Flipping through my journal the other day, I came across an entry dated 08 May 2013. The previous day, after an amazing week in Galapagos, our traveller family parted ways in Puerto Ayora. A taxi, ferry, flight, and several teary goodbyes later, my travel mate Matthias and I found ourselves in the bus terminal in Guayaquil, Ecuador waiting for our night bus (US$17) to Mancora, Peru.
Travel tip: In Guayaquil, the bus terminal and the airport are about 15 minutes apart on foot. No need to take a taxi, unless it’s night time. On the top floor of the bus terminal there’s free wifi.
The bus journey started just like any other: waiting at the bus stand, loading backpacks into the luggage hold, checking tickets, finding our seats. And since we were crossing an international border, the bus attendant gave us immigration forms to fill out as well. Sleep came over me as soon as the bus started moving.
When he returned with a police officer and beckoned me to another desk…
Even in deep sleep your body can sense changes in your environment. The bus rolled to a stop at the border station. It’s 4 in the morning. Exiting Ecuador was no problem at all. But after several minutes waiting for the Peruvian immigration official to stamp me in, I sensed something was not right. He told me to wait and walked out of the building. This, I thought, can’t be good. When he returned with a police officer and beckoned me to another desk I didn’t panic but my heart rate definitely paced up.
The police officer put my details into the computer and had a stern look on his face. Then he pointed at the screen and asked if that was me. There was no picture on the computer, just this:
Name: Steve _some chinese name_ Chen | Nationality: Canada.
Thankfully, that wasn’t me. But my words weren’t enough to convince him. Then again, I don’t think my mohawk was lending much credibility.
The police officer led me out of the immigration office and into the police station. There was no one in there but me and him. At this point, I was really starting to get worried. Scenes from “Locked Up Abroad” flashed through mind. We went through the name game a few more times on the computer. Then he had me write down my parent’s names, my place and date of birth and other personal details on a sheet of paper a few times. He was actually a nice guy and wasn’t aggressive with me, but he had a job to do. And eventually I convinced him that I wasn’t Canadian.
Mind you, this all happened in Spanish.
The police officer led me back into the immigration office once he had all the paperwork. He gave a nod to the immigration officer and said that I’m good to go. Whew! It turns out everyone else was already back on the bus a long time ago. My ordeal lasted over an hour. Matthias asked me what happened. We were both weary from lack of sleep and I was even more weary from nearly being denied entry into the country. I gave him a quick summary and nodded off to the hum of tire on tar.
A few hours later we were dropped in Mancora. The tuk tuk drivers here are almost as bad as in India. They rushed us the moment we stepped off the bus and wouldn’t let up. Seriously, f*ck off! After 10 minutes of walking we arrived at the hostel. Tired, sleepy, and glad to not be stuck at the border.
As for the Canadian Steve Chen, he’s still wanted by Peru’s Ministry of Justice. That bastard.