Monday, June 15, 2009

Bienvenidos a Ecuador!

We caught Cruz del Sur to Lima, the vaunted fanciest and most comfortable of the bus lines in Peru. Mike won the onboard bingo game, though rather than a bottle of wine (as in my triumph in Argentina) he came away with a nontransferable return ticket to Arequipa. We suspect the bus company of being in the hands of teetotalers anyway since they only serve Coke and Inca Cola with meals. They also conduct the only security measures we've seen on any bus down here, using a metal detecting wand on passengers and videotaping everyone's faces.

In Lima we stayed at the very comfortable Hotel San Antonio Abad courtesy of Pam & David (muchas gracias!) and met up with our friend Steffen. He is a social worker at a group house in Germany and has been volunteering with street kids in Lima. We took some taxis around town but the logistics of maneuvering with our casts throws a bit of a damper on sightseeing. We did make it out for a mediocre sushi dinner (oh, sushi, how we miss you) and took in The Wrestler. The photos below are reminding me just how overcast it was in Lima, a far cry from Arequipa's constant sunshine.

From Lima we caught Cruz del Sur up to Tumbes on the Peruvian border, from which a pushy cabdriver took us to Peruvian in(out)migracion and then tried to cajole us into paying him much more to take us across the border to Ecuadorian immigration, buy our bus tickets for us, etc. We went as far as the actual border with him and left him there most disgruntled. In Ecuador we had a few hours in Huayaquillas before our bus to Quito, and passed the time limping around and admiring the mosaics in the Plaza Mayor, eating well and being laughed at. People are curious about the hobbling gringoes and very sympathetic when you smile and shrug and say hello. "Si, los dos!"

On our night bus to Quito our very sweet steward, Elena, gave us the much roomier seats reserved for staff. She had been studying engineering but had to give it up when her husband decided he wanted a divorce and she became the sole support for their two children. At the Quito bus station we took a cab to the hotel after a bit of a showdown with our taxi driver. His trunk wouldn't close on our giant backpacks but he kept assuring us they would be fine. As we drove out of the terminal I couldn't stop thinking, but what if they aren't fine? What if we're stopped in traffic and someone grabs one of the bags? Mike had to be extremely firm with the driver ("NO! No es una broma para mi!!") and we jumped out of the cab in traffic and got his backpack inside. Of course it turned out that the trunk wouldn't close anyway, and we drove through perfectly tranquil neighborhoods with nary a highwayman in sight. Eventually we will learn that the hype about how dangerous the next place you're going to is just that.

We moved into the Hostal Chicago, had a (sadly instant) coffee on the rooftop terrace and put our feet up to wait for Tom & Corynn.