howdy from riobamba, ecuador
Just wanted to send out a quick update on where we are now. We sadly pulled ourselves away from the beach paradise of Máncora, Peru and crossed into Ecuador. It was an interesting experience.
First, we bought our tickets from a travel agent with a well-known company, CIFA International. We got on the bus in Máncora and it was quite nice. A few hours later we reached the border (I mistakenly thought it was less than an hour away, but it was actually more like 3 hours away). We were stamped out of Peru with no problems and into Ecuador easily enough (besides an old man trying to cut me in line!). But then things started to get strange. For one, we were the only people going to Riobamba…no other traveler’s were going to this city. Usually not a good sign. Then we were told we would have to change buses – something never mentioned when we bought the tickets but whatever, its South America, they have different concepts of ‘organization’ and ‘customer service’ here. The did leave behind some really helpful staff to make sure we got to the right place. Then, instead of a bus, we got into a taxi. Mmmhmmm.
Then we arrived at the bus ‘station’ where we got on a considerably less-nice bus than the previous one, and it was some random company. Great. Originally we were told we would get to Riobamba by 4:30 a.m. Not ideal, but we figured with border crossings and South American timekeeping, that could easily stretch into 5:30 or 6. We were wrong. Again. The same thing happened when we arrived in Máncora: terrible bus company, we were supposed to arrive at 7 a.m. but got there just before 6 a.m. instead. We should have learned, but seeing as we were more or less used to terrible buses and had never arrived anywhere early before, we didn’t think much of it. We arrived in Riobamba at about 3:15 a.m. Not at a bus terminal where we could wait and get oriented either. Just on the side of the road in front of the company’s office, just as we did in Máncora. So not ideal. We were also stopped at least four times, if not five, by police and national police who searched our bus for drugs, asked for our ID, asked to see our bags, shown their flashlights everywhere, etc, etc en route. We also had the delight of watching Fast and the Furious…5. But, they did give us a tiny, cold bottle of Sprite. That helped a bit, I guess.
So, we get into what I was dearly hoping was a refutable taxi (how good can it get at 3 a.m.?) and I whip out my book to see what hostel I marked to go to. I hadn’t. So, I picked one at random. I’m thinking in my head, we should probably have the taxi wait for us to make sure we get in OK, but it was too late. The city did not look pleasant or nice or pretty, but few cities give a good impression at that hour with that type of bus ride, so I let it go. It can’t be as bad as Temuco (it isn’t), I think. Well, we buzz and buzz and buzz at the hotel and no one is answering. We knock on the the glass, shake the doors, buzz obnoxiously, all to no avail. So, my book says there’s other hotels nearby, and we start walking around with our giant backpacks and “mug me now!” foreigner signs. I do not like what I see in the street – weird food stalls with people sitting around, far too late in the night. But, we decide to start asking at hotels anyway, what else can we do?
As we’re sort of arguing and knocking on the door of a random hotel, two guys in a car get out and start talking to us, exactly what I want to happen. Then they start telling us, ‘no, don’t stay there, I think that place is dangerous, in fact, you shouldn’t be out here walking at night, this area is really dangerous at night…what are you looking for? You should leave as soon as possible, it’s dangerous, take a taxi to a good hotel, we can pay for it, or we can take you, no, we’ll get you a taxi, c’mon, you should leave…it’s dangerous.’ In the meantime another guy walks up (we’re drawing a small crowd at this point, must’ve looked like real idiots) and starts saying basically the same thing and they get us a taxi and tell the driver a different hotel further away for us to stay at. I’m thinking, well, this will probably work out alright, but it’ll probably end up being really expensive. Oh well, what else can you do at 3 in the morning? We pay $4 (strangely, they’re on the US dollar here after the financial crisis in 2001) for a 5 minute cab ride, and end up paying $46 for a night in a hotel, that while it’s nice enough, is definitely not worth it. And, of course, we sleep through breakfast since we went to bed so late.
But, after that things started to look up. We ate burritos for lunch and the guy at the restaurant was really nice; he gave us all sorts of suggestions of stuff to do and where to look for cheaper hotels. Then we walked down to the hotel we tried to get into the night before. While the city still doesn’t look “nice” it’s not so bad either, and we still haven’t seen much. We found the train station and buy tickets to ride the train on Sunday – “the Devil’s Nose.” It’s supposed to have gorgeous views of the countryside, and a slightly terrifying downhill bit at the end. We find out our train tickets include lunch, entrance to a museum, and we don’t have to get up as early as we thought we would, nor do we have to ride the bus as long as we thought. Then we look at hotels and find out the one we originally wanted is in many ways nicer than the previous one, for only $26, full buffet breakfast and wifi included. Still more than we’re used to paying, but I think we’re both too tired of traveling to care. We also looked at a dirt cheap place but decided it was too sketchy and we’d rather stay somewhere nicer since our trip is nearing an end.
Tomorrow we head to the old part of the city for a big Saturday market, and will hopefully get to do a little hike around Volcán Chimborazo (6300m), which, fun fact, is the farthest point from the center of the Earth due to the Equatorial Ridge! No plans of climbing the beast, but I would like to see its pretty face from base camp. 🙂
By Sunday night or Monday morning we’re heading to the nearby, and hopefully more charming, town of Baños (famous for its hot springs, not its bathrooms) where we’ll do some relaxing and hiking and hopefully something ridiculously awesome for my birthday. We should be in Quito in a week…and from Quito…HOME!
That’s right, we decided to try to come home from Quito, hopefully in mid-July. We’ve shopped around online and are going to check with some travel agencies there to see if we can get something cheaper, but we’re pretty much dead-set on being home in July, the sooner the better. We’re still going to be quite flexible with dates, and even where we fly from based on price, but we’ll pass along the details when we get them!
After Ambue Ari in Bolivia, I guess we both just lost our motivation to keep traveling (common thing). We had a lot of fun in La Paz mainly because we were constantly hanging out with people from the park, and after that Cusco was quite exciting, but it was also our last big “thing” we wanted to do in South America. I think the fact that I skipped the town of Huaraz, absolutely famous for mountaineering, trekking, and hiking (Touch the Void, anyone?) for relaxing on the beach speaks heaps about just how burned out I am (and Tyler more so). So, while I also still kind of wanted to run through Columbia and take a boat to Panama, I think I’ll just have to save it for another trip. I’d like to see a bit of Ecuador, straddle the equator and go to the hands-on science museum there, see some volcanoes, relax in some hot springs, maybe sneak in one more trip the beach, maybe zip-line through the jungle, and then go home and snuggle my kitten while drinking real Northwest beer and eating phad thai. And even these stops in Ecuador and the last few in Peru feel strained, like I’m just snapping pictures to snap pictures, getting stamps to get stamps, and trying to stay motivated enough to finish our little marathon. I’d say that means it’s just about time to come home. We’re excited to see everyone in just a few short weeks.
Sharon and Tyler
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