Approaching a tiny border crossing between Ecuador and Peru, we watched the morning mist roll up the foothills of the Andes. This was on the Amazon side, and the sticky heat was already rising. Lush green palm tree leaves glistened with the morning dew.
On the Ecuadorian side, things went smoothly. The immigration officer, hiding in front of a fan in a small ramshackle hut, stamped our passports while the customs official checked our bike papers. We could see a half-open door behind the immigration officer's desk; there was a bare bed and some clothes on the floor. It seemed the officials worked and lived in the same building.
Before we left, the immigration officer asked to take a photo with us. Putting his most official and forbidding expression on, he pretended to check our passports again as the customs man took the photo. "For the bosses, you know?", - the officer winked, laughing, and lifted the border barrier - a long bamboo tied down with a piece of string.
On the Peruvian side, nobody was smiling. The heat was stifling now; the Peruvian immigration officers sat in a small converted container. One was wearing the official uniform, the other, just a colorful T-shirt. Next to their desk was a small cubicle with a tiny little woman behind it; she was a nurse checking the obligatory vaccination documents.
As we gave our passports to Creasy Uniform and Funny Shirt, it started to rain. The computer screen on their desk froze.
"When it rains, our systems slows down. Way down", - Funny Shirt explained. Having leafed through our passports, the officers placed them on the table and sat scrolling on their phones.
The was no fan or air conditioning in the office. The rain did little to reduce the heat; we sat there in our full riding gear, boiling in our own juice.
Creasy Uniform yawned.
Ten, fifteen, twenty minutes went by. The computer system was still down. We asked if we could go do the motorcycles' paperwork in the meantime.
"No, you have to do this first", - Funny Shirt said abruptly.
I went outside. The rain kept drizzling on. On the other side of the road, there was a lonely kiosk selling Peruvian soles, dollars, candy, tobacco, and lottery tickets. I went over to get some Peruvian money and spotted a small fridge full of ice cream. Salvation! Buying a heap in different flavors, I went back into the immigration building and gave some of the ice cream to the officers and the little tired nurse.
For a while, we all sat eating the icy goodness. Creasy Uniform got some melted ice cream over his fingers and licked them one by one, suddenly looking like a little boy.
"I think it's best if I take photos of your passports, stamp them and let you go, and then I'll just enter everything into the system once the system, you know, kicks back to life!", - Funny Shirt suddenly announced. Creasy Uniform smiled and nodded in agreement.
As he was taking a photo of my passport, Funny Shirt stained it a little with vanilla ice cream. He wiped it off with the back of his hand.
We said our goodbyes like old friends.
The rain kept falling.