Ecuador: Race to the border

February 8th, 2007

We left Cuenca mid-afternoon, eager to return to Perú. We needed to arrive at the border and cross it before dark, worrying about what might happen if we were wandering through the Huaquillas border-market at night. There are buses direct to Huaquillas from Cuenca, but if we waited for that bus we’d be crossing the border at sunset at the earliest so we opted for the bus to Machala, a small city less than 2 hours from the frontier. From there we could take a local bus and waste no time at all. It turned out that we were lucky we couldn’t take the later direct bus.

When we travel we are always somewhat lucky with local people. We meet the good ones, the helpful ones and the friendly ones while other travellers meet con artists and thieves. Everything always seems to have a way of working out for the best for us.

The bus dropped us off outside Machala, at the roundabout from which roads go into the town, to the border(south) and to the north. We were in the middle of nowhere crossing the highway, walking towards the corner where we were told we could take another bus to Huaquillas. This would stop us wasting the additional 30 minutes to get into and back out of Machala. Everything was looking very border-like – there were cheap roadside restaurants/huts and many people wandering around trying to sell stuff to passengers on passing buses.
We saw our bus coming and were about to board when we were yelled at by a man whose job is to organise the buses that stop on the highway here to pick up passengers. “Where are you going, the frontera?, Tumbes?“, he asked. Not sure who this man was at first, I didn’t know what was best to answer. Luckily he continued talking. He told us that there was a bus from Machala direct to Tumbes, a bus that would help us avoid walking through the dangerous market (locals emphasise the dangerous part and tell stories of armed street robberies). The bus was due in only a few minutes, and if we stayed where we were, he would make sure we got on.
The bus came, we were put on, we paid our $2 fare and we were dropped off at the Ecuadorian immigration office while the bus took the rest of the people to Huaquillas and returned for us. Immigration went smoothly and the bus was back in no-time.
It wasn’t long before we were crossing the bridge into Peru and on our way to the Peruvian immigration post. We were in Tumbes and I had a new 90 days tourist visa.

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