Birds, Butterflies and Bus drivers – Zamora and Parque Nacional Podocarpus – Ecuador.
The bus, which was late. swerved into the station and screeched to a halt in the bay next to us. The driver looked bemused – there were no passengers waiting to be picked up. He jumped down from the driver’s seat, looked around and saw the full coach next to him. His human cargo and their fare money were all sitting on his competitor’s bus which had arrived earlier than scheduled. As passengers don’t tend to be picky when they are hot, thirsty and have waited for transport that is over 3/4 hour late and there are a lot of them to berate he decided to have it out with our driver. An argument ensued and almost ended in fisty cuffs. The passengers tutted, muttered, finally started shouting ” Vamos” over and over again, banging on windows and stamping their feet to get the combatants attention.
We were leaving Zamora – the only two tourists in town and boy had it been good up to that point. Small enough to walk around in a day, the town was pretty, there was a river with a view, plenty of kingfishers, hummingbirds and a cute blue fluffy bird that I have no name for. We walked to the national park and saw huge Macaws, waterfalls, rainforest and many, many butterflies. We had chats with the locals who just were happy to see us and not after money. I loved it.
So back to the bus. We finally departed. Now to get to Zamora one has to climb high up into the clouds over a mountain ridge then descend back down, through a ravine via a long road that is not built for overtaking. The views are spectacular (unless you have cloud cover) the walls are wet with flowing waterfalls and the drop is frightening. The bus drivers decided to take the feud one step further and raced each other back up the steep road in order to get to the next set of passengers first. They tried to overtake, they swerved into the middle of the road to block, they careened around hair pin bends and narrowly missed trucks coming in the other direction. Passengers screamed, pleaded, prayed to god, demanded to be let off and were completely ignored.
Finally half way up we hit road works and a traffic jam where both buses were forced to stop. The drivers flew out and started shouting at each other, passengers fell out and started shouting at the drivers, people who had given up smoking lit up to clam their nerves. “You’re LOCO. LOCO, you are going to kill us all. You’re responsible for our lives” - the crowd shouted waving their arms, bundles, hats and babes in arms around. They ignored us all. I knew things were bad when some of the passengers got back on the bus, unloaded their luggage and sat by the side of the road to wait for the next bus.
Luckily our bus was let through first and the other one got caught by the works stop sign. Things calmed down, the remaining passengers went back to muttering in Spanish then gradually started to laugh as they recounted to each other their part in the play. The merriment became contagious and soon the whole bus was making light of the episode and painting a picture of themselves as the hero that calmed the situation down. It was going to make a great story for those at home.