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Bienvenidos a Ecuador!

Finally we are dragging ourselves away from Máncora. It is a tough call and we did think twice about yet another day. It probably though would end up being one day too many and would spoil our overall enjoyment of this haven. We were slightly slow off the mark though - last lingering elements of travelers tummy still plaguing us. I think they were a bit surprised at Reception we actually did check out rather than doing our "Es posible por una noche mas?"

We had asked over the weekend about buses across the border. It sounded like a convoluted process but we hadn't made it into Máncora to check for ourselves. We simply asked the hotel to call us a taxi to get us into town and planned to play it by ear from there. The taxi driver was very enterprising though and offered a good rate to take us all the way. We were hooked - the prospect of combi to Tumbes, different bus, off and on at various immigration control points did not appeal.

Knowing we were leaving Perú we had used all our local currency at the hotel. The cash point in the village was not working but the taxi driver agreed a bit reluctantly that we could pay part in dollars. We had a quick stop at his house so he could let his family know he would not be home for lunch and the we were off.

The drive along the coast took about an hour and a half. All the way we drove past beautiful, long, sandy beaches and clear blue water sparkling in the sunlight. Every now and again there were small hostals or private houses but it is still a totally unspoilt area. The further north we went the greener it started to become.   

We passed through Tumbes (this would have been our first change of bus if we had gone on public transport) which looked like a lively, bustling town. We then drove on to Aguas Verdes where the taxi pulled in outside the immigration office. We arrived just before a bus load so did not have to wait long. Seeing we were not local, one of the immigration guys took our passports and fast tracked us through.

When we got back to the taxi, the enterprising guy has arranged for us to go by bus from here through to the Ecuadorian side - saved him the hassle but probably also worked out best for us in the long run. The guys on the bus asked how much we had paid the taxi, presumably checking to make sure that they had got a good deal from him. The bus took us through Aguas Verdes, which becomes Huaquillas on the Ecuadorian side. Its one huge market town. Shop after shop selling cheap clothes, tacky stuff generally, and buzzing full of people.

Fighting cocks in Machala

The bus pulled into a bus station and we were bundled off this one (its going to Guayaquil) and on to the bus to Machala. We do not really want to end up there but have to go there to get a connecting bus out. After about five minutes the Machala bus screeches to a halt for immigration on the Ecuadorian side. The town is almost a no-mans land in between the two immigration posts. After several attempts, we were finally given the right forms to fill in, got our entry stamps and 90 day visas. We had kept an eye on the bus to make sure it did not disappear with our bags on board but without us.

The standard Steven Seagal fare accompanied us to Machala - he looked a bit old and podgy in this one. The scenery and landscape here changed giving way to mile after mile of banana plantations. I have never seen so many in one place before. The stalks are all bagged and ready to go whilst they are still growing. When the crop is ready they simply cut them and box them up.

At Machala we had to change bus companies. Helpfully we were dropped off at the new bus station. Bad news though, the connection to Loja had left about thirty minutes before we got there. That journey is meant to be through beautiful scenery so we did not want to get either the 5pm bus or the night bus. We had no option but to stay in Machala for the night. We checked in to a hotel a few blocks from the bus depot, nothing special but a clean room and comfy bed. It is very hot and sticky here and we both needed to cool down for a while.

We spent a couple of hours selecting photos to upload on to the web and then headed into central Machala. The town has nothing much to it. It has no real feel to it, its simply a commercial centre. Even the main Plaza does not have much going for it. Walking to the plaza we passed an open yard with a padlocked wire gate. Inside were about ten circular wire mesh cages with lids. In each was a cockerel. We are not sure but we think they were fighting cocks for sale. We found an internet cafe and spend a few hours uploading photos and checking mail. We also heard from Mischa and Caz about the bombings in London and checked the BBC's site for the latest information. It seems so unreal that suicide bombers are at work in London. I cannot understand what makes someone do this. We have mailed our friends in London to make sure they are all OK.

We headed back towards our hotel, stopping at a Chifa (chinese restaurant) for a simple meal of rice, meat and veg and then headed for bed.