Wed 25th & Thu 26th Apr
I check out of the Metropol and get an uber to the bus terminal. Uber’s although illegal are so cheap here.
Bus terminals in Colombia aren’t the easiest to navigate around. They seem to be encased in shopping malls and split into different zones or floors. Bolivariana departs from the 3rd floor so I go there and wait for my departure time. Luggage stowed and tag received, I park my backside for the next 12 hours!
It’s a full bus and again I’m the only backpacker on board. I don’t understand the attraction for all these heading to Ipiales unless they’re Venezuelan wanting to cross the border too….
The driver loves his salsa music, but with a speaker booming over my head, he’s less than impressed when I ask him to turn it down. He begrudgingly turns off the music for the psssenger part of the bus and just keeps the speakers on in his segment. Perfect! As I look around, the rest of the passengers are asleep anyway so couldn’t give a monkeys whether it’s on or not!
About 4/5 hours in, we stop at a place for lunch. A place set up for buses to go and a kind of set meal place – no service stations here. I sit by a woman on her own and we have lunch together. For only 10,000 the beef and rice dish is quite plentiful. Legs stretched, watered and fed, it’s time to get back on board.
We travel through Popayan but I don’t get to see any of it. It’s meant to be another beautiful colonial town. Through the mountains into Pasto where quite a few get off and then finally into Ipiales…the Colombian border town with Ecuador.
I’ve booked into a cheap hotel that every blog I’ve read people stay at. This is because it’s a stones throw away from the terminal and as literally only a stopover, not worth venturing further.
The Metropol Hotel is a budget hotel at its best! It’s dark, dingy and quite possibly dirty…I didn’t want to look around enough to find out. I even choose to sleep in my sleeping bag! Being bloody freezing though it was a good shout!
There is no sound proofing in this place at all and with open slats above each door, I felt the girl in the room opposite was actually taking a shower in my room! Ear plugs in, I manage to nod off.
I’m awoken the next morning at an ungodly hour (0500) by the noise of people packing up and leaving. I stick my head out the door and ask if they’re heading to the frontera now. I am told yes and it is better to go now.
I’d heard a lot about there being big queues etc and not to arrive past lunch time or ull be spending the night in the queue but I didn’t expect to be needing to leave so early. I had plans to go visit the La Lajas Cathedral! Plans now out the window, I quickly wash and change and am at the Migration office Colombia side by 0545 and the queue is already enormous! Omg…
A guy comes up to me spotting I’m a gringo, the only one again in fact and tells me that the queue is already 4 hours long! For 20$ I can skip the queue and join the one inside the office itself! Bugger it, I have money and it’s dark, cold and wet out here so I pay up and jump ahead of all the poor buggers outside but without a shred of guilt!
I join a much shorter queue here and get chatting to the man in front of me. He explains he is from Venezuela (as are ALL the people in this and the outside queue). He’s been in Ecuador and Peru 7 months and is now travelling from south to north Colombia by bus to get back into his country.
After about 30-40 minutes, I get my exit stamp, walk across the bridge and I’m in Ecuador.
Cold and peeing down, it isn’t the nicest of days to be entering a new country!
The queue for the migration office this side is much shorter but to enter I am told to leave my bag outside! I’m not happy about this but have to relent. I leave it right by the policeman to keep an eye on but it’s that heavy – nobody cd run off with it that easy anyway! This side they have more staff so the queue goes down quite quick. As I’m a tourist entering his country, the man I see is very chirpy and says he hopes I enjoy his country.
From the entry point into Ecuador, you need to get a taxi to the bus terminal in Tulcan. This costs 3$.
I had read not to get a bus from the hoards of vendors outside but to buy a ticket inside the terminal. I do this and hope I’m on a nice bus like yesterday but I end up on a local service which again is full of Venezuelans.
It’s comfortable enough though and only cost 6$ for the 5 hour journey.
I sit next to a guy about my age who is shivering. I had bought this fried thing for breakfast but didn’t like it. I offer it to the guy next to me saying if he didn’t want to eat it, at least he could warm his hands on it. He didn’t want to take it at first but when I explain I would put it in the bin, he gladly accepts with tears in his eyes. He then goes on to tell me that he has spent the last 27 days walking from Venezuela to here, that he is on his way to Peru and that yesterday he didn’t eat a thing! This time it’s my turn for tears to well in my eyes.
An hour or 2 into the journey I also give him 1 if the 2 bananas I have on me. Sensing maybe he has a friend in me, he shows me pictures of his little boy he has had to leave behind and discreetly wipes away his tears. Christ, this guy and his story is killing me as I discreetly wipe away my tears!
We stop at a terminal and looking at Maps Me and still having 15km to go, I sit back – until the my new friend next to me tells me that this is my stop! Terminal Norte. Thank god for him or I’d have ended up the wrong side of Quito! Ur pounced on as soon as u get off….taxi taxi taxi!
I get one and it costs 10$ to the historic centre where I’m staying. It takes a lot longer than my map said though based on the driver assuming he knew where it was. Rather than just following my map, he stops to ask other taxi drivers and in the end I just call the place so they can explain it to him.
I’m staying at Hostel Chorrera, a family run place where u dine with the family for breakfast. I thought this would be a great place to improve my Spanish. The reviews were really good and the people running it are lovely.
Shattered from days of travelling I simply go out for food, book a city walking tour for tomorrow and catch up on a few things.
It dawns on me though that there isn’t much around this area and worse than that, no other guests in the hostel. As I’m here for a week I need to be amongst people and other backpackers so book into somewhere else from tomorrow. Despite having to book into a dorm, the review of this hostel is pretty good, is great for solo travellers and has a great community feel – well, it is called Community Hostel! Fingers crossed
I go to bed looking forward to seeing what Quito has to offer in the morning….