On the final day Amilkar lets us ride in the front cab with him. He explains that the police are “tranquillo” in the south and so will not pull us over. The cabin is pimped out. I am talking disco pimped. The seats and dash are covered with thick white fur as is the floor, and the walls are studded with jewels. After a long day of Spanish, Jenga and discargar Amilkar puts his 1990s mix CD on. This confirms once and for all that Colombia truly is in 1994 – think mullets, track suits leisurewear and Friends. At 7pm we arrive in Amilkar’s home town, Ipiales. Amilkar then gives us an alpaca hat and fleece blanket as he is worried we will be cold in Ecuador and Peru and then takes us to our couchsurf host by taxi. Amilkar is truly one of the most selfless and genuine people I have ever been lucky enough to meet. We both agree we must find Jenga and get it to him on our way back up to Colombia.
Our couch surf host is called Alvaro and is an experienced host. His profile explains that many surfers volunteer in his English school and stay for longer that expected. He is confident and does all the talking, telling us about his English school, his travels and his town. He does not seem to fully listen to us but is offering us a bed and so we continue to be grateful. We explained to Alvaro that we will be leaving early the next day to reach the border but are talked into volunteering at his English school.
The next day everyone has left when we awake and we hurry out to start our 8am classes. After the first hour lesson we discover there are seven more and that the day does not end until gone 6pm. Although the kids are lovely, we decide to bolt at midday as we feel tricked into working under the guise of couch surfing and are late to meet our actual Workaway host Dave. As Anthony explains our situation to Alvaro, he turns nasty and suddenly calls someone on his phone refusing to say good bye or anything else to us. We escape and walk to the Colombian/Ecuadorian border.
As it turns out, the Colombia-Ecuador boarder is an open bridge with an immigration building either side which you can walk right through without being stopped by anyone. We get our first hitch of Ecuador within five minutes in the back of a pick up truck. Two rides later we get stuck in a small town and spend the next two hours waiting. Finally a young guy picks us up. We are his first hitchhikers and he is weary at first. He drives fast and regularly overtakes a car overtaking another car on a blind corner. Yeah that’s right three cars going the same direction on a two lane road at high speed around a corner.
But I cannot complain as we reach Ibarra in record time and by now he has relaxed a lot and is genuinely concerned about our welfare that evening. He calls some of his friends who have gardens to see if they will let us camp the night, but unfortuntly no one is able to host us. Instead he finds a quiet park in a safe neighbourhood that is good for camping.
Normally a park in a city this big would scare the shit out of me, but this was a nice park that backed into a gorge with a lowered platform perfect for camping. We arrived at 7 pm just as a volley ball match began. It was a three on three with a ridiculously high net. We decide to wait for them to finish so we can pitch the tent when no one is there. For the next three hours we witness the most intense high power game of volley outside the Olympic Village. At 9 pm the Ecuadorians were still playing one of the hardest games of volley I have ever seen. Round after round they smash the ball over the net. By 10 pm they are beginning to wind down and we decide to pitch the tent. When we are in the tent rady for bed we finally hear them leave.
The following day we leave early and get a ride all the way to Quito, quickly followed by a ride to Tumbaco, and then Collaqui to David’s house. After nine days, over 1500kms, eight hitches, four hours of intense volley and zero money we make it. Our hitchhike from the very north of Colombia to Ecuador is complete. Boom!