Strange how my last post started with me leaving Banos and this one starts with me arriving again. We had come to collect Ed’s guitar. A group of us chipped in some money towards getting him a guitar out here and Ed made up the rest. We ended up finding an amazing handmade guitar shop in Banos where the owner was 3rd generation guitar maker in the original shop. After some negotiating and him understanding Ed’s requirements through part-English, part-Spanish conversation, we agreed a decent price. The guitar’s a fine piece of work and Ed’s been performing on beaches, in hostels and in a restaurant in Cuenca, Ecuador. Before we headed there though, we actually went north again first. We definitely weren’t taking the most direct route through Ecuador but we wanted to see Laguna Quilotoa, a mountain crater lake I had seen a photo of on Rob’s computer, years before.
We spent the night in a hostel which had a log fire, it was needed as it was freezing up there at almost 4000m. The next morning Ed and I, along with Laura, from Argentina, walked down to the bottom of the crater amid incredible views. On the way back up torrential rain started and we had parts of the flooded path washing away back down the mountain next to us. We made the decision not to walk all the way round the edge of the crater though. Cold and wet, we warmed up for a few hours, caught the bus back to Latacunga and then caught our night bus to Cuenca.
We arrived into Cuenca in the early hours and woke up the hostel owner at 5am. This became a recurring theme over the weekend. We arrived on the Friday, went to a restaurant and immediately got Ed a gig for that night, no messing about. The Bar Manager said it was ‘algo nuevo’ which translates to ‘something new’. It was a good start and we had a good night with the first of three English couples we met recently. The hostel owner was woken up at about 5am again…
We explored Cuenca the next day, in my opinion it was the nicest city in Ecuador. Cuenca’s nickname is Ciudad de Arboles, city of trees. We took a taxi to the top of a nearby hill and realised the nickname was suitable. My favourite way to see a city is looking down on it from the highest point, normally not actually being in the city itself. A bit ironic. We took in the rest of the sights, visited a cathedral and after three days jumped on a bus to Loja.
Loja wasn’t really much of a tourist city but still clean park squares and it offered a few places for a decent bite to eat. We managed to get Ed’s guitar fine-tuned while we were there as well. On the last day we wanted to see the botanical gardens, apparently we’re cultured now. As we pored over a map of the city, a chap stopped and offered us some help. He offered to take us to a different park and dressed in a suit with a nice car, we decided it would be okay. He is a couchsurfing.com host as well as being a lawyer. Leo offered us his house to stay in along with promising us a good night out. It didn’t work out but his generosity is a good example at the friendliness of some of the people here.
From there we headed down to Vilcabamba which was our last stop before crossing into Peru. It was in the mountains and was a beautiful place. The night we arrived happened to coincide with the first full moon of 2014, luckily there was a full moon party happening just outside the town. There was a huge bonfire, loud, loud techno music and after a great night, we walked back to our hostel through the mountains enjoying some crazy views and good company. Some of our plans got cancelled, after the old man that I am put my back out, so we changed mountain biking to massages and put the biking on ice…for now…It was a lazy few days in an incredible hostel where we paid only $8.50 per night. We had double beds in a dormitory; there was a pool, bar, pool table and most importantly a ping pong table. It’s been our choice of sport since Canoa and I think we’re now amongst the finest players in South America.
We had booked a night bus from Loja to take us across the border, into Peru and on to Piura. Begrudgingly we left out double beds and luxuries of the hostel and took a bus back to Loja. It was a rather interesting journey and the time flew by. We killed the final couple of hours in Loja and boarded our last bus in Ecuador. It was close to 4am when we arrived at the border. Sleepily, we got off the bus and filled in the Ecuador forms, getting our exit stamp. It was a 400m walk to the Peru office, we crossed a bridge over the river, filled in the same forms in Peru and got our entry stamp. I’ve heard of people getting an exit stamp and then not regaining an entry stamp, effectively being ‘off the radar’. We didn’t do this as the choice between clambering through the woods at the border or a comfy, cool bus was an easy one. So we got back on and back to sleep. We were now in Peru, this country has so much to offer and I’m very excited about it! Hopefully we won’t have any party beach towns where we get ‘stuck’ like we did in Canoa, Ecuador. So, our first stop in Peru was Mancora, a beach town renowned for its night life, oh…oops.