As mentioned previously, we’d bought our bus tickets for $180, which would take us for, Quito, Ecuador to Lima, Peru. We were due to leave at 1945 from the Quitumbe bus station on Friday 18th August. We left the hostel and walked to the end of the road to hail a cab to take us there. It was 1820 at this point. Boy did we underestimate the traffic. It was only about eight miles to the bus terminal, but the roads were at a standstill for most of the journey and we didn’t arrive until 1930. Talk about cutting it fine. It cost $11.25 to get there and we still had a way to walk up the road and into the Terreste Terminal. It was more like an airport terminal than a bus station. Tickets in hand we had no idea where to go or if we needed to check in like we did with Tica Bus. Our tickets said gate four we thought so we headed upstairs to where all the ticket booths were, none of which said Panamericana. Totally lost we asked someone by showing them our tickets and he then pointed outside and said 1,2 or 3. Slightly helpful, but it was definitely gate four we boarded at.
Still not sure where we were going, we flashed our tickets to the security guard and she let us through. That had to have meant we were in the right place. The next security guard then pointed us towards gate four and just as we got there, the Panamericana bus was departing. We thought we’d missed the bus when it just drove off. Thankfully, another was waiting in the wings and pulled in. We had just about made it in the nick of time. The most stressful fifteen minutes ever. Bags loaded on, we took our seats. It was going to be a looooong journey. The bus departed at about 8pm and we tried to get comfortable in our slightly reclining seats. The bus assistants couldn’t get the TV to work so instead they played music, all night until the early hours of the morning. We did pick people up along the way until the bus was full, and there were two extra people standing up front with the driver.
At about 11 we stopped at a roadside cafe and most people got off to eat some chicken and rice concoction. We tried to make use of the time of quiet to fall asleep. Worked well for Nathan, not so much for me. The air con came on intermittently to freeze us every so often as we weren’t able to control our own section. Other than that one stop, there was no food or drink provided as we thought there would be, as advertised on the poster when we booked the tickets. Eventually I fell asleep, only to wake about four hours later with a horribly stiff neck and knees. Thankfully, we began dropping some people off before we disembarked in Huyaquillas around 730am on Saturday morning.
Here’s where it got a bit weird. Swarms of people descended on the bus saying all different destinations. When we were asked if we were going to Lima, our bags were swiftly picked up and we were escorted to the Panamericana office. There, we were told to wait for our guide, who showed up a few minutes later. A few introductions were made, not that I can remember anyone’s names as I was still half asleep, quick brush of the teeth and a visit to the ladies and suddenly we were on the move. A random guy had our bags in a cart and was pulling it along the road, and our guide, just told us to follow him. We had no idea what was going on but proceeded to follow anyway. The roads were crowded with market stalls and artisans selling all kinds of things and the whole town seemed to already be awake and seizing the day.
We were taken down narrow alleys, to the point we couldn’t figure out where we had even walked and passed through a gate controlled by police. It all seemed very cloak and dagger. Our guide had caught up with us by this point and then started to walk over to a car. Our bags were loaded in and we were told to get in whilst he paid the boy guarding his car, and the guy who pulled our bags about a mile and a half to where we were stood now. In the car, still no closer to understanding what was going on, we just sat and listened to Bon Jovi until we were told what to do next. He pulled into immigration, gave us some forms to fill out and pointed us towards the building. Two seconds later he came and got us and said we’d go to another one. Oh how I wish we could have stayed at this one as there were only twenty people at it.
So we arrived at the other immigration office at around 8am. Bags were unloaded and we were herded into line along with the rest of the people. Immigration forms were filled out and then we waited. And waited. And waited. And waited. For FIVE AND A HALF HOURS!!! I have never stood in such a long, slow moving border crossing line. No idea what the hold up was or why we had to wait so long. There was a shop across the road with a mini restaurant that people kept disappearing off to. It was the longest five hours ever. As we neared the corner, a random guy was asking everyone in the queue if he could cut in. To begin with, the two in front of us said no, but then swiftly changed their minds when he paid the, $10 each. I was rather annoyed with this as we had waited all that time for some twit just to come and skip in just as we were about to finally enter the immigration office.
Anyway, eventually we went in, dumped our bags in the middle of the room and waited until we were called to the ‘Exit Ecuador’ desk to get stamped out of Ecuador and then to move to the ‘Enter Peru’ desk to get stamped into Peru. We were called to a side room along with the three in front of us and the guy didn’t even look at our immigration forms, he just stamped them and sent us in our way. Finally we were free. Our guide had resurfaced too. Why we needed to take our bags with us I don’t know as they didn’t get checked at all, nor did anyone else’s that we could see. Hot, tired and hungry, we got back into the car and our guide took us down to Tumbes,
We needed to change money so he said he’d do it for us, and pulled over to the side of the road, took our $50 and left us there for about ten minutes. We got some odd looks, and I don’t know if it’s because we’re white, or because I was singing my little heart out to Bon Jovi again. He eventually returned, with a disappointing 103 soles. The exchange rate is about 3.1 Peruvian Soles to $1 so we got a little bit mugged off I think. We continued onwards and were dropped at a Ranco Peru bus terminal. This huge double decker bus, a Mercedes bus was the bus that would take us all the way down to Peru. I handed over our passports, and our guide secured us seats 1 and 2 on the top deck, with panoramic views of the outside. Sweeeeet. Now we had to wait just an hour to board the final leg of this long ass journey.
There weren’t many people boarding in Tumbes, but we did pick people up along the way. The seats reclined to a comfortable position, and we had the TV right in front of us. This leg of the journey had the potential to be much more comfortable. Or so we thought. The two people in the seats next to us, stank of weed, and they snored really loud from about an hour after they boarded. About an hour into the journey we pulled into something that must have been customs, grabbed our passports and got off the bus. They checked our passports, citing that we were English and then our bags got searched. Satisfied, they helped repack and a few short moments later we were back on the bus. The TV played horrendously acted Kung Foo films in really loud Spanish and the only film that was in English, something called Security starring Antonio Banderas and Ben Kingsley, they turned off at 11pm. I was gutted!! Sleeping on coaches isn’t the most comfortable experience and I barely slept Saturday night, whilst Nathan slept like a log. The scenery throughout the trip was beautiful, all along the coast, high up on cliff tops with the waves crashing down below. It was beautiful.Excuse the poor photography, they were taken through the front windows of the bus, on the iPad. The drivers down here are crazy, we got stuck behind a wall of tuk tuks at one point and would overtake on the wrong side of the road, going up hill, as we wound along the coastline. Vendors boarded the bus Sunday morning shouting down the aisle making everyone wake up. A few hours later we pulled over at a roadside cafe and everyone had to get off. I braved the rice and beans, which was actually quite delicious, until I covered it in some hot sauce which frankly just ruined it, and my tastebuds. A quick visit to the ladies was needed, however, they don’t supply toilet paper in these facilities. I tried to go when our luggage was searched but they also didn’t have toilet paper and we weren’t allowed back on the bus to get it. I’d have to wait until we were back on the bus.
Next up on the TV was Taken starring Liam Neeson, also in Spanish. We decided to watch Bullet to the Head on the iPad instead. We were due to arrive in Lima at 11am. It was already 1230pm and we still had about 3 hours to go. Good to see that bus schedules are as accurate in South America as they were in Central America! The last few hours did go quite quickly thankfully. Going to the toilet on a moving coach, at relatively high speed isn’t the easiest of things, especially when you have to hold the door shut, as it can’t lock, use your finger as a toilet roll holder and squat without touching the seat. Good workout for the quads though! Eventually we stopped at a Ranco Peru station in Lima. Our hostel, Hostel El Gran Caiman, was about three miles out from town as hostels in town were expensive. We got off the bus, luggage last off as usual, then tried to get a taxi. Again, he didn’t know where our hostel was so we had to give directions. It took about half an hour and we finally arrived at the hostel around 4pm, 44 hours after we left Ecuador.
There was no English spoken at check in and the guy couldn’t find our booking, nor could he connect us to the wifi, until about an hour later. We only needed the wifi as we were now adamant we would be flying between places in South America as opposed to taking the coach to save time. I mean we had just lost three days. Next instalment will be about our exploration of Lima…
Until next time…