We've been aboard several busses in South America since our 20 hour ride to Pasto. While that adventure seemed crazy at the time, we quickly learned that anything goes on the busses around here. Yesterday, we decided to make our way to Puerto Lopez. This involved walking down the street and yelling "Puerto Lopez!" to the man hanging out the door of an oncoming bus. The bus pulled over and we boarded in the middle of the street. The first bus took us to a small town about an hour away, where we had to change busses. Once again, you just shout out where you want to go, and somebody runs toward you and scoops you into their bus. This one had a luggage storage compartment underneath, so we gave the driver our bags to stow. When he opened the compartment, there was a live, full grown chicken that was being transported as luggage. Its head and the majority of its body were hanging out of a black plastic bag. I guess we are lucky that it was not brought as a carry on item.
The ride on our second bus for the day was about 3.5 hours and took us to another station in what we believe to be Puerto Viejo. Let me tell you... it is a hell hole. We were stopped for about 45 minutes while other passengers changed busses and new passengers came abord. During this time, several vendors took the opportunity to come onto the bus and walk up and down the narrow aisle selling various things. I took the liberty of writing down some of the more interesting items...
They include: CDs, toothbrushes, baggies of coconut water with chunks of coconut floating in them, whole unfrosted cakes, fried chicken rings, a net hammock, sunglasses, reading glasses, whole loaves of bread, water, mangos, potholders, plastic cups of homemade gelatinous substance, peeled oranges, belts, and potholders, among others that I'm sure I missed. Also during our "break", we saw the bus driver's assistant and some friends syphon a gallon of gas out of a motorcycle and into a plastic jug.
I also took this "break" opportunity to have a look at the busses around us. At the back of the "nice" busses, there is often a small bathroom. They need to block out the window so that peepers can't see people with their pants down. In Ecuador, most busses do this by placing a large decal of a stripper (or similar) over the entire window. Trust me, it looks super classy when several of these are lined up next to each other. As an aside, these bathrooms are for women only - men just ask the driver to pull over and take a whiz on the side of the road.
Eventually, we ended up switching busses a final time for the hour long ride into Puerto Lopez. Our final bus was interesting... all of the seats were stuck in a fully reclined position. I basically had someone laying in my lap, and I was stuck in an awkward slumped position. The head rest seemed to be missing the foam cushion, so it mostly consisted of a bar of metal wrapped in faux leather that was jamming into my head. The nice thing about being the only white folks on the bus is that when it was time for us to get off, the person manning the door just yelled "gringos!" and waved for us. The driver stopped to let me off, then accelerated with Daniel still standing in the doorway. After Daniel started yelling at the driver in English, he slowed down a few meters ahead of where I was standing. Daniel jumped off the moving bus and we were on our way. It was nerve wracking, but we made it to the correct destination, in one piece, and the chicken did not poop on our bags.
We did not know where we would be sleeping last night. The plan was to just walk down the main road and find a place. As soon as we were off the bus, we were approached by multiple people wanting to take us to different hostels. We waved them all away, and made our way to the beachfront area. We ended up finding a place with the golden trifecta: wifi, hot water, and air conditioning! So far, we have mostly been able to get two out of the three, so this was a real treat. It was a little pricey ($25 a night), but I was able to bargain for $10 off if we stay for three more nights. The only downside is that the city shuts off all electricity for several hours each day, seemingly at random.