I left Chachapoyas around 9 AM headed for Ecuador. I was bound for a new and little used border crossing. Because there isn’t any bus service as yet I had to do the town hopping in collectivos. These are shared taxis that don’t go until full. This area is pretty much all dirt roads. The border crossing is in the central highlands. This area has been a war zone for the past 60 years. It was a border dispute between Peru and Ecuador over land containing, you guessed it, gold and oil (the same thing). Last year they kissed and made up. A peace treaty was signed and an international bridge was built. They haven’t gotten to the roads yet, but both sides are slowly working on it.
The first day was traveling from town to town, waiting at each one for enough passajeros to fill the car. I stayed that night in San Ignacio, a tranquil mountain town. In the morning it was another collectivo to the frontier village of Balsa. Once there, I was stamped out of Peru and walked through no- man’s land into Ecuador. After waiting 45 minutes for the immigration officers to finish their game rummy, I was finally stamped into the country. Within another hour or so, about fifteen people had accumulated. The ranchero, (a large flatbed with a wooden roof, wooden rows of benches and without sides) was fired up and we were off. The road was steep and rough climbing up and out of Balsa. It took 2 hours to travel the 6, as the crow flies, miles to Zumba. From there it was another 7 hours of dirt track on a small bus to the large southern city of Loja. From there after a two hour wait I caught an overnighter to Quito, eleven hours. It was a wonderful nighttime journey, illuminated by a large and very bright full moon. Near Latacunga, a couple of hours south of Quito, the breaking dawn bathed the string of glacier capped volcanoes in a magnificent golden light.
After all is said and done it took two full days to travel 150 air miles to Loja and 11 hours overnight to go the remaining 250 to Quito. It was an exhilarating and beautiful trip.