At 6:15 on a Thursday morning my bus pulled down the ramp of Guayaquil’s modern bus station and headed for the mountains. We crossed the lowlands and started to ascend through the sub-tropical zone. The bus quickly filled up as passengers got on and then off seemingly in the middle of nowhere. A smattering of rain obscured my view of the palms, ferns and vines and I was almost dozing off by the time we climbed through the cloud and suddenly burst through into what seemed like another world, with clear blue sky above us and cloud wisping around the foothills below the road.
We continued to climb, passing through small indigenous communities enjoying magnificent views of the mountains , divided by deep chasms running down to the lowlands. We passed through Huigra which has many smart, painted wooden houses. Everybody seemed to be hanging around in a doorway. I don’t suppose they have much else to do. We crossed the main street where the train tracks are still visible. A mob got off and others got on, the bus pulled away and still more came running from side streets and houses with their bags. The bus was packed and I felt a bit guilty with my seat but too groggy with sleep to contemplate giving it up.
The bus continued to ascend and arc around the hillside. Finally Alausí came into view, hanging precariously onto a hillside. Then we were entering the town, turning onto the main street and reversing into the bus office. I was expecting a difficult hour negotiating a price for a truck or a lift to Achupallas but when I got off and asked the bus conductor another man immediately leapt in and ushered me across the road to a little bus which was waiting to leave for Achupallas in 10 minutes. I dumped my rucksack on a seat, eyed warily by the 7 or 8 locals who were already in the seats, and went off to celebrate my luck with a coffee.