Saturday, July 21, 2012

Tena Is Hot and Humid

Friday-Banos to Tena Breakfast was included with our room, and it came with good, delicious coffee for a change.  Not NescafĂ©.  Also a glass of some sort of red juice that we couldn't identify, but that tasted yummy.  Their idea of a pancake, however, is what we call a tortilla, and mine came filled with fresh pineapple, strawberries, cantaloupe, and watermelon.  My favorite kind of breakfast.  We checked out and the total was $55.   We took a taxi to the bus station and found out how to get a bus to Tena.  Had to wait a while, but Ron found a couple from Calgary to chat with.  The bus was late, the first delay we have experienced, but soon we were on our way.  The buses are comfortable, the seats recline, and on any ride long enough they show a movie.  The other day we saw "Desperado" with Antonio Banderas and Selma Hayek, and today "Pulp Fiction" was playing.  The sights out the window were more interesting than the movie,though.  The bus route follows the course of the river, but winds along a serpentine road, through mountain tunnels, rocking back and forth so that my iPad screen keeps switching views.  I almost killed Ron trying to give him a bite of banana.  He had his mouth open and I held the banana up just as the bus lurched around a curve and the banana disappeared down his throat!  He has adopted the little camera and is snapping shots like crazy.  He loves digital, but between the photos I take, the ones he takes, and the ones we downloaded from Bills camera, we easily have over a thousand shots so far. We noticed that the people in the Oriente province that we have seen are taller and thinner than the people around Imbabura.  Wonder why?  Also, we saw a lot more men smoking in Ambato.  maybe the city folks have more money than the people in the country or small towns do.  But there are some things that just seem unusual to us.  For instance, in the bus stations, they have people yelling, "Quito, Quito, Quito," or "Puyo, Tena" rather than loudspeakers making announcements like we are used to. After a long bus ride (the last hour of which some woman's stomach was pressing on my shoulder shoving me into Ron who was by the window because she and a bunch of others had to stand up for lack of seats) we finally pulled into Tena.  OMG!  The worst bus station yet. Crumbling concrete benches, no restrooms at all, people selling food all over the place (there are apparently no sanitation standards in Ecuador), and grubby little children trying to entertain themselves by climbing on some abandoned pipe structure.  The guidebook says that the bus station is in the less attractive part of town and not to be put off by first impressions.  Oops, too late.   At least La Casa del Abuelo is a nice, clean, welcoming hostel.  Has a patio, AC, wifi, and TV.  The beds are comfortable, and if we have to just stay in this room until time to leave tomorrow, then that's what we will do. Unfortunately, a bunch of other Americans thought this was the place to stay, and they were in the room next door.  At 2:30 am, the baby woke up.  They must have been trying to get him to give up his bottle because he screamed like Willie used to when we were trying to wean him.  He would scream for 10 minutes, quiet down for 2 minutes, then scream for another 10 minutes.  This went on for about an hour before they finally shut him up.  Then the dogs started barking.   Breakfast was another surprise.  This time it was lukewarm water, instant coffee and eggs I didn't order.  Soon the young man brought some boiling hot water, and some hot milk, so eventually we got a halfway decent cup of coffee after I poured two other attempts on the potted plants.   After breakfast we walked across the bridge to Cafe Tortuga where we had heard they had a bus schedule.  Sure enough, we found that there was a bus to Quito at 10:00.  Grabbed a cab to the bus station and didn't have to wait long for the bus.  Ron made a gallant effort to ask the bus driver if there was a place we could get off and catch a bus to Otavalo without having to go all the way to the Quitumbe (southern) terminal.  We thought he understood, but weren't sure.  Happily, four young American students got on the bus, and we talked to them for the length of their ride.  One of them spoke fluent Spanish and so Ron asked him to ask the driver where we could get the Otavalo bus, so we were sure that the driver understood and would tell us where to get off.   So you know, of course that they didn't stop and let us off anywhere, but continued on to the station an hour across Quito.  Ron was steaming.  However, the bus drivers assistant was so sweet - he went with us into the station and even went upstairs to the tickets windows to make sure these demented old people who couldn't understand Spanish could get on the damned bus to Otavalo.  Bought tickets and only had to wait 20 minutes for the bus.  The worse part of the trip home was the bus from Otavalo to Cotacachi.  One bus was pulling out when we paid our taxi driver, so Ron ran and caught it, barely stopping it in time for me to climb ungracefully on board.  There were no more seats on the bus, so we had to stand, until enough people got off and freed up some seats.   It is funny how a place you have been in only two weeks can seem so familiar and welcoming.  Strolling down Leather Street felt known and comforting after four days away.  
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