|My plan after Vilcabamba was to travel northeast to Coca, Ecuador where I would catch a boat all the way to Iquitos, Peru. Sounds wonderful, no? Well, it wasn`t. But at least it was an experience worth telling. Here´s the first leg.
From Loja, I took a six hour bus up to Gualaquiza, and then another two hour bus up to Macas after a late lunch. I didn`t care much for the city of Macas. I was only there to sleep, but my judgement stands. A lot of the hotels looked pretty sketchy so I splurged on a private room at Hotel Acapulco. They had free purified water!
I caught a 5 AM bus the next morning to Puyo and then another bus to Coca. The bus dropped us off in some marketplace around 3 PM. I had no idea where I was so I spent some time wandering and eating cherries. Cherries!! Some guide snatched me up becuase I was obviously lost and set me up at a decent hotel right near the docks. He also helped me buy a hammock and rope and a boat ticket for the next morning. (Thanks Marco!) After a delicious pizza dinner, followed by a giant bowl of ice cream, he found me again. This time it was an invite to a dance festival with four of his friends. It was awesome! There were like fourteen tribes from all over the jungle region of Ecuador, and each one performed a dance and/or musical number. Most of the dances involved baskets and jumping up and down, and two of them involved people dressed up as monkeys. Because I went with this guide, I was introduced to a number of naked men and women belonging to the Huarani (or something like that). Their village is apparently in the deepest parts of the jungle. Some knew Spanish, but most of them just chanted things at me. I had to wait around until 2 AM to see my new naked friends perform their dance. It wasn`t much of a dance, but rather the men following the women around and around in a circle while saying unintelligible things. Good times. But it was a little difficult waking up the next morning for my 7 AM boat ride nine hours to Nuevo Rocafuerte, also known as the Ecuadorian border.
Lesson Learned #6: Always accept invites to cultural events from strangers.