Crossing the Border
17.04.2008 - 19.04.2008 32 °C
Well what better way to start out my South American trek than a border crossing from Ecuador into Peru? The Ecuador-Peru border was just about all the stress I could cope with. When we got to the border it was like walking into another world, one of toil and blood.
It was something similar to what I have seen for border crossing into Mexico, only I was living in it, actually passing the border. Much more of a real experience than thinking, "oh poor, poor souls," as I pass on by. The first matter of deceit we ran into was a man kindly leading us across the border. As it was my first, I thought, wow it could be great to have a companion to push us across this place, but he lead us into his trap. He lied, just like everyone, all lies. You have to show $200 dollars to the Peruvian checkpoint to get a visa, he said. That can't be. Frank took over, he had much more experience with this sort of thing. He played bad cop with his confrontational English, and I played good cop because that is all I could translate into Spanish. He took us over to his partners in crime who were offering to make currency exchanges. I was glad to have Frank get us through all the lies.
We then came upon a man as we were walking over the bridge into Peru, while still being followed like celebrities by a least three others looking to make money off of us. He offered to be our taxi to get us to the Peruvian checkpoint, in order to get our visas, and then further down the road so we could catch a bus. He was asking a high price but we lowered it down to $10. It was just too good to be true.
In fact it was. He of course was no different than anyone else. The only thing that helped him get our attention was a ride to speed our departure of the depressing scene. We first stopped in to get our visas. Constantly worried about our things, I decided that I should keep watch in the car as Frank got the stamps to get us entry into Peru. I was horrified. It was a bad decision on my part. Being alone without an escape or any defenses brought back a little trauma for me. I vowed not to split from Frank's side from that point on. So we pressed forward. But then here comes our driver's ploy. Oh you meant the town of Tumbes, not the border shanty place where you can't find a bus that goes anywhere. Uh, duh! Well that will be $40 for the trip then. Whoa whoa whoa. We argued for twenty minutes in the car as we shuffled at no more than 15km/hr with trucks blowing past us. Even then he was having difficulty staying on the road. Constantly looking back at me to explain how disfortunate he is and the high prices of gas and the problems of the world. Rage welled up inside both of us. He saw it too and tried immediately to play the friend. $20, then. $20. There aren't buses to get to Tumbes, gas is $6/gallon. Everything he said was awash. He was disfortunate, living in that wasteland. I can only wonder what life means to people who live that way on border towns.
As we approached Tumbes, I made conserted efforts to identify any fallacies in the driver's story. Gas was 11.50. Wait, what? Oh nuevo soles. I only thought of that later. That makes gas prices equivalent to the states, at about 3.50, another lie. We don't even care at that point though. We just want to get past the border town, move away from these people. But it doesn't end there. We concede $20 to the man and he double takes. He asked for a different bill, perhaps one more used. Excuse me? Does a new $20 not satisfy you? He says that it is fake, that it doesn't have the glimmer of a real bill. But the water mark is there and so is the plastic strip. Well take it to the bank and prove its worth then. Uh, ok.
We walk into the bank and move to exchange $100 into nuevo soles. But one of the twenties is claimed to be fake. How could that be? He does a water check and the bill rips apart like it was a wet kleenex. A fake $20, with a water mark and a plastic band. I think I will never trust money ever again. We give the haughty driver his $20 worth in soles and tell him to beat it. Now we need to get out of Tumbes. The equivalent to a large Del Rio or like El Paso. I don't like the feel. We get to the bus station but the next bus out of there is a night bus, but the sun is still directly overhead. I feel like each minute that passes in this crummy place is leeching future life out of me. There is a crowd around us now, where ever we walk. We find a minibus willing to take us further south for dirt cheap. That's all we need to hear. We are in it in a matter of seconds, and on the road in minutes. Thank God!
We come upon Mancora, a little beach oasis, that welcomes us the second we stumble out of the minibus. It was well deserved though. Kicking back and soaking in the sun was all we wanted to do for 24 more hours before even considering moving further on in Peru.