Leaving Cuenca’s Terminal Terrestre ($2 in a taxi from the centre to the terminal), we hopped on one of the hourly buses to Loja for the 4.5 hour, $6.50 journey. We then hopped on a bus from Loja for the just over an hour trip to Vilcabamba In Ecuador’s Valley of a Longevity (locals are said to live to well over 100 years). Vilcabamba is a sleepy village with just a few tourists roaming the area in the evening scouting for food. We only stayed one night as we were anxious to get to Perú after so long in Ecuador. We stayed at Las Margaritas just up from the park for $24 and it was perfect. Dinner (delicious spaghetti bolognese) was had at Vilcabamba Natural Yoghurt. Didn’t try the yoghurt…
Vilcabamba, Ecuador to San Ignacio, Perú
So this was a long enough journey I have to say. The bus from Vilcabamba to Zumba (which you get from the main road, outside the Banco del Barrio – bank and shop – and not the bus station) was supposed to be at a number of times; 5.45am, 6am and 6.30am so we got there about 5.30am just in case and the bus arrived at 6.20am ($7.50) – jam packed with locals but they weren’t travelling too far so we had a seat in no time. We arrived in Zumba about 11am and should have jumped straight on a chiva (truck with wooden seats essentially) but instead we had terrible coffee at the bus station and ended up having to wait over 3 hours for the next chiva to La Balsa ($1.75) to get our exit stamp from Ecuador. Anyway, once we were settled in to the back of the chiva we took off on the 1.5 hour ride to the border. So you know that underwear with like butt implants? Get that. Seriously, my ass was internally bruised for at least 3 days after that journey. The word bumpy does not do it justice.
We arrived at La Balsa and had to pop in to the police ‘station’ to get our exit stamp from Ecuador. Just one policeman here (very friendly) and no other tourists. Once you get your stamp you walk across a dusty bridge to the Peruvian migration office which is currently undergoing some work. There was nobody here and we had to wait about 40 minutes for the supremely relaxed Migration Officer to stroll across from the Ecuadorian side if the border to open the door to his wickedly messy office. Here we had to sign some forms and then walk down to the Peruvian police ‘station’ (look, I, just going to say hut) so a young chap could type our passport numbers into an excel spreadsheet. Fierce formal here! Then we had to go back to the lazy Migration Official for our formal entry stamp to Perú along with an immigration card (which you need to keep for all your time in Perú).
Next, we had to try to get a ride to the nearest town for the night, San Ignacio. The guys are right Luis here trying to get the maximum possible from you for the hour and a half journey. As we didn’t have any Peruvian currency (Neuvo Sol) on us, we agreed a price of $10. Once you get to San Ignacio you have to get a mototaxi to the centre ( should be S./2). We stayed at the San Ignacio Posado Hotel for S./45 (about $18).
Next: the trip to Chacapoyas
Happy New Year!