Time was up on the clock in Colombia, no last minute penalties, it was time to head for our next destination: Ecuador. It wasn’t going to be an easy trip nor, according to Lonely Planet, terribly safe (which doesn’t really carry too much weight but at least acts as a warning). We were still in heartland coffee country and needed to head south, it was going to take a couple of days and we decided to make the first day our biggest days travel. We started out with a short 1hr ride into Armenia, taking a 6am bus with all the locals heading into the city from Salento to go to work, school and whatever else. Next up was coffee at the bus station before either of us got too cranky due to lack of caffeine. A couple of ‘café con leche’s’ (coffee with milk) later we were on-board a bus headed for Pasto, expected time of arrival: 9pm.
The journey, while long (15 hrs in total – cost 60,000 COP), went pretty well. Stopping in Cali to pick up extra passengers and then in Popayan to change buses to a new company. The last leg is claimed to be ‘dangerous’, it’s not recommended to be done at night as the FARC guerillas have been known to operate down there as well as other bandits who have held up buses with semi-automatic machine guns. Luckily it was plain sailing for us. We arrived in Pasto around 9pm, checked into Hostal Koala, grabbed a quick bite to eat then it was off to bed for a big sleep.
The next morning it all started of again, luckily this time we managed to get breakfast in at the hostal before setting off. Back on the road it was a quick journey to ‘La fronterra’ where we got our stamps out of Colombia and out of Ecuador – no questions asked and all quite quick. Next up it was a ‘collectivo’ (a van that is pretty much a taxi and leaves once it’s full) to get to Tulcan, for only $0.75 USD. Once in Tulcan we got aboard our final method of transport, another bus, to make it through to Quito – arriving around 8pm at Hostal Revolution.
(No photos here – the story below explains why…) The city that was going to be a sore point of the trip! All started well with a great feed of chicken, beans, potatoes and rice (note the carbs there) on our first evening for all of about $3USD per meal. The next morning we walked around the historic part of Quito, it was independence day so there were plenty of people out and about in the streets. Ticking of a big cathedral, a couple of plazas and a highly recommended cafe.
It was early afternoon when things started to go pear shaped, we headed to a restaurant for a quick bite to eat. We took seats opposite each other and started checking the menu. I’d put the camera (in it’s bag) on the seat next to me, thinking nothing of it. A quick trip to the bano (bathroom) to relieve the days liquids and back to our table. A minute later I looked down to where the camera was meant to be and…yep it was there any longer. Cel had been there the whole time and somehow the two people who had been sitting behind us had managed to get up, walk past our table and swipe the camera from the seat! I was pretty pissed off, heading straight out to the street to see if I could see anyone but couldn’t. Coincidentally, there were a huge number of police officers just outside the restaurant. I told them what had happened and they set off with the troops for a walk – although I’m not sure what they were doing as they all disappeared and no one came back – pretty useless. My gut feel was that the two b*tches had followed us into the restaurant after seeing us walking with the camera bag through a nearby park – sitting behind us and managing to swipe it quickly as soon as I went to the toilet.
After eating and cursing a bit, we decided there wasn’t much we could do but head to the tourist police and file a report so we could claim the insurance. Understandably we didn’t really warm to Quito after that, deciding to move on the next day to Banos which was smaller and bound to be what our increased levels of annoyance needed.
Quito: Probably a great place on a good day when there aren’t thieves about, but keep an eye on what you’ve got as everyone else seems to have an eye on it too!