Tuesday, March 29: Bus to Cuenca

Students off to school before 7:00 am
In the morning we got up early. We had arranged for our driver to pick us up at 7:00 am so we got up shortly after 6:00 am to be sure to be ready. I paid for our room and went out to the local bakery to pick up a variety of treats for our journey. As I was heading back to the hostel many students were walking up the street and then climbing the long set of steps to their school. When I got back to the rear of the hostel, our driver was waiting.
Our taxi driver

It was about a 45 minute taxi ride out to the Terminal Terestrial (bus depot). It was a very large building that looked more like an airline terminal than a bus depot.

Terminale Terestrial

There were ticket wickets for at least 30 different bus companies. Since I didn’t know which bus company operated the 8:00 am bus to Cuenco, it took a bit of asking around. We eventually found a company that had a bus leaving at 8:10 am and so we purchased 5 tickets and boarded the bus.
Quito Bus Terminal
It was probably the wrong bus because the person who gave me the schedule said that it was an express bus that would arrive at 5:00 pm while our bus was not an express and arrived well after 6:00 pm.

Driving through the outskits of Quito

For the first while we travelled through the outskirts of Quito. In general this was not a prosperous section of town.
Experimental farm

As we left the outskirts of Quito we drove past the experimental farm where government researchers develop new crop varieties and test various crop management practices.
Hilly terrain

The land is very hilly and the fields tend to be fairly narrow strips running up and down the slope. I suppose that’s the best way because if the strips ran across the slope, a farmer who did a poor job of management could cause severe erosion that could damage your crop.
Fancy tile floor

At one of the many stops the bus made on its journey from Quito to Cuenco, Theresa asked me to take this picture to show off the impressive tile floor of the building. [aside: she ain't seen nothing yet]
Village bus stop

Whenever the bus stopped in a village there was a crowd that gathered. Some of the street vendors climbed aboard and peddled such things as banana and plantain chips, loaves of banana bread, empanada, fruit and soft drinks.

Soon the bus climbed higher and higher until we were driving through the clouds for miles at a time. When we descended into the village of Alahusi, we could see the huge statue of Saint Peter on the hill that towers over the village.

Driving through the clouds.
Driving through the clouds.
Saint Peter on the hill in Alahusi
Saint Peter on the hill in Alahusi

There is very little level land in the Andes and, as a result, the farmers are forced to cultivate quite steep slopes. In many cases we saw diagonal paths through the field because you could not push a wheelbarrow directly up the slope. These fields can only be cultivated, planted and harvested by hand. In more level areas farmers have larger fields and we saw John Deere, Ford, New Holland and International Harvester tractors. Later we met a geographer from Germany who was working on a government project to map the geomorphology, soil types and agricultural uses
of this land.

Cultivating the steep slopes
Cultivating a very steep slope.
Cultivating mountain slopes

Fields all up the sides of the mountains

After the very long bus drive we got Dan, Theresa and Lane checked in to the hostel. We then took out our landlady, Esperanza, and her son out for dinner at an Ecuadorian restaurant. It turned out that this was her wedding anniversary. Unfortunately, both she and her husband couldn’t both come for supper because he had to mind the hostel in case new guests arrived. After supper we all crashed!