From Vilcabamba to Lima in 2 days…

It turns out that border crossings don’t get any easier the more you do them. The next stage of our journey involved getting from Vilcabamba to Piura in Peru (and then on to Lima). A bus from Vilcabamba to Loja, a bus from Loja to Piura. Sounds easy enough, right? Wrong. A top tip: if you are ever travelling on buses in South America at the weekend, book in advance! We were informed by our hostel in the afternoon before we were due to leave for Loja that every ticket on our second bus at 11pm was booked. Our only hope was to leave straight away and try to get on the only other alternative; a second bus at 12am. In a panic, we immediately left Vilcabamba and caught the first bus to Loja. We arrived just before 5pm and quickly booked 2 of the last few tickets for the next bus. Unfortunately, we were 7 hours early and were forced to hang around in a packed bus terminal. We played a riveting game of scrabble, ate a questionable dinner in a fast-food chicken restaurant, bought what we thought was fudge but turned out not to be and spoke to lots of Ecuadorean families who were very surprised that we were on our way to Peru. 

When we finally got on our bus we were surrounded by locals and Peruvians on their way home. Only 2 other tourists boarded the bus with us. It certainly wasn’t luxurious but between us we managed a few naps until we reached the border. At the border we had to get off the bus and queue to be stamped out of Ecuador by a not-so-friendly woman behind the counter. Then we walked across the border and joined the queue to be stamped into Peru. Even at 3am the whole process took almost an hour. I dread to think how long it takes in peak times. Once we were stamped we boarded the bus again and carried on our journey to Piura. At around 7am we arrived at the bus terminal in Piura, sleep-deprived and hungry. Perhaps stupidly, we’d made the decision to make the 16 hour bus journey to Lima that same day and had to wait around for the next stage of our epic journey at 3pm. 

Piura turned out to be nicer than we expected and we actually enjoyed the half-day we spent there. We went for breakfast, visited a brand-new shopping centre, travelled in a tuk-tuk, enjoyed coffee and quiche for lunch and wandered around the town. When the time finally arrived for our overnight bus to Lima, we were in high spirits, refreshed and full. I’m pleased to say that Cruz del Sur delivered the best bus journey we have been on in South America and our journey to Lima was completely seamless (for once!). We had leg rests, cup holders, tray tables, a tasty meal, reclineable seats and  loads of leg room (all of which seemed like the height of luxury for us). At 10pm we settled into our makeshift beds and slept. We didn’t wake up until 6am; 20 minutes before we reached Lima. I can’t say I’ve ever enjoyed being on a bus so much and a free night’s accommodation is always a plus! Our adventures would continue in Lima; the capital city of Peru.

Sorry for the lack of photos – there was nothing particularly interesting to take them of!

Vilcabamba’s very best. 

After Montanita, we made our way to Vilcabamba with a quick overnight stop in Cuenca. We had to get the bus from Montanita to Guayaquil and then another bus to Cuenca. Both journeys were relatively painless despite stopping many times on route (incredibly frustrating) and we arrived at our hostel in Cuenca in good time.

We stayed at Mallki hostel for one night in a very cramped and basic 8 bed dorm room. The bunk beds were so wobbly that we thought they might collapse – both of us were on top bunks. We ventured into the centre shortly after checking in and found a lovely coffee shop before exploring the beautiful colonial buildings. Then we stumbled across a lovely little Italian restaurant and enjoyed some wine, beer and pasta. The following day we went back for more coffee and ate burritos for lunch before catching our bus to Vilcabamba.

Cuenca’s colonial buildings


The journey to Vilcabamba took about 5 hours and we reached Hostel Izhcayluma at 6pm on the dot (typical German efficiency). The luxury we found at this beautiful ‘hostel’ was unlike anything we’d had on our travels to date. It was more like a hotel. We had an enormous dorm room with single beds, a massive stone shower, a stunning view from the restaurant and an amazing natural water swimming pool. No meals were included in our stay but the restaurant food was reasonable, huge and delicious. Breakfast, lunch and dinner were all great. We only left the hostel twice; once to head into town to grab some essentials and another when we checked out. We spent hours reading in hammocks, chilling around the pool and just enjoying the relaxing experience for 4 days. Kat also went to a free yoga class every morning which was a great addition. On our final night we splashed out on a double room but actually found we preferred the dorm room (a bargain at $9.50 per bed).

Hammock time

Views from the restaurant

Enjoying the pool


Vilcabamba itself was also very relaxing and is somewhat of a Mecca for expats – particularly from the US. We found quaint, little artesenal shops, smoothie cafes and a quirky, colourful church in the main square. But the main reason we loved Vilcabamba so much was the relaxing time we spent at Izhcayluma. If you are ever looking for somewhere to experience budget luxury when travelling South America and want to feel completely at ease, then this is the place to go. We both felt completely refreshed and calm after our time here and consider it one of our favourite places to date – we probably should have stayed even longer. Maybe this travelling lark isn’t all that bad…

Feeling relaxed and refreshed

Vilcabamba’s main square

Colourful church

 

Unfortunately our time in Vilcabamba came to an end and we had to make our way to Peru. We had such fantastic experiences in Ecuador and loved the country but were ready for our next adventure – albeit after another dramatic and LONG border crossing. Read all about it in the next blog…