Waiting for a bus in Loja
Trip Start Jul 12, 2006
17Trip End Aug 23, 2006
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I went hiking in Cajas National Park, near Cuenca, on Monday. The guidebook and the tourist information center said to plan to be done hiking by 4pm because fog comes in and makes it easy to get lost. Well, the trail I chose to hike made it easy to get lost even without the fog. By ´trail´ I mean ´one-foot wide path of dirt which disappeared every time the long grass stopped and a marshy area began. It was not well-marked, and the high páramo grass made it easy to lose. Anyway, it should have taken about 3-3.5 hours to hike, but I had to double back and do all sorts of off-trail hiking (for which I am very sorry to the National Park, but maybe they should keep their trails in better condition), so it took me neary 5 hours round trip. It was a great hike though--besides the frustration of losing the trail every five minutes--that weaved between mountain lakes and climbed up (one of) the highest peaks in the park, at about 4200m. I had lunch at the top before descending along a route of... well... I´m not sure how to characterize it. I would best describe it as dangerous and I´m still not sure how I got down without at least a broken ankle. I´ll post pictures when I get a chance. There were a couple of areas I used to get down that during the wet season would have been waterfalls.
Anyhow, getting down took so long that it was after the recommended stopping time--I think it was about 5pm. It wasn´t too foggy yet, so I walked to the entrance where I had been dropped off and asked when the next bus to Cuenca would be passing by. The guy there told me that a bus went buy every 30 minutes. So I walked to the road, where I was subsequently passed by 5 buses, at the last of which I yelled some unpleasantries (in English--I don´t really know any bad words in Spanish). I returned to the entrance and told the guy my situation. He actually was of negative assistance, if that´s possible. He said, ¨The buses just passed without stopping?¨ and I said, ¨Yes, that´s why I´m still here.¨ We then stared at each other in silence for five minutes, after which I decided to start walking.
It was just about 6pm at this point, and sure enough, the fog came rolling in. It didn´t so much roll as drop, but it was preceded by a light cold rain. It wasn´t dark yet so I felt safe enough walking along the side (the ¨shoulder¨ was about a foot and a half wide), hopping up onto the grass/gravel/large rocks next to the road whenever a large truck or occasional bus--which didn´t even honk at me like the trucks did, let alone pick me up--passed. Here are some things that made my safe return to Cuenca possible: an ample supply of Clif bars (thanks to Cary, who made a late-night run to the grocery store the night before I left for SA and picked those up for me), a bag of 10 mandarins (which I bought at the bus station for $1 that morning, and without which I would have become severely dehydrated), my hat and gloves, my rain jacket, my anger at the buses (7 of them by the end--they fueled a furious pace), my headlamp (yet again. It became dark after 30 minutes of walking), the fact that the entire walk was downhill, the police checkpoint at the park boundary (where I was allowed to wait for a bus--they were required to stop there, so logically they MUST let me on, right?), and two kind souls named Alejandro and Luli (only 40% sure of the spelling on the second name).
I had been waiting for awhile at the police checkpoint and no buses had come. I was just happy not to be walking along the side of a winding moutain road anymore, but I could tell I was making the guard or whatever they guy at the checkpoint was sort of nervous. So when a white SUV with at least three tall houseplants in the back pulled up and asked the guy if I needed a ride to Cuenca, he made sure I took it. Obviously I would have taken it without his prodding, but it was easy to see that the guard was glad to be rid of the American who had been sitting on the curb for the past 25 minutes. Anyway, Alejandro and Luli were on their way back from the coastal city of Guayaquil--one I am sad I did not visit--to their home in Cuenca. From what I could gather, Luli is Alejandro´s daughter, but there were a few things said implying that they were not related (such as, ¨That´s his name,¨ with regard to the name of the street my hotel was on being the same as Alejandro´s surname). But I´ll disregard them and assume that they were father and daughter (the age difference was appropriate). Alejandro is a math teacher--they both were pretty excited when I told them that I study physics--and Luli is a psychology student. More importantly, they were very kind and good conversation (I hadn´t done much talking besides ordering food and bus tickets and hostel rooms in a couple of days), and they dropped me off near my hostel in Cuenca. Thank you Alejandro and Luli.
After that adventure, and some unkind treatment in a restaurant in Cuenca, I was happy to get on a bus for a five-hour ride to Loja. It´s in the far south of Ecuador, and I´m taking an eight-hour bus ride south of the border to Piura, Peru. I have a flight to Lima on the morning of Friday, July 28th. I booked this at home not knowing that not only is July 28th the Peruvian independence day, but this July 28th is also the inauguration of the new Peruvian president. I´m excited for this, and I will hopefully see some really interesting celebrations/rallies/prostests(?) Anyway, that´s it for now. I think I´ve passed enough time that I can go get some lunch before hopping on the bus. Hasta luego.