We sat on the Ecuadorian side of the Colombia/Ecuador border, probably the most beautiful of our trip: lush trees and an old, stonework bridge spanned a dramatic gulch, a small tumbling river churned at its bottommost point. I wasn’t looking at that, though. I actually couldn’t see anything around me. My head was between my legs, and I stared at the faded corduroy of our van’s seats, numb to most everything. The van was mounted on top of a tow truck; the fifth of a series of trucks carrying us to and fro in the same 30km radius around Colombia and Ecuador after it had broken down twice. In vain, we’d tried to revive an increasingly crunchy-sounding engine, and failed to inspire it to get us all the way to Quito, where a mechanic friend waited.
Parker, agitated, yelled into the empty, open plaza beside the van. Joel looked at both of us, me trying to divine answers to our current problems from the designs on the top of my tights, and Parker, walking around with his hands clasped on top of his head. Aidan was going in for round three of arguing with the migration official: please, please, please do not make us take this van off the tow truck, just let us in. It does not run; we cannot make it run, if we do, it will ruin our engine. (It was too late for that, though. We didn’t know yet that our engine had already been toast days before, when it first broke down.) We weren’t spared any leniency from Ecuadorian law, though, and had to prove our van could roll into their country on its own.
The van couldn’t exactly do that, and getting it in and out of the parking lot was a mess. One miracle, besides the van starting and then half-lurching to the official waiting 500 meters away, was that our truck driver didn’t abandon us. The bemused expression that had become fixed to his face while watching our struggle play out hadn’t changed, either. Sandy didn’t continue her entrance into Ecuador completely on her own, and we tried to stay out of sight of the official who’d inspected our car while mustering enough oomph to push it away from a building that we’d rapidly come to hate. Our driver remounted our van onto the large truck bed without any outward signs of judgment.
The border experience was the beginning of a long, protracted process that offered no excitement: it culminated in hours and hours spent on trips to the aduana, the inner workings of which are generally not committed to travel blogs because they’re brutal, and not in an adventurous way that makes a great story. Regardless, this is a part of our story we’ve been relieved to be able to share. Not only is it cathartic for us, and helps keep things in perspective, but it’s also real. If we had been able to make it to Argentina incident-free, things would have been too breezy to earn the title of adventure.
Thank you for the all the support we got after the big breakdown, the messages of encouragement were lovely to receive. And, if you’re departing on a journey of your own, here is the sincerest wish of luck from us that you can make it somewhat graciously through your own bumps. We can’t wait to hear your stories.
--Aidan and Madison