November 2, 2007
I found out this morning that there were no buses going directly to the border, a surprise considering that normally buses go wherever you want them to go, but I didn't think it was a big deal. Instead, I first went to Ibarra, which was still a few hours from Colombia. The lady at the ticket window said she couldn't sell tickets to Tulcán (the border town), but I could simply wait for the bus to show up and board it. The bus was nearly full when it came and everyone pushed and shoved to get the last remaining seats. It reminded me of my Greyhound experience in Miami last year, but still nowhere near as bad (nothing is as bad as Greyhound).
The bus attendant said another one would show up in twenty minutes, but I'd been in South America long enough to know that was a lie. People here will say anything to get you to stop asking them questions. I noticed the guy waiting in line in front of me had a ticket in his hand, and sure enough, he had bought the last ticket for the next bus from the same lady who told me she wasn't selling tickets. I went back to her and got a ticket for the next available bus, but it wasn't set to leave for another ninety minutes, meaning I would have to waste a total of three hours in Ibarra. It was an incredibly frustrating situation with nothing resembling even the smallest sense of order. Things were even less organized than they normally are in South America.
Eventually I made it to Tulcán and took care of the border formalities. I took a taxi to immigration, got stamped out of Ecuador, walked across the Rio Putumayo, got stamped back into Colombia, and took a colectivo to Ipiales, the border town on the Colombian side. While I was waiting in line, I met a guy from Bogotá named Juan Carlos who was returning home from his trip to southern Peru. He was taking buses directly from Cusco all the way back home, which would probably take eighty hours to complete. Maybe I'll meet up with him in his hometown after he's recovered from the whirlwind vacation.
My final step of the long day was to take another bus a few hours north to Pasto. I wanted to get all the way to Popayán, but that will have to wait until tomorrow because the road is rather dangerous to travel on at night. In the end, the snafu in Ibarra ended up costing me a day. So I've been Colombia for most of a day, but still haven't had any Shakira sightings.