From: San Ignacio, Peru
What a day! Left early from Progreso after thanking the nice family profusely
and forcing them to take a few dollars compensation.
They let me fill up my three water bottles from their hose.
There is no real plumbing in these areas, so for water they harness a natural
spring and attach a hose to it.
As a final gesture of kindness they gave me some sweet sugar covered empañadas to snack on during the day. I didn’t tell them that bread carbs weren’t really my thing. Smile. Nod. Gracias a ustedes, muy amable!
From Progreso it was about 10km to Zumba, but it was the next valley over,
which meant a 3ish hour climb on more bad roads. I still can’t believe this
entire southeast portion of Ecuador is without paved roads.
The climb was relatively easy. I listened to some podcasts I had downloaded in
Vilcabamba. Got mostly caught up on international and economic news.
Egypt is finally having their elections! Atrocious things are happening in
Coasted into Zumba just before noon as rain started pouring. I camped out in an
Internet cafe for 30 minutes waiting for the rain to pass. It didn’t. Went to
a restaurant and ate a meal. Still raining. Around one PM I knew I needed
to get going if I wanted to make it to the border. Set out for the last 35km of
my Ecuadorian journey in a nasty downpour.
Five km from Zumba I got a flat. The road was covered in broken glass hidden
under wet mud. Patching a tube in the rain is… an experience. I was filthy
when finished, mud everywhere, soaking wet. Oh well, adventure right?
Changing a flat in rain and mud. Why doesn’t it look so bad in this photo?
Five km later the same tire was flat again. The patch I had just applied wasn’t
working, apparently I need to practice my patching-in-the-rain skills. Screw it.
Ripped out the tube and put in a fresh spare. I’ll fix this one (if I can?)
later when I’m somewhere dry and warm.
Some indeterminate amount of time later the rain stopped and I was treated to
a colorful after-rain sky.
After the rain
At some point a taxi passed me with a blonde-haired gringo hanging out the
window waving. It was an old Swedish friend from Cuenca/Vilcabamba on his way to Peru as well.
More time passed. It is hard to believe I did less than 30 miles today, it took
almost all day.
Before officially crossing into Peru there is a tiny control point signifying
the end of Ecuador. They took my passport, did some stuff with it, asked me
some questions, and let me fill up my water bottles. Adios!
The tiny control point with two guards and my bike. Ecuador is back down that road.
The last several km from the control to the actual border was some of the worst
terrain of this trip so far. Horribly steep grades (both up and down) littered with potholes and rocks.
The border between Peru and
Ecuador is a small river over which is built
a small bridge with the only pavement for hundreds of km on either side. The
descent down to the bridge is jarring and contains all the aforementioned features.
Hands hurting (more blisters) and legs tired, I rested on the Ecuadorian side to enjoy a last Pilsner (an Ecuadorian beer). It was warm, but what can you do?
This was the most laidback border crossing I’ve ever seen. No police. No
officials. After my beer I just rolled my bike over the bridge into Peru. From
that point I could have kept going, for there was no one to stop me, but
I figured it was prudent to search out someone to give me an entrance stamp.
30 feet of sweet pavement between Peru and Ecuador
The Peruvian migration officer is found in a little red building 50ft from the
bridge in an unlabeled room. He was sleeping on a cot behind his desk. I gave
him a friendly nudge. He awoke right away and happily began the paperwork. Many
questions were asked about my plans and my journey, and the exchange was going
well until he went to stamp my passport.
Frantically flipping through the pages of my passport he began demanding where
my sello was. Sello? No idea what this is. He became even more blustered
when I asked for an explanation. He held up a rubber stamp from his deck and
practically screamed SELLO!!. Oh. Where was my Ecuadorian exit stamp?
Somewhere in there, those two guards at the control (remember that?) had done
something with my passport, they must have stamped it.
It wasn’t there. I didn’t have an Ecuadorian exit stamp. The Peruvian migration official was convinced I was attempting to escape Ecuador illegally. In my most sincere and polite Spanish, I promised I wasn’t and I would go straight back to Ecuador and find that stamp. Cross my heart.
Turns out those two guards hadn’t given me a stamp, and they weren’t supposed
to. I have no idea what they did with my passport. Anyways, right on the
Ecuadorian side of the bridge was a migrations office where a policeman was
supposed to dole out these oh-so-important stamps. The office was empty. The
stamp was sitting right there on the desk… why.. I could just pick it up
and…Oh, did I ever consider it.
Resisting the urge to stamp myself into Ecuador, I asked a kid outside where I might find
the Policia. She pointed me towards the river, where I found 6 shirtless guys
playing an extremely intense and serious game of volleyball. Practically
shoving myself in the middle of the game, I politely inquired which of these
fine sweaty chaps had the authority to let me out of Ecuador. A tall, bronze
muscular one waved and made the universal hand sign motion for “5 more minutes.”
For 45 minutes I watched the game. Interesting to watch, yes,
but I was rather annoyed and ready to get leave Ecuador. Every couple serves the
policeman would say sorry and motion for 5 more minutes.
The game was fierce. Ecuadorians are serious about their volleyball. About
a dozen onlookers from the village had come to spectate. Finally it was over.
The policeman’s team had won. He was in a cheery mood as we walked to the
office. Dripping sweat all over the desk he handed me the stamp and
said I should do it myself so he doesn’t get sweat on my passport. Why, thanks
I stamped myself out of Ecuador and recrossed the bridge.
Now convinced I’m on the up and up, the same Peruvian officer readily stamps my
passport with a 180 day tourist visa.
Thus concludes my time in Ecuador. I really enjoyed my 8 months here. I highly
recommend it to anyone visiting South America. Feel free to ask me anything
about it in comments or email.