After Lima, I went through North Peru very quickly. I had about a week and a half of my Peru visa remaining but I only spent four days in Trujillo and Mancora as I didn´t really like either place.
On my last day in Peru, I woke up at 7 to get my bus to Ecuador. I had booked with an Ecuadorian company, Cifa, which is supposed to be reliable according to my guidebook. The bus itself was run down and the seats were uncomfortable, but the service seemed alright at first. The border crossing was very quick and there was only a ten minute wait to have my passport stamped.
After the crossing, I slept for a few hours but eventually, I woke up and made myself stay awake so I could keep an eye on my belongings. By now, I was starting to regret not booking with a better company as the bus had seemed to turn into a public service. People were constantly getting on and off and I noticed that they only had to pay with a few coins. For some reason, the bus door was open for the entire duration of the journey and people selling food kept on jumping on and off.
Even the bus passengers would get up occasionally and try to sell food that they had brought along. It was really annoying as most shouted at the top of their voices as though we were in a market and not on a long haul bus.
The bus arrived in Guayaquil that night at 7. Most people had gotten off and only a few of us waited for our bags to be unloaded from the luggage compartment. My backpack wasn´t there; the staff in Tumbes in Peru had seemed pretty disorganised so I was sure that they had never loaded it on.
Neither the bus driver nor the people at the Cifa office at the bus terminal could speak any English. The bus driver was actually very helpful and spoke to the office staff for me but they seemed quite disinterested and did not make any calls to try to find out what had happened. I couldn´t understand what they were saying, just that I should come back the next day.
Luckily I didn´t have anything valuable in my backpack besides some contacts and malaria medication but I was really upset and could not stop crying. So far, I have been incredibly lucky on this trip; I have not gotten sick from the food or been robbed yet. If my bag was lost and I had to replace everything, I would still consider myself to be lucky if that was the worst thing to happen to me in South America. But that said, I´ve become really attached to my backpack and the things in it and if it wasn´t returned to me, I would feel like something was missing for the rest for my trip.
Yesterday morning, I woke up and went back to the bus terminal. In bad Spanish, I explained to the guy what had happened, because I could not remember if he had been working the night before. He told me to come back at noon but did not elaborate. I asked him if he would call the office in Tumbes – I figured it was such a basic request, that he would have to understand what I was saying. Then I wrote it down on a piece of paper in case he couldn’t understand my accent but he told me again to come back at noon.
The only thing I could think to do was to ask the Australian embassy for advice, I thought maybe they could put me in touch with an intrepreter service. It turns out there is a consulate in Guayaquil, which is strange – not so many tourists come here and there isn´t one in the capital. I rang the consulate and explained what had happened to a woman who was working there. I started crying again, which is stupid. Embassies usually deal with cases far worse than mine. To my surprise, the woman offered to come to the bus terminal to help me sort it out.
An hour later, she arrived and spoke to the office staff for me. They told her that they had found my backpack and it would arrive that night. We then got a taxi back together. The girl was Ecuadorian and one of the nicest people I have ever met. She told me that if I was in Guayaquil over the weekend to let her know and she would show me around. She also told me that the area I was staying in was dangerous and gave me the name of a good hostel.
I had my doubts about whether my backpack would arrive. My name wasn´t on it as I had stupidly forgotten to put on a tag and it would have been so easy for them to load it on a different bus. But when I returned to the bus station that night, it was there. I colleceted it, then bought a ticket to Quito for the next day. I booked with the most reputable bus company and although it is a 12 hour journey, it only cost $10.
I am so relieved to have all my belongings back and I am really lucky that Cynthia went out of her way to help me as consular services as usually very limited. I am also glad to be leaving Guayaquil as I was only ever planning on staying there one night.