I departed from Tarapoto at dusk on October 31st, aboard another overnight bus, having decided that was scariest way I could spend Halloween. It took two buses and 30 hours to cross the Andes and climb the Peruvian coast to Mancora, but falling asleep to the crashing of waves in an uber-chill hostel was all I needed to forget the journey.
The next morning I awoke to a warm welcome from Jeanette, a Norwegian flight attendant with maroon hair and tattoos commemorating wild nights in Memphis and Thailand. We’d met in Iquitos and made big plans to bounce up the coast together, although there was nothing big about the next three days, spent sipping beers with our toes in the sand. I felt comforted, and strangely at home, watching the sun set behind the familiar horizon of the Pacific Ocean. There isn’t much else to say about my time in Mancora, and that’s exactly how I wanted it.
Refueled, we booked a bus across the border to the Ecuadorian city of Cuenca. Of course, our afternoon bus was rescheduled to 11:30 PM, and I once again found myself struggling to sleep in a chair. We arrived at dawn bleary-eyed, but liked what we saw. With it’s rolling hills, nearby mountains, evergreen trees, gray skies, organic vegetable smoothies, and boutique bakeries, Cuenca reminded me of Portland. Our timing was bad, however - we’d barely missed a week-long anniversary celebration - so we arrived to a quiet city with a hangover. It was a relaxed five days, into which I mixed a bit of work, before heading Northwest to Guyaquil.
The road out of Cuenca passes through the spectacular Parque Nacional Cajas, where we stopped for a strenuous and beautiful hike. From there it was a standing, overcrowded, two hour bus to Ecuador’s second largest city. We had heard nothing but complaints about Guyaquil, so a great day lounging, biking and walking around was a bonus. We were only there for the airport, gateway to the Galapagos.