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Leaving Ecuador

Written on: Thursday October 11th, 2007

A journal entry from: Kevin and Julie's RTW

Location: Piura, Peru

Author: Julie

Hola!

Well, the time had come to bid adieu to Ecuador. In our short 5 weeks, we had come to fall in love with this country. From its verdant, yet cold mountains, to its charming cities, to the sunny coast, and finally to the warm-hearted people who made us feel welcomed, laughed with us, and graciously offered to share their country with us. We have experienced many things that made us scratch our heads in wonderment, in complete confusion, and in pleasant surprise.  

We left Vilcabamba and its serene valley on a mini-bus full of school kids. School had just finished and they were heading back home. As we travelled the 1 hour back to Loja to catch our international bus to Peru, more and more people got on the bus till there was no more room and people were standing doubled-up in the aisle and half-hanging out of the door. There is a saying in Ecuador that there is always more room in the back of the bus. I had a little boy, about 9 years old, practically sitting in my lap. I would have gotten up and offered my seat but I couldn?t move. He spent the entire ride whispering words in my ear but I wasn?t sure if he was singing, reciting his school lessons, trying to talk to me in Spanish, etc. I would sometimes turn my head and smile at him but he would never smile back. At his stop, he worked his way through the crowd, stepped off, turned around, looked directly at me and waved good-bye with a huge smile. One of those strange but wonderful experiences!  

We arrived at the bus terminal with 30 minutes to spare before our next bus departed. I was worried that we wouldn?t make it in time and would have to spend a night in Loja for the next day bus, but we got lucky. We managed to get the last 2 seats. Phew! We boarded, and I promptly fell asleep to the rocking of the bus as we weaved around sharp curves at breakneck speeds and the blaring of Reggaeton music that seems to be on perpetual loop. The 5 hour bus ride to the border went by quickly and soon we were getting off to get our passport stamped at the Macara, Ecuador border control. Once our stamps acquired, we were directed to walk across the bridge to the Peruvian border control office. We filled in the required forms, with Kevin making a mistake and the official trying to convince us that it would be 4$ for a new form. We laughed at him and he saw that we weren?t falling for that trick. He erased the error and stamped our passports. Peru we have arrived! Interestingly, after getting our passport stamped, we had to cross the street to get our passport registered at the Police Station. Why they can?t combine this into one step, I?m not sure. Overall, crossing the border was straightforward and simple and a far cry from the border crossing at Tumbes to the West of where we were. We had heard countless stories of robberies, swarmings, scams, beggars and crooked officials. We re-boarded our bus, saw that quite a few more people had boarded and off we went on the second part of our bus ride: the 3 hour bus ride to Piura, Peru. The sun quickly set and we were out of the Andes. The landscape changed to a flat, dry desert that we could vaguely see with the moonlight. Every 45 minutes or so our bus would be stopped by a police officer who would board the bus, ask all the locals to get off, search them and their bags. We were never asked for our passports or to have our bags searched. We arrived at the bus station 9 hours and we were exhausted. Luckily, we met a nice taxi driver who quoted us a good price, tied our backpacks to the roof and took us to our hostel.  

We woke up to the usual sound of honking cars, car alarms, and whistles. We met up with our friends Slade and Kristen that we had met on the bus the day before and headed out to discover the city of Piura. It was the first colonial city to be founded in Peru but our guidebook said there wasn?t much to see and boy was it right! We walked along the main street of pharmacies (sometimes 3 in a row all selling the same thing), clothing stores, corner stores, and the occasional phone booth/internet place. We bought some snacks in the supermarket and I finally found Ziplock bags. I had been searching for the past month in Ecuador and they didn?t have any. Ah, the things we take for granted! We could tell by the selection in the grocery store and in the clothing stores that Peru was a more prosperous country with a better selection of name brand products and at higher prices. We walked around the main plaza that all colonial cities have and visited the cathedral. It?s definitely a Christian country when there is a huge sign at the entrance of the church depicting the various methods of abortion being done to a smiling baby. Very disturbing! In the afternoon, we decided to go see the one museum listed in our guide book: Museo de Oro. We walked for an hour trying to find the place, following half-understood directions from people on the street. Arriving, we found the gate was locked and security agent informed us that it was closed for renovations for the next 3 months. So what to do? We found a local bar, ordered pitcher after pitcher of beer and played cards into the early evening. We were all feeling pretty happy as we walked back to our hotel. The bus ride the next morning to the beach town of Mancora was going to be interesting! 

Exchange Rate: S./3.00 = 1.00 CAD