When I left for my work visa run one of the bosses gave me a very specific directive printed in Spanish (because this wise guy knows I have amazing perfect Spanish and not just Google Translate): Here is part of the List:
1. Do not make friends with people who offer to help you.
2. Do not buy food on the bus or along the route.
3. Take a bus
4. Do not talk to people on the bus.
5. Exercise extreme caution….yada yada yada…you get the idea.
Shit, I love weird looking street food that has a greasy yum yum factor of 10!!
Nevertheless I suck at following rules, and so I guess I broke a couple.
The trip started out quietly enough, I caught my first bus from Pereira to Cali at 6 am. Upon arrival in Cali I ate some pastel con pollo (chicken) and caught my next bus from Cali to Ipiales. That is when the real adventure began. The scenery transitioned from the sugar cane fields of Cali to hilly coffee farms, there was also a strong presence of soldiers lining the road sides. Surprisingly enough in Colombia it is rather comforting and even when the police searched our bus they were very efficient and polite and there were no problems.
And so we continued on, higher and higher into the mountains, closer and closer to Ecuador. At a roadside restaurant I ate some amazing soup cooked over a wood stove for dinner and drank some wonderful juice. Along the way I became acquainted with some of my fellow passengers. The first one I met was a Brazilian hippy backpacker who spoke decent English and was on his way to Ecuador to work. The second was a Colombian who was returning to Ecuador where he works from visiting family in Colombia. I passed much of the last part of my journey talking to the Colombian who was quite nice but a bit fresh. I had to tell him to keep his hands off me as he was proclaiming my beauty and his instant love for me, but once I explained that I do not like “barato amor” or cheap love, he got the hint and I had no more problems. I won’t lie and say I wasn’t attracted to him as he did have beautiful “Latin eyes” but in order to find the real deal I must guard my heart for a man who is truly deserving of my attention.
Onward, upward and southward we traveled. Gradually the landscape changed from tropical forest to drier grassy mountains broken up by scrub brush and a type of pine tree I had never seen before. As we approached Ipiales it once again became green vegetation obscured by fog and the coming twilight. Upon my arrival at 10:30 pm I shared a taxi with my two companions. I actually felt pretty safe having both of them with me to avoid being isolated with only one and for the safety of walking across the bridge to Ecuador in the dark.
As we approached the bridge there were a handful of men and women selling Dollars at a competitive exchange rate. Ecuador does not have their own currency, instead they are much like Panama, opting for the US dollar. It was quite strange. So I cautiously bought a few….I think it was on the list not to so to be contrary I had to “poke the dead body” and buy dollars from the strange people standing around at 11:00 at night.
So my journey came to its end in Tulcán, Ecuador where I bid my two companions farewell and checked into a cheap hotel at the more than reasonable rate of $10 per night. I was quite happy to discover they had all the necessary luxuries, wifi, hot water (via those freaky electric shower heads, never mind the breaker switch and exposed wires) and cable tv! So I retired to my humble accommodations to get a few hours of rest before I could fulfill my purpose of obtaining my work visa at the Colombian consulate. Stay tuned for my experience at the consulate and the good Syrian who helped me!!