We stayed in Ibarra for a week. Our route in, through, and out of the city was along roads so we were able to chip away at those kilometers while having a home-base to work from. During our time in Ibarra, we got a ton of work done including (but not limited to) catching up on writing, updating and adding to our different social networks, walking over 60 kilometers, planning routes through Colombia, and I had the opportunity to cook and bake - a happy place of mine.
We also had opportunities in northern Ecuador to meet some other adventurers who were passing through at the same time as Fidgit and I. Brad of @bikehikesafari was on his way south by bike when he met up with us in Ibarra, and we made plans to see Onna (@redheadednomad) and George Voellmer in the border town of Tulcan. After our working rest stop in Ibarra, we made our way up to Tulcan and met the pair, AKA the other Neon and his partner, and shared many a story over dinner. When we parted ways, Fidgit and I knew we’d likely run into these kindred souls again some day.
Our nerves were on edge not knowing what to expect at the border. Walking there was uneventful - we followed a road that took us along the river valley separating Ecuador from Colombia. At the bridge/border crossing, we walked around the Ecuadorian Aduanas, not seeing a labelled entrance. Fidgit asked a guard where to get stamped out, and we were pointed in the right direction. Thankfully the line was short when we arrived, so we got up to the window in a timely manner. Standing at the Aduanas window, the border employee informed us that we had come into Ecuador at such a small border station that we weren’t ‘officially’ in their system. So they had to put us into the system to take us out of the system. We waited for about thirty minutes for the employee to process our information, then he was able to stamp us out of Ecuador, and we walked north across the bridge . . . into COLOMBIA!
Upon reaching the Colombian side of the bridge/border, we walked up to a long line outside of their Aduanas building. Looking for alternatives (Brad told us there may be alternatives) we walked around the building hoping we could avoid the line. I spotted an empty filing area that looked like an alternate line next to the people all lined up and we went there. Fidgit and I must have walked up purposefully because a few others followed our lead. Thankfully my hunch worked out and we were quickly allowed into the building to get stamped into Colombia. We later learned that the longer line was specifically for Venezuelans and the line we went to/created was for everyone else.
As Fidgit and I walked away from the Colombian Aduanas building, I worked on my observational skills. I found myself looking around and trying to see what differentiated this country from its neighbors to the south. The border town of Ipiales wasn’t a far walk, so I didn’t get to practice much that evening, though I did notice some immediate differences - the presence of more semi trucks and billboards. Many things also stayed the same across the border, such as the amount of fried chicken and the honking of passing vehicles.
We spent the night in Ipiales, running some errands and planning for the next few days into Pasto. When we spoke with Onna and George in Tulcan, they suggested we go off our original route to check out a beautiful church built on a bridge nearby. Leaving Ipiales, we headed toward the church. Nestled at the bottom of a ‘quebrada,' or gorge, the Sanctuario de Las Lajas was definitely worth the side trip to check out, and helped make our first full day in Colombia a memorable one.
After day one, we were walking along roads to Pasto. It wasn’t very eventful, though it was an adjustment to the dirt tracks and trails we had become accustomed to. Semi-trucks hurtled past belching black smoke, and motorcycles seemed to have their own set of rules that I couldn’t quite figure out. Each night Fidgit and I would look over our route for the next day and discuss if there was a possibility of getting onto side roads. The risks versus the rewards were discussed, and we usually stayed on the highway. Fortunately, on the day we walked into Pasto, we were able to spend the afternoon walking along a small dirt road that led across the countryside into the city. The risk was low and the reward was high as we crested the last hill to descend into Pasto. The city sprawled across the valley below as we made our way in.