Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Times have gotten rougher.

I'm back from Ecuador, and surprisingly in one piece. There were several moments on this trip that made me believe that I perhaps would not make it home. The number one being the bus crash I got into on August 31. Apparently the bus driver fell asleep, hit a bad bump as he drifted off the road, was jolted awake and we started to fishtail. Eventually we started rolling off the road, the bus started to flip over, and I got thrown out of the window. Again, I am surprisingly home and in one piece. I have some pretty epic battle wounds, but they'll heal. I just hope that I can say the same about my back and ribs. It happened near the coast, so the fall off the road was not too far. But still, I know I am lucky to be alive.

The worst part of the entire ordeal was not actually getting into a crash. 2 days earlier there was another bus accident near the capital, Quito. For those not familiar with Ecuador's geography, the Andes mountains run right through the center of the country. As a result, Quito is over 10,000 feet above sea level. It's known as 2-mile-high-city. (To put that in perspective, Denver is 1-mile-high-city, so Quito is twice as high up.) Since this other bus crash happened near Quito, and fell over 300 feet off a mountain, it had fatal results. 38 people died. The bus driver had so many driving violations he should not have even been allowed to have a license, much less be employed by a bus company. The company is now shut down, thankfully.

In Ecuador, bus crashes are regular occurrences, not freak accidents. In fact, the same day our bus skidded off the road, 15 hours earlier another bus did the same just 2 hours away. Another accident happened just before we left, and not even a week ago, 9 more people died in an Ecuadorian bus crash from the same company we were on (Reina del Camino, a supposedly reputable company, although I beg to differ. They seem to be having "bad luck" lately. Within the last month they have had 2 bus crashes plus a hijacking. They probably should be investigated by Ecuador's transit department.) I think it is incredibly sad that this is every day life for Ecuadorians. Their lives are not seen as valuable. (On our bus tickets, it said that if we were to die or become paralyzed, our families would receive just $3,000 and they would only cover up to $500 of hospital bills. Imagine if Greyhound tried to pull that!!!) The bus drivers do not learn from the other accidents and still gamble with these people's lives. Either way, the bus drivers are paid the same and the faster they get to their destination, the sooner they can get on with their life for the day. Tourists, especially budget travelers like myself, are susceptible to these horrible chances as well. We can't afford to rent cars, hire private taxis, or fly from city to city. 2 years ago, 5 Brits died from another Reina del Camino crash. People are forced onto these buses because of economic reasons and every time they do, they could lose their life. Sad to say, but if we were in Colombia this would not have happened. Even in a country where you could get kidnapped and held for ransom, Colombia has much stricter bus regulations than Ecuador has.

Another pathetic item about this whole ordeal... The next day we had to go back to where we bought our tickets and they would not refund us! They would only issue us no tickets. SERIOUSLY?!

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