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Published: October 5th 2006
First thing was a 'collectivo' - shared minibus taxi - to the border. Then getting an exit stamp from Colombia, before walking through no-man's land to the Ecuador side. Here you pay $200 if you forgot to get your exit stamp, but we were obviously fine so went off and found another collectivo for the few miles to the first Ecuadorian town. When we pulled up in front of the almost deserted bus station we saw the strange sight of a dozen people literally sprinting towards us, all trying to persuade us to travel to Quito (the capital, and given our appearance clearly our destination) with their firm for a standard $4pp. We chose the lady in the bright orange jumper as there wasn't really anything else to differentiate them by. And she also ran off carring Gemma's bag.
Semi-interestingly, the US dollar has been Ecuador's official currency for 5 years now, with the advantages and disadvantages that entails. Well, interesting if you like economics.
We set off, with orange jumper lady making sure we got the front 2 seats because of Ed's height (nb apparently, you can't even buy size 9 shoes anywhere in the country!). Ed's
rucksack was randomly selected as one of the 2 bags in the hold that the 'anti-narcotics' police wanted to check. They were sure to sample our bottle of Flor de Cana rum to make sure it wasn't "liquid narcotics". But after a particularly thorough body search we were again on our way.
At some point we crossed the equator, though with none of the ceremony that accompanied our Arctic Circle crossing. We couldn't even see a sign (the photo is from somewhere in the vicinity which is the best we could do).
In fact, the only way to know when we crossed it would have been to bring a bathtub with us, monitoring the direction the water circles as it went down the plughole. This brings us onto another subject. We have a vague recollection of a Simpsons episode featuring this phenomenon. Something like the US embassy in Sydney having a machine which reverses the whirlpool effect to be in line with what the American staff would expect to see back home. Each day's blog entry is read by an average of over 50 people (unless our mothers read it 25 times each), so hopefully one of you will have some idea what we're on about and will be kind enough to drop us a line to explain.
Eventually we arrived in Quito, a city almost 2 miles above sea-level, and found a really nice hostel (Magic Bean). And then tomorrow we check out and head into the Amazon jungle for a few days...
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