Taking intercity buses from Quito

On our 2-week visit to Quito, Ecuador, in January ’06, my wife, Barbara, and I found intercity buses to be easy to use and cheap.
If you can find out for certain what streets they use, you can flag them down instead of going to one of several terminals. We found it easier to go to the terminal. Get a cab and tell the driver what town you want to bus to and he’ll get you to the right terminal. You’ll likely spend twice as much on the cab as the bus ride, but it’s worth it.

Once on the bus, it’s helpful to know enough Spanish to tell the conductor where you want to get off. That’s because you’ll probably be dropped off on the highway a short walk from the village you want to visit. Just say the name of the town and add “Dígame cuándo llegamos” (“Tell me when we arrive”). He’ll alert you in plenty of time.

Our first side trip was to Calderón to buy some of the famous massapan figures. Massapan is an inedible bread dough formed, hardened and painted in an endless variety of shapes — everything from simple tree ornaments to elaborate crèches and then some.
We went on to Cayambe, famous for bizcocho, a cheese-flavored baked goodie that’s feather light. The cheese flavor comes naturally here because cheese is also one of their main products.

The Cayambe area is also known for the cultivation of roses. There are numerous large hothouses scattered around. Many of the roses are boxed and sold to tourists at various outlets in Quito, including the airport.

On the same trip we got dropped off near Ilumán and visited a family named Calderón in their weaving shop one block north of the main square. The Calderóns are a family of 20 who use the old and traditional back strap loom to weave border strips, belts and sashes. A 3-inch length of a 1½-inch-wide band can take five hours to weave if it’s a complicated design.

Walking from the highway required a fairly strenuous hike up a hill (this is at 9,000 feet). Once there, we discovered that an urbano (suburban) bus would take us right from the square back to downtown Quito. This type of intercity/suburban connectivity is common in Ecuador and one of the features that makes public transportation so easy to use.

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