Our Galápagos Video – Dreams Do Come True!

The Galápagos is one of those places that we all grow up hearing about. It seems like some far flung place on the outer edges of earth that only a few fortunate people get to go to – namely, the lucky people who get to make documentaries and TV programs on these magical islands. It’s a place that seems so out of reach for regular people that we barely dare dream about setting foot there.

But we’ve got wanderlust souls so we did dare dream about going to the Galápagos. And we did dare go – with our moms!

Honestly, the islands are every bit as magical in person. You feel like you’re living in a nature documentary. You pinch yourself constantly to see if this is real! 

Are you really snorkelling with sea lions…and sea turtles

How’s it possible that the blue-footed boobies aren’t flying away from you?

Land iguanaslava lizardsmarine iguanas, they’re everywhere!

Do you see? Those albatross just set foot on land for the first time in years and they’re doing their reunion dance!

Giant tortoises of every age are just a few steps away!

Watch our short video to see a bit of what we saw in the Galápagos Islands>> https://youtu.be/CJYuj7h5RKc

— Cyn and Matt




Get Off The Bus – They’ve Got Guns

A big man with an even bigger gun got on our bus. I didn’t know what to do so I pretended like he was just another snack vendor – I ignored him. 

Matt and I both removed our headphones and exchanged “wtf” glances with each other. But we didn’t say anything. Not a word. As if us talking would make us visible to the man with the gun. As if he didn’t already look directly at us.

As the man with the gun walked down the aisle, I caught a glimpse of what was written on his holster: U.S.

He calmly said something in Spanish to everyone on the bus. Something neither Matt nor I had any understanding of. We just looked at each other as male passengers started getting off the bus. Not everyone got off though so neither did we.

I didn’t want to leave the safety of my seat.

And then it happened. A guy who could speak English, a passenger just like us, reboarded the bus and walked up to us.

They want everyone to get off the bus. They’re looking for arms.

ARMS!!! Are you freaking kidding me?! ARMS!! As in guns and shit like that? 

Surely the only two gringos on the bus didn’t need to be searched or whatever was about to happen. I mean – LOOK AT US! Our Spanish is so bad and our budget so tight we couldn’t get ARMS if we tried (and we are NOT trying).

So we get off the bus. 

And there were even bigger guys with even bigger guns. They separated us into two groups: men and women. 

I resist the urge the freak the fuck out. Why did they separate the men from the women!? There are only men with guns so what does it matter if the female and male passengers are together? What are they about to do to us?

Whatever is about to happen, I can handle as long as I’m with Matt. But they separated us!

The big men with the big guns start searching everyone’s hand luggage. I’m losing my mind because I have a pink razor in my backpack (nicely organized in the pencil holder) and it’s glaring at the man with the giant gun. 

Does a pretty dull leg razor count as an arm? I wonder to myself. And the answer, if we were in the Unites States, would probably be yes because they’re mental like that. And I flash back to the big U.S. written on the first man with the gun’s holster. 

He doesn’t search my bag right away so I casually zip up the pocket with the razor. He never looks in it so I never find out if a dull razor counts as an arm in Ecuador too.

It’s clear that these men with the guns are military. Not that that makes me feel better.

As they search everyone’s bags, some of the men with really big guns are taking pictures.

Maybe they’re making a photo essay about military control. Or fear. Or shit people carry on buses.

When the guy finally looked in my bag, he said something to me in Spanish. Not only is my Spanish not good enough for most situations…it’s definitely not good enough for situations that involve big guns. Plus I couldn’t even hear the guy. 

We changed altitude and my ears hadn’t popped yet…I woke up that day basically deaf in my right ear for some reason…and I’d been listening to music cranked up in my headphones for hours on end to drown out the annoying sounds of the bus. Plus I was scared.

So I just said “Mi Español es no bueno.” Something to the effect of “My Spanish is no good.” What I really wanted to say was “I want my husband!”

To which he replied with a little smile (there is something SO unnerving about people with massive guns smiling. Like if you’re so nice why do you have a freaking huge gun? What are you planning behind your smile!?) and something to the effect of “it doesn’t matter.”

Oh great.

Meanwhile in Matt’s side of this ridiculous exercise, he was being made to remove our two big backpacks from the bus. He told the men with guns that the blue one was his and the green one was his wife’s.

They told him to open the green one. 

 

there’s no way I was supposed to take this picture. But I wanted you to know what this looks like.

I was watching the whole time, praying that my dirty clothes hadn’t been impossibly switched with a pile of guns. 

The man with the gun made Matt open my little black makeup case. Whatever they were looking for must be REALLY small if he thought it would fit in there.

Then the man with the gun spent a good 10 seconds inspecting my running shoes while they were still in the plastic bag. Whatever they were looking for must be really light if he thought it could be hiding in my Nikes.

After inspecting my packing cube full of soap, shampoo, and conditioner, the man with the gun must have realized that I’m the most normal person in the world — and not a freaking arms dealer/smuggler. Because he left Matt to pack up my bag and put it away.

We all got back on the bus – ladies first (such gentlemen the men with the guns were) and away we went. Like we didn’t all just have massive guns pointed at or near us.

Welcome to Ecuador, I guess. 

I’d just like to point out that nothing like this ever happened in Colombia – and that’s exactly where I’d expect it to happen.

– Cyn

How and How Much: Colombia to Ecuador Land Border Crossing

The hardest part of the land border crossing from Colombia to Ecuador is enduring some pretty windy roads. The border crossing itself was a breeze!

  
We wanted to avoid becoming the Colombia gurilleas’ next example so we did all of our bus travelling during the day. Given the gurilleas, the frighteningly fast Colombia drivers, and steep mountain cliffs, I would 100% recommend making this a day journey and not a night one!

The drive from Popayan to Ipiales is long(ish). We were told it’s about 8 hours by bus to the border. Then it would be another 5 hours from the border to Quito. I wasn’t up for that! I’m never up for sitting in buses — or anything –for that long. Plus, we wanted to see the most amazing gothic church that’s built into the side of a mountain!

So, we opted to break up the journey by spending a night in Pasto. 

Popayan to Pasto cost 25.000 COP each and took 5.5 hours (they say it takes 5). We took the bus at 10:30am and there was a stop for lunch at about 12. Lunch was extra and we didn’t eat it.

Pasto itself is nothing to write home about. It was, however, our first time this trip in noticeable altitude. The thin air made the pollution awful! I felt like I was sucking on a tail pipe the entire time we were there. 

In Pasto, we stayed in a little hotel 3 blocks away from the bus station. We wanted to be able to leave quickly in the morning. And leave quickly we did. 

From Pasto, you have to go to Ipiales to border cross. It cost 7.000 COP per person and took about 2 hours by bus. It was an easy peasy bus ride and the road was a little less scary than the first part of the trip. 

Once you’re at the bus terminal, you’ll take a collectivo to the border. It took 10ish minutes and cost so little that it was basically free (1.400 COP for both of us). And our driver nearly cried when we told him to keep the 600 COP change. I can still picture his deeply creased eyes when we told him it was for him to keep.

600 COP is 21 CENTS.

Pre-border crossing money tip: Ecuador uses the American dollar so change your pesos at the border. Give your small pesos to your taxi driver as a tip or spend them at the bus terminal. They’ll be worthless to you the second you stamp out of Colombia. Hold on to your peso notes though! There will be offical money changers (with rates so good — basically on par with xe.com — I have no idea how they make money to feed themselves) who will change your pesos to American dollars. Make sure you know the exchange rate, just in case. Feel free to haggle if you feel like you’re being low-balled.

Once your driver lets you out, and you change your pesos to dollars, it’s time to get your exit stamp. It costs nothing to leave Colombia.

Welcome to no man’s land!

It’s such a weird feeling being somewhere, but no where. Like, your feet are on the earth but you’re not in any country in particular! Okay, enough of that weirdness. 

Walk towards Ecuador.

  
Please, oh please do something that Matt and I didn’t do. Take a picture at 000km. The very freaking beginning of Ecuador! I deeply regret missing this opportunity because it’s obviously the ONLY place you can take the snap.

Entering Ecuador was a piece of cake. 

After we filed out our papers, we waited maybe 5 minutes in the shortest line ever.

The border agent who let me in even spoke great English. He asked me where I was coming from (to which I replied the wrong city, then corrected myself), how long I was staying in Ecuador (to which I told him 45 days since that’s what Matt and I agreed we’d say), and then he asked if I was travelling alone (I sort of get the feeling this wasn’t an offical question, but who knows).

Once we were welcomed to Ecuador with a big ol’ stamp in our passports, it was time to get a taxi to Tulcan, the nearest town so we could take a bus to Quito. The taxi cost us $3.50 and took about 20 minutes.

Upon arrival at the bus station in Tulcan, we were ushered onto a bus that was leaving immediately for Quito. It cost $6.00 USD each and took 5.5 hours.

After a run in with big men with bug guns, we finally made it to Quito – kind of! 

The bus takes you to the north bus station, which is years away from wherever your hostel/hotel is. 

You’ll probably have to take a taxi from here. It cost us $10 but will differ depending on where your hostel is. Ask the driver to use the meter, or negotiate a price. In our experience, all of our taxi drivers have quoted the non-meter price to be within about 50 cents of the meter rate. We never felt like anyone was trying to rip us off.

— Cyn

Colombia-Ecuador Land Border Crossing Review

Total for 2 people: $48.00 USD (65.400 COP + $25.50) and 14 hours (spread over 2 days). Way cheaper than flying, if you’ve got the time — or want to see the Las Lajas Sanctuary!

Popayan to Pasto – BUS: 25.000 COP and 5.5 hours

Pasto to Ipiales – BUS: 7.000 COP and 2 hours

Ipiales to Colombia border – COLLECTIVO: 1.400 COP and 10 minutes

Ecuador border to Tulcan – TAXI: $3.50 USD and 20 minutes

Tulcan to Quito – BUS: $6.00 USD and 5.5 hours

North bus terminal to centro historic(ish) – TAXI: $10 and about 30 minutes