Not sure why but for some reason this post disappeared. Gilligan’s Island turned Burmuda Triangle? Here goes, hopefully it sticks around this time!
Turns out this whole traveling and being productive thing is harder then I thought. This morning I got up with the full intention of going to a yoga class. Then I scarfed down free hostel eggs and toast and now I’m feeling kinda of queezy or at the least not ready for lots of bending forward. Let’s be honest, cafe sitting is more my speed anyway. So, here I am in Cuenca, Ecuador about have a frozen maracuya drink (passion fruit – I’m completely obessed) and finally, finally update my blog! Prepare yourselves, it’s about to be cray – I’m going out of chronological order. I know, it’s a big step. Later I am going to go back and write about northern Chile, Bolivia and Peru but for now it’s all about my crazy Banos adventures.
I spent Christmas at the beach in northern Peru. A town called Mancora. It was ok but wasn’t my favorite stop. Thankfully I was traveling with two friends (Dutchies!) and we made the best out of it. We knew that we didn’t want to stay there for NYE which was good because the whole town was booked solid. On December 29 at 11pm it was time to leave our hostel and get on a bus to Cuenca, Ecuador. Three girls, three giant backpacks, three purses, 2 day packs, 1 extra reuseable shopping for me and about 4 extra giant plastic bags for Josta. Um, yup, we’re gonna need 2 tuk tuks, por favor. Ellen and I arrived in the second tuk tuk and Josta was standing there – hands on her hips, looking pissed. Que pasa? She was having a bit of trouble understanding why but apparently our bus is not coming. I go over and chat with the guy in charge of the bus. He precedes to tell me very nonchalantly that the bus isn’t coming. Why? Mechanical problems. Well, is there another bus? Yeah but we probably can’t get on that one. Did you ask? I guess could call. At which point I made it very clear that yes, yes indeed he would call. Call. NOW. What’s that? Bus is full? No hopes of getting on? Fantastic.
At this point we had a back and forth about how the whole town was booked and wherewere we suppose to sleep? He just sat there nodding at me and saying yes, everywhere is probably booked. No, he has no information. I’m pretty sure he was stoned and just couldn’t care less. It’s now almost midnight. The town is booked. I am really, really ready to get out here and we’re NOT going back to our old hostel. This man is making me VERY angry. A tuk tuk driver pulls up, they chat and then the tuk tuk driver offers to let us sleep at his house. He is super creppy looking. We decide that worst case senario we will go to the beach and take turns sleeping while the others watch the bags but under no circumstance will we go to that creppy driver’s house.
We luck out and find a hostel but it’s made clear we can only stay for one night. Ok, can do. We get about 4 hours sleep. Wake up, go to the bus station which is really just a store and no one is there. Don’t panic, just eat baked goods. Finally a transfer van pulls up. We load in and then drive up and down the mile long strip for 30 minutes while the driver leans out and yells – Tumbes, Tumbes, Tumbes, Tuuuuuuummmmmmbbbbesssssss. We are going to Tumbes to connect with our bus. He is trying to russle up a bit more business because he doesn’t want to leave until the van is 100% full and there currently 1 open seat. Ok, it’s finally time to leave. We’re driving along, the girls and I are snoozing a bit and suddenly we pull over on the side of the highway. According to the driver there is a problem with the engine. The curious part is he never turns the car off and the a/c is going at full blast. So we wait and eventually a new van pulls up.
Our first van was very modern – it had a/c, real seats and a radio. Our next van appeared to be held together by duck tape, literally. The metal frame was all rusted out and the many holes were patched with cardboard. The floor was made of a combination of plywood, floor mats and bits of scrap metal – step lightly. The seats were very old benches bolted to the floor. Along with the people the van was carrying 6 propane tanks, giant dirty jugs of liquid that we think was water and interestingly enough – several giant bouquets of sunflowers.
All the seats were taken but somehow we had to quick, quick shove in all 7 of us from our original van. I ended up sharing a seat with a man and his toddler. The only way I could fit was to put my back to the man and my legs in the aisle. The aisle was tiny and I ended up sitting spread eagle with a very, very old man between my legs. The girls were shoved in the back, basically sitting on each other and laughing hysterically. Um hmm, how long is this part of the trip? The van shuddered to a start and sounded like it had a small boat motor instead of a car engine. No a/c so the windows were down and everyone was sweating. Yup, this is great.
Thankfully one of the couples in our original van were very sweet and sort of watched out for us. When we arrived in Tumbes they tried to explain which bus station we needed but the driver said that didn’t exist. We had either been sold fake tickets originally or because yesterday’s bus was suppose to be direct and therefore we shouldn’t have ever gone via Tumbes. The driver wanted to drop us with the nice couple at their bus station because they too are going to Cuenca. We get there are our van is immediately surrounded by men yelling. Everyone is climbing over each to get our bags off the roof. At this point I am trying to talk to the driver. His responce? Screaming at me to GET OUT OF THE VAN. At the same time there are about a dozen men yelling over each to ask me which bag is mine? So much yelling. So much. What can you do but yell back? So now I too am yelling. The couple was trying to help but they too getting swallowed up in the yelling men and we get separated.
Ellen and Josta try to get our bags while I try to sort out the tickets. What basically happens is that the men take our large backpacks off the roof and then throw them at the girls. The force of the bag throwing nearly knocks the girls over each time causing them to stumbling backwards which results in.. you guessed it, more yelling. I don’t really understand whats happening but we are given new bus tickets without paying and are told to get on the bus.
Natch this whole time I have to pee. Is there a bathroom on the bus? Si, claro but it’s locked. The girls promise to hold the bus while I run to the dirty bathroom. I pay my 10 cents to use it and rush it. One of the yelling men in control of the bathroom. He follows me in and pulls my stall door closed for me. At this point I’m in such a rush that it doesn’t even register how strange that is until later. I can close my own stall door, thank you. I pee, the toilet doesn’t flush – this was also a problem in Mancora, lots of force flush toilets. The man hands me a bucket of very dirty water and keeps say para ducha, para ducha. To bath with. Again, it’s not registering so I just assume I should force flush the toilet – I pour the bucket of water in the toilet. He now yelling – No! Para ducha, para ducha! He hands me another bucket but again, it doesn’t register so I pour that one that one is the toilet too. More yelling. The third time I refuse to take the bucket and just shove my way out of the bathroom. The man follows me to the bus. We are in the front row. He now wants to chat with us. He knows a few words of English and keeps points to us and keeps saying – red, red and giggling. We’re slightly sunburned but not much. He keeps staring and smiling. When is this bus going to leave??? He then tells me I can put my seat back. Yes, I know. He leans over me and trys to put my seat back for me at which point I scream NO! and nearly kick him in the balls. At that point we realize all this attention is because he just wants a tip. They all want a tip. That’s why they are clammoring to “help” us. The three of us are all grumpy and agree there’s no f-ing way we are tipping anyone so leave us alone. The bus starts, it’s time to leave, we give no tip but we take a huge sigh of relief. We’ve made it! It’s nice bus, we’re headed to the border, peace out Peru, we are so done with you.
We cross the border, all is good. Then the driver’s assistant starts talking to me to me in rapid and confusing Spanish, he hands me $21 and says its for the 3 of us. We have to make a transfer. I thought wow, we’re getting a refund? Sweet. Bummer we have to make another transfer but ok. We drive about 10 minutes from the border, all reading our books – feeling relaxed. And suddenly the driver is yelling get off the bus! Get off! Get off! What? What is going on? GET OFF THE BUS! Now? What? I look the window and see our bags being unloaded and put on the sidewalk. What is gong on? More yelling. At this point, calm, easy going Ellen stands up and screams in the driver’s face UN MOMENTO! The bus driver responds by yelling in her face – MOMENTITO! We are scrambling to get our shit together which is spread all over the seats – kindles, ipods, notebooks. We scope it up and run off the bus where are backpacks are being left. Legit the second we stepped off the bus it pulled away. At that point we see a taxi, apparently the assistant driver had already paid him to take us to the new bus station. This is all within about 3 minutes. WTF just happened? We just got kicked off a bus? Yes, we just got kicked off a bus.
We have no idea where we are and not a lot of options so we get in the cab. At various points the driver slows down and we all just silently pray that we don’t have to get out yet. The town was definitely not a place for tourist. It was dusty and full of autopart stores? Ok, we get to a bus station. Unload our bags and realize that my purple bag is not with us. FFFFFFFFFFFF. It got left on the bus. I am beyond furious. I just keep telling myself not to cry. We all feel awful. It just happend soooo fast. Ughhhhh what was in that bag? Sneakers. My bathing suit. My camera! FFFFFFFF. I was so mad. I took some deep breaths and decided to just over it. There’s nothing I could do at that point. I have since replaced all the stuff I lost and filed an insurance claim which will hopefully pay me back for most of it! Thankfully Mary is coming to visit with a big suitcase full of stuff from home & my love for Amazon has never been stronger. :)
We find a new bus and are told we have to wait 3 hours. We are starving so we go to find some food and convert our money. We get huge plates of fried shrimp and a big pitcher of fresh lemonade. We are bit dilerious and super hungry so we just end up laughing about the whole situation. We had no idea where we were so I asked the waitress – what is the name of this town? She looked at me very confused. No, seriously what is this town called? Where are we? We had a problem with our bus and we don’t know where we are. She told us, I forgot the name but basically some small border town with not much going on.
After lunch we kill some time and decide we def need bus snacks. Eating becomes our main focus on the entire journey. It’s amazing what a popsicle can do to bust your mood when you’re sweating through your dirty clothes. We board the bus but again it’s not really bus for tourists so first of all there is no a/c and secondly the bus is way overbooked. Entire families of 5 or 6 people share 2 seats. The aisle is packed with people. It’s cool, this bus should only be 5 hours. We can handle it. For the first 3 hours of the trip the bus stops every 20 minutes for about 15 minutes at a time. No a/c and no moving air means the bus (us included) stinks. There are just so many smells circulating – unidentifiable, bad smells. We try to sleep but its not working.
At the various rest stops we buy more snacks and more bottles of water. We have our second round of popsicles and later agree that is the highlight of the entire two days. Popsicles. All that water, all those snacks – I gotta go to the bathroom. This is terrifying because while we stop constantly the bus gives no indication of when it’s leaving. Several times the bus ends up leaving people behind and starts pulling away. Women with babies in their arms end up running after the bus and screaming to be let on. This gringa wants no part of that. I rush off the bus, go as fast as humanly possible and rush back on the bus – turns out that’s one of the 20 minute stops. I had plenty of time.
So the 5 hours come and go. I ask the women next to me how far we are to Riobomba – not even our final destination but the next place we have to change buses, again. Riobomba? 4 more hours. Whattttttttttttt? Oh yeah, this isn’t an express bus so it’s going to 2 or maybe even 3 times as long as we thought. We had a great system going – we took turns losing our shit. Nearly crying, lots of swearing and then more snacking. Someone always remained calm. It was quite impressive.
We finally arrive to Riobomba, it’s too late to make any connections we will need to spend the night. We find a hostel and crash for the night. The next morning we shower, it’s glorious, have lunch and get another bus. This bus runs smoothly and get us to Banos. We thought it would never happen but we FINALLY MADE IT! The original trip should have been 10 hours. It took us 45. 2 tuk tuks. 4 buses. 3 taxis. 2 popsicles per person. A mountain of snacks. Many, many bottles of water. 1 lost bag. Lots and lots of yelling. Being dropped off on the highway once and thrown off the bus once but WE DID IT! We survived. And congrats to you for making through this extremely long story about our Mancora – Banos adventure.
Originally we had planned to go to Cuenca but it was too hard to get there so we gave up and just headed straight to Banos where we would be spending NYE. Thankfully Banos turned out to be an awesome. It’s hard to say all that travel was worth it (especially with a lost bag!) but in the end we had an absolute blast in Banos! As always, lots more to come!