Saraguro Sidetrip

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Loja wore out its welcome. We had breakfast in one of its highly rated coffee shops and found Ecuador’s version of a Pancake Haus. Decent food in an atmosphere that was bright, but battered. The cappuccinos came pre-sugared and nearly foamless. Then it was back to the hotel.

The clerk at Hotel Victoria called Donna over and presented her with a hand towel from our room. There was a bit of makeup, a smear of lipstick, and a small blue dot of mouthwash on the towel. “This will cost you an extra $10 when you check out.” Ummm???

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Donna wasn’t having any of it. Lukewarm showers, an empty hot tub, a freezing swimming pool, and a noisy room can be overlooked. Although, Hotel Victoria is supposed to have a five star rating. Charging $10 for a lipstick smear on a hand towel that’s seen better days? That’s adding insult to injury!

We were booked for two more days, but the packing started as soon as we got to our room. We were leaving Loja and heading for a hostel in the town of Saraguro. Hotel Victoria called a cab that could get us to Saraguro for $60. We hit the street. In ten minutes we secured what I am sure was an overpriced ride for $20.

Overpriced, but depending upon your viewpoint it was worth it. It was a 75 minute Andean Mountain Carnival Ride. We swooped around curves, flew over bumps, swerved just to swerve, passed trucks on blind corners, flew down hills, and eventually wound up at the wrong hostel.

Inti Wasi was the only hostel our driver knew. It was rustic, out of the way, and they weren’t expecting us. A quick consultation, a $10 necklace, and an internet connection later we discovered we were supposed to be at Achik Wasi.  $1.25 and another taxi ride got us to the right place. The right “cash only” place.

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After we paid the hostel we had $45 left. Then the clerk showed up to exchange a torn twenty dollar bill. No one in Ecuador wants that torn twenty. We were down to $25. Fortunately, the guidebook says there’s lots of cash machines in Saraguro. We walked to town and tried them all. Unfortunately, they refused to give us any cash.

At this point we were going through our mental checklists. Then we headed to the bus station. There were two busses out of Saraguro on Sunday. Tickets were $5 apiece. Our stomachs were telling us the remaining $15 was going to leave us on short rations. That left us looking for the last cash machine in town.

The search eventually took us to a cash machine we’d already tried. It also took us to a restaurant called Shamu. They said they took credit cards. Shamu served us the best meal we’ve had in Ecuador. After ten minutes of unsuccessful attempts the folks at Shamu got one of our credit cards to work. Fed, satisfied, and paid up we snagged some buns at a bakery and headed up the hill to Achik Wasi.

I don’t know if there is a perfect ending to a day like this. The two locals testing out their prized fighting cocks on the street certainly put at cap on things. The $10 washcloth…forgotten!

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