Sunday, July 20, 2014

Bus to Cuenca

The past couple of days have been rather full, I think I'll devide this into two posts. This is the bus adventure, from PortoViejo thru Guayaquil and into Cuenca. 

Catalina Bermudez, who I thought was a lawyer, is really the president of Ecuador Shipping, really what she is is a "shipping and customs expert ", and the one you want to talk to FIRST if you plan on coming down with a container.

So, Catalina said to make the trip up to Cuenca and Wednesday morning we hopped on the bus. I had researched (asked Fernando, Dave the landlord and Facebook) how to take the bus, the answer I got was PortoViejo Reina del Camino bus to Guayaquil then transfer, "look for the signs " Fern said. 

We started northeast  of Manta, but this map shows you where we traveled. The Reina del Camino was $4 per person, took 4 hours, we left at 10am. We had some snacks, and water, and after we'd been on awhile, they would stop to let vendors on, so we had plenty to eat on the trip. It was great fun.

Nice chairs, air conditioned, trash bags attached to every seat, and a bathroom for women (it was locked, probably had to ask to use it, but I never did.) This vendor with the apples isn't my photo, but the orange shirt ones were outside the terminal at Jipijapa (about an hour in). There were at least 10 orange shirts running around with various food and drink stuff. We bought a hunk of banana bread for $1, and later a pineapple filled bread for .30cents each. One of the last vendors before Guayaquil was big slices of pineapple, .50 cents in plastic sleeves so you didn't get your hands sticky, and the plastic held all the juice, so when you were done you could drink it. The vendors would get on, ride for a couple blocks, make the rounds, then get off, tipping the driver as they exited. One expat blogger complained that they made the trip longer, I thought it was a great distraction. All in how you look at it.

We saw so many different landscapes, we left from dry deserty landscape, came upon some farmland, fruit groves, wetlands, hot tropical and to the coast again.

Into Guayaquil, very pretty landscaping on the freeway, this is BIG city, we saw our first McDonalds, it was in the bus terminal. (We didn't eat there) the bus terminal was crazy, three levels, and shopping mall inside. The first level is arrivals, and all the ticket counters. Departures are on the second level with more shopping and restaurants on the Third level as well.

After four hours we both desperately needed the banos, we found one, ooohed and awwwed over the inside, then looked for "signs to Cuenca", as Fernando said to do. We walked all around the ticket counters, but realized the "signs" were the names of the bus line, not where they were going, so we started over, this time looking inside the ticket office at the schedules. Someone talked to us, we answered Cuenca, and they pointed us in the right direction. Bought our tickets, $16.50 for both, they circled the departure time, and pointed upstairs, "yep, departures 2nd level, gotcha." We had about 6 minutes, perfect. Found our area, took a picture and boom, time to board.

This was the view from 2nd level, another bus terminal, probably city buses, not long distance, and the airport is off to the left. This bus has assigned seats, and we had to move, but now we know. The bus left at 2:35, and was going to be another 4 hour leg, getting us in Cuenca right about dark. We had been asked by Catalina to stay at her house, and since I hadn't researched any lodging, and the cost factor we decided to take her up on that. 

This bus didn't have air conditioning, but in about an hour we weren't going to need it, and eventually closed all the windows it was so cold. The landscape again, was amazing. This time we left the inland waterway and headed into the mountains...the Andes mountains.

At the bottom of the mountains is lush, and tropical. Lots of bananas, Australian tree ferns, things we in the States know as house plants.

Then as we get higher, the clouds settle in and everything is covered in mist, the pictures from the moving bus don't do it justice. Mike took some video, maybe it'll show better. The temperature drops at least 20 degrees, then more as we continue to climb.

Now it's so cold that little is growing, but scrub and some pine trees. We notice that the houses have tile roofs now instead of metal (rust) and thatch (moist) glad we noticed that. No sunset, because of the clouds, and our last half hour was in the dark. We arrived at the Cuenca bus terminal, called Catalina and wandered around until she got there.

This is the front of the bus terminal, parking for pick up is on the other side of the building, and the buses are all in the back.

And this sign was on the door, wow! We're not in Kansas anymore!

What do they have against German Shepards? Ha Ha! Catalina got us a little after 7:30  and took us to her house, which was on the other side of the city, so we got to see Cuenca all lit up and it was pretty. We were to be sleeping in her 7 year old daughters room, and had a light dinner made by her boyfriend Johan, who was leaving the next day to visit his family in Holland. Great hosts, and accommodations were appreciated. Glad to be off the bus, but since we really only have beach clothes, I was freezing! Temp was probably mid to high 50's F, and no heat in the houses, time for bed, so I can get under the covers! Brrrr!

The next morning, Thursday we were heading to the bank first thing. Keep your fingers crossed! The adventure continues! In Cuenca, Ecuador.

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