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Journey to Ecuador

Thursday, January 19th 2006

Having seen Kuelap, we decided it was time to head for Ecuador. To do this we could either retrace our steps back to Chiclayo and then get a bus along the coast road, or take an extremely off-the-beaten-track route through the mountains. We decided we were in the mood for beating new tracks, and so the next day we set off on a multi-stage odyssey. The day saw us getting collectivos from Chachapoyas to the villages of Pedro Ruiz and Bagua Grande, and then from Bagua Grande we got a lift in a combi van heading for Jaén. Jaén was quite a large place but it clearly doesn't see many foreigners. We were besieged at the bus station by moto-taxi drivers and felt a certain unfriendly vibe about the place. It was late when we arrived, so we stayed the night.

In the morning we got a collectivo to San Ignacio, close to the Ecuadorian border. We had planned a brief stop, but we proved to be a huge attraction for the kids here, and we ended up spending a couple of hours being the centre of attention, a situation which Dave exacerbated hugely by letting the children use his digital camera. I thought I might as well hand mine out as well, and the kids raced off around the village taking random pictures. Eventually we decided it was time to go, and we got our cameras back. In this muddy village in the middle of nowhere in rural Peru, it came as quite a surprise when the kids gave us their e-mail addresses, and asked us to send them the photos.

We got another collectivo to La Balsa, the border post. Our driver on this leg was a bit over-enthusiastic on the rough roads and picked up a puncture, which delayed us for a while. His spare tyre was also punctured, so in the end we walked to the next village while he gently free-wheeled, and by the time we got there after half an hour or so, he'd found another tyre and was ready to go again. We got to the border shortly before it closed for the day, and crossed a bridge over the river to Ecuador. On the other side we got a fantastic open-sided wooden bus to Zumba, which took us through some incredible scenery and bounced around so much I had to hold on tightly to avoid being thrown out the side. From Zumba we got on the final stage of the journey with an overnight bus to Loja.

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