12.12.16 Pasto, Colombia to Ibarra, Ecuador. Day 175
We are in Ecuador! We had a plan yesterday, it was a two hour ride to the border crossing at Ipiales in Colombia, and another two hour ride to our destination, Ibarra in Ecuador.
We chose the Ipiales crossing, as it is on the main route, and there is only one other crossing into Ecuador, which we had been warned may take you into an area that is a bit unsavoury. The crossing was to be the first major customs border we had used apart from those at the airport.
The plan was a good one, because the most a border has ever taken us is about 2 ½ hours, so it would work perfectly………
This border had other ideas for us. Exiting Colombia was fairly painless, despite having to queue for a while, we both obtained our exit stamps quickly, and Paul handed in the Temporary permit for the bike.
We could see the Ecuadorian border from where we stood, it looked much newer, larger and more efficient. Great. As usual, when we drove down the parking area was extremely small, and as soon as we had squeezed into a spot, the guys descended trying to help us, and sell us ice cream, drinks etc.
It was at this point I noticed the queue snaking it’s way around the car park. The guy in front of us was pointing excitedly, and saying that is the queue for immigration, and the vehicle permit office is around the corner. Paul turned to me and said, ‘you go first’- we don’t ever leave the bike without someone with it, because we can’t lock everything away. I took my place in line, hoping that it went down quickly, as I needed the loo. One hour later, I spotted a toilet, and nipped out of my place in the queue, returning a few minutes later, for the lady behind to reluctantly let me back in. Every space in this queue counted! It’s extremely difficult for Latin Americans to queue nicely. There were a few Americans, English and Australians dotted around. Every time I turned another corner in the queue I thought ‘nearly there’, just to be disappointed as I realised the queue went off in another hidden direction. Even when I got to the door of the building and looked inside there were probably still another 40 people queuing ahead of me. Eventually, I was called forward, my turn, after two hours of waiting, and had a very brief conversation with the customs officer before she allowed me my stamp of entry. I returned to Paul, and it was his turn to take his place. Luckily the queues had gone down, and the whole procedure of entry stamp and vehicle permit only took him 1 ¾ hours.
It was 3.30pm by now, we had been at this border crossing for 5 hours, ha ha, so much for ‘it’s always quiet on a Sunday’. We hadn’t realised that the whole of Ecuador would have been visiting Colombia to buy cheap tv’s in time for Christmas!
Anyway, we headed off, the ride away from the border was good, but we were racing against the clock to avoid darkness. We were held up only by a few roadworks, and at the toll booth where we scrabbled to find 20 cents (after trying to pay with a $20 note) for the toll. We are relieved that we are expected to pay for the toll in Ecuador. We found it difficult in Colombia, where the motorcycle toll was free. There was a designated roadway at the right hand side, the width of a motorcycle which motorcyclists are meant to go through. To the left of it was a thin but high kerb. Sometimes Paul could get the bikes wheel in the narrow part, and me in the sidecar the other side of the kerb. Sometimes we would not even try, and go to the booth, where as you know, the attendants would become flustered by us, never having seen a contraption like ours before. On Saturday, we went for the narrow route, and became wedged on the kerb immediately, having to push the whole thing backwards. So yes, for now, we are happy to pay 20 cents toll, thank you.
We arrived 15 minutes before darkness around 5.55pm. We are extremely near to the equatorial line, so there is 12 hours of light and 12 hours of darkness every day, all year round.
The place we are staying is called a Quinta, and overlooks Lake Yahuarcocha, it’s stunning, similar to being at the Italian Lakes, but surrounded by the Andes.