Sometimes one has to do something just for the experience. I had never travelled on a extended bus trip: so, I could not honestly relate to what many others experience. I, therefore, chose to travel from Quito, Ecuador to the Royal de Cameron Resort and Spa on the northern coast of Peru by bus. It was also an opportunity to get to know my travelling companions from the Ecuador travel industry.
The initial plan was to depart Quito at 07:30 PM one evening and arrive at the resort for breakfast the following morning. That changed to a 10:30 PM departure.
Not wanting to miss the ride, I arrived on time. Others did not, and we waited and waited. It seems to be a cultural expectation to be late. We finally left a few moments before midnight when the last of the passengers arrived.
The bus was in a reasonably good shape; albeit that the seats were not as comfortable as when new and the shock absorbers appeared ready to be replaced. There was an on-board bathroom and a sign that declared that it was for women only; and only for urination. Men and women in need of a bowel movement were to wait for a stop, about every six hours. As the ride got
underway, a cheaply produced movie was shown on a drop-down screen at the front. Our driver was congenial, always smiling and willing to help.
In daylight, the ride through the mountains to the coast would be a scenic one. At night, it was a long, cold, black experience. Fortunately, I knew to have a warm jacket, even though I was heading to the beach. Anyone travelling through the mountains must always be prepared for cold. There seems to be a common avoidance of turning on car / bus heaters.
I dozed off and on, never enough to relieve fatigue.
As morning neared, my ears popped as we descended altitude. The sky was grey, overcast. At 6 AM, one could already feel the heat. We stopped for breakfast.
All main roads in Ecuador are well paved; though directional signage is invariably poor. We passed a head-on collision where, evidently, a driver erred in finding his way in the dark of night.
Small farms showed signs of awakening. By 06:15 AM, uniformed students stood along the roadside waiting for their school bus. They all appeared clean and well groomed; though almost all had come from simple cement block or bamboo homes.
By 07:00, roadside fruit stands and restaurants appeared. By restaurant, I mean the presence of a gas burner heating a wok like pan for frying pork and local produce. Some offered plastic tables and chairs.
We passed a very old fuel truck bearing warning signs of the danger of combustion. Smoking his cigarette, the driver was proceeding merrily on his way.
There was a one-half hour pit stop and we moved on, passing extremely large plantations of bananas and sugar cane.
Poverty was clearly visible and extreme. It occurred to me that here and in the northern Ecuadorian coastal province of Esmeraldas, where major corporations dominate the agricultural scene, the severest poverty prevailed. Evidently, industry was not enhancing the lives of the people who work their fields.
Huaquillas is an Ecuadorian black market town near the border of Peru. Fascination and the opportunity to buy cheap products led to a vote being taken and a decision to make at three hour shopping stop.
Keeping in mind the prevailing poverty, the streets were lined with stalls offering almost everything that you could carry in your hand. Shops in the buildings offered larger items. I was particularly fascinated by the large number of money changers. About every 20 meters (22 yards) along both sides of the streets sat men with brief cases loaded with Ecuadorian (US dollarized) and Peruvian currency.
A passing police officer confirmed that, despite their public and seemingly worriless presence, robberies were frequent. I didn’t buy anything; but, my lady purchased a few items that she said were incredibly low priced.
I couldn’t resist taking a photo of this bicycle delivery man.
Before getting on the bus, I saw a lady who, showed the rigours of a tough life in her face.
Wanting to add to my collection of photos of the elderly, I asked her if I could take her photo. She agreed.
Normally, I am a fair judge of when I can give a dollar in advance of taking the photo; but, rarely, I err. This time, the, approximately 85 year old, lady took the dollar and ran. I chided her, but she
continued running, as much as a woman of her age, showing infirmity, could run. She stopped often to catch her breath and look back at me, grinning widely, thrilled at having successfully taken advantage of me.
We crossed the border into Peru and witnessed the continuing poverty. The landscape changed as we neared the coast, to be extremely arid and hilly. The shorelines, as far as the eye could see, was a beautiful beach.
We arrived at the Punta Sal Resort and Spa at 4 PM.
To say the least, I am not, now, a fan of long bus rides. However, I would not want to miss the very benefit, the rich experiences, that ground travel presents. Perhaps I'll take shorter trips in the future ?
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