|"Sometimes, I'm a great big whiner," Joshua Feyen
Crossing into Ecuador was one of the more difficult border crossings yet. That said, if this was the worst, I got off easy in South America. There's not a lot of drama here, so if you're pressed for time, skip this entry. I'm including it just because it made for a difficult day that in hindsight I see I made a mountain out of a molehill!
According to backpackers arriving from Ecuador, there are two places to cross from Peru: one is difficult and very close to where I was staying; the other easier but several hours away.
Frequently, the border control stations for neighboring countries are nowhere near each other, as in the "difficult" case of crossing from Peru to Ecuador near Tumbes. There are two ways to cross. The first involves a cheap local bus to the Peruvian exit station. After leaving Peru, there was a 10-kilometer taxi ride to the Ecuador entrance station. Finally, catch another bus to the final destination. Apparently, it all falls apart in the middle, where cab drivers take people on wild, circuitous trips into the middle of banana plantations, and then demand more money to get to the border.
A bus company in Máncora offered a solution to the difficult crossing. For a premium price, it took passengers to the border to exit Peru, then continued to Ecuador's immigration station, and then continued to an Ecuadorian town where it was easy to catch buses to the beach, the mountains or the jungle. The service was $15, the local bus and taxi option was supposed to cost $5 without the banana plantation detour. I only had a $20 bill, and (of course) the ticket seller didn't have change, but told me the driver would give me change at a bus station further up the road.
The problems started when the bus arrived two hours late. OK, so that wasn't a big deal. The Peru exit and Ecuador entrance went smoothly, except that the bus driver was in no hurry and the morning was turning into afternoon and my options to move to another town that day were diminishing. Organization and coordination went out the window at an Ecuador town where we had to change buses, then get back on the bus, then back off so they could empty the toilet that was wreaking (and reeking) havoc in the back of the bus. More time not moving.
Then the straw that broke my back, I asked for my $5. All of a sudden, no one knew what I was talking about. They blamed the person in Máncora where I bought the ticket, blamed me for not having change and informed me this was my problem, not theirs. After five minutes of arguing, I left the ticket desk without my change. However, I was pleased with my arguing skills, usually my brain and Spanish turn into mush when I get upset. True, we're only talking about $5, but it's the principle of the thing. Cori and Chad, told me about their bad experiences with this particular bus company. The Lonely Planet guidebook actually recommends this company over others for being professional, safe and fast.
I decided to throw a Yankee wrench in their day, and returned to the desk, guidebook in hand. I told them I didn't care anymore about the $5, but that I wanted them to know that my guidebook recommended their company, and that I planned to write the authors to inform them about my experience. I told them many backpackers used this guidebook and a bad recommendation would have an impact on business. Miraculously, someone coughed up $5. I thanked them, but did not offer to not send the letter; too little too late, it should never have had to come to threats. The next day, I wrote Lonely Planet. Cori told she was also going to write Planet an e-mail about their experiences.
Like I said earlier, in hindsight, it was not big deal and others have had much, much worse experiences. I again thank my stars, God and my good luck that I'm charmed, and traveling has been, when it comes right down to it, pretty darn easy!