When I last left you, I was standing astride the Equator with Nick's parents. Well, from there, we FINALLY got access to the South American Explorer's club, and picked up my VISA/ATM Card! Yippee!!! It still didn't work though. Those damn Ecuadorian banks are just F@$%ed up.
From Quito, we headed to Baños to soak in the natural hot springs, when DISASTER STRUCK!!! I was sneak theifed on the bus, and they got away with my Guatemalan bag that I spent hours haggling over. But, more importantly what was in the bag? Well, besides the set of travel games that my brother Doug gave me for Christmas (Sorry Bug!) the worst of possible things; THE LONELY PLANET SOUTH AMERICA BOOK!!!!! Shit! Just how the F$%^ are we supposed to find hotels, buses, etc without it??!! (those of you who have been on the road will know just what a disaster this really is) Well, after getting off the bus, we scoured Baños for a bookstore. We saw lots of alpaca shops, and Cuy Bar-B-Ques (That's Guinea Pig for those of you not versed in South American lore) But book stores?? There just ain't none, so bag weary from trotting about town with our packs on, SGK remembers that she wrote down the name of the Hotel that Nick was going to stay at, and we headed there.
The proprietor informed us that Nick and his parents had checked in the night before. Yea!! We could at least now photocopy the pieces that we needed (our other alternative was to buy a 6 year old copy of the Lets Go Guide in German) We then headed out for a much needed Beer. Who was at the restaurant? But Jolly old St. Nick himself! Yes, I called him St. Nick, because just like Santa Claus, he decided to GIVE us his LP (he was going home in a few days anyway).
Now we could soak in the springs under the waterfall without worries!!!!
After Baños, we were off to Cuenca, The supposedly colonial architectural gem of Ecuador.
It didn't hold a candle to Cartegena. And Our hotel kicked us out after one night. The only good thing about Cuenca was that my ATM card decided to work here for some unknown reason!! We decided to boogie on down to Vilcabamba, to stay at a place we'd been hearing about called Las Ruinas de Quinara.
The LP says that the ride from Cuenca to Loja is 4 hours. 10 hours after leaving Cuenca, we finally arrived in Loja. Our bus had been detouring around mud and rock slides that whole time. Entire stretches of road proved impassible. We had to turn around several times to search for alternate routes. At one point, we even headed through some farmers field! (in a brand new Mercedes Coach!) Needless to say, we decided to spend the night in Loja before heading out to Las Ruinas.
******** Las Ruinas De Quinara *************
In every budget hotel, restaurant, and Internet Cafe in Ecuador is a poster advertising this hotel. The photos look lavish, and the description looks even better, they claim that for a measly $10 a night, you get: Breakfast, Juice all day long, Mineral water all day long, Dinner, Clean relaxed and FRIENDLY atmosphere, Comfortable accommodation, Cable TV/Music in all rooms, Hot showers all day long, hiking map, tourist information, a safe, heated swimming pool with slide, poolside music, sun lounges, Jacuzzi, Turkish bath, Basketball, football, volyball, ping pong, pool table, large screen TV with video library, and internet access, and THEY PAY YOUR WAY FROM LOJA TO THE HOTEL!.
Sound Good? We sure thought so.
********* The RUINED reputation of Las Ruinas ***
Well, the didn't pay for our bus ride, but we forgave them for that. There was no fruit juice in evidence (only koolaid at dinner) but again, a small transgression. The "Cable TV" meant that all of the TV's were hooked to one channel only, controllable at will by whomever wanted to change it. But the BIG problem was that the place was
full of 35 Israeli's in their early 20's. When we checked in, the bellhop asked us if we really wanted to stay their, as "Hay 35 Isrealitos aqui"
I was shocked! Anti-Semitism in Ecuador????
Well, the real problem was not that they were Israeli, but that there were 35 of them fresh out of national service. 35 young men of ANY nationality would be a chore to handle. Here's what they did to ruin Las Ruinas:
Constantly flipping through the CD collection, so that a single song never finished at the "poolside bar"
Constantly changing the channel on the TV so that PORN was always playing in our room
Jumping in the pool at 12:30AM
Checking their email at 2:00AM (right in front of our room!)
Playing pornos at top volume on the big screen TV ALL NIGHT LONG!
Just being RUDE and NOISY 24 hours a day.
Needles to say, I got up at 6:30am (I really didn't get any sleep) and searched for a new hotel. As I woke up hoteliers all over town, they asked me where I stayed the night before (the first bus into Vilcabamba being at 9:00am) and when I told them they all said "Ah! Los Isrealitos! No hay Isrealitos Aqui!" What a bad name these guys were giving their country!!!
SGK wanted to pull a runner and skip out without paying, but we got caught, and after an argument, he only wanted 1/2, and we got our beers for free.
We moved to Cabinas Rio Yambala, in the cloud forest. Beautiful! Secluded!! Quite!! Lovely!! After a few days of this hermitage (and a hike to the top of a waterfall at 12000ft ) We were off to Peru.
We arrived in the border town of Macara at about 8:00pm, and the border didn't open till 8:00am, se we found a CHEAP hotel ($1.50 a night!) and guess who was staying there? but KO, the intrepid Japanese traveler that we originally met in San Pedro, Guatamala, then again in Panama City!
The next day (Yesterday!) consisted of a blur of 5 different buses to 4 different cities before we crashed for the night in Trujillo.
Where do we go from here?
Tonight is a night bus to Huarez, where we will do some white water rafting, then on to Lima to change buses to Nazca where we will fly over the famous lines, then back into the mountains to Cusco to acclimatize for the 4 day hike up the Inca trail to Machu Pichu. After Machu Pichu, we'll cut across to Titicaca, Copacabana (Bolivia), And La Paz. After La Paz, we head down into the Bolivian Amazon to Rurre for a Jungle trek, then back to La Paz for the famous La Paz to Arica (Chile) railroad. Down the spine of Chile through the great salt desert to the Maipo vally (Wine Country!) then Skiing on the Andes in July!!! Then we will fly from Santiago to Miami and home!
Friday, May 14, 1999