Thursday, April 28, 2011

Local public transportation

Local public transportation in my area............makes me smile.

One of the things that stressed me out the most about the life I had in the US was traffic and driving.   I had to do a lot of it due to the nature of my business as so many items I needed were not available online but directly at the courthouse.   I would have to go 30 miles south to the Federal Archives, 30 miles east to Dallas and sometimes 30 miles north to McKinney.   All in a days work.   I only drove Hondas so mechanical breakdown was a rarity.   My last car had 247,000 miles on it when my brother bought it from me in December.   I suspect it will have to be shot between the headlamps before it dies.

In Ecuador, I don't have to worry about driving.   It is possible to go almost anywhere in the country on the bus or in a taxi.   It doesn't pay to drive anyway since it can be extremely hazardous due to the multiple mountain passes, winding roads and Ecuadorian law which provides for free room and board for both drivers if they cannot come to an agreement on fault in the event of an accident.   (Paul and Susanna, I'm looking a you.)  Taxis and buses are very cheap here.  From the town in which I live, I can go to Loja which is 41 kilometers (24 miles) away via bus for $1.30 or I can spend $1.50 to take the communal taxis driven by the kamikaze drivers that take you from the taxi station in Vilcabamba to the communal stopping point in Loja.   If you want a driver who actually wants to live and get you there safely and will pick you up at an appointed spot and take you to Loja at another appointed spot, your fee is $15 each way.  The taxi to the airport, which is around 50 miles away is $30 each way but it can be beaten if you take a $5 taxi to Loja and then the bus (or deathmobile) back to Vilcabamba at aforementioned prices.

It is a little over an hour for the bus and around 45 minutes on the communal unless you have a particularly eager Evil Knieval wannabe which would be around 35 minutes.   About a week ago I had a driver like this.   I have no idea why every time I let out a little "fear-squeal" when the driver passes on a curve, everyone looks at me.   This is normal reaction when you feel you are watching your impending doom.   I do dread when I don't feel real fear as I'm pretty sure I'll have ice water running through my veins instead of blood.  They may be used to it by now.   I am told that these drivers know these roads like the backs of their collective hands.   I suspect they have ex-ray vision as well to see or pretend to see vehicles rounding those corners.  On the particular ride that really scared me a week ago, it was impossible to read my kindle to pass the time.   I had to use two hands to hang on.  When we arrived in Vilcabamba, I told this driver in my best spanglish how much he scared me and I wanted his picture so I could post it on my blog.   He got a good laugh over it.   Or maybe he was laughing at my spanish.

I do try and take the bus as much as possible.   I ALWAYS take it from Vilcabamba to Loja.   I usually have only a purse and an empty backpack to lug but if I do much shopping it is deathmobile back.   When I'm in Loja, it is anywhere in the city for a dollar.   That's right.  One hundred centavos.   1/100th of a Benjamin.   It is truly a bargain.   The only problem is you miss what I call the "passing parade" which is all the street vendors and the yummy street foods and the little shops along the way but that is another blog entirely.

This is Vicente.   He doesn't speak a lot of English.   I don't speak  a lot of Spanish.   He's my favorite.   You really have to ask??

This is the deathmobile.

This is the deathmobile driver who would make a lot more money driving for NASCAR than in a cab in Southern Ecuador.

Yes, this silly gringo actually thought he could do this.   He is finally taking the rational step and calling a taxi.

All taxis in Vilcabamba are pickups and cost $1.00 anywhere in town.  This makes the aforementioned silly gringo even sillier.   However it was fun watching him try since it was right across from the bar.