28 Sep, we arrived in Tumbes. Small border town. Lots of hawkers wanting to put us in a taxi, and pretend to drive us across the border – but actually drive us to an out of the way spot and rob us. No such luck, suckers. We’re wise to your lies. So, we try to catch a bus. But, don’t have enough money. Try to haggle the price down to what we’ve got, but the lady won’t have a bar of it. So – Ben goes to get some more money. Then – all smiles. But, it turns out, we can’t buy tickets off her anyway. She tells us to catch a ‘moto’ (a tuk-tuk) to the company’s bus terminal. So we do. But, the tuk-tuk can’t handle the weight of three big gringos & their luggage. After a block, it stops. One tyre is completely flat/coming off it’s rim. So, we get another one. More powerful, faster tuk-tuk. Get to the terminal, and buy our tickets. Easy. Then, wait for bus. Bus arrives. We get on it. Very very comfortable bus. Big comfy seats. Only three seats across. We sit down the back, because we’re the cool kids. Bus across the border – into Ecuador. (Queue cheesy techno music.) Many hours later, we arrive in Guayaquil. Dropped off at the airport, so we go into the airport and buy Ben a ticket to the Galapagos Islands. Then, taxi into town. Find a hostel – then try to find some food. Then – disaster strikes. NO CERVEZA! In the entire country! For the entire weekend! Election weekend, apparently, and there’s some law preventing the selling or consuming of booze for the weekend. I am less than pleased. We get some juices instead, and then I drink some of a bottle of wine left over from Lima. Not much though – before we all fall asleep with exhaustion. And trying to forget this nonsensical prohibition.
29 Sep – the nightmare is still with me when I awake. But, I soldier on. We walk down to the waterfront, and admire statues and gardens and stuff. It is hot, so I put my head into a fountain. Then, I discover remote control boats. Awesome. I loved the remote control boats at Fantasyland in Hastings – but never had the money to use them. Now, loaded up with my US$ (goddamn stupid country uses seppo dollars as their currency) – I was determined to make up for that. Expensive though – 1 dollar for a turn. But, Pen & I paid up – and had a go. Ben was too chicken. It did not live up to my dreams. My boat was stuck in a right turning circle for the first half of my time. I still managed to ram Pen once, although by accident. She’ll claim that she rammed me – but ’tis lies. Unless she somehow cleverly rammed me with the middle of the side of her boat. Ha! I don’t think so. Anyway – time ran out pretty quickly, and I walked away unsatisfied. Back to the hostel, where lightweights Ben & Pen had a siesta. Not used to this tropical heat, the newbies. I wasted time on the internet. Then, everybody was up and about again. Time for a shave. So, we find a barber. Ben is too scared to allow an Ecuadorian at his throat with a straight razor – so I show him how it’s done. Get myself shaved – except leave the moustache please. So – he left the moustache. Then he groomed the moustache. Leaving me with a professionally groomed moustache. That’s another thing off the “things to do before I die” list. Did I mention a couple of weeks back that a llama spat at me? That was also crossed off the list. Ben, reassured by my brave demonstration, then plucked up the courage to have a go. He also got himself shaved, but leave the moustache please, and even went so far as to get a haircut. Then, two of us looking pretty damned fine, we resolved to have a fine dinner out. We dressed up Pen as best we could, then got into our suits. Taxi to a pricey hotel, and then got ourselves a seat at their swiss themed restaurant. Waitresses, contrary to the expectations laid by my guide book, were not wearing cowbells. We were diappointed, but hungry – so decided to stay. Had another go at ordering booze. No go. Juice then, and fondue. Turns out that forcing us to be sober is a bad idea – as we misbehaved worse than ever. Ben threw bread. I didn’t – because I’m a good boy. Even the waitress seemed to pick up on the mood of things, and flirted outrageously with me right in front of Pen. Including a lingering touch of hands when giving me one of my many juices, which would have forced any movie to get an instant “X” rating. Ben was rather jealous – hence the lack of tip at the end of dinner.
30 Sep – the day we get rid of Ben. All of us get up early, and catch a taxi to the airport. Pen & I are coming to make sure he actually gets on the plane. Breakfast at the airport – then I remind Ben he needs an Ecuador hat. (That’s a Panama hat for you uneducated folks. The “Panama Hat” is actually from Ecuador – but became named the Panama hat when some seppo president wore one at some ceremony involving the Panama Canal. File that little fact away, so you too can annoy people with it.) Anyway, Ben buys an Ecuador hat. I resolve to wait until sometime when I won’t be paying stupid inflated airport souvenir shop prices. Then – goodbye Ben. Pen & I head to the bus terminal – and get ourselves a bus to Banos. Well – to Ambato. Get to Ambato – and hop in a taxi to take us to the other bus terminal. (Multiple bus terminals are bloody annoying.) But, taxi driver talks me into hiring him to take us the whole way to Banos. Much pricier than taking a bus – but he seemed nice, and it wasn’t too much. Get to Banos, and get ourselves a room in a hostel – because it has a jacuzzi and turkish baths. Which we never get around to actually taking advantage of. Wander around town. Very very nice town. Awesome setting in a valley – below an active volcano. One can take a night time tour to the top of the volcano to admire all the lava and such. We didn’t get around to doing that either. Big waterfall on one side of the town. Pretty church. Canyon on one side of town. Day trips possible to other waterfalls, jungle stuff, rafting, hiking, all sorts. Altogether – would have loved to spend a week or so there. Did I mention the setting? I know I did – but wanted to say again that it was beautiful. But, we’re kind of short of time. So – just the one night. One set of thermal pools is open for night time – right below the waterfall. So, we went there. Very busy. Two main hot pools – packed full of people. Spent as much time in one as I could handle, then we returned to town for dinner. I pass on one restaurant – proclaiming the menu to be boring and expensive. Then Pen notices that one man in there has a beer on his table. Decision reversed. We nearly knock the door off it’s hinges getting in as quick as possible. Food turns out to be rather good as well.
01 Oct – Check out, and get some breakfast. Pen gets me with the “pinch and a punch for the first of the month”. I hate her. But, I put that aside, and buy her a ticket on the same bus as me to Quito. Pick one without a toilet onboard though – to make her suffer. And she does. Ha. We eventually get to Quito though – and catch the tram to the new part of town. Find ourselves a hostel, and check in. Then, too late, discover that this hostel supplies it’s tenants with 12 litres of free rum&coke on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday nights. I realise with dread that today is Monday. I hate ron. (Rum, in espanol, is ron). Pen and I find some quick food, then return to the hostel just in time for the dreaded ron. It comes out. One huge stainless steel bucket – filled with ron & coke. We’re joined by a pair of girls, one english annoying “let’s-go-clubbing” type, and a realtively nice american; one american chap who’s just finished his Peace Corps stint, a loud english guy, a nice quiet swiss guy who reminded me of Hayden, a french guy who I talked rugby with later in the night, and a french guy who is obviously a pervert. Others floated in and out, but listing the people there seems rather stupid anyway. Bucket of ron finished. The deal is, when this happens, that if everybody supplies one dollar, the bucket will be refilled. So this was done. If there’s one thing I hate worse than free ron, it’s paying for ron. Especially paying seppo money for ron. But – one can’t let the team down. So – more ron arrived. Then, I was persuaded to go out with a couple of the folks to a bar. I agreed on the condition that I didn’t have to put any shoes on. Instant weirdo status. But, I went out. Got into a bar with barefeet, unnoticed by the bouncer. Some patrons, however, did notice – and didn’t seem to know what to think or say. I had one beer, got bored, and returned home.
So – that’s how we got to Quito. Where we still are, and rather hungover. Having accomplished the dubious achievement of internet and lunch, the remainder of the afternoon is likely to consist of shandies and television.