We woke up early on Sunday morning knowing that we would have only one chance to catch the bus to Ingapirca, the biggest and most important Inca ruins in Ecuador. Though they’re only about 2-2.5 hours away from Cuenca, I’ve never really had any desire to go, mostly because I heard they were nothing special. Also, if you’ve already been to Peru and seen Machu Picchu, the ruins were supposed to be just spit wads. But with friends visiting and bugging me to go, I figured I might as well take the opportunity and do something. Especially since I wasn’t going to be able to go anywhere this week.
The only bus leaving from Cuenca to Ingapirca on Sundays leaves the bus station at 9 am. Conversely, the only bus leaving Ingapirca back to Cuenca on Sundays leaves the small town at 1 pm. So though it gives a short window of time to see the ruins, there really isn’t much time needed, and unfortunately you spend much more time in transit than you spend at the site.
We arrived at the bus station at 9 o’clock and found the ticket office, but the woman behind the counter shook her head and said that it had already left. Somehow, for the first time ever in Ecuador, a bus took off on time, or in this case, early. We had missed it by only 5 minutes, but she told us to take a taxi to a bridge and wait while she called the bus driver and told him to pick us up. Nothing really shocks us anymore, so we got into a taxi, gave the address she wrote down for us, and headed to the outskirts of the city.
After being dropped off under a sketchy overpass, we waited for about 1o minutes before realizing the bus was not coming. We got another taxi back to the bus station to yell at the woman for lying to us and costing us $4 extra dollars. Our new plan now was to wing it. We could take a regular bus to Canar, in the Canar province. This city is a stop about a half hour from Ingapirca, and from there we would be able to take another local bus to the town.
So by the time the 10 o’clock bus left at 9:55, we realized that their clock was 5 minutes fast, and as such, had essentially thrown off our entire day. The bus ride, which took over 2 hours with 3 long stops, got us into Canar, where we walked around, grabbed some ice cream, and waited for the packed local bus. As we finally headed towards the town 45 minutes later, we could see the 1 pm bus heading back to Cuenca. What a difference 5 minutes makes.
The town of Ingapirca is small but colorful, and without any mestizos, the ruins are essentially run by the descendants of the original inhabitants. We walked the kilometer from the center to the ruins and paid the Ecuadorian price of $2 to get in. But even from afar we could see this was nothing special. With a couple of “intact” ruins, the rest of the grounds were merely the stumps of what used to be the rocks of the houses. As I’d thought, it was sort of a waste of time, but my friends were glad to say they’d seen some ruins.
We walked around for about 45 minutes before seeing it all, with the highlight being a tiny little puppy that kept sniffing our feet. After a lunch outside the park we jumped on a bus back to Canar and then back to Cuenca. We didn’t get back into town until about 6 pm, three hours after we should have been back. The difference of 5 minutes in Ecuador.
Above: Scenes from Ingapirca