Vern: Off to Colombia! Quito (Equador) has five or six major bus stations, and no one in the tourism industry knew from which one the bus to Tulcan, the closest town to the Ecuador/Colombia border, left. Luckily, the law of averages worked - we corroborated all of their stories, and the taxi dropped us correctly at Terminal Carcelan. An excited conductor ushered us from the taxi door straight onto a bus about to depart.
A sinister "farewell friend" (a bag-thief who boards long distance buses, stays on a bus just long enough to nick passengers' bags from the stowage over their heads or under their seats and then hops off with the loot) suggested that we sit diagonally across from him, then offered to put our backpacks overhead and then suggested we put them under our seats. We ignored him each time and suspiciously watched him and a partner we identified until they hopped off two blocks from the terminal. I think they emptied someone's bag but they operated so quickly and confidently that I can't be sure. We spent the whole trip with our backpacks safely on our laps.
Each time the bus stopped for a moment, traders boarded to plug their wares and we snacked on a peeled papaya for lunch. We changed buses in Ibarra, and after five and a half hours were in Tulcan where Andrea reluctantly enjoyed a banana covered in cheese and deep-fried from a lonely street vendor.
The border crossing was ridiculously relaxed. We wondered into a building and were asked "Equador or Colombia?" "We hoped you knew, officer." We established that this was the building for exiting Equador and patiently waited while the Imigration Official unboxed his new cellphone, inserted his simcard and then packed it all up again, before ushering us over to see him and get our exit stamps. He then pointed to a bridge and made a walking movement with his index finger and his middle finger. We wondered across the bridge past uninterested narcotics checkpoints and found the Colombian Imigration official on a reclining seat with his arms behind his head in an office next to a restaurant in a building which looked like a strip mall. Half awake, he scanned our index fingers and stamped our passport.
We changed some money with a 'cambio' man who had a wad of dollars in one hand and a wad of pesos in the other. He gave us an exchange rate better than the XE.com rate and all the bills turned out to be authentic. Deal. From Ipiales, the Colombian town closest to the border, we boarded our last bus of the day. Two hours to Pasto.
Our fourth cab of the day dropped us off at a budget hotel, and after a dinner of greasy chicken and rice (all the budget would allow after the transit costs), Andrea found the Royal Wedding re-run on TV and we tucked in and watched until bed time.