I have heard nothing but horror stories regarding the border crossing between Ecuador and Peru. Every travel forum on the Internet, every other traveler, every guidebook, everything and everybody warn about this border. During the day is apparently chaotic and confusing. There are people of all types, trying to either sell you stuff, buy your dollars, rob you or scam you some how. All of this goes on as you try to watch out for your bags and pockets and attempt to figure out the logistics of the crossing.
I heard the safest way to do it is to take a direct bus to Mancora on the Peruvian side, so the bus waits at the border while you get your passport stamped, you get back on it and there is no need to grab taxis or buses to get to the other side. The lady at the bus terminal promised me, after I asked her too many times if I had to switch cars at the border, that the whole ordeal would take less than half hour if I travelled at night and that I wouldn’t have to switch buses. So I did. I purchased a ticket to leave Cuenca that same night at nine o’clock.
Well, things didn’t go exactly as the lady told me, but at least it seemed safe and it wasn’t so crazy at night.
We arrived at the border around midnight. We were told to go get our passports stamped and, to my surprise, to take our bags off the bus. We made our way across the highway to the border control and waited half asleep. Then waited some more. All of a sudden, the silence of the night was disrupted by the start of an engine, and before I can even react, it’s gone! The bus was gone! I panicked a little. This bus was mostly filled with foreigners and apparently we were all told the bus wouldn’t leave us. What were we supposed to do on the border after midnight all alone? Where to go? What to do? Where is there another bus? But just as quickly as one left the other one was arriving. So I guess it wasn’t so bad after all. Except the system was down (as it usually happens on the Ecuadorian border every night from midnight to 3 am – another piece of information the lady at the terminal failed to share with me)
At this point I was more than awake. It was an opportunity to get to know other travelers, as we waited for the system to be up again. There were a few German girls, a French couple, two Brazilian guys, one from South Korea, an Ecuadorian, a Chilean and some locals, and I of course, one of the few Colombian backpackers.
We waited around three hours, so we had time to chat a lot and exchange information. I learned that Mancora, although beautiful, is just a party town. I had partied my fair share in Quito and Cuenca and although a party beach town sounded pretty amazing, I knew I had no time to mess around. I am on a really tight schedule. In fact, I freak out about it almost every day. So I changed my plans on the spot and was going to continue all the way to Piura in Peru with the Brazilian guys and then take a direct bus to Lima. This meant a lot of hours on a bus, but it also meant I’d advance a little faster and I wouldn’t be alone the whole time. Rafael, the Ecuadorian guy also decided to change his itinerary and continue with us to Piura and then with me all the way to Lima.
A lot of hours later and having made three new good friends, we were in Lima!