Bus Riding through the Andes

Trip Start Nov 05, 2006
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Trip End Jan 14, 2008


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Flag of Ecuador  ,
Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Partially recovered from the e-coli infestation, we headed out of Cuenca to catch a plane from Guayaquil to Lima.

About bus riding in Ecuador.

Bus riding in Ecuador is a very distinct experience.  We have traveled by bus all over the world and each place has itīs quirks.  Buses are the most common mode of transport here.  Few people own cars, so everyone uses the bus system.  It is probably the most genuinely Ecuadorian experience you can have as a tourist.  Bus stations are a flurry of activity with all manner of vendors.  I like the "medicinal water" cart that seems to be a frequent stop for the locals. 

You stow your luggage and board the bus taking your assigned (or any) seat.  You stare out the window down at the luggage storage bin to make sure that when it is opened your bag is not taken out by any bus terminal riff raff.  You know itīs time to go when the driver jumps on board and starts warming up the engine.  Before you depart though, no less than 5 food vendors will board the bus and try to sell snacks.  Banana bread to cups of mystery meat with vegetables and pepitas (still donīt know what those are exactly), are sold  up and down the aisles.  The driver pulls away from the terminal while the vendors furiously work the aisles selling their snacks.  Just as the bus clears the parking lot, they all jump off to hit the next departing bus.  Then comes the daily diatribe.  There is a traveling salesman or beggar (or both) on every bus.  They stand at the front of the aisle and give their speech.  Imagine it, you can buy gum that will cure terminal illness on the bus!  If they arenīt selling a product, you get a very creative, long story about how they or their friend with a head injury needs $40 to get help.  Soap opera writers could do not better.   We heard about head injuries, out-of-work stories and the injustice of immigrant work laws all of which were followed by the "collection walk" down the aisle. Strangely, the locals always give something to these people.  Ecuadorians are a very generous people.

Our bus ride from Cuenca to Guayaquil was in the top five scenic rides of our trip.  Climbing out of Cuenca into the Andes we passed indigenous villages and wandering alpacas all the while surrounded by the towering peaks of the Andes.  As we crossed the summit of the range, we traveled above the clouds.  As we descended onto the coastal side, the landscape began to change.  Arid high desert gave way to cloud forests that gave way to rain forests and ultimately dense jungle.   Our crisp morning weather in Cuenca changed to a steamy tropical climate as we arrived at the airport in Guayaquil.  It was time to say good bye to Ecuador as we headed to Lima, Peru.
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