December 3, 2018: Leaving Cuenca

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My flight was not until 8pm. I had planned on spending the whole day packing and cleaning. I was glad that I had been able to spend the night before wandering around town for a last look. At 6pm, I slid the keys to my condo under the door, and went down to the street. The airport was only a 45 minute walk from the condo, but I had decided to take a taxi, and was leaving myself plenty of time to find one.

Standing on the street with my backpack and tote bag, I congratulate myself for being a minimalist traveler, not for the first time. I had noticed in my first days in Cuenca that people didn’t flag down cabs in the New York City maner of waving an arm well above their head. In Cuenca, a person stood on the sidewalk, and held their arm down at a 45 degree angle from the body and with the palm of their hand facing their leg, flapped the hand toward the ground.

One day I saw a young couple, who looked local, waving down a taxi in the New York manner. And old man stopped and was fussing at them. Though I couldn’t follow every thing he said, I could tell he thought they exceptionally rude to be waving their arms around like that. It made an impression on me, so the only two times I had to wave a taxi down, I made sure that I did it with the accepted from.

Within two minutes of my pulling the building door closed four taxis came by. The first three had passengers and the fourth one stopped for me. The taxi ride was two dollars. As we were going down a street, a police officer stepped into our lane and stopped the car. I was thinking, “Oh, no, this isn’t the time to have a problem.” The officer spoke too the driver quickly for me to follow, but then waved us into what looked like a side street. Still thinking we were being pulled over for some sort of screening, it took me a moment, to realize that the police officer was stopping everyone before they drove into the airport drive.

The airport drive can be clearly seen in this photo.

Inside the airport I found myself confused with the automatic check-in kiosk. It didn’t scan your passport or credit card to call up your reservation. I didn’t have my reservation code for the local partner airline, only the one for Delta. I broke down and checked in at the counter. That was a bit of a mistake. They weighed my bag, something that wouldn’t have happened if I had gone with it to the gate. My bag weighed 10 kilos (22 pounds). I had to check it since the airline’s weight limit for carry one was 8 kilos (17.6 pounds).

I could have found about five pounds of stuff to move to my under the seat bag and return it to my backpack at the gate, but I actually wanted to see how the stuff sack for my backpack would hold up to baggage handlers. I slipped the sack out from the side pouch of the backpack, where it is always kept at the ready. Slipping my pack into it, I secured the sack with a heavy wire tie. Wire ties are also kept in the side pocket.

I felt quite light as I headed to the gate, sans backpack. While I had been waiting in line to check in I had struck up a conversation with an American couple, who I ran into at the gate. They were surprised at how fast I had checked my bag and boogied down to the gate, arriving well before them. We spent the time before our flight swapping travel stories. The husband took one of my business cards, which advertise my novels. He must have bought one, since I got a small royalty this month.

I was surprised to be taken on the airplane right after first class. I guess it is a benefit from booking on the partner airline. As I sat in my seat watching the others board, I was a little irritated to see people bring on pelican cases, which I knew from owning one, weighted nearly fourteen pounds empty. Then I had to laugh when I saw a young man carrying on an old fashioned cheese grater mac.

No kidding, this is what he was carrying!

The flight from Cuenca to Quito was short. I ran into the couple again as we were claiming our bags. As soon as I got mine off the belt, I realized that I had not put the small clippers I use to cut wire ties into my shoulder bag. Gripping the backpack’s carry handles through the nylon of the stuff sack, I went around the airport asking for something to cut the wire tie with. I was surprised that it only took me three tries to find some scissors. It was at the information desk. The man manning the desk looked on with amusement as I freed my backpack, hoisted it onto my back and made my way to the security access point.

I caught up with the couple there, and they told me that we couldn’t go into the secure area of the airport until 10:30 pm. From my previous layover in Quito, I knew that the sleep lounge was across the street in the other building. I said my goodbyes, not to see them again, and headed to the other building.

I didn’t go straight to the lounge. Since I hadn’t got a walk in that day, I walked back and forth in the building until my Apple Watch gave me full credit for the day. There really wasn’t enough time for me to sleep, but I went into the lounge and settled down at a table in the coffee area, to wait for 10:30pm. To pass the time I texted my ex. My T-Mobile unlimited data and Viber makes it easy to message back and forth as much as we like.

That exchange launched us into talking about my upcoming flight to Mexico, before we returned to the current flights.

After we finished texting, so that he could go to bed, I hung out in the lounge until it was time to check in for my flight to Atlanta. Before leaving the lounge, I made sure I had all the information I needed to check in at one of the auto check-ins. The kiosks were used by all the airlines, so I was a confused for a moment. I asked a guard, and pointed out that there was no waiting line at the manned counters. I said, “No quiero gente. Quiero automático.” He let me know that the machines were for “todas las aerolíneas”.

The wait for the flight wasn’t long, since I had lingered in the lounge past 10:30. Once I had boarded I found that the flight was pretty empty. Few of the center seats were filled. I got some sleep on the flight. I was pleasantly surprised that the airline provided a very good sandwich, free of charge. I could have also asked for a cheese plate, but since cheese plates often have fruit, which I can’t eat on them, I opted for the sandwich.

On arrival in the US, I grabbed my backpack and shoulder bag, and headed out to customs and immigration. I went to the Global entry kiosk. As soon as I got my receipt from the kiosk, I was waved by a TSA agent into a line. I was in the line for some minutes before I realized that no one other than me was carrying a Global Entry recept. I ducked under the ropes and headed out, waving my receipt at another TSA agent, who pointed me to an exit door.

Outside that door, I found international baggage claim. As I headed to the next exit door, another uniformed person, reminded me to get my checked bags before exiting the secure area. I smiled and said, “I am carrying everything I own.” He said, “That is cool. I wish I could live like that!” Okay, so there is that bag at friend’s house in Houston, and my storage unit in Honolulu, but it is close enough to being true.

At the Atlanta Airport, there is no walkway running between the international gates and the main terminal. I took the train over to the main terminal and got of at the first stop so that I could walk to my next gate and get my day’s exercise in, and not have to worry about taking my friend’s dog for a walk when I got to Houston. It was a nice half a mile walk, one way. I say one way, because when I got to my gate I found out that the Priority lounge near my gate was a sleep lounge.

I walked back through the tunnel between terminals to the point where I had to take the train, to return to the lounge near the gate I had arrived at. The food at the lounge was just as bad as you would expect at a lounge in an American airport, but the coffee and small snacks were very good. I had a few interesting conversations with my fellow travelers. At least, I thought they were interesting, the others might have been too polite to indicated that they were bored stiff.

I was having a conversation with a young woman about the snacks, and the shame that the gummy bears were not THC gummies, when we were joined by a young man, who I assumed was her boyfriend. He was a bit of a bore. She started to talk about going to take a shower. Not wanting to be left talking to him when she went, I wandered away. It was then that I saw that memosias were being served at the bar. I went and got one.

While I was sipping my drink, the young woman came past with wet hair, and said that the lounge shower rooms were great, and encouraged me to take advantage of them. Finishing my cocktail, I did just that. It was the first time I had ever used the shower rooms in an airport lounge. It was very nice. After I was finished I returned to the lounge and thanked they young woman for her advice. I noticed that the man was sitting quite a ways from her. She saw were I was looking, and admitted that she had gone to the shower to get away from that creepy guy. Oops, good thing I didn’t ask her about her boyfriend!

As I walked back to my gate, every time I passed a boarding point for the train, I checked my watch to make sure I still had plenty of time to keep walking. When I got to the gate, the boarding was just beginning. I don’t usually talk to my seat mates, byond a few short pleasantries, but on the flight to Houston, the woman next to me was very interesting. Before I knew it, the plane was on the ground and I was texting my friend that we had landed. She was in the cell phone lot, and told me she would meet me at the curb. Since I had no checked bags, she was pulling up just as I got there.

Categories: Americas, Ecuador, TravelTags: , , , , , , ,

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