Friday, Feb 24, 2017

Bus Travel Back to Cuenca

Our trip to Olon was a success. We found a new place to live! You are going to really enjoy the pics I will post while living there. Here are a few pics until then.

sunset over olon beach

Sunset over Olon Beach

acacia tree in Olon

An Acacia Tree in Oloncito

a dog's life in Olon

It’s a Dog’s Life in Olon

We had a shaky start on our way back to Cuenca. When we arrived at the bus terminal in Olon our 10:45 am bus was not there. Evidently it had broken down somewhere, so we were moved to the 11:45 am bus. Not a huge deal. Heidi and I just walked back to the Road House restaurant, which was only a couple blocks away, and chatted with the gringos there.

The CLP bus that runs between Guayaquil and Olon is a very nice bus. On the way here we sat in the front row, which on buses usually has the most leg room. The design of this bus however created the least amount of leg room in the front row. Today we had seats a few rows back and, if not for the guy in front of me who fully reclined his seat back, it would have been perfect.

Guayaquil Bus Terminal

When we arrived in Guayaquil and went to get our tickets to Cuenca, I learned a new lesson about dealing with bus travel. The posted times of buses leaving for Cuenca are in about 30-40 minute intervals. It was 2:40 pm when I approached the window. The next departing time was 3:10 pm and the one after that was 3:45 pm.

Heidi and I wanted to get some lunch, so I asked the man behind the window for 2 tickets on the 3:45 pm bus. He just stared at me and didn’t move, well maybe he looked at the 3 men standing to my right, who were hovering around the ticket window. One of them spoke to me.

He said they are selling the 3:10 pm bus. I looked at him, then the guy behind the window, and repeated I want the 3:45 pm bus. The guy behind the window didn’t move. The guy to my right started to tell me that they are selling the 3:10 pm bus now for people in this line.

I looked behind me and there are now several people standing in line. Today is election day in Ecuador and voting is mandatory. Not only that, but people basically have to travel back to where they were born and must vote in that community. Needless to say, bus travel is heavy today.

Not being able to pick my time to travel made no sense, but I wanted to get home so I relented and told the man behind the window “two tickets for 3:10 pm”. Now this guy becomes animated and processes my tickets. Doing this meant Heidi and I did not have time to get lunch before the next 4 hour leg of our journey.

The Ticket “Scam”

The ticket windows at the bus stations can be very chaotic. There are often men hanging at the window “directing traffic” per se. I believe these guys are reps for whichever the next scheduled departing bus is. Buses are independently owned, and the driver wants his departing bus full.

And this is the kicker. The people working behind the ticket windows, employed by the bus terminal, work with these guys hanging in front of the ticket window, or at least do what they can to help them out. In today’s case, the guy behind the window wouldn’t make any effort to process the tickets for the time I originally wanted.

Figuring this out, I am connecting a prior conversation I had at the Super Semeria window (which does not sell bus tickets to Cuenca) in the Guayaquil bus station. I believe Super Semeria is the best bus line that runs between Cuenca and Guayaquil, and it is the one I want to ride.

When I asked the girl working there what times, of all departing bus times listed from Guayaquil to Cuenca belongs to the Super Semeria, she wouldn’t tell me. I was told I just need to go the “Cuenca” bus window and get my ticket there. To me, she seemed to not want to interfere with the guys standing next to the ticket window trying to fill their buses up.

Ticket Purchase Savvy

So this is the learning piece: Stand at the window and do not move until you get what you want. Keep repeating what you want until you get it. This is so unlike any behaviors in my “experience database” I brought with me to Ecuador. In the States it would be preposterous that someone at a ticket booth wouldn’t immediately give you what you asked for. I am still not used to it, and I was thrown off-balance.

It means I have to learn to operate differently in these conditions. The terminal is noisy, there are people standing in my personal space at the window, and people are speaking Spanish rapidly at me. I worry too much about being polite. Also, there is concern I don’t hold up the line with so many people behind me. In the end I default to, “well I guess I am not understanding correctly”, and then follow directions even if they don’t make much sense.

All I can say is I am going to work at not moving or leaving any encounter until I am fully satisfied with the information I am getting. This is my growing piece.

Home in Cuenca

I love our new park that they completed right across the street from our house. Early Tuesday morning however I realized what the potential problem is going to be. Before 5 am I was awakened by very loud music. I finally got up to investigate and saw a taxi with its trunk open and speakers blaring music while three guys just danced and drank and lived it up.

I went onto my terrace and yelled at them. Yep, it’s official…I am an old man. Anyway, it didn’t do much good. They may have turned the music down some, but I could still hear it and it went on until daylight broke. Loud music at all hours of the night is par for the course here in Ecuador. Up until now I’ve just lucked out not having to deal with it at our current place in Cuenca.

On Tuesday afternoon we met Pam and Eddy for lunch at Inca’s. It was Pam’s birthday last month, and Heidi and I had wanted to take her and Eddy out to lunch. A month late, but we did it. Pam and Eddy made a trip to Florida since we last saw them, and we got caught up on snippets of life in the US. I don’t feel like we are missing much.

Before we came home Heidi wanted to get some fresh vegetables and fruit from the market. We also needed more bacon so I stopped by the meat aisle. As I waited for my bacon to be sliced, I saw this chicken. I don’ know…looks like the things nightmares are made of. What do you think?

Chicken Nightmare

Wednesday was a bust. Woke up to rain and it continued all day long. I spent the day in my place drinking hot coffee trying to stay warm. At various times it was a losing battle so I crawled into my bed under three alpaca blankets. Thursday didn’t start out bad, but the rain showed up mid-day and persisted. At this point I am choosing to appreciate being cold, because in another week staying warm will not be a problem!

Taxi Trials

We do need to get some totes, buy some plastic fans, and pick up a few other things we will not be able to easily get where we will be living on the coast. Early Friday afternoon we walked to our nearby Corral store (think Target) to get the totes. We also picked up a plastic 3-drawer thing to use in our new kitchen, which lacks some cupboard and drawer space.

When we finished shopping, a taxi pulled up in the Corral taxi area and the 3-drawer thing wouldn’t fit in the trunk. I wanted to put it on the back seat and the driver said no. Ok I thought. I will leave the drawers with Chase and Easton and they can get a different taxi, who hopefully is more accommodating. Heidi and I can put the totes, which can fit in the trunk, along with the few groceries we had in the trunk and take this taxi home.

As I started to put the totes in the trunk the driver again said no. I asked him why? When I made it clear we weren’t going to take the 3-drawer thing, he relented. Now please understand, and if you have been following my blog you know, I have an issue with taxi drivers and taxi fares. It’s not good, and I own it.

This guy just pushed all my “taxi buttons”. First, he is stopping in front of Corral where…get this…people buy things. Second, he is driving a taxi where by implied contract he moves people with their luggage, packages, etc. Like the taxi drivers at the bus station, I judged this guy to be a prima donna.

You may wonder why I didn’t tell him never mind and take the next taxi? Well, it is now raining and I am standing on the side of the street in front of Corral getting wet. I’m screwed and at the moment, this guy holds the cards.

All taxi drivers are not this way. The driver of the taxi that pulled up for Chase and Easton was very accommodating. He even helped put the 3-drawer thing in the back seat. No problem.

Their taxi pulled up right behind ours at the house. Chase paid his driver the normal $1.50 fare and they were done. Oh yeah, I only had a $5 bill, and when I paid my driver he charged me $2 bucks. Bastard. 😉

Life is Good

The day ended well, however, as the four of us met Scott and Colleen for dinner at Seven Spices on Remigio Crespo. This place serves curry and fried rice dishes. The lamb curry was excellent! I had a choice of spicy or medium spicy. Heidi and I picked medium and it was perfect. Chase and Easton picked spicy and they were sweating. 😉 We also enjoyed great appetizers, including Chili Prawns. Yum!

I am looking forward to living on the coast again. I think the actual move there is going to be interesting for me. Heidi and the boys are going to leave Thursday afternoon by bus. I am going with the movers because I don’t feel comfortable leaving our things unattended. The movers and I however won’t leave until Thursday night.

The movers drive their truck in the middle of the night. This is just how things are done here I guess. Truck traffic moves at night. So we should be rolling into our place just outside of Olon about 6 or 7 am Friday morning. At any rate by this time next week it will be done.