Sunday, June 20, 2010
Riding High at the Colombia Ecuador Border
We are in Tulcan at 3000 m, or 9750 ft, perched 6 km off the Colombian border. This is the first evening we have had to have all our cold weather gears on from long johns to padded jackets, because we are holed up in the ground floor Hostel Florida for $12 a night for the two of us and its really pretty chilly in here. Of course there is no wi-fi so we are out of contact.
Yesterday we nearly traded our flight from Cali for one from Quito to avoid the hazards of land travel over Colombia with a broken hip, however, after vacant seat appearing and disappearing and reappearing again on their web site we got a very unsatisfactory response in which they wanted an effective $500 US penalty over the increased fare, for expanding the flight and then promptly hung up on us.
We then went to the pharmacy and got additional Celebrex which seems to be helping Christine's somewhat clotted varicose veins and packed up to set off for Tulcan a 3 hour bus ride from Otavalo.
Denis the proprietor of the Vincon del Riajero drove us out to the edge of Otavalo, where the Pan-American passes through. There is a small bus stop there where the frequent buses passing through stop if you hail them. After missing the first bus for Tulcan we caught the second and I nearly stuffed up my leg trying to climb in using the hand rails rather than my crutches because the bus started to take off as soon as I was in the first step. I had to quickly bend my knee to take off the uncomfortable feeling that the barely setting break was under strain. The bus was absolutely crowded and on man kindly offered me a seat and eventually Christine and I managed to squeeze into a front seat with almost no view with me nursing my slightly strained hip. Things continued this was for three hours stopping anywhere to pick up or drop off passengers. When we arrived I sent Christine out first to grab the bags and waited for everyone to get off before very carefully descending the curling bus steps using my crutches.
The one great advantage of this arrangement was that it completely eliminated having to change buses at the Ibarra bus station which is the only option if you take a bus from Otavalo bus station or Taxis Lagos from your hostel.
The road took off into the highlands slowly climbing through rolling country and entering an ascending valley which took us up and up finally arriving at Tulcan as a kind of ribbon development as the highway arrives at the border. We had then to take a taxi from the bus station on the outskirts into the centre of town.
Tulcan is a pleasant enough border town although not what you would call a tourist hot spot. Described by the Florida desk clerk as tranquillo it seems like Otavalo to be a safe and friendly regional town at least in the centre.