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Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Driving in Ecuador...(and remaining alive)

If you told me ten years ago i'd be tearing down the Ecuadorian Coast Road at 100km per hour, downing shots of rum with an Inca Princess who keeps grabbing the steering wheel, while narrowly avoiding donkeys and children then i'd order a drink of what you just had...but there you go, here i am now finally in surfing HQ, Montanita, Ecuador, with a surprisingly intact car and a splitting headache...
This bus was racing up the hard shoulder. Kind of funny until it crashes.

I plan to drive right round the country, up the Andes and through Quito, then down the spine of the mountains to Banos and Cuenca, then back to the insanity that is Guayaquil. Driving is perhaps safer than Taxi's, as this Japanese Honeymoon couple found out (they were robbed and fatally shot in Guayaquil just there, I hope my mum isn't reading this)  I'm trying not to jinx my driving plans and avoiding kidnap, robbery, and plain old crashing by offering you, dear reader, some tips on latin american driving...

1. Don't do it. When I think about it, the danger involved in driving in Latin American cities if you're used to normal countries with broad rules of the road are outweighed by advantages of taking the (also dangerous) bus, even if you are likely to lose your camera and wallet on the bus. You'd better just not bothering really...but in case you are daft enough...

Oh...and try to avoid travelling in the rainy season...


2. Keep a constant eye out on either side. There are no rules at all here. People undertake, overtake, race along the hard shoulder (especially buses I notice) The good fun part is that you can do the same. It's even more fun if you peep your horn like mad while doing it, that usually shuts them up.

3. When a truck or bus is peeping the horn frantically and coming out of a junction, that means you should give it some respect, because it doesn't care that you have right of way- it's bigger than you and doesn't care about its passengers, and it's made its decision that its going straight in front of you, so slow down, swerve and avoid it as it hurtles into your lane right in front of you on two wheels...

4. Don't worry about speed limits. It's all about how well you can swerve when guys come out in front of you, and how good you are at missing the assorted dogs, donkeys and children who seem to mill around on the busiest and fastest roads.

5. Keep a handy bunch of $20 bills, in case of...legal complications related not particularly to your driving or state of inebriation, more related to the very low salaries of the average policeman and the fact that you are a gringo and probably will want to avoid Ecuadorian 500 to a cell prisons...
The wonderful roads of Montanita

The wonderful dead bodies on the sand of Montanita....


The roads so far in Ecuador have to be fair been quite good though. They've spent a fair amount on infrastructure - lets see how the winding roads up the mountains go before I start showing off, as i might be showing off from the luxury of a hospital bed...


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