Thursday, 27 January 2011

Exiting Ecuador with a story

Before leaving Ecuador we spent some time in Cuenca, strolling around the river and the main plaza.




Then it started raining a lot, which almost destroyed a new years procession, but even with St Peter not helping the locals followed with their rituals.
This is probably the most interesting shot, with a young girl dressed in traditional clothes riding a horse decorated with offerings. (including 2 roasted guinea pigs in the back)







Then we continued south to Hauquillas, the border with Peru where we had the most incredible boarder crossing ever. First the migration offices are located about 7 km apart, which at first we thought of making on foot to avoid paying ridiculous taxi prices, despite the advices of the taxi drivers saying that we were going to be robbed, but after a few few kilometers under extreme heat we managed to jump into one of the local buses.

The boarder itself is one big market over a river which has to be crossed on foot. On the Peruvian side, we managed to negotiate down the taxi price by half with the excuse it was the only money we had left. The taxi driver was nice and took us to the emigration office, but warned us that the area was dangerous and for us to be careful with our belongings.

After we got the stamps on our passports we sat outside waiting for a bus to take us to the next village, Tumbes, which is half an hour away from the migration office and where we could get a 'real' bus to Mancora where we planned on staying the night.

All the 'buses' (actually they are more like minivans) passing in front of the migration office were packed with locals and didn't even slow down to let us jump in. The people in the area were looking weirdly at us and I started to get a bad feeling about this.

A car passed through with a woman screaming out the window "Tumbes, tumbes", we made a sign for the car to stop, which only happened after some 20 meters. In South America it's normal for people to share rides, it is called 'taxi colectivo', but this one didn't look like a taxi, it was for sure a private car.

In the driver's seat sat a man on his 50's, on his side a woman of the same age, and in the back a boy with a small backpack on his lap that with about 20 years old.

While I was trying to negotiate the price of the ride, they kept on saying 'get in, get in..quickly'. The trunk was full of plastic bags and we would have to keep our backpacks on our lap. As soon as Helena closed the door, the car started moving. The driver said 'you were about to be robbed'. I had noticed some weird movements of men closing in on us but never imagined to be robbed in front of the migration office.

There was something weird with that car though, when I entered the car I had seen the many plastic bags in the trunk and pressed one of them with my hand to see if I could put my backpack on top. The plastic bags were filled with some kind of liquid..and after a few seconds inside the car I realized what the liquid was. The smell was so intense that it gave me nausea. It was definitely gasoline.

The conversation with the driver in the front continued, he said that the place where we were catching the bus is very dangerous, and it is famous for many people being robbed there. The conversation then continued to how confusing the boarder crossing was and about what we did in Ecuador.

At some point I was only talking to the young boy next to me, he was a student of business and administration, but I was more curious about the gasoline. He then told me in a lower tone that he was just sharing the ride and that the driver and the woman were smuggling gasoline, because gasoline in Peru is almost 3 times more expensive than in Ecuador.

Half an hour later we were entering the city of Tumbes. The car stopped by a market stand selling giant crabs. The woman got out of the car and opened the trunk, with the help of some locals they started unloading the gasoline bags. The driver screamed 'rapido, rapido', everything was being done very quickly, but at some point everyone just disappeared from the back of the car.

A few seconds later a police man knocked on the drivers' window. 'What are you doing?', he said. 'Give me your documents'. He takes a glance into the back sit. He looks at us, with our backpacks on our laps. He tells the driver '....you are doing this with tourists in the car??'

The driver answers 'they were being robbed'. 'Were you robbed?' the policeman asks looking in my direction. Before I could answer the driver replies 'not robbed, but almost'.

The policeman asks again the driver ' your documents!!'. The drivers hands him some papers. The policeman asks 'and the car documents?'. The driver replies searching the front compartments 'I don't know, its not my car, its borrowed'.

The policeman asks 'where are you going?'. 'to the bus station to go to Mancora' I reply.

The policeman says to the driver 'leave them in the bus station and come back here'.

After some minutes we were out of the car, packing our backpacks on top of a minivan and checking if the rope the driver used to attach everything was good enough.

The next 2 hours inside the minivan were a lot more relaxing. Our hair and clothes were still smelling of gasoline from the past experience, looking at the sun going doing over the ocean I thought how lucky we had been. And I thought of the different lives of everyone involved

Writing this post I still feel the smell of gasoline and the adrenaline...

The next two days were perfect to make this event only a funny piece of our memories, as we enjoyed the sun , the beach and the swimming pool in of the preferred beaches in Peru - Mancora.

We saw some crabs eating fish by the beach and pulling them into their holes.



We also saw a city invaded by moto-taxi, carrying everything and everyone.



2 comments:

O Coxo said...

hehehe, funny story in deed,

have fun !

cheers

Miguel

various_artists said...

I like the crab!
What a powerful beast!