It was with mixed feelings that I said goodbye to Ana Maria and Francisco this morning. On one hand, I was ready to leave Quito but on the other I was sorry to leave their home. The travel nerves also once again kicked in, as well! I got a taxi to Quitumbe and then the bus to Lago Agrio, the nearest town to Cuyabeno National Park, which is where I was to join the tour to the jungle.
The journey took 7 hours on a semi comfortable bus and took us up and over a 4,000m pass. On one side of the mountains, the landscape was quite dry and rocky and on the other very green, with many trees and bushes clinging to the steep sides of the mountains. As per usual, the driver was in a hurry and hurtled round the bends. We had a couple of stops, one for toilets and the other, I think unscheduled, when a young girl on the opposite side of the aisle to me was, not surprisingly, feeling sick.
As we got closer to Lago Agrio, more local people used the bus for short distances. Other than that, we had a few people selling goods whilst we were still close to Quito, one of whom was a salesmen for a health product, who droned on and on for about 15 minutes above the noise of the music on the radio, which in itself, was quite piercing. I was extremely glad when the salesmen stopped. He didn’t appear to sell very much for all his sales pitch.
Apart from this, the journey was uneventful until we reached Lago Agrio, where the driver attempted to leave us all at a stop outside the town. He was obviously keen to finish his trip to Coca. However, luckily for me, the other passengers vociferously objected to not being delivered to the bus terminal in town and refused to get off! As it happened, the place where he wanted us to alight was a long way from the terminal so I was extremely glad that everyone forced him drive into town.
Once there, I shared a taxi to the hotel with a young German couple, who were the only other foreigners on the bus. By this time, it was about 5.30pm and after I had checked in to my basic but clean room, I went to reception to ask for the wifi password. As I was standing there, an older lady approached and it turned out that she was another solo traveller. It was such an unusual occurrence and the meeting so coincidental that, of course, we ended up chatting and later going out for dinner at a Chinese restaurant she had found.
Prior to that, I went in search of a beer and found one a couple of doors away in a very small dark shop where an old crone, huddled over her pile of cash, directed operations. Having selected my beer, I was offered a bottle opener. Apparently, the price was for drinking it on the premises and when I indicated that I wanted to take it away, I was charged a higher price on the assumption that I would get a dollar back when I returned the bottle before 7 pm when they closed. I would have to drink it fast. Of course, they were already closed when I returned on the way to dinner at 6.45pm!
Dinner was enormous and I couldn’t even eat half of it. My new friend was Canadian and had been travelling for 5 months on her own. It was interesting talking to her but I think she would have exhausted me if I had spent too much time with her!