Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Riding the Bus -- Ecuadorian Style!

Cuenca Bus Terminal
We’ve received a lot of e-mails during the past two weeks regarding our trip to the coast and (specifically) how we got there. Most expats prefer to take a van to their destination; however, I’m slightly claustrophobic and like the idea that I can stand up, move around and use the restroom. We decided to take the bus!

The cost from Cuenca to Guayaquil was $8.00 and with that price we enjoyed comfortable reclining seats, his and her bathrooms, free movies, free snacks and air-conditioning. Of course, we rode on one of the newer buses (Super Semeria), but there are a lot to choose from. Our favorite seat was the “bulkhead” seat with a spiral staircase down to the bathroom. It was like riding in first class!

Many folks wanted to know how we got from Cuenca to Puerto Lopez. The bad news is there are no direct “flights,” so you will have some bus transfers. You only need a rudimentary knowledge of Spanish to get around in bus terminals, so don’t let that stop you. The good news: it’s probably better than any recent flight you have taken!
Guayaquil Bus Terminal

Here’s what we did:

Cuenca to Guayaquil via Super Semeria (newer bus line). Cost: $8.00. The San Luis bus line is also nice. We went to the “terminal terrestre” in Cuenca, bought our ticket and we were on our way in 15 minutes. Buses leave every 20 to 30 minutes to Guayaquil. Total travel time: 3-1/2 hours.

The “terminal terrestre” in Guayaquil is a modern three-story building with a food court, including McDonalds and Sweet and Coffee (Ecuador’s version of Starbucks), and a shopping mall! Since we were there for the July 25th holiday, there were a variety of bands playing. You must buy your tickets on the first floor and they will direct you to your designated gate.

Shopping Mall at Bus Terminal in Guayaquil

Terminal in Guayaquil

Terminal Terrestre -- Guayaquil

Movie on Board the Bus

In Guayaquil we hopped on a bus to Jipijapa (cost $3.50). Again, another great “flight”; I slept most of the way, but I do remember going through a lot of sugarcane fields before I nodded off. Total time: 3 hours.

At Jipipapa, which is a much smaller bus terminal, you can catch a bus to Puerto Lopez (cost $1.50) and it took us approximately one hour and 15 minutes, including stops to pick up a few folks along the way and a crate of baby chicks despite the warning sign “no animals” on the bus.

Once you arrive in Puerto Lopez, there is no bus station, but all the buses seem to congregate on the same street. We took a mototaxi to our hotel “Hosteria Mandala” which was $1.00. Puerto Lopez is a small fishing village that makes its living on fish and tourists, so if you go during the months of June through October, the town will be booming with folks from around the world to see the humpback whales. Puerto Lopez is the jumping-off point for Isla de la Plata (Poor Man’s Galapagos) and Los Frailes. There’s a lot to do in the area, including Agua Blanca, Isla Salango and the Machalilla National Park. 
Hampton Inn in Guayaquil

The return trip was basically the same route: Puerto Lopez to Jipijapa and then Jipijapa to Guayaquil and back to Cuenca. We broke up our trip by spending the night in Guayaquil at the Hampton Inn which put us a view blocks from the Malecon (boardwalk). You can, however, do it all in one day, but it might put you in Puerto Lopez after dark and if you don’t know where you’re going or what you’re doing, it might not be your best option. Of course, there are other ways to get to Puerto Lopez (Ruta Del Sol – coastal highway route). It tends to be a bit more scenic as you will be traveling along the coast, but it’s about an hour and half longer.

My favorite part of the bus ride was going through the Cajas Mountains from Cuenca to Guayaquil. Be forewarned that there are two ways to get to Guayaquil and you definitely want to take the Cajas route and not the Riobamba route. If you tend to get “car” sick, then be sure to take Dramamine or the Ecuadorian version (Mareol).
Cajas Mountains
Happy trails to you!

Until next time...hasta luego!

Technorati Tags: Guayaquil, Puerto Lopez, Los Frailes, terminal terrestre, Malecon
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Wally Girl said...

I am enjoying your writing! My husband and I are visiting in Guayaquil with our company, Young Living, Nov. 19-22. We'd like to see a bit more of Ecudor and thought that Cuenca would be a good destination. Our kids thought the same. After reading what you wrote about travel from Guayaquil to Cuenca, it seems that the bus is a good way to go. Do you still believe that or is there a better way? And can you recommend places to stay in Cuenca and what we don't want to miss seeing? Thank you so much, Mary Ann

Wally Girl said...

Looking forward to reading more of your blogs. Also would like to know where to stay and what to see in Cuenca.

Connie Pombo said...

Hi Wally Girl,
I highly recommend The Forum Hotel -- it's 5-star ambiance at 3-star prices is a gem. It also has a lovely restaurant La Brasserie which is amazing. http://forumhotel.ec/en/. It's in the heart of the city and close to everything.
Things to do:
1. Ride the Tour Bus to Turi and take in the panoramic view of the city. Cost: $5.00. Also, while you're up there, visit Eduardo Vega's studio -- world famous ceramacist.
2. Pumapungo Museum at Banco Central. It's one of our favorite places and gives you the history of Ecuador in an imaginative fashion. Also, end your tour at the bird park and enjoy a Belgian Waffle.
3. Parque Calderon and the New and Old Cathedral. For $2.00 you can go up to the top of the New Cathedral for a spectacular view.
4. Monasterio de las Conceptas -- 64 paintings and 200 religious sculptures.
5. Todos Santos Church and Restaurant. You can see a stone carving of Santa Ana -- the patron Saint of Cuenca and enjoy lunch or dinner in their beautiful restaurant.
6.Historic Barranco District.
7. Banos Thermal Baths -- Piedra de Agua and Hosteria Duran are my favorites.
Out of town areas: Chordeleg (gold and silver jewelry); Gualaceo (leather shoes and purses); Ingapirca -- Inca ruins; Cajas National Park -- with lunch at Dos Chorreras.

Enjoy Cuenca and its surroundings areas!

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