It had barely been twenty minutes and we were stopped. The bus route did take us very close to the Colombian border and I should have been used to it by now, but this was a full on military operation.
We filed off of the bus, extranjeros directed one way, Ecuadorians the other, all checked before being allowed to progress to the ‘other side’. Us tourists got a more official interrogation, having to give details and sign official paperwork, and for the first time my photocopied passport wasn’t accepted. In fact, the guard was completely unamused by it, so I scrabbled about in my bag for the real one and then once I was given the nod, squeezed in among the Ecuadorians hugging the small strip of shade by the wall. The Israeli boys got a tough time but finally were let through what felt more and more like a border crossing.
The second stop came fifteen minutes later, with some guys in uniform sternly shouting everyone off as the others stood around stiffly, shortened M16 rifles slung across their chests. Males and females were split up and I got stuck behind three teenage girls who were given an intense, extended grilling. Maybe they are the most likely drug mules? I imagined being fifteen and flattered by an older guy, my moral compass not yet fully secure. It could seem exciting at that age, like the stuff of movies, and the potential repercussions would seem unimaginable, so unlikely to actually happen. Recently I read up on the women’s prison in Quito where many of the girls are in for drug trafficking. Many of them state being coerced into carrying huge stashes of drugs, putting themselves in a vulnerable situation, both legally and health-wise (think condoms crammed with coke stashed inside their bodies).
Back to the military stop and the hot sun on the road from Lago Agrio, and the girls were allowed back on to the bus. The men in uniform barely glanced at my passport this time around. It was nice to not feel suspected for once.