I still have a few blog posts to come from Ecuador, but I have already crossed over the border to Peru. Just had to tell you about that epic trip!
Yes, I finally sat down the other day and figured out a plan for Peru after procrastinating about it for a long time. I knew I really wanted to spend a lot of time hiking near Huaraz and I was dead keen to do a vegetarian cooking and yoga retreat that I’d found online some time ago. Enquiries revealed that I could do the cooking/yoga retreat starting 19th September at the earliest, and that there was a group doing the 10-day Huayhuash trek that I wanted to do starting the 4th September. There were a couple of “buggers” about this:
- I would have loved to have spent another week in Ecuador in Vilcabamba (love Ecuador)
- Huaraz is a lot further south than Tarapota (near where the cooking retreat is). I would have to go south, backtrack significantly to the north (~20 hrs on bus) and then re-backtrack to the south in order to do both.
In the end, I decided to bite the bullet, suck it up and spend inordinate amounts of time on buses (at least it saves on accommodation costs!). Here’s a summary of my last 2 days:
Tuesday, 4:15am – wake up in Cuenca and get to the bus station. Only to find out that they’d just sold the last seat on the 5am bus and I would have to wait another 45 minutes to get the next one. It’s too early for this crap!
4hrs Cuenca – Guayaquil. Was supposed to be 5hrs and we even stopped for ½ hour for a baños break. We were absolutely flying down the mountains to the point where it was hard to stay in your seat!
4hrs wait Guayaquil bus terminal. One of the most amazing bus terminals I’ve ever been in. It is HUGE and right next to the airport (yay for logistics)! OK, so the WiFi only kind of works (actually it stopped working for me after ½ hour – it’s an open network and it wouldn’t let me back on for fear of security attacks), and there aren’t very many powerpoints, and you can’t exchange money to buy Peruvian Nuevo Soles (seriously Ecuador – you need more money exchange places or get your banks to do it – it was impossible in Cuenca too!), but it has a big food court as well as other little places to eat, and lots of (not terribly interesting) shopping. I was really impressed with the terminal. I was really not impressed with the Pizza Hut Express girl who insisted that a supreme personal pizza cost 4x the price of a salami one. Yes, I admit it, I crave crappy pizza when sitting in airport or bus terminals. I ended up with soup and roast chicken and fried rice (which was surprisingly good and no doubt much healthier).
4hrs Guayaquil – Ecuador-Peru border. Listening to music and musing while staring out the window from the luxury of my full-cama (full bed) seat 🙂 It’s kind of equivalent to between 1st class and business class on a plane (the seat doesn’t quite lay flat, but almost). Gotta love how Peru and Chile (at least) have this long-distance bus thing figured out!
2hrs Ecuador-Peru border crossing. It was actually very efficient, even though this timing doesn’t make it sound so. You lined up to exit Ecuador, then moved about 10 metres to your right to line up and enter Peru. Not sure why we were stopped for so long given we’d all done our bits and pieces quite quickly.
14hrs Ecuador-Peru border – Chimbote. WiFi kicked in on the Peruvian side of the border … but I couldn’t get it to work no matter how many times I tried 🙁
I discovered bus meals are even worse than airline meals – even when you are in 1st class. Vaguely luke-warm meal with not a vegetable in sight and a gelatinous dessert with apple that would have been fine if it were completely solid, and fine if it were completely runny … but I could not bring myself to eat it when the texture was in the middle. And it takes a LOT for me not to eat a dessert!
2 hrs after the border crossing, we all had to get off the bus again and do another border check. No idea why. After that, I didn’t know much else about this part of the trip – thank you once again full-cama buses in South America! Slept really well actually 🙂
Unfortunately, breakfast was even more disappointing than dinner – a packet of biscuits and a small white bread roll with 1 slice of ham on it!
2hrs waiting in Chimbote. At least it wasn’t 14hrs waiting, which was my fear (only buses I could find online left at 11pm)! Also sorted out how I’m going to do the 20hrs bus trip back to the north of Peru for the cooking retreat when I’m done with the 10 day hike 🙂
6hrs Chimbote – Huaraz. Went semi-cama this time given it was the afternoon and I was wide awake. Bus was almost empty – more listening to music and staring out the window musing. It really is a very, very impressive trip up the Andes! Saw a bus that must have literally just overturned before we passed (there were still shell-shocked passengers there). At least it overturned away from the side of the road with the sheer drop down about 1000m! I decided to re-buckle my seatbelt at that point!
Wednesday 5:30pm – arrived Huaraz. ~38hr epic bus trip – Done! And to be honest, it wasn’t that bad, and I arrived feeling quite lively (I’m sure it wasn’t delirium)! Have I mentioned how much I appreciate full-cama buses?
And this is what I’ve come to experience — I hope I get some clear weather on this hike!