Week 23 - Adios Colombia, Hola Ecuador!
This was the day of our first overland border crossing!
We left Las Lajas to head to the border, which didn't take long at all. We bypassed Ipiales so hit the border before we were expecting. To be honest I did feel a little anxious as I didn't really know what to expect and we hadn't completed an overland border crossing before...the ones in Europe are non-existent, so this was new territory for us. I was quite thankful that we were with our friends Michnus and Elsebie, who already had plenty of experience with border crossings in many different countries.
The border crossing was actually quite simple. Basically we 'checked out' of Colombia with our passports and TIP. We put a sticker on the border window with many others. Nothing was needed for Ecuador in terms of photocopies etc, which was good. We then 'checked in' to Ecuador, which took about 10 mins with our passports. The TIP took a little longer but no worries. We also met a German guy on a Colombian bike traveling for four months through South America with an enviously small amount of luggage.
So here's how it goes in more detail:
Stop at the first building for the DIAN. We parked in a very small carpark on the right side. It doesn't take long at all so do not worry about blocking in cars if you are on bikes. Take your TIP paperwork to the window, and also a sticker to stick on the window if you have one. You do not need a photocopy and they will keep the document. Go a little further down the road and stop in the parking area on your left. Take your passport upto the gate. They let you in every couple of minutes. Queue up and go one by one to the window when it's your turn...don't go in two's, they will send one of you back. Once stamped out you need to wait at the farthest gate to be let out.
Next, ride down the road a little further and you will see a Bienvenidos a Ecuador sign and a check point. Pull over on the left just before you get to the military guys. Go into the building and wait in line to get stamped into Ecuador. Passport only needed. Once done (check they put 90 days), go to the little windows just a little further to the left to ask about the TIP. They may send you around the side to a small office or they will just do it there. Either way, it's easy and you just need your passport, driving licence and vehicle registration. After that, you are on your way. We didn't get searched or stopped and the vehicle was not inspected prior to being granted a TIP.
The whole process probably took about 2 hours, with the final part taking the longest, as expected. Ecuador have it right in that they don't require any photocopies of anything, just your original documents. Sadly their VISA extension process isn't so easy which is a shame.
I have to say, we did feel quite anxious about it all to start with being our first border crossing, but in reality we had nothing to worry about. In our heads, we will still always put a whole day aside for any border crossing as we know some take longer than others, and if it's quicker than a day you leave feeling happier than you expected.
Once in Ecuador, we got to Tulcan and stopped for some fried chicken, mmmm mmmm! We then decided to continue Eastwards towards the Amazonian region which entailed a lot of cobbled road, however due to everyone's GPS's and Sat Nav's being tempremental and a check point guard pointing us in the wrong direction, we ended up doing a big loop, finally ending up in Julio Andrade.
We found a lovely Motel 'El Jardin' just outside of town, which we soon realised was a 'Love' Motel i.e. private garage, payment by the hour, a ergonomically designed chair complete with a poster of sex positions! Well, welcome to Ecuador! Not being their normal clientel, they allowed us to stay the night for $24, and they let us use their personal wifi, plus they even made us breakfast in the morning...bonus! Sadly that evening, Kelvin decided it would be a good idea to put his phone under his leg in the taxi and promptly left it behind causing a right headache! Needless to say, the mood wasn't overly amorous after that. He went through the process of wiping the phone, trying to locate it (to no avail) and reported it to the Motel manager in the morning who got on the case straight away. Sadly, he wasn't able to retrieve it, however we would find out a few days later that with some frank persuasion he managed to get the phone back. Phew!
Following a really nice breakfast and a lot of chatting with the family who ran the motel, we left in the direction of the Amazon, and this time the GPS didn't lie. It was some awesome riding, but you'll have to wait for the next blog with the first proper instalment of our Ecuadorean adventures!