Extending my Visa
Three months passed by since my arrival to Ecuador and it was about time for extending the length of my tourist Visa. I got some information about the requirements for a Visa extension, so I headed to Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores in Quito and tried to apply for an extension. Once there, I found out the cost for the process of increasing the length of visit was USD. 230.00 instead of the USD. 1,80 foreigners used to pay in 2008 in order to prolong their visit to the country.
I thought I'd be getting in trouble, 'cause my Visa was about to expire in the next 5 days. I really needed to prolong it in order to continue traveling in Ecuador, so I decided to travel to the Ecuadorian-Colombian border, to cross it and to get a new stamp in my passport on my way back. That way I'd be allowed to remain 90 more days in Ecuador and saving some money.
Fooling (corrupt) border police officers (Sep. 25th 2009)
Boriss and I left Quito at 8.00 am and took a bus to Ibarra, switched to another bus to Tulcán where we arrived at 1.15 pm. Once in Tulcán we had lunch and took a taxi right away to Rumichaca (Ecuadorian – Colombian border). It was a 7-minute-smooth ride.
Everything was going perfect so far, until I approached to the customs counter for passport control. The customs agent noticed the expiration date of my Visa in my passport and wanted to take advantage of me, telling me that I won't be able to get back in Ecuador. He literally wanted a bribe.
Ecuador - Colombian border
It concerned us a lot, and we thought that he'll do everything to get some money from us, even though it was illegal. We managed to cross to the Colombian border and took a van to the town of Ipiales. We found a hotel with basic services, plus cable, paid 18.000 pesos (10.00 dollars) for a room and got out for a walk in the city.
We spent the whole afternoon walking by Ipiales main street. I think we walked the same street at least 7 times. Then we bought some yummy fruit salad and then headed back to the hotel around 7 pm.
We got up early in the morning and took a van back to the border. I passed by immigrations without problems. I felt so happy of having an extension in my Visa, but mostly because I fooled the corrupt border police officer of Ecuador. I got my Visa!!
Very happy and relieved of the whole situation, we got in a taxi to Tulcán, which we shared it with two more people. Once in Tulcán we visited the cemetery, one of Tulcán's main tourist attractions because of its topiary garden where bushes and hedges are sculpted into Pre-Columbian totems, animals and geometric shapes.The gardens are trimmed by the son of the original artist, who now resides permanently on the grounds.
Tulcan cemetary Angel
We got out the cemetery before noon. Had lunch and took a bus to our next destination.. Volcán Chiles (4,748 m / 15,577 ft). An active volcano located right in the border between Ecuador and Colombia.
We had ridden in a very crowded bus for about an hour when it stopped at a Military checkpoint before the town of Tufiño. We had to registered ourselves while military personnel checked our passports and ID's out. The bus continued up soon after until getting to the trailhead at a high pass. The wind started to hit us as soon as we got off the bus, I almost lost the backpack rain cover. We hiked up to a concrete house in the middle of the blast. It was extremely windy and we couldn't see a thing because of the foggy conditions.
After taking cover from the wind at the unrestrained shelter for a few minutes, we started to hike up by the southwestern slopes. We kept climbing up through a thick mist, the trail wasn't visible at all, but we kept climbing up by the ridge. We got to the end of the first ridge, where we had to scramble from time to time. We traversed and scrambled for about two hours with no idea of where the summit was at. Finally, we got to the base of the summit, we scrambled it up and we made it! We were standing on the summit of El Chiles, with one foot in the Colombian side and another in the Ecuadorian.
It was 4:30 pm when we got to the summit and it was kind of late for us to continue at the top any longer, so we got down to a saddle between the main and second summit, and headed up to the second one. We climbed it and immediately scrambled it down and hedded back to the trailhead.
The wind blew harder near the trailhead, but it wipped the clouds away and we were able to have a good view of the southern ecuadorian mountains: Cayambe, Illinizas and Rucu Pichincha. The sunset was just amazing, we wanted to hang out longer but the wind never stopped blowing hard.
Sunset from the refuge.
Sunset from the refuge.
We set the tent up inside the shelter, and blocked the door very good with a latch from inside in order to prevent anybody to come inside. (Strangers have been using the shelter for drug/alcohol purposes, we felt safer in a way by latching the door from inside). Boiled some soup and tried to sleep. It was a long night for me, I felt kind of sick and I couldn't shut my eyes not even for 5 minutes.
In the morning, we got up early and walked by the road to the town of Tufiño. The scenery was beautiful and unique. We kept taking pictures all the way down to Tufiño of el paramo and the frailejones gigantes, typical plants of this region.
Paramo de El Angel.
Frailejon Espeletia pycnophylla
Got to Tufiño after 4 hours of hiking. We took a bus to Tulcán (45 minute ride), had lunch and took a bus to Quito. We got home to Quito at 6:30 pm, I passed out as soon as I got in bed until the next day.
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