Guaranda is about 8 hours north of Cuenca, and to get there you first have to get a new bus in Riobamba, which is 6 hours away. It’s a long travel day, and anything but fun, but necessary to get to where you want to go in this country. Guaranda is the capital of the Bolivar province, about 5 hours south of Quito. With only 20,000 people, it has a very small town feel that makes you welcome and safe.
When I got to Riobamba I was dropped off on a random street in the outskirts of town, so I had to take a taxi to the terminal and was lucky to catch the last bus that day. Because it left at 5:15 it was dark not long after we left, and as we climbed the high mountain roads near Chimborazo, a thick fog soon took over, covering the road, making it nearly impossible to see in front of us. That caused us to go about 5 mph, and at one point fallen rocks in the road caused the bus to skid on the ice and almost go off the trail. I was relieved when we finally made it to Guaranda by 7:20 pm.
I met up with my friends Dan, Melea, and Matt, who teach in Guaranda. I could see that the city was small, and the center, though slightly reminiscent of Ceunca, was clearly not built up at all. We got a late dinner and talked for a while, then stood on the street not knowing what to do. Since the town is small and there are rarely any tourists, we stood out, especially because I still had my huge backpack. Every few minutes someone would come up and say hello to one of the three, as it’s very easy to know a lot of people in the town.
Eventually we left, and Dan and I hopped into a truck which was converted into a mini bus. Dan’s host family was nice enough to let me stay with them and feed me, which was an incredible gesture. Their house was big and modern, and very nice and clean. A great placement no doubt. Dan’s backyard also opens up into a huge valley with hills great for hiking, which is what we planned on doing the next morning. Since there’s nothing to do in Guaranda, people just eat dinner and go to bed. That’s what we did, to get ready to awake at 6:30 am for a hike before they other guys had classes at 2 pm.
More to come…
Above: Two views from Dan’s backyard valley, the street outside Dan’s house