Ecuador: An Overview
Ecuador started and ended badly. It has thus far been my least favourite country in South America, and unless Brazil is very disappointing, I expect it to stay that way. The people seemed less friendly, the service and food was bad, and since the US dollar is strong, it was more expensive than it should have been. Having said all that, there were a lot of positives, I had an amazing time in the Galapagos Islands, the best surfing, the cheapest and easiest buses, and they were still plenty of friendly people.
On to my entrance. I took a taxi from Las Lajas right to the border. We came to a bridge and the driver asked me in Spanish if I wanted to get out or go across the bridge with him. I didn’t fully understand what he was saying, but it was about a 10 minute walk, and the price was fixed, so I told him to go across the bridge. He seemed surprised, but he took me. That was my first warning. A police officer had a quick look at the taxi and waved us through.
Suddenly I was in Ecuador, I was surprised I didn’t have to go through any immigration control, that was my second warning, or should have been. Many years ago I crossed from San Diego into Tijuana, Mexico. On the Mexican side there was zero border control, just a door you could walk through. So I assumed Ecuador had a similar arrangement. I got a taxi to a nearby town and then got a bus to Quito.
Immigration officers stopped the bus and asked everyone for their documents. I handed over my US passport. The officer went through every page, finding nothing. He asked me why I didn’t have an entry stamp for Ecuador. I was told I was under arrest and had to get off the bus. They told me I would be deported back to the states. I explained that I made a mistake at the border, and showed them my plane tickets through South America to prove I was just a tourist. They found it hilarious that not only did I not have an entry stamp for Ecuador, I also had no exit stamp from Colombia. A couple of google translate aided conversations later and they kindly agreed to take me back to Colombia and through the proper immigration controls. I just had to pay a “fine”.
All the officers were at least 6ft tall and well-built. I didn’t realise it at the time, but by Ecuadorian standards they were giants. Later I wondered if that helped them end up in that career.
Coming back into Ecuador they stopped for some sugared shaved ice on the streets. $0.50 per cup. The boss turned around and asked me if I had change for three cups. At that point he was just adding insult to injury, I’d already given them a fair bit of money. But I didn’t feel like I could have refused. We arrived back at immigration control, they told me not to tell anyone of their “kindness”. They stopped another bus so I could get on, we shook hands like we were friends, and said goodbye.
It was my fault, and it was cheaper than getting deported and having to buy a new ticket to Peru (I wouldn’t have been let back in Ecuador on my US passport after deportation, though I could have tried with my UK passport. Despite knowing all that, it was a bad first impression and left me feeling bitter towards the new country. My whole thought process on the 5 hour bus journey to Quito was – why did I have to leave Colombia?