Wednesday, May 23, 2012

X-3 Pasto Firestation

After taking the bus to the end of the line Hitchwiki says to take another bus to the first peáge, but there's a petrol station a few meters away. Shortly after we were going to Calderón, a nearby city. From there we walked "2 km" to the peáge. Walking there, we stopped in a restaurant to fill up our bottles and empty our bladders. I asked how far was the peáge and the guy told to go with him, he was going to show you. That didn't sound promising. I think the damn peáge was 20 kilometers away!  Hitched there and almost inmmediately found a ride to Otavalo (famous for its market and handycrafts). Then a slow but nice rider (not on the highway) ride to Ibarra. Ibarra is big si I convince the guy to leave us at the end of town. I was opening a can of peaches that Sofi gave us when Paula found a ride, we were eating in a police checkpoint in the middle of nowhere. It was getting late. I wanted to reach Pasto the same day but it seemed  that we weren't  going to make, we were still far (in South American terms) from the border. I started thumbing but nothing happened. No one stopped. Paula started thumbing and found a ride with a trucker and his girlfriend. I thought  in a split second that it was better not to take the ride and wait for (fast) car, but then again, it was in a split second and we were riding the truck. We talked about it inside and decided to change rides. We were in a petrol station somewhere when I found a ride to the border city of Tulcán. I was running to tell Paula when she told me that she also found a ride. We chose the back seat of a recent Kia Sorento instead of the back of the pickup.

The guy was driving fast but it was late. It was already dark by the time we made to Tulcán. After some time I thought no one was going to stop, who would pick up to people stading on the side of the road, at night? Suddenly, a pick up stopped and drove us the last 9 kilometers separating us from the border. We made it to Colombia the same day but Pasto was still some 80 kilometers away. We thumbed at the border check point, nothing. One of the border officers told me that no one was going to take us to Pasto, everybody was going to Ipiales. A couple of cars stopped and I said "Pasto" but they were going to Ipiales. We kept trying but it seemed that his words were true. We took the next that was willing to take us. Once in Ipiales, after thumbing for a while we reached the conclusion that we will have to spend the night there. It was cold. We went to the local firestation and they let us sleep in a dirty old wooden house. There was no way to sleep on the floor, it was filthy and there was waste. Luckily I have a hammock.

Leaving Ipiales was harder than I thought. It took us a few hours. Then I saw a petrol station not far. We started to walk towards it when a car stopped  (with Cali license plates) beside us and asked me if I knew where Pasto was. "Yes, I know where Pasto is. We are going there, can you take us?" After maybe 3-4 hours we were finally moving. But the happiness of getting closer to the firestation didn't last long because the car broke down and some thing was burning under the hood. The driver call road assitance and after about three more hours we were being towed away to the town of Pedregal. We were halfway to Pasto. Despite what the mechanic said, Pedregal was NOT good a place. Paula was thumbing on the right side of the road while I was on the left (under the shade) when a car stopped and Paula called me. The two guys inside didn't like the fact that she was with me. They asked us for money. I said tht we were getting off immediately and they left us in a actually not bad place to keep hitching: before a bridge that was under reparations, there was only one side available so cars had to stop. my personal experience with this kind of place is good. I've found a couple of good rides in places like these. This one was not going to be the exception because we found a ride shortly after. I made sure to tell that we didn't have money to pay for the ride. About an hour later we were standing outside Pasto's  football stadium. From there is was only a couple of kilometers walk uphill to the firestation.

We got to the X-3 Pasto Firestation and what a welcome! I felt right at home! Jhon (he spells it that way), one of the firemen is the one we talk to the most. He gave an original battery for my Nokia phone. They said (again) that we can stay for as long as we wanted. Jhon even offered me to get the vaccine certificate that by the way, the people at the border (don't know which one) made sure to lose the receipt I had.

Since Pasto is not very big and we don't have the money for buses we spend a lot of time inside the firestation. We only took a few short walks around. We only went to the center once. Going to the shop we hitched a ride in the station's ambulance. They were going when I asked them if it was Ok to ride with them. Another first for Colombia. We hitched again the ambulance the day after coming back from the center.

Going South, to Ecuador, the firestation is in the perfect place: in the South of town. But going North, to Popayán/Cali...

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