Tuesday, Jan 3, 2016

Travel day. Uuugh. And it’s the last morning for me on the coast for a while. Chase and Easton decided to go with Kelly and Michelle to Mompiche. It is a town on the coast a few hours ride north of here. It has more lush vegetation as far as I can tell, so there must be more rainfall. The pics I’ve been shown look great. Beautiful beaches and hardly any people.

The taxi for us arrived at 10:30 am with Roy and Melody already picked up and in it. We said our good byes to Kelly and Michelle, and our sons for the time being. As we left for Portoviejo, they all headed in the other direction to catch a bus north to Mompiche.

It seemed we arrived at the bus station in no time and, after a quick stop to deal with my now processed morning coffee, I got on and was ready for the 4 hour ride. Heidi and Melody sat next to each other and Roy and I did the same a few seats behind them. There isn’t a lot of leg room in this bus and it looks like it is going to be full. Dang, probably no moving to an empty row.

Most every Ecuadorian I see who rides on one of these buses puts their seat into a full recline. It is the first thing they do when they sit down. I’m not a full recline kinda guy on the bus, or a plane, or anywhere really. I recognize what little leg room it leaves for the person behind me, so if I don’t need the full recline I avoid it.

It was time for the bus to pull out and the two seats in front of Roy and me were empty. Score! I was just calculating at what moment I was going to hijack those seats when the bus door opened and a mom, dad, and three little kids got on.

The mom was holding one kid, the dad another, and the third was being led by the dad down the aisle. They stopped at the two empty seats in front of me, pushed themselves into them, then WHAM…the seats came flying back. Roy and I just looked at each other like…are you effing kidding me? How many hours is this trip?

Seats for two…or family of five

bus and taxi trials

My knees

Oh well, this is Ecuador bus travel. It happens. It seemed like a long ride but between Facebook, a nap, reading, and talking with Roy the time went by. When we arrived at the terminal, Heidi and I said good bye to Roy and Melody then headed over to the one window that sells tickets to Cuenca.

Oh my gosh! I have never seen so many people in this line. In fact there’s never been more than 2 people ahead of me when I have bought tickets. Yesterday was a holiday here, and I would have thought everyone would have headed back then after being on the coast for the weekend. Guess not. It looks like plenty of people travel on the day after a holiday and long weekend combination.

Line for Cuenca bus tickets

bus and taxi trials

The “more than half way” mark to the bus ticket window

Heidi and I waited in line for an hour and 20 minutes before getting to the window. I asked when the next bus was and I was told 5 pm. I said ok, but I had lost track of the actual time. When I was given the tickets I looked at my phone and it was already 4:48 pm. We had planned on leaving later, like maybe 6:00 pm, so we could get some dinner first, but I just committed us and lost that window of opportunity.

I led our way to the third floor of the bus terminal to catch our very soon departing bus. Our ticket said Gate 86, 87. This means it is in one or the other. Both gates had really nice looking, air conditioned buses in them. One was the Super Semeria which is the one we always take leaving Cuenca.

I went to the first bus and showed the person at the door our ticket. He said, “Not this bus. San Luis”. We went to the second bus and I just assumed that was ours. I brought our bags over to be loaded and the guy looked at my ticket and said “Not this bus. San Luis”. When I looked at my ticket, I saw at the top it read, “Bus Line San Luis”. Oh no!

These two beautiful buses in the gates pull away and the San Luis bus pulls in, clicking and clacking. The windows are wide open which means no AC. It is hot and humid in Guayaquil right now. Heidi and I are sweating on the platform. We also haven’t eaten since breakfast. This isn’t going well.

Heidi took our luggage to have it loaded and I walked down the way to a sandwich stand and bought two jamon y queso sanduches. They were not the best, in fact I wouldn’t describe them as even anywhere near good, but they would stop the rumbling in our bellies. We boarded our bus and for the next couple of hours continued to sweat until we began to climb the Cajas to Cuenca.

The crazy thing is I rode the San Luis out of Cuenca in October and vowed to make sure I didn’t ever do that again. I totally forgot about this bus and the possibility of getting it. So now, if I ever buy a ticket from Guayaquil to Cuenca I will begin with, “I don’t want the San Luis. What time is the next bus?”

After I settled down and we got past the majority of the stop and go traffic, I broke out my sandwich. The bread was a white roll commonly baked in the panderias here. They tend to be hard and flake off crumbs easily when bitten into.

The hot wind is blowing across me from the open window of the speeding bus as I bite into my sandwich. Flakes and crumbs are landing all down my tee-shirt and into my lap and going everywhere. I try to eat as “cleanly” as I can but it’s no use. From the corner of my eye I can see the older Ecuadorian man sitting in the seat across the aisle from me brushing bread crumbs off himself.

I’m still not as bad off as Heidi. She has a spaghetti strap top on and with the sweat accumulating on her skin because of our lack of AC, all her bread flakes stick to her chest. I am able to help her however, and when she is finished, I offer her a clean napkin I saved so she can wipe off her stuck crumbs. I’m such a hero. 😉

When we arrived in Cuenca we got our two suit cases, one large and the other a carry-on size, and headed to the taxi area. We were almost the first ones out here at the curb and there is only one taxi, and it’s taken. Within a minute another taxi arrived and he drove by us and went to the group on my left. Another came up and went to the group on my right. This taxi popcorn thing kept happening as new people came out of the terminal and they were getting the taxis.

Heidi and I moved to the end of the row where we would be the first people the taxi would see when it entered. It didn’t matter, they continued to drive right by us. At one point we were the only ones standing there and when the next taxi showed up the driver shook his finger no at me. I asked why and he said our suitcase is too large.

Truthfully, the taxi drivers here are complete pussies. I have never seen a pickier group of cabbies in my life. Obviously they aren’t all like this because we have had great drivers pick us up at our house. I have had, however, more than my fair share of this bizarre attitude from taxi drivers at the bus terminal in Cuenca. I have been denied a ride because of too many people (our family of 4), too large of luggage (our big ass suitcase that still fits in the smallest taxi trunk), and living “too far away” (Primero de Mayo).

Heidi and I stood there…alone. Everyone who wanted a ride had gotten one. The next driver that pulled up, slowed to a crawl but didn’t stop, and just kinda looked at us. I asked, “Primero de Mayo”? He looked at me and said “Quatro”, meaning no metered fare, just a flat $4 fee. Fine. I’ll fucking pay $40 to get home at this point.

The driver was actually a nice guy and we engaged in conversation all the way home. Well, at least as much conversation I can have with my current Spanish vocabulary. Still, it was nice.

By 10 pm we were home…suitcases and all.