Border CrossingsColombiaEcuadorTravelling

The Venezuelan refugee stream

shadows on the road - venezuelan refugee stream

Our overlanding down days faded away in the Colombian mountains. Driving at night it came a little unexpected, when the road suddenly started climbing. Our navigation app Maps.me shows us a lot of information, but not the altitude. What Maps.me also didn’t show us, is that we were following the Venezuelan refugee stream as well..

As soon as we got to higher elevations, we were more in our element in the mountains, the surroundings improved massively and the temperatures dropped. Most people would maybe not have enjoyed this, but we were happy it got colder. One of the biggest challenges so far had been the heat, which we’re not used to. Layla was probably the happiest, since she had probably suffered the most.

With hikes and Colombian coffee we continued our journey towards Ecuador. Unfortunately due to the bad road situation and our limited time we had to skip the route we had planned. We had no other option then sticking to the main roads leading to Ecuador. This was regretful, but we were on a mission to get to the Chilean winter (in time) and the holiday came second.

But, like somebody famous once said: Every disadvantage has an advantage too.* In this case the traffic being so slow, sometimes only doing between 20 and 30km/h on average, we had plenty of time to enjoy the beautiful scenery.

The border

The border to Ecuador was one not to forget, and not only because it was much easier than the borders in Central America. But we were confronted with the Venezuelan migration problem. On the way towards the border we had seen refugees from Venezuela, but most of them would have gone unnoticed by us since you can’t tell from the outside. At the border, it was tragic to see people who had left their country with everything the owned in a few bags. We had never seen something like this before so close. Totally different to when you see it on the news.

It was well organised, the border area was basically converted in a big refugee camp. People sleeping everywhere, using their bags as pillows and blankets And again, nothing we could do. We camped outside the building on a parking, since there were so many people we thought to go unnoticed. We parked on the only available parking spot, which we later realised was a designated parking for the local authorities.

We went unnoticed for those authorities, or at least nobody said a word. But some people approached us as if we were the local authorities and asking us questions. We were assuming due to the appearance from Grisu, rather than the parking location.

Bananas

We had a great time in Ecuador, lots of little hot spots and things to see. Nice people, good roads and little tolls. And Grisu achieved two (phycological) milestones; He reached an altitude higher than the Großglockner** and we crossed the equator.

It also felt like we passed every banana tree on the planet. It made us realise why on almost all the bananas you buy it a sticker with “Ecuador”, there was no end. Ecuador is, in fact, the world’s biggest banana exporter with over 5 million tonnes of bananas exported every year. But unfortunately, we haven’t eaten any bananas since.. because seeing how they grow was rather disgusting. Polluted soil with garbage (landfill) burning right next to the plantation didn’t improve our appetite.

Although less present, but still moving together with the Venezuelan refugee stream we continued down south towards the Peruvian border..

*The famous football player Johan Cruijff.
**Austria’s highest mountain with 3798 meters.

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