FAKE DOLLARS AND THE ECUADOR-COLOMBIA BORDER CROSSING

Quito

Quito

Es falso. That is what the girl at the till of an Ecuadorian supermarket said about the dollar bill that we had just gotten out of the cash machine at the ECUADORIAN NATIONAL BANK. Needless to say that we figured out after that incident that one needs to be very alert when receiving dollars in Ecuador. It doesn’t help that fake dollars are hard to distinguish from the real deal (at least for this Euro using European). I did however notice straight away that our taxi driver in Quito had given us change in the form of a fake five dollar note. It basically looked as if it had just rolled out of an average printer. Sadly, I came to that conclusion after he drove off into the busy traffic of the capital. One must be alert and quick!

So, because of our naivety we had 25 dollars in our pocket that were going to be hard to spend. Not exactly a fortune you might think, but for a backpacker 25 dollars is an extra day of traveling. At least it made us a little bit more careful during the last leg of our trip.

BORDER CROSSING CHAOS

After our stay in Quito and a quick shopping and haggling session at the handicrafts market in Otavalo, we continued our journey north to the border with Colombia. The journey went exceptionally smoothly despite the fact we had to change busses and find someone to share a taxi with to the border crossing. The only hiccup was the fact that our taxi driver had failed to mention that there would be no entering Colombia for another 4 hours. The reason? Apparently when there are Colombian presidential elections there is no getting in or out of the country for two days. I never thought I would say this, but luckily there was football to watch while sitting on the floor at the Ecuadorian customs in the queue for the exit stamp. After what seemed an eternity they opened the exit offices and tried to make us queue all over again, but luckily we still had the little entry paper they were handing out at the new line, so we ignored their orders and were the fifth and sixth persons to get their stamps. Victory!

Alas, the chaos was not over yet. After standing in the queue, in the rain, at the actual border with Colombia for twenty minutes the guards decided to inform us 20 second before opening the gate that we should line up at the other side of the road. Bags were thrown over fences and people were running across the street to try to keep their place in the extremely lengthy queue. I’m not gonna lie, this meant a significant drawback for us. Therefore we decided to go along with the chaos and joined the people running to the Colombian customs as soon as the gates were opened, allowing us to take over some of the slower travelers. Looking back at it now, we acted pretty idiotic, but oh well it was fun. Luckily on the Colombian side of things it went pretty smoothly (they didn’t even make us fill in one of those unnecessary travel cards!) and whenever someone tried to cut the queue there was so much Spanish boo-ing that they quickly joined in at the back. We even met a Swedish girl we spent 24 hours with in the airport of La Paz a month earlier while getting our entry stamps. Oh, what a small world we live in!

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