Friday, April 16, 2010

Life in exile

I stayed to the bitter end of my 90-day visa in Ecuador and nearly didnt make it out in time as downpours caused landslides that closed the highway to Quito.  

I ended up booking a flight in Quito two days ago for Bogota (they seem to be quite cheap last-minute), but found out as I passed through immigration that without applying for a new visa at the Ecuadorian Embassy I would not be able to return to country until January 2011.  

So I went straight from the Bogota airport into a helter-skelter multi-bus journey through a concrete jungle of 7 million inhabitants in search of an Ecuadorian flag.  Despite knowing the cross streets and asking a dozen or so strangers I could not seem to find any Ecuadorian Embassy (it wasnt even in the phone book).  It turned out to be on the 7th floor of a random office building within a block of where I was looking.  I caused a bit of a log-jam in the foyer security checkpoint as my bags were searched (I still had all my stuff with me), with slick suits muttering "permiso" and bustling past what must have looked to them like a lost hiker.  

I stepped off the elevator and was immediately told by the guard (?) wearing an ornate uniform, epaulets and all, that I needed to visit the Ecuadorian consulate rather than the embassy.  

Half-an-hour later at another random office building I found out that the Ecuadorian consulate shuts promptly at 1 pm (it was by this point nearly 4).  

Anyway, this morning I arrived at the consulate early enough to get in and get the laundry list of required documents and forms to complete (which included fees totalling 162,000 pesos {about 90 USD} but no bribes), then run out and complete the scavenger hunt in time to return before the place closed.  

I should have my passport back with a visa in it Monday morning (keeping my fingers crossed).  My plans for Columbia have to change though; this means making some tough decisions about what to scratch from my itinerary.  I really wanted to spend some time on the Carribean coast, but also to see Medellin and a bit of the coffee-growing region.  The country is so spread out and mountainous that bis travel between ny two locations takes roughly a day.  Being in Bogota for the weekend isn{t the end of the world though.  I have four Colombian friends here, one of whom just graduated from a masters program in teaching English as a second language, so I have a party to go to tomorrow night.  

Sorry for the wall of text.  My computer is back at the reserve and there is no card reader on this computer, so pictures will have to come in the for of an addendum...perhaps tomorrow.

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