Traveling by Bus in Ecuador: Tips
:: Give yourself an extra couple hours between connecting buses. If the itinerary says it’ll take four hours, it is more likely to take five; six if it’s raining or a particularly busy time of day when the bus has to idle at each bus stop.
:: Loja International is the only bus company that travels across the Ecuadorian-Peruvian border at Macara. Tickets are ~$10/person.
:: The driver gives you no directions when you get to the border – you just need to be aware of what you’re supposed to do. In other words, this is a situation in which you must be responsible for yourself because no one is going to guide you through it without your asking. (more…)
Ecuador to Peru: The Border Crossing
It’s a little after midnight before we can board the bus on which we will spend the next nine-plus hours. The rain continues to wreak havoc on the busses so we must wait for the last transfer bus to arrive with our final patrons before we can leave. The bus is full but roomy enough for the average person to curl their legs or to use the little foot holders on the seat ahead to keep them elevated (which, if you’ve ever traveled in a seat for a long period of time, you know is always a good idea).
We shove our backpacks under our feet and attach them to a metal bar under the seat with carabiners. Not only do they make great footrests, but we don’t have to worry about anyone clawing through them while we sleep or about them disappearing from the bus’s lower compartment. It’s not that we’re usually this overzealous with our belongings but it became clear in our pre-trip research that backpacks regularly go missing on the overnight busses. This is especially true at the border crossing where you aren’t allowed to take things off the bus while you walk across the border.
Crossing the border at Macara itself is a relatively simple, though slightly off-putting, endeavor. The bus parks a couple hundred yards before the opening to a bridge. We disembark, passports and filled-out immigration cards (the little business card-size papers you receive when you enter Ecuador) in hand. Our feet firmly planted in Ecuador, we squint to make out Peru on the bridge’s other side. Everything is black. The entire area is lit only by the porch lights on the little immigration houses. (more…)
South America: The Bus Ride, Pt. 2
Most of the bus’s patrons fall asleep within the first twenty minutes, a distinct snoring and whirring of humid air winding around us. I pull my feet on top of my backpack and ready myself for the views our research has promised. We are rewarded just outside the city. Breathtaking scenery encroaches on the bus from either side and I wish we could just disembark for a few minutes and breathe the fresh mountain air. But this is not that kind of trip. Here, we stop for roadside patrons outside villages housing less people than are on this ride with us. The bus sprints through the mountains, whipping around curves with no fencing on wet paths. Rain pelts the bus and, while it doesn’t ruin the scenery, more than once I wonder if we’re going over the edge of this mountain in a mudslide. I know better though; this is how the bus drivers work in Ecuador. This is how it’s done on these mountain roads. (more…)