From Canoa to Cuenca

Finally the time came to move on and leave Sundown and Canoa. Well… Finally… We knew we would miss the sun, the ocean, surfing and mainly all our new friends, but we also knew that we had to move on and seek new adventures and cool ourselves down in the mountains.

Few days before departure I searched the Internet thinking about where to go and finally I registered ourselves on HelpX – an online listing of hosts and volunteers – and got in touch with Luke and Julie Martin, who run a family farm near a beautiful colonial town Cuenca. This was it! It sounded like a fairytale – a dairy farm full of cows, chickens, dogs, rabbits and other animals, some kids, high in the mountains… And they need help with everyday tasks like milking the cows, taking care of the animals and kids, building a greenhouse and chickenhouse… 5 hours of work per day in exchange for free accommodation and full board. Even though I was completely sincere and told the Martins that we had no experience with farming or even working with our hands, but that we really would love to try it, the replied that we were welcome to stay with them for one week. And so we went…

Cuenca is a town is southern part of Ecuador. As we were asked to arrive to the farm during the day, we decided to take a night bus from Bahia to Guyaquil and an early one to Cuenca. We left Sundown at 9 pm by taxi and took a Reina del Camino bus at 10:30 pm. This was the first time we were not permitted to take even our small backpacks on board of the bus and had to leave them in the luggage area. We only could take few things on board, so we literally said goodbye to our laptop, external hard drives and other smaller but to us very important staff, because we were persuaded we would never see them again. How surprised and happy we were when everything was on it’s place when we arrived to Guyaquil bus station some 6 hours later!

Guyaquil bus station is huge! Busses leave from three levels and the building itself serves also as a shopping center. But everything was closed this early morning, so we went straight to Alianza booth and bought tickets for the next bus to Cuenca. That meant a very quick visit of bathroom for Michal and a run to catch a 4 am bus from the second level of the building.

The journey was interesting – we had to get from the coast to the Andes, which means to overcome almost 3000 metres of elevation in less than 5 hours. First few hours it was really hot on the bus and we were sweating,  last few hours it was so cold that we had to put on everything we had on board. The closer we were the more spectacular the view was and we really were enjoying the sunrise over the mountains.

We arrived to Cuenca much earlier than we expected. Still having to take another city bus to get closer to the farm, we decided not to wait at the station and go look for the line 26 to a town called Chiquintad. Lady at the info desk upset me when on my “Buscamos autobus numero 26 a Chiquintad” she replied “Across the street”. Finally I try to speak Spanish and people decide to ruin it by their English!

And so we hopped on the city bus and about 30 minutes later we embarked right in front of the church in Chiquintad. It was the right place, but more than 2 hours earlier than when we agreed to meet the Martins there.

We were tired from not sleeping well on the busses and for the first time in Ecuador we also were cold and a little hungry. So it did not take us long to decide what to do when we sauce girl pulling blinds of a local picanteria. We were her first guests that morning. Fortunately a “seco de pollo” and hot sweet coffee were already made and it did not take long until we finished our meals and started falling asleep at the table. Two hours and one cup of coffee (thanks God the Ecuadorians are very hospitable and they did not mind us sitting there for such a long time without consumption) we moved to the church to wait for a lift on the farm. And to ours surprise at 12:05 the car really came…

Costs

Taxi Sundown – Bahia bus station – 10 USD

Bus Bahia – Guyaquil (Reina del Camino) 8 USD per person

Bus Guyaquil – Cuenca (Alianza) 8,50 USD per person

Cuenca city bus to Chiquintad 0,25 USD per person

Lunch in Chiquintad 4 USD for everything