The Road to Bogota

We did manage to avoid the free ron on our last night in Quito. Had a couple of quiet beers, and some curry instead.

So – the morning of 04 Oct, we manage to get up on time. 4-bloody-30. And walk to the bus station. One of those stations that are just for the one company. One other guy waiting there. Office/station closed. Dark and cold in dangerous old Quito. After a while, a chap arrives and opens the office. A little warmer. More people arrive to wait. Buses arrive, and drop off people, who sit around and wait. Two and a half hours after the time we were told to arrive, our bus turns up. Sweet. So, we get on it, and enjoy a five or six hour ride to Tulcan – the Ecuadorian frontier town. The man there tells us that the border is currently blocked. So, we wait. Still blocked. Go have lunch, return. Still blocked. So, we catch a taxi to the local cemetery. Has lots of hedges and trees and stuff cut into shapes. Very cool. Lots and lots. Then, back to bus station. Border is apparently still blocked. So, we wait. Buy beers, and sit outside. Eventually, we’re off.

Into taxis – leaving our bags in the man’s boot. I’m not sure I understand why – but figure it’s a reputable company. Two taxis, as there’s a family of 5 travelling with us. Get dropped off at a roadblock. Border is indeed blocked. Not sure who by. A few trucks, and some burning tyres in the middle of the road. So, we have to walk. I believe the man at the station is bring our bags to us later – when the roadblock finishes. Sweet. Angry civilians blocking the border, us walking through it, and hoping our bags turn up somewhere. Nothing could go wrong here. Then we see a mob of younger folk walking towards the blockade, from the border. With sticks. And having a good go at anybody who rides past/through on a motorcycle. Trying to jam things in the spokes as they pass, and whacking them with their sticks. It looked nasty, but I’m pretty sure that if they’d really wanted to hurt somebody badly – they could have. They were either idiots in the art of hitting people on motorcycles, or they were mostly doing it for show. Still, I got my stupidly small extendable camera out of my pocket, and had it ready as a weapon just in case. They had no problem with people walking through the blockade though. So, eventually, we found the border. Checked out of Ecuador. I chatted with a couple of cops while waiting for Pen. Then, we follow the family of 5 to the Colombian side. Small boy jumps from side to side, between the countries. “Ecuador, Colombia, Ecuador, Colombia”. We all laugh. Pen & I especially, as I had done the same thing with the equator yesterday – “southern hemisphere, northern hemisphere”. We check into Colombia, and then wait, and hope, for our luggage. Grab a quick beer, and sausage on a stick. Order a wine for Pen, and get a 1 litre cask. Hmmm… hold onto that for the bus.

Man does arrive, with our luggage. Sweet. Puts us into two more taxis – which take us to the bus station. By this time, of course, we’re arriving many hours after expected – so I’m not too sure if we’re actually going to have a bus. But – it’s all too easy. The Colombian company which is partnered with the Ecuadorian company we bought tickets off must have very regular buses to Bogota – as we’re given tickets for one leaving within the hour. Sweet. Buy more beers, a snack, and then get on the bus. Feeling rather happy now – we put our bags under our seats (danger of thievery in overhead shelf), and drift off to sleep. An hour or two later – we’re awake. Pen goes to get something out of her bag. It seems lighter. Big box of souvenirs I had tried to send home from La Paz is missing. Odd. I notice a small bag of her tissues on floor of seats behind us. Used to be people behind us, now there aren’t. Then, Pen realises much more stuff is missing. I check my bag – and immediately realise it is much much emptier than it used to be. Everything is gone from my bag except anything in a book form. Much cussing is now going through our heads. I check seat behind – but nothing’s there except tissues. I also try to see how somebody could have done the thievery. Very difficult. Foot rest is a solid panel – leaving just enough room at bottom to maybe squeeze a hand through. But not enough to get the box out – certainly. Very odd. But, nonetheless, everything is gone. Pen’s camera, box of cheap souvenirs, my wooly hats, Icebreaker jersey, Macpac jacket, Leatherman, Maglite (check out all that name-brand stuff – I feel ashamed), drugs (vitamin B12, spirulina, and anti-malaria tablets), MP3 players, and plenty of other stuff I’ve forgotten about. Oh – like the wine. At first, I was sure I’d identified the guilty parties. And, spent the rest of the night fuming about it – running through scenarios in my head of how to confront them.

05 Oct, however, I gradually figure some of my calculations are wrong. Figure that the couple I’ve identified as my worst enemies weren’t actually the same couple who sat behind us originally – and aren’t even a couple. The couple who had done it had, in fact, disembarked as soon as they could. So, while flashes of anger still arose (and still do a couple of days later), there wasn’t anything to do about it – except maybe make some honest mistakes during filing an insurance claim – regarding all the expensive stuff being in Pen’s bag, and all the cheap stuff in mine. (Pen has insurance. I don’t.) Even that, however, wasn’t necessary – as proof of ownership is required for the insurance claim. Of which we have none, for anything.

Anyway, the bus finally got to Bogota. And, we caught a taxi to the old part of town, to find a hostel. Hostel (supposedly “the best hostel in South America”) is full. They recommend another, which we take. Nice lady on the street helps us find it. This, after our taxi driver being extremely chatty and helpful, has confirmed the rumour of Bogota people being very friendly and helpful to foreigners. Well – some of them. Have also had several very dirty suspicious looks. Not much time left in the day, so we have dinner at a local cafeteria type place, and a couple of beers. Then, stop at the supermarket to stock up on booze for the night – and for the rugby tomorrow morning.

06 Oct – I wake up at 8am, and watch England beat Arsetralia. Difficult game to watch – as one wants both teams to lose. But, I support England – as NZ vs England in the semi would be a sure thing – while Arsetralia does know how to beat NZ – even when we’re better than them. So, I’m fairly happy when its time to find breakfast. Then – it rains. Really rains, with a little bit of hail, and a lot of thunder & lightning. So, the plan to head to the northern part of the city – with it’s english bars and airline offices – is abandoned. Instead, we scamper to the hotel. Already drenched, I venture forth again, to purchase supplies for watching the NZ-France game in our room. So, we sit there and wait. And wait. Seppo football. Seppo ten-pin bowling. And plenty of advertisements. But no rugby. Eventually I admit that they’re just not going to play it, and it’s time to head out for dinner. Pen wants to eat at a very ’starbucks’-type looking place, called “Crepes & Waffles”. So we do. I hate crepes, and I hate waffles. Mostly because I’m never really sure what they are. Except, as per Pen’s definition, crepes are pancakes of some description. I hate pancakes. But, we have dinner. Both meals are pretty much a meal, with a crepe placed underneath it. And called a crepe. Maybe I should have asked for my calamari crepe, “hold the crepe please”. The wine was fairly good – but overpriced like the entire place. But – enough whinging about crepes & waffles.

Because, that brings us to the end of today’s update. Just now I learnt the result of the NZ game. So, I’m off to try and read more about it. And pack my All Blacks shirt and scarf back away.

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