Equator Gringos

December 15, 2007

Nightmare starts to great trips

Filed under: Ecuador — Tags: , , , , , — lstollin @ 1:28 pm

We seem to have a knack for bad starts to weekend trips. A month ago on our way to Tena (Monkey Town) to hang out and go rafting, we traveled through Quito in a heavy rainstorm to catch a bus for the “five hour trip.” Once we were finally on the bus, there were at least two mudslides on the highway to Tena, one resulting in an hour-plus delay. The second forced our driver into a sideways powerslide-stop mere feet from two cars blocking both lanes (both cars stopped to figure out how they were going to get through the mudslide). The cars had no lights on, so they weren’t visible from any distance.

That was perhaps the worst of it in terms of danger, but arriving in the wee hours of the morning to Tena, we were the last to get off the bus, and incredibly discovered that our bags were no longer there. No one quite knew what to do, so the driver motioned us back on the bus and we rode around the deserted streets looking for signs of our bags. No luck. Exhausted and still in shock back at the bus station, we began tallying what we would need to replace the next morning, what we could live without, and the monetary and functional value of it all. At this point a pickup loaded with probably 15 people came tearing in to the parking lot saying they’d found a bag among their things that wasn’t theirs! So my pack was recovered, but not Joy’s. The driver told his assistant to get on the pickup with them (now 16 people?) to see if Joy’s bag could be found. Ten minutes later at least as many people returned with Joy’s bag. When they’d gotten off the bus, this giant extended family had just said, “all those bags are ours.” The bags had not been opened and everything was perfectly intact. The rest of the weekend was awesome, as recorded in Monkey Town.

Over Thanksgiving weekend, Joy’s dad and stepmom Earl and Ellen were here, and we decided to avoid the 12-hour bus ride to Cuenca by flying. But we found out that even when flying you can still have an epic journey. We arrived at the airport at about noon to find that our flight had been canceled due to a rainstorm earlier that day. Instead, they put us on standby for a 5:00 flight. The four of us sat in the airport from 1:00 on, keeping our fingers crossed – as fog shut down the entire airport for an hour or more. Finally, we boarded at 6:30 and by 8:00 we found ourselves crammed in a taxi en route in the rain from the airport to our hotel.

But it was not to be “our hotel.” The highly recommended, restored 100-year-old mansion hotel had no record of my telephone reservation made a month before, and no rooms for the night or the rest of the weekend. They dug around and uncovered the note documenting our phone call on their computer, but no action had been taken beyond referencing the conversation. The hotels we called from their lobby were all booked as well, until we found a cheap gringo backpacker hotel (my kind of place – $20 for a double with breakfast included!) a mere nine hours after our trip began. But my in-laws aren’t really the backpacker sort, so the next day we moved to a higher end hotel – a gorgeously restored old mansion. We ended up having a great time in Cuenca, which you’ll doubtless get to read about soon.

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