Lima, Peru to Guayaquil, Ecuador…on the buses.
20 hours on a bus sounds horrible doesn’t it? But I’ve got to say these South American bus journeys really aren’t as bad as they sound. Everyone takes the bus as flying is so expensive! We looked at flights from Lima to Guayaquil in Ecuador, they were £400 each where as we took 2 buses for about £40 each, no brainer right?
However you do have to spend a lot of time on the bus, as Peru is huge! To give it some comparison, we could drive from London to Naples, Italy in 20 hours. Our bus journey from Lima to Mancora in the north was for 20 hours and we would still be in Peru!
We had been travelling with the safe bus company Cruz Del Sur throughout Peru. There are loads of classes of buses to choose from but with Cruz Del Sur they check your ID, scan you and your bags, video your face getting on the bus and have regular driver changes. We had found the best seats for comfort were downstairs – less swaying about than upstairs, they have individual TV screens to watch a range of movies on, friendly pursers feed you and the comfy leather seats recline to 160-degrees. Now we’re not tall people and while the seats are super comfy for 8-10 hour journeys, you just can’t put your legs out straight, it also has to be noted that small Andean people fit perfectly in the seats! So for our overnight journey we booked with an alternative bus company Oltursa. We paid a little bit more but had flat bed VIP seats that were like business class seats on airplanes. We left Lima early afternoon and happily arrived after a reasonable if slightly bumpy nights sleep the following morning.
To help us with the bus journeys we load up our tablets with podcasts – me: The Archers, Desert Island Discs and an investigative murder journalism podcast called Serial (thanks Steph Staiano for the recommendation!) Mr E downloads his podcasts to listen to where men talk about other men kicking a football about…
We take some sweeties, snacks and bottles of water with us also. Now this is the dilemma about bus travel – the big pee issue! You have to keep sipping water to stay hydrated but then inevitably you need a pee. If you get on the bus at the start of its journey the on-board toilet isn’t too bad, in fact it’s quite fresh smelling but if you join the bus after its already been on the road for 10 hours or more it’s a no go zone!
As well as the bad smell and dubious hygiene scenario, pulling down your pants and squatting (never sit on the seat!!) is highly precarious in a small cubicle on a fast moving bus over rocky roads. I have the indentation of a paper dispenser on my back as proof!! But I’m now super fast at putting my trainers on, grabbing my zip-lock bag full of tissues, wetwipes and hand-santiser, speeding out of the bus whenever it stops for fuel, driver change or new pick up and into the bus terminal to have a pee on solid ground, call Guinness it could be record breaking!
Anyways enough about toilet talk…we arrived in Mancora hoping to find a lovely beach town but unfortunately really high spring tides had flooded the access roads and we couldn’t walk the sandy bay as the waves were lashing up over sand bags on the beach edge. I had wanted to go swim with turtles off the pier nearby, but the sea was just too rough. So instead we lounged about on the sunbeds of Suites del Mar drinking beers and watching the sun set gloriously on our last night in Peru.
We’d had the best time in Peru but it was upwards and onwards into Ecuador for the final weeks of our South America trip. We boarded the Cruz del Sur bus in Mancora, settled in for 2 hours, then after watching a film it was time to cross the border. Like all our other border crossings it was easy peasy. Our bus convoy lined up to get stamped out of Peru, we crossed over to join the queue at the the next window to get stamped into Ecuador and then it was back on the bus for another 6 hours. No-one drugged us, robbed us or ripped us off – never read the tourist guides!
The scenery changed within an hour of leaving Peru, we left the coastal sand dunes behind and soon it was luscious row after green row of banana plantations. As it got dark I watched a Bollywood Blockbuster called Bang Bang which was hilarious especially in Spanish, it had it all going on – action stunts, exotic locations, a hot thief who was well ripped, plus he could dance too!
Guayaquil has a terrible reputation for crime, we had been warned to be careful; ‘watch your bags at all times, don’t walk the streets in the dark, don’t get the mogwai wet..If you read all the ‘dangers and annoyances’ in the guide books you’d never leave home!
But we arrived into a massive bus terminal, ate some dinner in the giant food court and successfully took a taxi to our downtown Unipark Hotel without any issues
I woke in the morning refreshed to find this fabulous view from our window. The hotel was opposite the Metropolitan Cathedral and the famous Iguana Park where hundreds of these big lizards live right in the centre of the city.
When I had looked out of the window the night before I couldn’t see any iguanas taking a turn around the park, what I didn’t know is that iguanas climb trees and roost for the night! We have iguanas in the gardens in Mexico and they walk along the tops of walls, but I hadn’t seen one climb up or down a tree! A lady entered the park with bags of lettuce and they all came running over to eat, slip sliding down the trees for their breakfast.
Guayaquil is known as the ‘Pacific Pearl’ due to its tropical climate, it was sweaty hot!
There have been huge renovations of the riverside and now it’s a pleasant waterfront Malecon with shops, boats, artwork and leafy walks. The city centre was a mix of modern markets and stores next to many historic neogothic architectural buildings, it was a pleasant stopover and nothing like the guidebooks had indicated.
So the moral of this post is – take the bus and take sensible precautions when travelling, but most of all go to bathroom before you leave for your journey!
Next up – colonial Cuenca