Three minutes before arriving at the Ecuadorian border, Laughlin and I discussed that we felt out of practice crossing borders. It was the perfect time to have a conversation to kill any sort of confidence we had accumulated over our previous nine border crossings. Anyhow, here is how it went:
We have continually attempted to arrive at borders early in the morning to beat the crowds that show up a little bit later. Our attempt to arrive at the border was thwarted by cool temperatures and a cozy bed, breakfast and our desire to clean the camper before packing up. I’m not sure why we even try to show up early as all of our previous attempts have been crushed. The plan was to leave our camp spot by 8:00 and arrive by 8:15 but we ended up leaving at 9:00 and arrived at 9:15. Oh well.
The first order of business, as usual, is to cancel our temporary vehicle import permit. After we parked, we walked to the DIAN office where we asked an official looking guy where to go. He pointed to a random guy standing on the sidewalk with a grey shirt and said we just needed to give it to him and we were done. Hmm. Our previous experience has shown that the process should be much more difficult than this. We talked with him and confirmed that we just needed to give him the permit and he would take care of the rest. Hopefully he actually takes care of this and we aren’t confronted by the police on our next visit to Colombia asking what happened with that old truck we brought to their country 25 years ago!
Next, we stood in a long line of people waiting at immigration. Surprisingly, the line went quickly and we received our exit stamp from Colombia and were on our way to Ecuador!
We hopped in the truck and drove for fifteen seconds before parking on the Ecuadorian side. Again, a big line was waiting at the immigration building. Sunday seems to be a busy day to cross the border. Twenty minutes later, we were at the front of the line, stamped into Ecuador and were on our way to customs to import the truck.
Importing the truck is always the part of crossing the border that takes the most time. Many times customs officials are confused by translating the vehicle information from the title or registration. Other times, it seems that it is the first time they have ever imported a vehicle. This time, it seemed like they didn’t know whose job it was to do the importation. We waited in line at the customs building for 20 minutes, when, all of a sudden, the lady working behind the desk seemed to finally notice the line forming and told us we needed to go to a different office. Around the corner, past the narcotics division, we finally located the office we were supposed to be at but nobody was there. We waited for a few minutes before returning to the original window and explained nobody was there. We were assured that there was somebody there who would show up eventually. Twenty minutes later, the guy finally showed up looking a bit annoyed. Unlike other countries, Ecuador takes photos of documents instead of taking copies of documents. The guy took a good five minutes organizing our paperwork before taking the photo then finally took the photo. As we walked to the truck so he could take a photo of our license plate, he seemed rather annoyed that we were parked so far away. I explained that our vehicle is big and we parked where the police told us to. He didn’t say anything else, walked back to the office, filled out the remaining paperwork and we were finally on our way.
The day before crossing the border, we talked to a man from Estonia who had been living and working in Colombia for some time. He explained that it is ‘patience’ not ‘passion’ that gets things done in Colombia. We took his advice and remained patient and we finally made it to Ecuador two hours after arriving at the border!