Our overnight bus from Mancora pulled into Guayquil bus station before the sun had even had a chance to start rising.
Despite it being 5am and dark we were greeted by the inevitable madness; old USA school buses, competing taxi drivers scrabbling for business and sellers flogging everything from snacks to sunglasses!
En route to Ecuador we had been discussing where to go next. We had planned on visiting Montanita, the countries surfing Mecca, first but we had hit a dead-end when we had tried to book accommodation the night before, all that was available was 2nd rate places for around $50/night!
Unsure of whether it would be worth stretching our tight budget for a few days or not we did a quick bit of research. Though Montanita sounded great (surf, beach, party) we couldn’t help but thinking it would just be a continuation of Mancora – but for double the price. This in mind, we began looking at alternatives.
Taking into account our budget and public-transport-only constraints, we soon came across Puerto Lopez; a tiny, remote fishing village, famous for whale watching, which is just finding its feet amongst the developing Ecuadorian tourist industry.
Unfortunately it wasn’t whale season (July and August) but we decided to go anyway, heading off the beaten track, ready to try something a bit different.
However, this meant trying to navigate the enormous (and I mean ENORMOUS) Guayquil bus station, at 5am, after a couple of hours of broken sleep, to find the right ticket office, for the bus to Puerto Lopez – easier said than done.
Eventually we found the right ticket booth, which didn’t open for another hour, so we grabbed a seat.
It was then that we noticed THE CRICKET INVASION.
Out of nowhere, a giant, fat, 2inch long cricket landed ‘plonk’ in the centre of my bag. Robbie (almost with no hesitation…) flicked it on to the floor (after a bit of fuss from me) and after a brief moment of celebration we realised they were everywhere!
Our wait for the ticket office to open was now spent in a constant search for, flinching at and flicking away of these huge crickets. Thankfully the office opened early and so began our next challenge:
- trying to ask if this was the bus company that goes to Puerto Lopez
- trying to ask whether the Puerto Lopez it was going to was the one we wanted (there were around 10 in Ecuador alone…)
- trying to buy two tickets whilst finding our when and where the bus left from.
We left a little confused, but happy that our Spanglish conversation had gotten us two tickets on a Jipijapa bus to a Puerto Lopez – we ventured up through the mall/multi-story car park style bus station to the gate where our bus was due to leave from.
In hindsight perhaps we should’ve waited downstairs as up here the cricket invasion was even worse – it looked like the floor was a polka dot pattern!
Despite the intensified onslaught of crickets, we were soon glad that we were waiting by the gate as our bus, disregarding the timetable, was ready to leave almost an hour early.
We parted with our backpacks (hopefully to see them again on arrival) and were loaded up along with a bus full of locals and were making our way back out of Guayquil bus station and back towards the Pacific Ocean.
I wish I could have taken some pictures of what we saw on the journey (but the grimy, tinted windows didn’t make for a great lense) because not only was it incredible, but it was also incredibly bizarre!
Firstly morning rush hour in Guayquil was utter madness, old American cars, brightly coloured buses and super busy roads all passed thousands upon thousands of houses which made up the cities ‘suburbs’.
Our journey continued and the shabby crowded city gave way to beautiful countryside where the road divided tropical forests, tiny towns and epic mountains. Every now and then the bus would stop, locals would get on and off and the bus would become crowded with sellers. You could get anything you want for breakfast; coconut milkshakes in a bag, empanadas, sweeties, meat and rice’n’beans and a lot of rather suspicious looking deep fried goods….
You had to be quick and have the right change however because the sellers would be picked up at one junction or bus stop or traffic lights and then dropped at the next! No need to panic though as in every village there was a constant stream of supplies!
Finally, after around 4 hours, the road began to wind down from the mountains and we started to catch glimpses of the sea.
Soon we reached Puerto Lopez and if I’m honest our hearts dropped…. It look as though a bomb had gone off, buildings were only shells, there was no sign of life, no beach and only a few battered boats – eyes glued on the passing village we almost began to panic, both of us too tired to admit that this might have been a terrible mistake.
However, a ray of hope began to burst through when the bus didn’t appear to be stopping – a quick chat with the lady next to us confirmed that this wasn’t Puerto Lopez and that we had another 10 minutes and a headland to go!
Relieved (but slightly anxious as to how different the two towns could really be) we waited to really arrive in Puerto Lopez. Oddly the bus station was a little out of town so when we got off we got a tuk-tuk the rest of the way.
Soon enough we realised our worry was for nothing, the town, though a bit ramshackle and not all that pretty, seemed vibrant and lively and the sea beyond was a bright, vivid blue.
Keep reading the next post to hear all about our stay in Puerto Lopez.
Travel in Ecuador;
Bus website – Latin Bus but just don’t rely on the times to be accurate!
Jipijapa – our tickets were $4 each… a great deal ($1/hr) but don’t go expecting luxury – this is Ecuador for real.
Navigating the bus station – on one side of the ground floor (where we arrived) you have two long rows of ticket offices – above the window they offer a combination of company name and destination, they work alphabetically within a colour coded system (which I think corresponds with the region of the country they are going to). The rest of the ground floor is a shopping mall. Upstairs (there might be a 3rd floor too) is where the buses go from, each leave from a designated numbered gate.
Tips for crossing a border;
This advice section will definitely be continued and expanded…
Make sure you have researched what currency your new destination country uses and the rough exchange rate then, always, the first thing that needs to happen is for you to take out cash!