Thursday, August 3, 2017

Border Hopping Out of Peru Into Ecuador

At the Peru-Ecuador Border
After I cancelled my flight back home, the way I felt and thought about the world changed; it was as if an earthquake shattered the structures and foundations inside of me. I instantly realized I had to renew my Peruvian visa. It wasn't expiring immediately, I had over a month left. But, I didn't want this problem lingering in my mind throughout my trip. Also, I was only about 150 miles away from the Ecuadorian border. It was time to go to Ecuador - where I was last year - mainly to see the Galapagos.

Some background on this visa problem. I didn't know that you're supposed to ask at the border how many days you want to stay in Peru; for an American - the maximum stay is 183 days. (Let that be a lesson to me - research more thoroughly visa issues before going to the country, but then again, I needed something to do and figure out. Maybe, it was for the better all this happened.) At airport checkpoint control, I stated I would stay a month; so, the guy gave me 60 days. You can't renew your visa within Peru; you have to border hop, meaning you have to leave the country and then come back into it. You could also overstay your visa, and you're fined $1 USD a day. It's not a bad price, but after being put into Russian house arrest once because I had visa problems, I wasn't going to go through that again.

I took a collectivo - a shared taxi to the Ecuadorian border, to a city called Macara. I had to wait about an hour for it to be full, and the company said that the car was "completo" when we had four passengers.

I sat shotgun. The driver wanted me to share my shotgun seat with someone else. That would make six people, and it'd be an uncomfortable two and a half hour ride to the border. There was a cranky and older woman who sat behind me, and when we had to wait for another person, she said, "You're a liar! You said only four people. You're a liar."

I really liked her.

Then she said, "I'm only giving you 13 soles. It's always been 13 soles."

The driver said, "No, it's 15."

She said again, "You're a liar."

I didn't like my driver. He must have been the meanest person in Peru I met so far. And add to it, that he was also a greedy man.

I told him, "I'm not sharing a seat with anyone."

He said, "It's always 6 people."

Another lady in the back of the car said, "I'm going to change companies."

I asked her, "There's another company?"

She pointed at it and said, "Yeah, it's over there."

I told the driver, "If we don't leave soon, I'm changing companies too." I opened the door, ready to leave.

He said, "Get back in. We're going. But you people! It's always six in a car."

This is interesting. My trip started with a semi-mutiny in a collectivo.

So, he drove through the bad roads of the City of Sullana. It was not paved. And the ride was rough getting out of the city.

In an hour into our drive, he stopped the car and got out and urinated on the side of the road. I had to do it too; so, I went out. A guy sold me a coconut while I was waiting in the collectivo, and I drank it.

When we got back, a poor-looking mother and her son, about 15, needed a ride to the next city. The driver said, "He's going in front with you."

I said, "That's fine."

The mother put a large bag of supplies inside the trunk and went in the trunk. She laid on top of all the luggage. She didn't complain, and if anything, she started laughing about the whole thing. I felt sorry for them. I don't know exactly why.

We rode another hour towards the border. The boy was nearly so close to me, my elbow was in his rib. I wondered if I should strike a conversation throughout the trip or just mind my own business. I choose the latter.

The mother and son got out about an hour into the ride. The first thing the boy said, when the car stopped was, "Mom, we're here. Are you ok?"

I felt like I should've paid their fare. And it wasn't because I was being cheap, I didn't pay it. I just thought it'd be strange to pay it. Who does that?

I didn't pay it. But I told myself, if something like that happens to me again, I will pay it. It's not going to change the world; it's most likely not going to in the grand scheme of things make their lives better. But it's still something I can do. No matter how weird it is.

At the border, we all get off. The cranky lady gives him 13 soles, instead of 15. He screams at her. She tells him, "It's 13." And she turns her back towards him, not being affected by his anger whatsoever.

I thought to myself, I hope when I get that old, I can be that cranky and get away with it too! I was definitely smiling inside.

I asked the driver if I could pay 13 too. He said, "No!"

I said, "But I"m hungry and poor and have no money."

He said, "That's your problem."

I handed him a 20 note. He gave me back 5.

I was really wishing I had small change; so, I could've also given him 13 soles and turn my back towards him too. The difference of 2 soles is $0.67. It's nothing for me. I just didn't like the guy; it was kind of a negative tip, to subtract instead of add, you know?

I walked up the street to the border control, which was a small kiosk. There were only five people in front of me. But they're much slower at the land crossing checkpoint then at an airport.

The lady at the checkpoint tells me that she can only give me 90 days. I asked for 183. She said, "No." I was already in the country for 25 days.

She stamps my passport with an "salir [exit]" stamp. I walk ten minutes into Ecuador. At the crossing, I fill out my paperwork. The guy at the Ecuador checkpoint asks how long I'll stay. I tell him three days. He stamps my passport and puts 3 on top of it.

I walk back to the Peruvian checkpoint and the lady says, "Nope. This is wrong. I can't give you a new entry stamp until you have an Ecuadorian exit stamp."

I walk back to the Ecuadorian checkpoint and the guy says, "I know what you're doing. And it's illegal. You can't just come in and out of here for a new visa. It's illegal."

"I don't speak Spanish. I don't understand."

"You don't, huh? Seems like you know some stuff. You need to stay in Ecuador for 24 hours before I left you out."

"24 hours?"

"That is correct."

"Please. Isn't there something you could for me? 24 hours is a long time."

"No. That is the law."

"No one will know if you let me out earlier."

"No. It's 24 hours."

I walk across a bridge further into Ecuador. I see a car passing. I hitchhike. The car stops for me. He lets me in.

I introduce myself. Ask him questions. (It's easy for me to get a ride hitchhiking. But it's never free. I have to pay with a conversation.)

He says he's going into Ecuador to fix his car. But I can't understand his Spanish - he has such a strong accent. He says he's from Peru. He says that it's cheaper to fix a car in Ecuador. I ask him over and over again what's wrong with the car - and he says nothing. The guy keeps changing his story. Who knows why he's really going to Ecuador? I'm sure it's about some kind of illegal activity. 

About two miles from the border, we enter into the City of Macara, Ecuador. I get out. I thank him.

I find a hotel. It's $10 USD a night. I brought some US money with me. The guy running the hotel is 19. His father owns the hotel. He has this I'm-a-cool-kid-because-I-have-money-to-show-off-because-of-my-dad feel. We all seen the type in school. But I liked him, because he was eager to help me and was not entitled. When I thanked him for fixing my hot water device in the shower, he seemed pleased with himself and said it wasn't a problem.

I take my first hot shower in over a week. I'm still annoyed at the mosquito swelling above my eyebrows.

After my shower, I go to a pharmacy. I buy some anti-histamine cream.

Then, for dinner, I eat fried chicken and rice. After, I find a place that serves me a glass of wine. It's decent, but not great.

I go back to my hotel. I sleep decently.

In the morning, after coffee, I walk two miles with all my stuff back to the border. On my way, I spot a large lizard that looks like a Gila Monster. It was probably about two feet long.

At the Ecuadorian checkpoint, there were two lines. And I see that the guy from yesterday was there again. Oh no. He better not spot me. I haven't been in Ecuador for 24 hours.

I go in the other line. I turn my back towards him. I use people to shield me from his view.

When I get to the front of the line, the lady takes my passport. She reviews my file in the computer. I look to see all the information on me in the computer. I see what she's doing. I'm memorizing their processes. I'm a bad little boy. And like a computer, my eyes acting as a lens, records everything their doing. She knows I'm watching. In the end though, she stamps my passport with an exit stamp.

I walk to the Peruvian checkpoint. The lady that was there was back. There are about 8 people at the checkpoint. I cut in front of all of them, since my paperwork is already done - and theirs is not. (Remember, I tried the day before; so, I had the paperwork done already.)

We argue and haggle for 10 minutes. I ask for 183 days. She says No. She speaks so fast, I can't understand everything she's saying, though I can make out the gist of the conversation.

She said the maximum entry time is 183 days per year. At first, she says she can give me 90 days. I get her to 100 days.

Then, I ask for 150. She says no such thing exists. I ask for 120. She says that doesn't exist either. What can I do? I give up.

She stamps my passport for 100 days more. I ask her if I need to pay for a visa. She says, "No, it's free," missing the idea that she could've made some extra money on the side.

I did it. I got my visa. I walk back into Peru.

I hail for a collectivo. The guy is around 25. He's blasting loud and ugly Spanish music. He drives fast and gets me back a lot quicker than the last guy.

I tell people in my beach town I renewed my visa. Since, it's such a small town, everyone is talking about how I went to Macara to renew my visa. Apparently, tourists don't usually do such things around here. Now, they know how to advise tourists what to do about visa problems, that is, if anyone ever finds the small beach town I was at. 

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