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Friday, July 11, 2008

Quevedo, Ecuador

Pictures at: http://picasaweb.google.com/svnakia/BusRideFromPortoviejoToQuevedo

Today we took our first long trip by ¨chicken bus.¨ We didn´t set out to go second class but we chose a rural route from Bahia de Caraquez to Latacunga rather than going around via Quito. It was a more direct route and we wanted to see a part of the country outside the usual tourist path.

We said goodbye to Ziggy at 6:30 AM when Jack and Hermy of Iwa gave us a ride to PA in their dinghy. They go in early every day for their walk so the timing worked out perfectly. When no pedi-cabs appeared we walked the short distance to the bus station wearing fanny packs, my Chivas kids backpack, and carrying my regular backpack. John wore a nifty hand-me-down from Hooligan which is a regular sized piece of soft luggage in the style of a backpack. You wouldn´t want to fill it to capacity and then try to carry it on your back, but it´s perfect for John´s gear and our jackets and pillows, with room left over for souvenirs.

There are two bus lines running out of Bahia and we took the first one departing for Portoviejo which happened to be on Reina del Camino. For a whopping $2pp we had a comfortable two hour ride on a nice bus. We arrived at the Central Bus Terminal and found the Reales Tamarindos ticket window just to the left of Reina´s. They had a 9 AM bus departing for Quevedo ($5pp) which gave us time to use the bathrooms (.25 for a huge supply of TP from the attendant for me; free for John!). It´s a good thing that we hadn´t gotten up early enough to make coffee since this was the last bathroom we would see until we reached Quevedo.

We knew to look at it that this was NOT a first class bus. We ¨checked¨ the big bag which was stowed in a bin missing one of its door latches, and we didn´t get a claim check. I could have checked my new powder blue backpack but the guy saw me eyeing the dusty dirty compartment and said I could take it on board the bus with me. We had locks on the zippers of both bags so only outright theft would be a concern. I got seats above our luggage bin and John stood outside watching it until we were ready to leave the station. If we seem paranoid it´s because the majority of cruisers have returned from their inland trips with stories of theft.

At 9:15 we were on our way with the radio blaring, a baby crying, and a $3 pair of reading glasses I bought from a guy outside my window (with John as ground support to bargain him down from $6). Four and a half hours, two popsicles, two varieties of cheese rolls, and very numb tushes later we made it to Quevedo. Along the way we passed through green fields, rural hamlets, and small towns, with people sometimes getting on and off the bus in front of their houses. We love the variety of bamboo huts (homes) here, and split bamboo is used everywhere for fences, benches, and bus stops. There are air plants growing on overhead wires and in trees, and horses, mules, and donkeys parked alongside the road. There´s no need to pack snacks for the trip because vendors regularly hop on the bus selling: a variety of fried and baked goods out of cloth covered baskets; what I call fruit juice in a to go cup, which is an orange with just the external rind cut off and a hole cut in the top, which is then squeezed and sucked to get the juice out; candy and gum; yogurt popsicles; watermelon slices; and bottled water and juices. It was a food court bonanza and really helped to pass the time. At last a grandmother boarded carrying a live chicken in a plastic grocery bag and it was official - we were on a ¨chicken bus.¨

At the central terminal in Quevedo we checked connecting buses to Latacunga for tomorrow (8:30 AM on Ambato for $4pp or hourly buses on Cotopaxi for slightly less), and then took a taxi to the Hotel Ejecutivo Internacional. It´s what by Stateside standards would be considered a dump - very worn out and not exactly spotless, overlooking a noisy street - but it has A/C and cable TV with a few channels in English. Since it only costs $18 for a double room we´ll tough it out for the one night.

Linda and John