September 2, 2007
Once again, I thought I'd get to Vilcabamba today. This time I was right, but only barely.
I got up early and waited for a taxi to take me to the border. Namballe was so small, only about one vehicle passed me per hour, so haling a cab took a long time. While waiting at the side of the road, the town drunk approached and started harassing me, much to the delight of the local villagers who were also sitting along the same road. The drunk's speech was so slurred I couldn't understand his Spanish, but eventually I figured out that he was saying regalamelo (give it to me as a gift), pointing to the book I was reading. It would have made a better gift than a beer, but a book written in English probably wouldn't have been of much use to a drunken man who barely even knew Spanish. I passed and told him to harass someone else. I couldn't believe it, but he actually left me alone and walked to the other side of the road where some kids were sitting, instantly driving them away from their bench.
Eventually a taxi showed up and I got a ride to the border. I got my passport stamped out, walked across the border, then got stamped into Ecuador. The crossing was much safer and easier than the other Peru-Ecuador border crossing at Huaquillas where robbing tourists is the number one industry, followed closely by buying gas in Ecuador ($1.50/gallon) and selling it in Peru ($4.00/gallon).
I found out from a money changer/drink vendor that the only bus of the day would be at 12:30, still over two hours away. I started reading my book while waiting, when suddenly a customs official came up to me and started asking me lots of questions in broken English. At first I thought he was bored and decided to bother the only tourist of the day to cross the border, but then he started telling me that he was taking English classes and needed help with his assignment. I still had some time to kill, so I went to his desk and had a look at his workbook. I gave him a lesson for over an hour, and in return I accepted one cup of yogurt, one banana, and one apple for my pay. The apple was especially valuable because it had to be imported all the way from the temperate climate of Chile. So I ended up passing the time quickly, making a new friend, and even leaving with a full stomach to boot. The people I met so far in Ecuador didn't have tails or look like monkeys as a Peruvian predicted they would, either.
The bus to Zumba left at 12:30, and from there it only took one more bus to get to Vilcabamba. On the way I realized how monotonous the scenery was because it only consisted of one color: green. I finally made it to Vilcabamba at 10:00 tonight. The journey from Chachapoyas ended up taking two full days, but at least I'm pretty sure I'll be back on paved roads for awhile as I continue to head toward home.