Back on the road

The last couple of days have been spent travelling. On Friday, we got up before 6am so that we could go for an early morning bird watch in the canoe. Then, after breakfast, as torrential rain started, we all piled back into the canoes for the two hour trip to meet the bus that was to take us back to Lago Agrio. By the time we arrived, I had had enough of the canoe as my knees were getting very cramped and my feet were wet. It must have been quite uncomfortable for the taller men.

Terese at the door of our cabin (no glass in the windows and, yes, it was called Tarantula!)
Terese at the door of our cabin (no glass in the windows and, yes, it was called Tarantula!)
A couple of anacondas lurking in the bushes
A couple of anacondas lurking in the bushes

We had our last ‘boxed’ lunch and then it was on the road again for another two hours. Some of the group were hoping to catch buses to Banos, but I thought they may have problems as I had already researched it and decided it wasn’t feasible without travelling overnight (which I wasn’t comfortable doing).

Dressed in waterproof capes on the way back
Dressed in waterproof capes on the way back

We arrived back in Lago Agrio at about 2.30pm and I checked into the hotel I had stayed in before. The room was large and clean. However, I didn’t appreciate how much noise an exterior air conditioning unit made overnight and which I could still hear through my ear plugs. The electric shower unit had also been removed, a little detail I failed to notice until I wanted a shower the next morning. It was a refreshing start to the day!

Once I had settled in and relaxed for a while, I went in search of food and found Alan and Lucy (the English couple) and Maxim and Katerine (the Germans) parked in the hotel cafe next door. They had decided to take the overnight bus to Banos and had 7 hours to wait. I made some food purchases and came back and chatted to them for quite some time before going off to bed.

On Saturday, I was awake early so decided to leave as I had had enough of the noise in my room. After a basic breakfast at the hotel cafe, I caught a taxi to the Terminal Terrestre or bus station (once I had made the driver understand where I wanted to go) and then a bus to Coca. I was heading for Tena but couldn’t go directly.

View of Tena from the hostal
View of Tena from the hostal

The first stage took a couple of hours and the next one about four. It was overcast and raining almost the entire way. The second bus was very much a local one and stopped and started at random places along the way, whenever anyone wanted to get on or off. There are some bus stops but people appear to disregard them. There was the usual assortment of luggage put in the compartment underneath the bus and, of course, the conductor had to drum up custom along the way.

Fish in a tank in a shop in Tena
Fish in a tank in a shop in Tena

When I arrived in Tena, the rain was torrential so I got quite wet just walking from the bus to the terminal building. As I had to wait, I decided to get some street food, which was a bit risky, given that my stomach had been a little dodgy for the last couple of days. At the point I noticed the chicken was raw, I stopped eating and fed it to the scavenging dogs!

A taxi took me up the hill to the hostel I had booked. It had a lovely view of the rain clouds hovering over the mountain tops and the town itself.

As the rain had actually stopped, I walked back down into town, following some locals along a fairly wet and muddy shortcut and then had a short wander around. After finding the supermarket and purchasing some supplies, I returned to the hostel and spent the rest of the evening doing very little.

Goodbye Quito, hello Cuyabeno

On the road
On the road

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.

Roadside cafe between Quito and Lago Agrio
Roadside cafe between Quito and Lago Agrio

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.

View from the cafe stop
View from the cafe stop

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!