p). I decided that I couldn't make it to the border let alone get on another bus so I got dropped at one of the hostels in between. I staggered into the hostel, collapsed into bed and carried on moaning, groaning and rushing to the toilet. About 11am ish after a little bit of sleep, some paracetamol and some vitamin tablets I decided to get going again. I walked to the main square, got a collectivo again, stamped out of Colombia and into Ecuador, got another collectivo to the bus station and got on bus to Quito.
At this point it is probably appropriate to explain a bit about
buses in Ecuador and Colombia and possible the rest of South America. When you arrive there you stand out like a sore thumb, still feeling very sensitive the last thing you need is a dozen people running up to you shouting place names at you and trying to shepherd you to their ticket office. I ended up on one of the many buses going to Quito. Then once you've put your rucksack on board and got a ticket proving you at least had one at the start you get on. The bus is normally half full and has a TV or radio blaring at you in Spanish. The driver then arses about for about 20 mins before eventually leaving, he will then go as slow as possible to try and fill it with passengers. Meanwhile about 20 sales people get on and off with anything from children's books to fruit, crisps, drinks, strange sticky things, ice creams you name it. I checked there was a toilet on board, which there was and off we went. Then 10 mins into the journey, a police road block, luckily no need to get off this time just a short delay while the dogs
no idea who this fella behind me is..
and narcotics division did a quick walk on and sniff round the bags underneath.
I sat back put my ipod on tried to get comfortable and relax, yeh right ! We arrived at the north bus station in Quito about 7pm. I checked into the same hostel as before, got some bread and water, had a shower and bed, not an enjoyable day !
14th October - Still feeling fragile, I decided to head for Banos (4 hours south of Quito). Taxi to the south station which cost $5 and took 40 mins before getting on a bus which should take 4 hours and cost $3.5 (less than the taxi to the station, work that one out !) All the standard hassle of deciding which company to use and the nonsense of filling the bus up. The buses do actually seem to move fairly quickly its just that many people get on and off, guess that's the problem if there are so many people relying on the bus, having no trains and not many people being able to afford the car. The other funny thing is that you are often the only non local / traveller / gringo on the
waiting with Campbell for the famous train ride !!
bus, which is often interesting. The journey does get broken up by the constant flow of people. There are also beggars that get on, tell you a big story, give everyone some sweets or biscuits then either collect 50c or the sweets / biscuits back. Oh and you also get clowns coming on doing a terrible show / speech and then ask for money. My favourites are the straightforward sales people that get on, give everyone a product, such as a tooth brush, book, kids toy, any old crap and then do the most serious pitch you've ever seen. I'll be honest I don't know what 90% of what they're saying. All I do know is not many people buy them and they spend all day getting on and off buses pitching, what a nightmare job, And I thought selling radio could be tough (actually that's not true, I've never thought that !)
So, I arrived in Banos early afternoon, checked into the guest house that Iva who I met in the jungle had recommended and went for some lunch. In the afternoon I went to the thermal spas, which was a strange outside swimming baths overlooking the town and
The descent down the famous Nariz Del Diablo
being supplied by the waterfall, very pleasant !
After the baths I went to watch the Ecuador Vs Chile game with a German couple Sven and something (forgot her name) in the pub. It was the last world cup qualifier. Ecuador needed to win away and rely on a draw between Argentina and Uruguay. I decided to brave a pint. In a nutshell, Ecuador lost and the pint was a bad idea. I went back quickly to the guest house and had an early night watching CSI Miami with a few visits to the toilet.
15th- A nice and relaxing morning, I braved a croissant and caught up with the blog and emails, enjoyed the sunshine and went for a nice walk around the town. Banos had a nice feel to it and there was a fiesta of some sort on and I was starting to feel a bit better finally ! In the afternoon we got the bus to Riobamba (2 hours) then on to Alausi (1.5 hours) where we found a hostel, had some food and crashed.
16th - We were up early to see if we could get tickets to go on the train that passes Alausi
dragging a dead pig to market / home..
before its descent down the world famous hair - raising switchbacks known as the Nariz del Diablo (That's what it says in the book !) It was built in 1901, cut on to the rock, zigzagging for almost 2 kilometres at a height of 5,753 feet, taking a year to build, costing 2 million sucres ($1 million) and losing hundreds of workers in the process. We managed to get the last 3 tickets for the 11.30am train. It was very touristy costing $7.50 and if I'm honest a bit of a nonsense. Oh well, sometimes you should ignore the lonely planet and other people ! We then got a lift in the back of a truck up to the Pan American highway and waited for a bus to come by to take us to Cuenca. Eventually one did and off we went, taking roughly 5 hours, arriving in Cuenca about 8pm. We checked into a hostel, which was cheap and not very comfortable, went out for a meal and crashed.
17th - Went for a 30 minute dash round Cuenca getting some breakfast from the bakery and taking photos of the colonial beauty of Cuenca (described as the tidy jewel
of the south) With it's narrow cobblestone streets, whitewashed red-tiled buildings, handsome plazas and domed churches. It is Ecuador's 3rd largest city and an elevation of 2350m. I managed to watch the last 2 minutes of Chelsea losing to Villa and United taking the lead against Bolton before getting on the bus from Cuenca to Huaquillas (on the border of Ecuador and Peru). Arriving about 2.30pm.
The next 40 mins were crazy, we were shepherded off the bus by a guy at the border, pointing us to the immigration office. Now, when somebody tries to help you at the border crossing described as the most dangerous in South America you should be suspicious and we were ! We got our stamps then got in a taxi to the Peruvian border ($1.5), with our new mate getting in the taxi, for some reason ! We then had to get out of the taxi in between the immigration offices as apparently the taxi isn't allowed to go the full journey, our mate was still trying to encourage us to change money at 3 Soles to the $, which is a very good rate, we declined. Apparently one con is that the money
The train ride.
possibly the most touristy train ride ever !
changers give you fake money ! We were then encouraged to get in another taxi to take us to the immigration office to get into Peru, we followed this guy down a back street which was starting to look very shifty, then 2 of his mates got in the taxi, so we quickly got out. After a few minutes of negotiating the new taxi drivers 2 mates got out, so we got back in. We later assume that the 2 guys were either going to rob us or just make sure we paid the taxi fare. We then drove to the office & stamped in to Peru. That journey was $4.50, we had negotiated before getting in. Once we had a stamp, the driver then started driving us to Tumbes (in Peru) He started telling us how expensive petrol was in Peru compared to Ecuador then pulled a price list of fares out of the glove compartment, which said $35 to Tumbes, no chance ! However we are now in no man's land and no sight of any buses, police or any other way of getting to Tumbes. So we started negotiating the rate, whilst he slowed right down to
about 10mph and taking us off the main road saying that we weren't going to pay $35. After a heated discussion we decided on $15 and gave him a $20, he said he would get us change. He put the note in his top pocket, to which we asked for our money back as it was all looking very dodgy, he then passed me a note which was clearly fake. It was all becoming a bit of smoke and mirrors, he then pulled up next to a money changer to get our $5. There was lots of raised voices and Campbell and I arguing with the driver. Eventually we got to the bus terminal and got out with our bags. On reflection we think we avoided getting fake money of the first guy, getting robbed by the 2nd taxi driver's mates, paying $35 for a $10 journey & getting given a fake $20, therefore costing $35. I'm glad I wasn't doing that border crossing on my own ! It cost us $5 each, which we reckon all in all was a good result. After that manic experience we got a few things for the bus journey, bought a ticket and
got out of Tumbes quick smart, getting on the bus to Lima at 4.30pm (18 hours). We had a bit of a chat and when it went dark went to sleep.
18th - Woke up on the bus at 7am (after sleeping for 10 hours or so). The bus arrived about midday, we got a taxi to Ade's flat in Miraflores (the nice part of Lima) had a bottle of wine and went out for a lovely late lunch of an assortment of fish. Ade is a friend from Manchester who teaches and has lived in Lima for over 3 years. It was really nice to have somewhere to crash and relax that wasn't a hostel for once. In the evening we went out for a few beers and crashed about midnight. A good end to a long day !
It was a long slog to get from the North of Colombia to Lima to catch the flight to Cuzco, especially feeling rough for half the journey. However, it was done now and I managed not to spend too much money getting there, whilst seeing a bit of Southern Ecuador on the way, which was nice !
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