How it unfolded (pun intended)
After spending time in Quito, Banos, Guayaquil, Montanita and the Galapagos islands, my time in Ecuador appeared to be over. The Galapagos had been a full on excursion for me, with many scuba dives and wildlife encounters it was a good way to sign out of the country that to me, was my favourite out of them all in South America.
I had a little time left before I headed across the border, into ventures new in Peru. I’d booked my bus in advance and I was heading to party land, Mancora in Peru. Before I did that, I wanted a few more days fix in Ecuador and as always, I led with my heart. Natalia, my companion at the time, and scuba diver in Montanita had keenly invited me to go see her before I left the country. Before I did, I threw some laundry in the local laundrette within walking distance from my hostel in Guayaquil.
‘..the bus was leaving and so was I’
I was in Montanita so all I could do was call at that point but my journey back was imminent. With lots of broken Spanish and ‘Que’s’ I finally understood that my laundry would be ready and they would deliver to the hostel upon my return. I arrived back to find no laundry and no time, the bus was leaving and so was I. Quickly, I managed to track the laundrette down who said it wasn’t ready, but they would send the laundry to Peru for me. It being only 7 hours away I thought it couldn’t be that difficult. But then again, this is South America.
I was going to Mancora, a beach and surf town with insane parties. I figured I’d be barely clothed at the beach and wouldn’t leave the bar anyway. That was true. Mancora was full on. I found myself within the lures of Puerta Ricans, the largest consumer of ‘blood-bombs’ and a daily vomiter. By then, I had to get back on track. I called the laundrette who told me they needed a bank transfer and that despite them insisting they could send my laundry to Mancora, they could not. I thought fuck this, I’m going back myself.
Twenty hours would have been the reasonable time I’d planned, if everything went perfect. Although with my travels, very rarely something goes perfect. This was the plan:
- Setting off at 8am via taxi to Tumbres
- 7 hour bus journey to Guayaquil
- Simply collecting laundry, paying and cursing
- Returning to Mancora
- Arrive back at 3:30am the next day.
Not taking much more than a saddle pack with my passport, phone and cash, I headed on my first via taxi to Tumbres to catch my first bus of the day. I arrived to the bus terminals station in Tumbres, at around 1030am. Initially I was told by the ticket lady behind the counter that I’d be arriving to Guayaquil by 3pm. Perfect, I was chilling. Sometime soon after I was then told by another ticket lady, who was very erraticI wouldn’t be leaving until 1:15pm, almost 3 hours from the time I had arrived.
I should have been use to this by now.
Pleading, insisting and all the rest with a bus driver, ticket lady and whoever else who had a uniform I knew that wouldn’t work. I pondered about going back to Mancora and figuring it out another way, it wasn’t worth some laundry it seemed. I luckily bumped into two French backpackers and we began chatting. They suggested from their translation of a local Peruvian taxi driver that we weren’t far from the Ecuadorian border, that I could get a lift there with them, cross the border manually and arrange transport from there. I was running out of patience so I decided to go with it. It wasn’t like I had any other option.
Things were chaotic at the Ecuadorian border. The towering sign above clearly stating ‘Ecuador’, was actually the start point over a long street of shops and markets, filled with local wheelers and dealers. It was like the inside of a Toys R’ Us store mixed with Khao San Road. As for any formal offices for immigration there was nothing legit to be seen.
We technically walked into Ecuador territory, over the line on our own. A taxi driver soon picked us up and took us to the office to get our stamps which was 6km into Ecuador, despite us actually being within Ecuador. We then managed to arrange a bus that would set off in 30 minutes at 12:20pm for 7USD and be a 5 hour trip. As we waited, we decided to eat some local cuisine seconds away from our embarking point.
‘My day was plundering into a nightmare’
Walking up at 12:18pm, there was no bus in sight which was worrying. Out of nowhere, an arms waving Ecuadorian came rushing out and yelling in Spanish. Calming the little fella down he went on explaining how the bus already left! How we had missed it we don’t know because a) NOTHING leaves early in South America b) HOW would we have not seen it pass us? He went on to discover the bus was parked up waiting for us around 10 minutes away. My day was plundering into a nightmare.
Get the gringo
The ticket man threw us in a taxi and gave instructions to the taxi driver, who came across very arrogant. Mid journey, he began to tell us that we’d passed the place where the bus had been waiting and suggested going another route. He suggested to head 20 minutes to another town, to arrange another bus or car into Guayaquil. Cunningly he gave us some prices and well really we had no other choice. We were in between places.
As this point I smiled because this is the travelling no-one talks about enough.
Now arriving at a small bus terminal in God knows where, another 10USD down, we approach and explain the situation to the local bus operator. He manages to call a few people, assuming within the industry and subsequently gives us a calm, honest answer. He went on to explain that we’d be taken for a ride, quite literally as the bus HAD been waiting for us and we’d been scammed. The taxi driver had bullshitted his way into earning a few more dollars. Bastard.
Back on track just without the seatbelt
Kindly the original bus tracked us down and collected us. The locals on the bus were certainly displeased as I was taking daggers from them all. The bus driver explained how the taxi driver was at fault, to which I nodded. After 4 hours, I arrived in Guayaquil. After my goodbyes and thanks to the French, I quickly purchased my return ticket and hopped in a taxi. We weren’t wearing seatbelt and just the luck, we get pulled up from a police officer on a motorbike! He began to ask for absurd money from the driver who was looking to me to pay, being the gringo and all. At this point my head was all over the place. I made sure I had my things and simply just walked out the car. I didn’t look back.
Boringly, the rest of the story was perfect. I picked up my laundry, met up with a buddy for a burger whilst I waited for my bus, managed to watch an epic football game in a bar before making my bus back to Mancora. I arrived at 4am but I was back….and I still did it within 20 hours.