QuickPeek: Bus Ripoff. Start of the Amazon journey.
Boat Journey on the Amazon – Day 0
With the rain in the air and a pretty dense weather cover all over the country, we thought of our options to get to the town of Coca. We had about 8 days left on the visa, which was good enough to get to Coca and then a take a boat to the border. However, with the weather the way it was, Santiago advised us against climbing the mountain to Popallacta and instead to take a bus to Coca. We thought about and given we have been off of the bike for a number of weeks now, trying to brave a storm in freezing weather and rain and a climb of 2000m seemed like a challenge indeed. So we decided to bus it.
It was tough farewell with Santiago and Family and also with Diana. We had made some lovely friends in Tumbaco and I can see coming back to Tumbaco someday might be in the cards. We got tickets for the midnight bus to Coca and after the farewells, we headed out in the cold rain at 11 pm towards the bus terminal. We were soaked and cold by the time we got to the bus station and prepared our bags and bikes for loading. It was still raining and the shelter was flooded, so it was a delicate act of keeping stuff balanced and out of water.
At 11:45, a bus showed up and we got on it. 15 mins into the ride, the conductor realised that we had taken the earlier bus and the tickets were for the next bus. Bummer. It was going to be a showdown and at some point he wanted us to get off of the bus in the rain on the mountain in the middle of nowhere. We wouldn’t have it and he suggested we get off at the next town at 3AM. Not ideal either. We eventually offered to pay again for the tickets, hoping we could get a refund when we got to Coca.
We got to Coca at 5 AM and waited for a couple of hours for light. We did try our best to get a refund, but the bus mafia seemed pretty hard to crack in Ecuador and eventually we decided to let it go and lodge a complaint to the bus company. We even had to return in the afternoon to continue the negotiation, but after a couple of hours of trying, I decided to give up, but only after giving the drivers a piece of my mind.
We found a nice little place to rest for the night and it was right by the dock where the boats would leave for the Next town of Nuevo Rocafurte. We got a glimpse of Rio Napo which would eventually join a bunch of others and become the mighty Amazon. This is but a first leg in the journey. The tickets were 15$ each and they wanted to charge us 10$ for each bike. I negotiated a bit and got it down to 5$. I suppose a local might be able to avoid paying, but being on alternate transport means cyclists are pretty much on the receiving end.
We found a nice little bike shop and we fixed a few squeaky bits on the bike. I suppose we might not be riding much in the next few weeks, but that does not mean the bikes can be in trashy condition eh. The guy was really awesome and actually did all the work and tune up for free.
The town of Coca was a bit bland, but then again every town I visit on a bus feels a bit bland really. But the Malecon seemed to be a new development with some nice boardwalks and exercise areas. A lot of active locals and families were hanging about and I suppose the town has come quite a way from being a backwater petroleum port that it has a reputation for. Overall, after the day of being ripped off by the bus, we ended up with a pretty decent spot for a good night’s sleep.
Tickets from Coca to Nuevo Rocafurte: 15$
Cost for Bike Transport: 5$
Schedule: Everyday (Different companies operate on each day)
Departure time: 7:30 AM (Might vary depending on company)
Estimated travel time: 8 Hrs
Route: Tumbaco to Coca (on Bus)
Expenses: SG$ 53.28
Comments: Sometimes, logistics of not riding a bike is a lot more difficult than riding a bike.