The cab driver at the airport didn’t give us the opportunity to say no. He grabbed one large suitcase and wheeled it to his yellow taxi and, almost paralysed to stop him, we followed. Then, having loaded our luggage, he pulled out a piece of blue rope, secured his overloaded boot and told us, my wife, son and I, to get in. Looking at the other two passengers in the car, I wondered where. But we did and Sterling Moss, our driver, put his foot to the floor.
He drove expertly but in hair-raising fashion – as though there was no car he could fail to overtake. The estimated 40-minute journey to Loja flew by, although our stomachs flipped a few times as the taxi, heading towards oncoming lorries, slipped into lane in time. “Say a prayer,” my wife, our son on her lap, whispered as the grip of her hand tightened on my thigh.
But this Toyota, and the driver, knew what it was doing. I should have known. The other passengers calmly read newspapers the entire way as the car accelerated into every bend and hugged the tarmac fantastically. We were dropped at our modest downtown hostel, all for $10.
Moments after arriving and before unpacking, when we tried to go out for an evening meal, we came to realise all taxi drivers in Loja handle their vehicles like frustrated Formula One drivers.
The first, a boy racer, said he’d never heard of the restaurant we asked him to locate – a family-type Mexican establishment recommended in our guide book. He tried calling his fellow cabbies for advice, but no-one had heard of it. At least he tried. So we asked him to drop us off somewhere close to eateries and then wondered around with our tiring and hungry child, which often is a disastrous ploy.
But the Gods were smiling on us. We drifted down a dark street and, by chance, noticed the road name ‘Sucre’ – precisely what we were after. And there, less than 20 metres away, was the restaurant, Mero Mero.
Needless to say, the food, just as the guidebook claimed, was decent and, for $17, more than reasonable by western standards for a family feed. Then it was into another racing cab and home for the night.
Abrams Family Travelling Tip: cabs in Loja by law cannot charge more than $1 so long as the journey is within the city.