Regular buses make the five-hour journey from the terminal in Loja to MACARÁ along the Panamericana via the town of Catacocha, with a slower service on subsidiary roads via Cariamanga. Three daily direct buses also go all the way from Loja to Piura in Peru (7am, 1pm & 11pm; 8hr journey; $8, best bought a day before travel), operated by Cooperativa Loja Internacional (t 07/2579014), which has offices in Loja at the bus terminal and at 10 de Agosto and Avenida Lauro Guerrero. In Vilcabamba, there’s an office near the bus terminal or you can buy tickets from one of the hostales in Vilcabamba that act as agents, including Madre Tierra and Las Ruinas de Quinará; note this bus does not go through Vilcabamba.

There isn’t much to do in Macará, but if you stay the night there’s decent accommodation. The best places are Terra Verde, on Calle Lazaro Vacao a couple of blocks west of the Coop Loja Internacional terminus (t 07/2694540; $16–20), the smartest hotel in town, with clean a/c rooms; El Conquistador on Bolívar and Calderón (t 07/2694057; $16–20) with fans, cable TVs and private bathroom; and Espiga de Oro, on Antonio Ante and 10 de Agosto by the market (t 07/2694405; $11–15), which is a little cheaper for only having cold water, but has en-suite facilities and a choice of air conditioning or fan. Nearby D’Marcos’s, Veintimilla and Calderón, offers standard, inexpensive food. The banks do not change currency or traveller’s cheques, but you can find moneychangers with Peruvian soles at the border and around the park where taxis to the border are ranked.

The crossing

If you’re on the through bus to Piura it will simply wait while passengers have their passports checked and stamped. If you’ve taken the bus to Macará, you’ll need to get to the international bridge between Ecuador and Peru, a little over 2km southwest of town, which you can walk to in about forty minutes, or take a taxi ($1) or colectivo ($0.25) from 10 de Agosto at the park near the market. Either side of the bridge, the Ecuadorian and Peruvian immigration offices, where you get your exit and entry stamps, are open 24hr. In La Tina, the little settlement on the Peruvian side, you’ll be whisked away by colectivo to Sullana (2hr), from where there is easy transport to the larger city of Piura (40min further). You could also hop on the international buses direct to Piura as they pass through Macará.