I had to get out of Cuenca. The six days of entrance exams (prospective students at my language school had to take an oral/written placement test prior to course registration) that I had just endured left me exhausted. I couldn’t bear to look at another language book or study guide – I needed a break. In my desperate search for a sound mind, I set out that Saturday morning in early January with two goals set before me: leave behind the frustrating Christmas vacation duties at Centros de Estudios Interamericanos (CEDEI) and make my first trip to the Cañar province. The Cañar province was a tiny, mountainous region just north of Cuenca. It held Ecuador’s most notable set of ruins, Ingapirca, and I was more than ready to make the trip.
"We can only take you as far as El Tambo," said the young driver. He had dark features and sported a crew cut and had a street sense beyond his years.
"But, I told you I was going to Ingapirca before I got on," I replied with growing annoyance.
"Yeah, yeah. Don't worry; you can grab a bus in El Tambo It’ll take you to Ingapirca."
I felt my temper getting the better of me but instead gave up my losing battle. It was pointless to argue about the destination or the two dollar fare already twenty minutes into the trip. This expedition was about relaxation and I would try to make the most of it.
Two hours, two smelly boys claiming my arm rests, and too many northbound stops later, the rundown Pan-American Highway finally arrived at El Tambo. The inanimate transit stop was just 9 km from my destination.
"Wait here for the bus to Ingapirca," advised the driver as he rumbled away from El Tambo's central plaza. Despite my sense of abandonment I was still happy to see my nemesis drive away.
"You're going to Ingapirca too?" asked someone from behind.
The stranger’s accent sounded quite different from the melodious, Cuencan Spanish that I was now accustomed to hearing. I turned to find a bright-eyed, silver-haired gentleman with an honest face and a pleasant smile.
"Yes," I answered. "Where are you from?"
"Colombia," he responded exchanging pleasantries, "And you?"