Yesterday concluded what we all hope is the End of the Bus Era for the Plavins crew. Though the 27 hour bus ride from Lima to Guayaquil was nowhere near as punishing as the 36 hour doozy we had completed one month ago… it’s still a breeding ground for cranky kids and gingivitis. I won’t elaborate much on this and instead will tell you about our decision to take yet ONE MORE bus to our ultimate temporary destination: the beach town of Playas, Ecuador.
Picture it. We are dumped in a crowded, swelteringly hot bus depot with our ever-multiplying bags and backpacks (started with 4 we are now at 7), nary a clue of how to get to Playas. All cell phones, the laptop, even the bloody 3DS (which wouldn’t have helped us anyways, just’ sayin’) were dead: so no wifi. Our only offensive measure was a pocket Spanish/English dictionary and growing a quick set of kahunas to ask around. We had already been approached by two rather sketch-looking dudes offering us rides in their vans, one of whom followed me as I went to the bathroom (or attempted to, no toilet paper, again!!!). If anyone has been to the Guayaquil central bus depot, it is massive and not really a place conducive for relaxation. Like, I don’t even know where to start. We all felt so small and lost and stuck out like a bunch of sore thumbs. Nonetheless, in EXTREMELY broken Spanish, I learned that taking a taxi to Playas would cost us $150 US (AY CARUMBA!!!!) with an arrival time of one hour, while taking a regular bus with multiple stops would cost $12 US and take a whopping 2.5 hours. The decision was a no-brainer: BUS IT WAS. Gulp.
Fam was NOT pleased. But I was like, “I don’t see any of y’all doing anything about the situation, so suck it up, buttercups!”
We shoved some empanadas down our throats, got Saffy a personal Pizza Hut pizza for the road and strapped on all our gear. Literally in my entire life I’ve never sweat as much as trying to find Gate #68, whilst wearing what must have been a 65 lb pack and carrying a 30 lb llama bag with souvenirs and laundry. When we mercifully found our gate, we were not even entirely sure we had purchased the right ticket. Confused, slightly nervous and drenched in sweat (it was 36 degrees in Guayaquil yesterday evening), we boarded said bus and uttered silent prayers that we weren’t going to somehow arrive back in Peru.
With very few people joining us and the aircon firing on all cylinders, off we went! Everyone seemed to perk up in the cool environment of this new bus and we felt better in the presence of Jesus, who assured us his safety and love as promised in the poster directly in front of us. I noted that we had taken up the seats reserved for the elderly, pregnant and otherwise less-abled travellers, but decided to just let it go since, quite frankly, we were mostly just limping along at this point and were a huge hot mess.
And then the stops started. Does that make sense, saying that the stops, started? Well, they did. And people came PILING in. Two by two, four by four. All of a sudden our luxuriously empty bus was filled to the rafters with young, old, and pregnant alike. I tried to hide my shame and embarrassment by plunking the now-giant Saffy on my lap, somehow to illustrate that she was just a wee dependent and that yes, I was worthy of the very front seat. It still did not go over all that well, even though in doing so I had freed up a spot for someone.
Two hours into our journey and following what I’m sure was an attempt to recruit me into the Ecuadorian version of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, I began to worry. We seemed to be going further and further into an abyss where there were no city lights and just the odd, relatively dark, bus stop. I’m not sure why I felt so verklempt and unable to ask for help, but I did. Alvi was pretty well passed out, so he was no help. An elderly man sitting in the well-earned other front seat noticed my discomfort and smiled over at me. I found my courage and attempted to ask him how many stops until we would arrive at Playas. He then asked me a plethora of things I did not understand. I finally clued into the one recognizable word: Hotel. Ah!!!! I said, “Hotel Playa Paraiso” and he muttered something to his wife beside him. Uh-oh. Was this a disaster of a hotel? Was it even built? I swear I heard him chuckle. He then got up and went to speak with the bus driver…. to…. apparently tell him precisely where to bring us. OMG!!! Turns out this guy was some sort of Bus Port Official dude of some sort. He had full authority to instruct the driver to do whatever he wanted. I finally clued in for certain when I read the crest on his button-down shirt. At that point in time, Jesus appeared to wink at me. No, really, I swear he did. It was as though an angel had been travelling with us. I had been picturing getting off in the middle of nowhere, with no phones, no taxi in sight, 7 bags and two cranky/now hungry kids. This vision was immediately replaced with thoughts of a welcoming glass of wine and a comfy bed once I realized we were on the right track!
And so, we arrived at our hotel. Admittedly, this place is a splurge for us, a damned-near Shangri-La. Ordinarily, I would say it’s mostly right in line; but when travelling for 3 months, one must watch every penny. At $173 U.S. per night, it’s very expensive by Ecuadorian standards. I had high hopes considering what we were paying. There had better be more than a trickle of water coming out of the shower, and preferably not the suicide version!
Well, other than a restaurant that had closed and no possibility of wine in sight, the place did not disappoint. The kids were thrilled as we passed by the pool (“A POOL!!!!!” “LOOK MOM!!!!” “Yes, I know…. you better darn well swim in it!!!”) and even more thrilled once they heard the ocean.
So today is Sunday ~ I think ~ and we’ve spent our day literally basking in the warmth of the sun and letting the salty air heal all travelling wounds. I’ve so enjoyed seeing the girls collect shells and sand dollars, write in their journals and swim in the pool/ocean all the while not fighting. Dave Brubeck is playing on the speaker, I’ve got a yummy White Russian in my hands and there are horses waiting to be ridden. Life is good. I will remember this day for sure. Here are some pics….