Crossroads of Ecuador


This blog entry about the events of Monday, November 10, 2003 was originally posted on November 11, 2003.

DAY 23: Whenever I’d walk around with Navid on the streets of Baños, newly arrived backpackers would always stand out with their big packs strapped to their backs and their smaller daypacks strapped in front.  This is like trying to simulate being both pregnant and a camel at the same time.

Whenever I’d see one of these new people, I’d say “Oh look, a new arrival.”  Navid and I were sitting at breakfast when I said it again after noticing a man walk by. 

I left Navid in Baños as he wanted to stay longer and see other things, and hopped on a bus for Riobamba.  Inside was the “new arrival” I had seen on the street who was actually a new departee.

His name was Chris, an Indian-looking retired math teacher from Toronto, and he was making his way to Riobamba for the same reason I was — and every backpacker on the bus for that matter, including an English-looking guy that I noticed in the cafe I had breakfast with Navid in.

RIOBAMBA ISN’T PARTICULARLY THE KIND OF TOWN you send a postcard from.  To the Ecuadoreans, it is a mid-sized city at the crossroads of Ecuador, where the main mountain highway in the Andes meets the highway that goes to the shore.  But to a backpacker, it is the starting point of Ecuador’s famous scenic train ride to Alausi, where one gets to ride on the roof.  Olf, who had done the ride already, told me to get to Riobamba by early afternoon the day before departure and buy a ticket by 4pm, which is advice not mentioned in my guidebook.

The bus arrived at 1:30 and dropped all of us pregnant camels off at the bus station.  I split a cab with Chris and the guy I noticed in the cafe in Baños and we rode to the area near the train station.

“What’s your name?” I asked the new guy.

“It’s Pepijn, but in Spanish I suppose it’s Pepe,” he said.


“Pepe’s fine.  Where are you from?”

“New York.”

“Ah, New Amsterdam.  I’m from Old Amsterdam,” the Dutchman said.

The three of us shopped around for a cheap hostel and settled on one two blocks from the train station that was recommended by Lonely Planet.  The three-story walk up was decent with a nice common area with a skylight.  Chris tried to get a private room but they were all out of them and just decided to get a dorm share with Pepe and me for just $5 each.  Our room had a TV and a terrace.  Next door was a German girl named Anna who had gotten there earlier and snagged one of the private rooms.

Later I discovered that Chris probably wanted privacy because he was having stomach problems and probably wanted to suffer from the normal case of the runs in peace.

PEPE AND I WENT OUT TO LUNCH at one of the usual almuerzos places where you get a whole lot of food for just a buck fifty.  We chatted and learned we were both a part of the whole big internet rush at the turn of the millennium, having survived two more years after the bubble bursted.  He too was just traveling for a long time before looking for another job to “see what happens.”

We wandered around town, connecting the dots on the map in the guidebook which pointed out places of interest.  We saw the Parque Sucre and the cathedral.  We visited the Museo de Arte Religioso, which featured kitschy-looking religious artifacts including paintings and a sculpture of Jesus with a small cock.  The museum’s prized possession was a gem-studded gold cross monostance that, as Indiana Jones would say, belongs in a museum.

BY FOUR O’CLOCK, the line for train tickets was already starting to take form.  Pepe ran into an Aussie named Andrew he met in Quito, and I ran into Anita from Spanish school who was with her friend.  At the ticket window,  we all paid the expensive $11 which, according to Hugo, is a jacked up price for the usual southbound tourists because the trip northbound is only $3.50.

When we found out a passport was needed for the ticket purchase, almost everyone in unison reached down their pants.  Hidden pockets and money belts are a popular thing.

ANDREW, ANNA, PEPE AND I went out for coffee and afterwards, I just went wandering around some more by myself.  Unlike Quito or Baños, Riobamba is just a regular working-class town with no tourist sidewalk cafes.  I grabbed some beef on a stick at one of the nighttime food stands near the train station and then chilled out at the hostel, wondering how many people would giggle at my little “Jesus with a small cock” picture prank.

Next entry: A Trainful of Tourists

Previous entry: Liquid Hot Magma

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Comments for “Crossroads of Ecuador”

  • NAVID:  the way things are going, i’ll probably chill out in cuenca and do some design work for a day and then go to guayaquil…  now you can play catch up…  i should be in guayaquil by late friday or early saturday…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/11  at  02:00 AM

  • pepe (jeans?), hugo (boss?)’re meeting people left & right. ahh.. the fun of traveling. did i mention that i am jealous??

    where is riobamba in relation to banos?? which direction are you going? i need a visual..gonna find a map:)

    (i’m jealous)

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/11  at  02:29 AM

  • bawahaha. i love the jesus with a small cock picture. i have to admit i was expecting something else. but you can’t blame me, since you are the kind of person who takes pictures of his own poo….

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/11  at  02:31 AM

  • cocktease….

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/11  at  03:02 AM

  • Erik, have you seen anyone on dates with birds there?

    Posted by Matt  on  11/11  at  03:37 AM

  • *giggle*

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/11  at  12:54 PM

  • I’ll admit it, I giggled. wink

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/11  at  01:32 PM

  • Erik-

    I think that Elaine might be getting jealous.

    Posted by MrMacDowell  on  11/11  at  03:59 PM

  • I agree with Elaine, I think we need a map or more of a sense of where you are.

    I love and look forward to the pictures. What are the people like who live there? What do they do for a living. What do they think of all you travelers?

    Posted by Cathy DeMarco  on  11/11  at  04:12 PM

  • That is one small cock.  smile

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/11  at  04:37 PM

  • Interesting how there would be a statue of a Rooster next to Jesus. It shows how important the Rooster is in their daily life. You’d never see something like that here in the USA, there would be protests galore!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/11  at  06:11 PM

  • Yes, I would have to agree with Moman, that COCKS are important in their daily lives….hahaha

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/11  at  06:20 PM

  • I enjoyed the “group grope” when everyone simultaneously reached down their pants.

    And why is the cock staring JC down? He’s like, “so hot stuff, what have you got under that loin cloth?”

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/11  at  10:27 PM

  • hey eriK! Hpe you had a grand time on the roof of the train freezing your ass off! so it’s really neccessary to be at the ticket office by 4 PM? damn- I have to get up before 9 am tomorrow then. Went to the amazonian animal rehab center outside puyo today- pretty cool -got to pet tapirs, capibaras & little monkies( did’nt spank any). Will be heading to riobamba ma?ana- catch you in guyaquil in few days…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/12  at  12:02 AM

  • FINALLY, a shout out to Toronto!! What’s up Chris?!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/12  at  01:42 AM

  • CATHY/ELAINE:  Map…maybe when I have time…  As I get further and further out, internet cafes aren’t so friendly… in fact, Im not sure I may be able to upload photos from the train ride yet…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/12  at  12:54 PM

  • Beware of the Cuyabeno Reserve in the Northern Oriente region. We as a group of 6 tourists plus 5 tour guides have been robbed and hijacked there by 5 heavily armed men on Nov 7, 03.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/25  at  10:44 AM

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This blog post is one of over 500 travel dispatches from the trip blog, "The Global Trip 2004: Sixteen Months Around The World (Or Until Money Runs Out, Whichever Comes First)," originally hosted by It chronicled a trip around the world from October 2003 to March 2005, which encompassed travel through thirty-seven countries in North America, South America, Africa, Europe, and Asia. It was this blog that "started it all," where Erik evolved and honed his style of travel blogging — it starts to come into focus around the time he arrives in Africa.

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Next entry:
A Trainful of Tourists

Previous entry:
Liquid Hot Magma


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