Thursday, May 16, 2013

Ipiales, Colombia

While in Quito a couple arrived briefly and gave me some information on going to Colombia from Quito, as they’d just come from there. I was having a massive panic about this since I had done no research what-so-ever on getting to Colombia and my Ecuadorian visa was about to run out. At the same time the couple turned up, a Danish girl in my room informed me that her German friend wanted to go to Colombia for a day, just to get another stamp in his passport.

So at 5am the next day Arendse, Thomas and I caught a bus to Tulcan on the Ecuadorian side of the border. There was some pretty spectacular mountain scenery along the six hour drive. Towards Colombia, you definitely get into some serious Hobbit country.

Unfortunately children are allowed on buses and one toddler screamed its lungs out for fucking ages, which I could hear through my headphones. Then he was naked for a while until he shit himself. Yep, that smelt really good. Thankfully he was on a blanket not the seat. But seriously, who lets a child sit nappy-less on a bus? And his mother gave him a soft drink. Talk about an all-round parenting fail.

While I was on the bus (putting up with the screaming, shitting brat!) I realised that I visited all four areas of Ecuador: the Galapagos, the coast, the mountains, and the Amazon. I am pretty happy about that because they were all amazing. Someone told me the mountain people and the coasties hate each other. I don’t why. Football probably. 

Also, now that I've done a thorough evaluation of Ecuador for Julian Assange, I would choose Cuenca or Quito to live in. Probably Cuenca. I think I should send him an email with my blog link telling him I’ve done all the hard work for him. I think he would really appreciate it.

Anyway, back to the bus. We arrived in Tulcan, caught a taxi to the border, and went to the Ecuadorian immigration office to get stamped out.

Hmm, these two are clearly working hard on international crime prevention!

There was hardly a line, so you’d think this wouldn’t take too long. But their computers weren’t working, so instead of taking about 10 minutes, we were there at least 30 minutes waiting for IT support to come in and probably turn them off and turn them back on again. 

Next you have to walk through no man's land to the Colombian office and get stamped in. The interesting thing is, anyone can be in no man’s land and you could not get any stamps in or out if you didn’t want to. It seems to be a bit of an honesty system really, so you could come and go as you pleased if you wanted. I guess the problems would arise later if you want to leave via another port and you don’t have the right stamps.

Then you get shuffled into a colectivo van and off you go to Ipiales. Hola Colombia! 

Everyone on the internet seems to hate Ipiales but I didn’t think it was too bad for half a day. Interestingly, every shop here seems to sell shoes or mobile phones. Maybe all the shoes is why I did not hate it.

We found a cheap hotel easy enough (there are no hostels or even good hotels here) and then went for a walk to find some lunch.

Um, this is not vegetarian friendly. 

Meanwhile, they tried to give me a "vegetarian" soup, which meant giving me chicken soup with the chunks of chicken pulled out. Luckily I was onto that and sent it back. 

But, Ipiales does have one fantastic redeeming feature - las Lajas. This church is beautiful. So much so, it could be considered a crime to do this particular border crossing and then not go here.

Even the inside was vaguely interesting.

On the walk down, we passed this little guy. So cute!

Stunning scenery:

Afterwards we got a colectivo taxi back into town (since las Lajas is not actually in the town) and it pissed down rain. We had to seek refuge in a church where we contemplated stealing a poncho off some dude cos it looked really warm and we were wet and cold. We thought this was hilarious. Imagine the headlines. Shock! Tourists rob local! The other people in the church who were praying (which is all the time over here) did not find our laughing amusing though.

Here is the church and main square before the rain:

Anyway, when the rain stopped we went back to our cheap arse hotel where the electricity kept going out. It was weird being a hotel that was completely dark and had no candles. It was really boring. And there was no hot water. That is like a hat trick of hotel failures. Thankfully it was just one night before the Europeans headed back to Ecuador and I headed to Popayan.