Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Here We Come Ecuador!

After our muy successful visit to Buga and the Holy Water Ale brewery, we drove pretty quickly towards the Ecuadorian border. We had enjoyed Colombia, but were definitely ready to move on. Colombia turned out to be very expensive for us. We had to pay for camping most nights, the diesel and food prices were relatively high, and we spent nearly $200 on toll roads driving through the country.  Oddly enough, many of the toll roads weren't even good roads.  After a couple days of gorgeous driving, we arrived to the famous Santuario de Las Lajas, a few miles from the Ecuador border.

This church is relatively new, finished in 1949. It is 100 meters tall and is connected with a bridge to the opposite side of the canyon. It's built into the wall of the canyon so you can see the rock wall from inside the church. Since we arrived on Sunday, we witnessed how popular the church is, with locals and tourists alike (whew, was it crowded). It was nice to watch the crowds dissipate and see the church light up as darkness fell.

After a quiet night up the road from the church, we headed to the border. Our border crossing from Colombia to Ecuador started as the fastest, but ended up being on of our slowest. Is it ever easy!? When we arrived to get our vehicle permit, the lady behind the desk told us to first buy insurance "across the street". After 3-failed attempts to find this illusive place to buy insurance, we returned to the lady behind the desk. When we told her that the lady "across the street" said it was impossible to buy insurance at the border, and that we needed to go 5 miles to the nearest town (Tulcan) to get it, she said,  "Claro (of course)!!!".  Her only advice, which was not helpful, was to search around the town square. She told us that we were allowed to drive there without a vehicle permit and... without insurance. It sounded so sketchy that we believed her.

We drove to Tulcan, where Scott asked the first policeman where we could get insurance. He said to try the Claro office. The Claro office suggested that he ask the police officers across the street. Those police officers sent him down the street to Western Union. They sold insurance, but not for tourists. They advised trying the municipal government office. There, the employee insisted that he could not sell policies for less than 1-year. When Scott asked the cost for a 1-year policy, explaining that we had no other option to get a vehicle permit, the man asked for his passport and made it happen. The cost for a 3-month policy: $18 and 2 hours. Back to the border, and we finally got our vehicle permit. A simple border crossing that took many hours.

As soon as we entered Ecuador, we declared we would be staying for our maximum 90-days. The diesel is $1.03/gallon! In addition, the Andes mountains are absolutely massive (19,000+ feet), the people are extremely kind and friendly, the food prices are low, and the beaches are beautiful. We even have the option of extending our stay, though it will cost up to $400, but we haven't ruled out that possibility.  Viva Ecuador!

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Americans never appreciate the lack of bureaucracy in the US. Coming to the US from Israel (79), going to the DMV in San Francisco, passing a driving test in 10 minutes and getting my Californian driver license - That can happen only in the US.

About your 90 Visa for Ecuador, can't you just leave Ecuador for 72 hr and come back with a new visa and not pay the 400$ for visa extension? That's what the ''perpetual tourists'' are doing while living for years in Costa-Rica and Panama.