Micah: Unmitigated


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Posts Tagged ‘Ipiales’

Same Old Song And Dance

Monday, November 8th, 2010

In Otavalo: I shopped, caught a bit of a cold, and ate market lunches. I had one interesting night amongst locals while eating dessert Empanadas and drinking a warm berry beverage. Two giggly young woman to my right, seemed to be making fun of the fact I was dunking my emps. The young man with them and an older lady to my left, asked me some simple questions and I gave them very simple answers. Mostly just smiling and nodding, while they said “gringo” a lot and laughed. The man somewhat jokingly said that I should pay for all of their food. I showed him my near empty coin purse. Then,when I handed the server money to pay for my snack, I pointed at myself and said “Solo para me”. They all laughed healthily and I departed with a bang.

Feeling better Sunday morning, despite no medicine and little sleep, I began my journey toward Bogota. 2 buses and 2 mini-vans later, I was at the border. The skies opened up, rain poured down, lightning strikes could be seen in the distance. I should have known what was coming. My passport was handed to the man in uniform behind the window, he looked at passport, looked at screen, shook his head, showed me screen, I just nodded and said “Entiendo” (I understand), trying to explain what I went through 4 days ago. Apparently, nothing had been updated yet in the computer. I still had only an entry into Ecuador back in June listed, no exit and reentry.

I was told many things: You wont be able to enter Colombia, you will miss your flight, you need to return to Peru, wait over there, go make 2 copies of each of these 3 pages, Amigo! make sure you come back (at this point I was a flight risk, hinting to him that I may go on without an exit stamp), wait, now you need to pay money for stamp, my boss is back in town and gas is not cheap (I said I don’t want to pay), wait, maybe tomorrow. Man then takes my passport again and heads out the door with 2 other officers, they hop into a small red car and go. I wait and watch as the now undermanned station gets busy. Tourists come and go with no problems. I feel somewhat special, but also am very worried. Again, thoughts of alternative methods of getting to Bogota/Home, run through my mind: I really don’t need a stamp, do I? Would it do any good if I jumped the unattended counter and messed around on the computer? What if I physically attacked one of the officers and held him hostage, as I crossed the border? Nah, probably would have an issue later at the airport. Do they run illegal immigrants over on boats to Florida?

Just as I was about to execute one of the above plans, the 3 men return. I am waved over to the counter and handed my passport. He shows me the stamp and says go to Colombia. 3 hours after I enter the office, I can now legally leave. I still doubt the computer system is accurate, and wonder if I will ever be able to enter Ecuador again. There may be a manhunt for me in a year or so, when they look in the system and think that I am still there. If any of you are ever questioned by the authorities concerning my whereabouts, please say that I took a trip to South America and you haven’t seen me since. Thanks

Colombia was easier. After a brief 10 minute wait and being told the system was down, my passport was stamped. I again had to sort through lies from taxi drivers to get my cheap public transport. From the closest town of Ipiales, I booked my passage for the city of Cali (11 hrs north, halfway to the capital) because it is cheaper than going direct. Suffered through a muggy night bus ride, worried about bandits, but got to watch “Jaws”.

Arrived at 5 am: rain is falling, booked a night bus to Bogota, oddly combined my 2 large bags into 1 to avoid paying double for storage, killed time in casinos and walking streets. I found a cheap Blackjack table but had one of the weirdest experiences. They don’t believe in luck, and preferred to blame all of their defeats on the white guy. Whether I took 1 card too many or too few, I made an error and affected the whole table. One man lost a big hand to my left and really wanted the 10 I took, which busted me. He was visibly angry toward me. I am just glad I don’t fully understand what they said, though I do know a few of the curse words they used. They don’t like to gamble, and take advantage of the “surrender” rule frequently. I don’t agree and rarely did. That rule is not common back home and I admit that I don’t know how to properly use it. But I don’t feel I made any stupid moves. I just sat there quietly as my stack dwindled. It was fun but also very uncomfortable.

Safe to say, I am on a run of bad days. Hopefully I can get some sleep on the ride tonight and smoothly get into a hostal in central Bogota. I am looking forward to doing the city a little better these last 3 days, than I did with the first 3. ¿Dónde está el mercado central?

E = 193


Thursday, June 17th, 2010

I feel the need to tell you about my last few days in Colombia, before moving on to my new location. Here is the story:

Saturday: Hung out with a guy from the D.C. area, who was in my dorm. A decent guy, ex-military, currently does security type work on contract, and studying international something at a college (may be an assassin).  We found a Brit and an Aussie to watch the US/England world cup match with and searched for a local hangout.  Stumbled upon the ¨Cafe Colombia¨, an old school guy hangout in the heart of the city. Containing a small TV area with plastic tables in front, a large pool table area, slot casino in back, poker tables up a floor, and completing the man cave – a trough urinal openly installed on a main wall. A lot of action all around, with some guy trying to get us to place wagers and many people hawking lottery tickets. A fun game to watch with the Brit left shaking his head and us feeling very satisfied.

Back at the dorm, a Brit girl joined our group seeking Colombia travel advice. Being the only one heading south, I dispensed what I could to all interested parties and soaked up valuable info about my next destinations. They now have me excited about future treks and volcano watching.

Later: The Brit girl (Lucy), the D.C. guy (J), and I hit the town for street food and drinks. After checking out a few overpriced bars, we found a small cheap liqour store with 2 tables, and sat. Aguardiente, an anise flavored drink, is the liquor of choice down here, and it doesn’t taste too bad.

The highlight of the evening was the inebriated man, close to my age, who wanted to talk. He slowly forced out the few English words he knew and I tried to move the converstaion along with the even less Spanish I knew. At one point, an older lady came to the entry of the shop and called the man over. A few minutes of what seemed to be scolding and finger pointing, had the room holding back laughter. The 3 other Colombians around (all 20 something and one spoke English) told us that it was the man’s mother-in-law, and that she informed him that all of his things would be on the street when he got home. Undeterred by the news, the man proceeded to restart the talk and share shots. The whole scene highly amused me, despite a lack of understanding.

After parting ways with the town drunk, we hit a salsa club with the 3 Colombians from the store. Interesting to watch, though I did not participate. A few songs were too slow but when they moved, it was with ease and grace. They move their hips to the beat and stare off, nonchalantly, like they were walking. Sometime on this trip I will try, just not on that small floor during our short visit.

Sunday: I continued my journey south, to the town of Pasto. A man from wee Britain, was heading my way, so we traveled together. He had taken classes in Medellin and was a master at the art of flirting. That came in handy when he bargained our bus prices down and when he chatted up a pretty lady, a row in front of us. He did it with words I could understand, he just knows how to put them together. We crashed in Pasto 2 nights, he was sick the next day, so I headed off to see ¨Laguna de la Cocha¨, a good size lake with a densely forested island.

view of lake

view of lake

Tuesday: Farther south to Ipiales, 3 km from the border, where we parted ways and I headed to nearby Las Lajas. A small village around a stunning church, I shacked up at a large hostel, formerly run by nuns. Being basically the only person there, I got views of the canyon and the Santuario that spans it.

Santuario de Las Lajas, (not the view from my room)

Santuario de Las Lajas, (not the view from my room)

The next morning I was awaken by the sound of a marching band. Looking out my window, I saw them coming down the hill and suited up (it was raining) to check out the action. Young kids pounded drums, leading a caravan of cars, all for a gold relic on the back of a truck. The streets were decorated with yellow and white, but they misjudged the height by a little bit. I snapped the photo below, seconds before the relic caught the overhanging line and fell off it’s pedestal.

look closely

look closely

hanging down

hanging down

The parade stopped for about 10 mintues while they tried to fix it, with onlookers looking very concerned. It ended up just being carried to the church by a man in a coat, where it was prayed to all day. That night, I followed as a procession took the relic to a chapel in town and from there I can’t tell you what happened (Not because of any laws or anything, I just don’t know). A good day to be in Las Lajas, and people thought I was crazy for wanting to stay in this small one-church town, for 2 nights.

Well rested and cleaned up, I headed for the border, where I sailed through the necessary formalities. I will have to save any word about Ecuador until the next post, as this one is categorized as “Colombia”. All I will say is that I am hoping for more interesting food and cheaper days. Todavía no están en el hemisferio sur