A friend treated me to a trip to the Galápagos Islands. That was really kind of her, since I really can’t afford to do things like that. That being said, I will write this post as if I where the one paying for everything. I don’t want to give the reader an unrealistic idea of the costs of this vacation.
The day before I was due to leave Arequipa for the Galapagos I contacted my landlady to let her know that I was going, and to ask her if she could arrange for a taxi at 6:15 the next morning. I was expecting a friend to join me in Arequipa after my vacation, so I spent the rest of the day cleaning the apartment, dreaming of the day when I can afford to hire a weekly maid. I had meant to go shopping so that there would be food and drink ready for us when I returned home, but I didn’t have the time. I promised myself that I would go to the store as soon as I got home. Going to bed early, I woke up way before my normal time to pack my electronics.
When I originally planned the vacation, I had the idea of traveling very light leaving most of my stuff, including my laptop, in the apartment in Arequipa. After I went through the problem with my Peruvian visa [click here for that story]. If I hadn’t spotted that my visa was only for 90 days, I would have left Peru, with and expired visa and might not have been let back in. Even after extending my visa, I was more cautious and packed up everything I owned to go with me to Ecuador. Of course I didn’t take things I will be leaving in the apartment when I fly to Honolulu in March.
The night before my flight, the landlady’s brother told me to meet him outside my front door in the morning, and he would arrange for the taxi. When I finished the last bit of packing, I weighed my bags, to make sure that they met the strict weight limits that LATAM Airlines occasionally enforces. My backpack came in under 8 kilos and the computer bag just under 5 kilos. I was good to go.
I stepped out of my door right at 0615, just as he was stepping in through the front gate. I could see the waiting taxi behind him. He told me to pay only s/11 and shoed me into the taxi. I am still steaming about the s/20 soles, I was charged when I first came to town, for the ride from the airport.
I chatted to the cab driver all the way to the airport. I have found that if I say, “I am sorry but I speak little Spanish,” folks don’t try to talk to me. If I continue, telling them that I study every day, but learn little, and that I am living in Arequipa for five months, then they talk a lot. They tend to slow down how fast they speak and work with me to remember the right words, and correct me when I am wrong. I have learned more from cabdrivers and cashiers than I have ever learned in language classes.
Arequipa to Lima
I arrived at the airport in plenty of time. By 0644, I was checked in, past security, and in the airport lounge. Not very many people were around that early in the morning. Some of the folks on the Expat Facebook group had told me that because of the miners going back and forth from work, the airport would be crowded. I think they might have thought I was traveling on Friday.
There is only one Priority Pass Lounge in Arequipa Rodriguez Ballon International. It is nice for such a small airport. The Priority Pass App indicated that alcoholic drinks are subject to payment. I think that must be for drinks from the bar, since there were bottles of beer in the cooler alongside the soft-drinks and water.
Once in the priority lounge I got some coffee from the automatic coffee machine, which had seen better days. For most of the time I was the only person there. I was able to turn the TV near me off, so I could just read my Kindle. I drank enough coffee to be happy and ate a little bit of the food. It wasn’t very good. I looked longingly at the beer, but it was too early even for me.
As I sat on the plane waiting for take off, I was surprised at how heavy the rain was. I could barely see out the windows. It didn’t even cross my mind that while we sat the powers-that-be had been considering canceling the flight. I only found out about that many days later. The uneventful flight from Arequipa to Lima was less than two hours. I was surprised that we were served a little sandwich marked “coffee break” with our coffee. I was reading a very interesting book, so the time passed very quickly.
The layover in Lima was a little over two hours. I now try to book my flights to have two or three hour layovers, and even longer when I have to pass through immigration control. Luckily, I had spent enough time in the Lima airport to know my way around, and was quickly ensconced in my next priority lounge.
This was my first time flying international from the Lima Jorge Chavez International. There are two restaurants and two lounges, which participate in the Priority Pass program. I had only been in the one for domestic flights before. The Hanaq VIP Lounge for international travelers is so huge, it really doesn’t do the one thing I like about lounges. It doesn’t get me away from the crowds and especially children. It even has a big children’s play area inside the lounge.
I didn’t go wondering around much, so I didn’t see it all. I wanted to stay in sight of my bags at all times because of the crowds. I ate my lunch in the lower food area. The food was pretty good, but didn’t come up to what I experienced in some EU airports. After I ate I took my bags and went up to the second floor where there was a bar and another food area. The bar limited you to one drink, and I didn’t find any beer at the food lines. I think that next time I go through I will try out the La Bonbonniere restaurant, which is in the program.
Lima to Ecuador
When I got to the gate, I was one of the last to board, but I didn’t have trouble finding a place for my bag in the overhead. It was just before noon when I took my seat. Once again I saw the reason for carrying a soft backpack. There were two hard-side suitcases in the bin over my seat, with no room for a third. I stuffed my soft bag between them. Thanks Rick Steves. My inexpensive Rick Steves bag is holding up well to all the travel and can fit just about anywhere.
The plane was kept waiting because of a delayed flight, which had passengers connecting to our flight. It wasn’t very long, about a half an hour, but it seemed like forever. I was bemused that after all my concern over the weight of my small bags, that folks were wrestling huge bags onto the plane, which were so big that they could only fit sideways into the overhead bins.
The flight to Guayaquil was a bit longer than the one to Lima, but it too was uneventful. During the flight I changed the money in my ready purse from Soles to USD, since the currency used in Ecuador is the US dollar. When I got off the airplane, there was a very rude man, who I am pretty sure was an expat, who pushed past me. I ‘accidentally’ stepped on his foot a few times on the way out.
Though it was the first time I had been in the Guayaquil airport, it seemed very familiar. None of the lines were very long and I made it to passport control quickly. Just as I was heading for the next available agent, that same rude man jumped out from another line and cut me off. He was quickly intercepted and pointed to the back of the line. I think he had come through the line for Ecuadorian citizens, and when he was booted out of it he thought he could just hop into the front of the line of foreigners. The guard had other ideas.
I guess I shouldn’t have trod on his foot before, because karma raised its ugly head and slapped me in the face just then. The agent at the desk was very nice and seemed quite pleased that I spoke some Spanish. After he scanned my passport and started tapping away at his computer, his smile faded. What follows is the conversation as well as I can remember it. (It was in Spanish, with a lot of repeating and trying of different words, but this is what it boiled down to in English.)
”Ma’am, you were in Ecuador in 2018?”
“Yes, sir, I lived in Cuenca for three months.”
“Did you pay a fine when you left, for overstaying your visa?”
“No, I overstayed my visa?” I said, feeling the blood drain from my face.
“Yes, you were here for 91 days, your visa was for 90.”
“I had no idea! Why didn’t they tell me when I left?”
“I don’t know, ma’am. wait here. I will be back.”
The man left and was gone for quite some time. When he came back our conversation resumed.
“There are two things you can do. You can fly back to Peru today, Or you can pay the fine.”
“I will pay the fine,” I said, with assurance. after all I couldn’t let my friend down. She had gone to all the trouble and expense for me to have this vacation. It bothered me that the look on the man’s face was so stricken and concerned when I said that I would pay.
“Just how much is the fine?” I asked.
I stood there for a moment thinking. I thought about how much money my friend was out, how much money I was out for the things I was paying for, none of which was refundable, and then wondered if I would ever have another chance to go to the Galapagos again. Finally I thought over my budget. My budget is planned out for all of 2020, and well into 2021. I had earmarked some money for a new iPhone in 2020, That much would cover the fine, and then some. No new phone this year.
“I will pay the fine,” I said.
“Are you sure?” he asked, the look of concern on his face becoming graver. “Wait here,” he said and went off again.
“When are you leaving for the Galapagos? and when are you returning to the mainland and flying to Lima?” he asked when he resumed his seat.
I told him and he headed back to the office he had been to before.
When he came back he had a form, which he showed to me without giving it to me. the exact amount of the fine was $788.
“Today is Saturday, tomorrow is Sunday, so you will not be able to pay your fine until Monday. What you will have to do is go to the Banco del Pacifico on Monday. Take this form with you and pay the fine. They will give you a receipt you will take to the Migracion office.”
“But I am going to be flying tomorrow!”
“You can do this on the Galapagos,” he assured me. “What island will you be on?”
I showed him what was in the Tripit app.
“Oh, you are going to Baltra Island the banks and Migracion offices are on Santa Cruz and San Cristobal islands you will have to take a boat over. Don’t worry there are lots of ferries between all the islands.”
He still held the form, as if he didn’t want to give it to me.
“Are you sure that you want to pay the fine. If you just go back to Peru, you can come back after December 4th this year and not pay a fine at all.”
It turns out that if you don’t pay the fine you are banned from entering Ecuador for two years. And my two years would be over on the day he mentioned. I thought for a moment more and said, “I have to pay for it. When will I ever have another chance to go to the Galapagos?”
“Okay, but please, please pay the fine. If you don’t I will get into a lot of trouble letting you travel on now,” he said. I could tell by the look on his face, he wasn’t kidding.
I was feeling pretty crappy as I left the airport. The only bright point was that since I didn’t have checked bags I didn’t have to go searching for what happened to my bags while I was held up at immigration.
I was rather tired when I got out of the terminal. All I wanted to do was get to the hotel and take a nap. It was raining when I stepped out. The taxis were right there, so it wasn’t an issue. My hotel wasn’t far from the airport so a short $5.00 cab ride and I was there. $5.00 wasn’t much to pay for another very useful Spanish lesson from a cab driver.
It took a while to check in because I had to convince the clerk that my room was paid for in advance. After I got double charged for my room in Indianapolis that time, I am being more careful. The Hotel’s website made it seem like new modern hotel. It was pretty standard old fashioned two star hotel. I went up to my room and found it wasn’t what had been reserved, so I went back down and got a key to a different room. That one was okay. The bed was nice and hard, just as I like. I wasn’t every impressed with the hotel in general, but of course that might have just been my black mood.
The restaurant at the hotel had high ratings, so I was looking forward to having dinner there. I wasn’t hungry yet so I got all my electronics charging and logged onto the internet. I was cheered by a message from my real estate agent that we would soon be closing on some properties, which I have been trying to unload. When all is said and done, I will have lost about 75% of my investment. I plan to invest what remains in some mutual funds and hope that by the time I need more income it will have gown enough to provide some. While it wasn’t a good outcome, 25% remaining isn’t as bad as when I thought I had lost it all to my favorite con artist.
Once I was settled in, I began to worry. Since I had used the same method to calculate the days that I spend in every country, it was likely that I had overstayed other visas. Then I remembered that slowdown at passport control in Colombia. What if I had over stayed my visa there too? Or worse, what if I had overstayed my visa in Poland? I have heard that the Schengen union is very punitive if you overstay your visa, banning you for up to three years and fining you over 1000 Euros. I was seeing my plans for the next few years crumbling before my eyes.
I didn’t want to get all the way over to Europe and be refused entry. I doubted that the officials there would be as nice as the man in Guayaquil I went on the Rick Steves Europe Facebook page and asked for help. Most people gave pretty useless advice, but one women gave me the link to the Schengen Short Stay calculator. Though this calculator was made for people visiting several Schengen countries. it worked a long stay in one country as well.
When the integration officials calculate your visa they count one day more than you would get from subtracting your arrival date from you departure date. This is because they count your arrival travel day as well as your departure travel day.
Later when I was home I set up an excel spread sheet to calculate the amount of time I have spent in a country over the 180 and 365 days before my planned exit. I ran some numbers against the Schengen calculator, to make sure the table would calculate the stays the same way.
I put in the dates, that I had been in Ecuador before in to the Short-Stay calculator, and found that sure enough I had been there for 91 days. The same thing happened when I put in the dates for Colombia. The only thing I can figure out is that in both Colombia and Ecuador, they thought they were being nice not to fine me for that one day, as I was leaving. After all how many tourist come back? I have no intention to go back to Colombia, but if I do the fine will only be $125 USD.
I held my breath and entered the information from my visa stamps into the calculator for Poland. Only 90 days, thank goodness! As I thought back, I realized that I had actually given myself three days wiggle room on that trip, because I had always had some sort of delay traveling around Europe in the past. Two of those days had been used up on flight delays leaving me one day to make up for my incorrect calculation of days spent.
With the issues of the visas taken care of, I turned my mind to making sure I knew how to take a boat from the island, I was going to be on, to one of the ones that had both a branch of the bank and a migration office. It turned out that the man at the airport had been confused. I was going to Baltra Island, but it was only a small island where the airport is located. I would be staying on Santa Cruz Island, which has both a bank and migration office. Well, that was one thing off my mind. I located the bank on Google maps, but the rest of the information was pretty scant.
When I got hungry I went downstairs and, was very disappointed that the hotel restaurant was closed. It had been closed all day, though the internet had indicated it would be open. The desk clerk told me that he would order out and have some food delivered. He asked me what I wanted and I said fish that wasn’t fried and potatoes that were. He was able to get a beer from the restaurant for me to take up to my room while waiting for the delivery.
I logged on the internet and contacted a friend via Viber. I told him all about my visa issues, and I swore, that from now on I was only staying for 85 days on a 90 day visa. After we had talked for an hour, I realized that the food hadn’t arrived, so I went back downstairs to check. The clerk assured me that the food was coming soon.
When the food arrived, it was nothing but an order of Chinese food; just vegetables and shrimp, no potatoes. Oh, well, I was too hungry to argue. With more thought, I realized that the clerk must have forgotten to put in the order, or the restaurant forgot to send it, and in desperation to make me happy he had ordered Chinese take out. In the morning, I almost forgot to pay for the beer, but the same clerk was on duty and reminded me.
Ecuador to the Galapagos
As before, I got to the airport early and went to the lounge. Guayaquil’s Jose Joaquin de Olmedo International Airport has two domestic lounges which are in the priority program. I picked the Aeropuertos VIP Club, just because it was closest to my gate. It was pretty standard. The food was good, and when I asked about yucca they went back into the kitchen and brought me some yucca pancakes.
I had left the hotel too early for breakfast, so I ate as much as I could before settling in to read. I guess I should have been writing some notes for this blog, but I was actually toying with the idea of not doing a blog post for this trip because it really doesn’t fit into my theme of budget travel. Later of course, I realized it would make a nice contrast to the budget posts.
It was a four hour flight to the islands. When I arrived I was surprised that I had to pay $100 for entry to the “Park”. I was also charged $20 for something, I wasn’t quite sure what it was; perhaps a visa? I did a pretty piece of paper for the $20.
Next was 10 dollars round trip for a bus ride to the dock. Once at the dock, I had to pay another dollar for the water taxi to the next island. The bus ride was worth about a dollar and the boat ride was worth about five, so I guess that everything evened out.
There was a snack stand right near were we were queued up for the bus, so I quickly drank a beer before boarding the bus. The weather was very hot and the beer tasted especially good. Bus ride went though a devastated landscape. I could see the foundations of a lot of buildings, which and once been there. You could see where rocks had been used to outline driveways, gardens, paths to front doors of houses. The vegetation was salt bushes, prickly pear cactus and palo santo trees. It reminded me of some abandoned military bases I had seen. Later I found out that it had been an American air base.
Once on the boat, I found myself sitting next to a couple who were also minimalist travelers. The woman was from Ireland and her husband was from Scotland. We talked a while about what we were doing during our visit, made fun of all the people with huge amounts of luggage, and discussed the Brexit situation. We did quite a lot of talking for such a short Boat ride.
Santa Cruz: Day One
Once on Santa Cruz, I found that there was a $25 taxi ride from the dock to Puerto Ayora, where I would be staying. (A continuing theme of this narrative is that I wasn’t very well prepared. My friend who had treated me to the trip made the plans. I will know better next time.) It was a pretty cheap taxi considering how far it was. The truck went up and up to the top of the island and down and down again, the climate changing with altitude.
I had considered stopping at the market before going to the Airbnb but thought better of it. I figured that I had better find out what cooking equipment I would have, and drop off my bags before going to the market. I was floored to find that it wasn’t a BnB at all. It was just a hotel. All there was in my room was small fridge and a coffee pot, which had never been used. There wasn’t even a microwave. Knowing the the sorts of places my friend likes to stay I had assumed that it would have a kitchen. I really didn’t look at the Airbnb listing she sent me, since she had chosen it and it was a gift to me. In retrospect I could have saved her a lot of money, if I had made the booking. There were a lot nice places right in the harbor area which cost a lot less per night.
After unpacking and resting for a while, I went to office and asked them to call a taxi. The taxis on the island are very interesting. There are few private cars on the island and all the taxis are white king-cab pickups. I wondered at this until I saw how many times people were piling luggage, camping gear and bikes into the backs of them. like I was to do with almost all my taxi rides in the Galapagos, I chatted in Spanish the whole way, sharpening both my speaking and listening skills. When the cab dropped me off downtown I was surprised when the driver said that the fare was on $1.50 USD. At that point I realized that I was going to be taking taxis a lot.
The town made me feel as if I were back in the Caribbean. It was very small with a main road that wound around the edge of the small port. I saw an open air restaurant with available tables, and went in to have dinner. The meal wasn’t that good, but the cocktails were nice. It was over priced compared to Arequipa but very reasonable compared to the US. I was surprised that such a touristy place would have such reasonable prices. It must have been because it was off season.
After dinner I walked along the waterfront where I found an area that seemed as if a building had been torn down. By walking across it I was able to look down into the water and see lots of orange crabs on the black volcanic rocks at the waters edge. They looked as if they had already been cooked. It was then I noticed that there was a man nearly laying on the ground with a professional camera taking photos of a very small iguana. I watched him for a while before going on.
As I continued down the waterfront i watched a couple of women going from store to store shopping. It really makes no sense to me to pay so much for a vacation and give up so much time to shopping. Of course, I have no room in my backpack for things like that.
I made the mistake of going into a small shop and seeing a little box with a blue footed booby painted on the lid. I fell in love with it. Though I had promised myself that I wouldn’t buy any more souvenirs in my travels, I couldn’t resist. I changed my mind when the young man running the shop told me that it was $40 USD. I walked away, but soon found myself doubling back to look at it again. I was pleased when I paid for it and found that he had said 14 not 40. Like I have said before, Spanish numbers are hard for me.
The box is now bundled up in the backpack I am leaning on as I write. I tend to beat the heck out of my backpack. I wonder if the box is still in one piece. I will wait until I am back in Arequipa before checking on it. If I have killed it, oh well, I will keep the shards for the memory.
I wandered down the street remembering that the Migration office was supposed to be at Charles Binford and February 12 Streets next to the Ministry of Tourism. I was walking on Charles Binford Street, but I never found February 12 Street, nor the Migration Office. I found a tourist information office. When I asked the woman there where the Migration Office was, she directed me to the other side of the town. I walked back the other way knowing that I should pass the bank before getting to the place marked a map she had given me.
I found the bank okay. Since it was Sunday I couldn’t do my business, but I wanted to be able to go strait to the bank on Monday morning and then to Migration and get it over with. I was pretty sure that they would want to be paid in cash so I stopped at the bank and tried to get some money out of the ATMs. None of my cards would work. I kept getting the notice that I had exceeded my limit. Luckily, though I had selected English when I started using the machine, that last message wasn’t in English. I can read enough Spanish to understand the message.
I figured that it might have been that with it being a weekend the amount of money you could get was restricted. I had been trying to take out $300, since that was the largest amount listed on the screen. I figured that I would try again. the next day, but knowing that I had a $600 per day limit on my bank withdrawals, I would have to take an advance on a credit card to get the whole amount, ouch!
Near the bank, was a shop that looked like some sort of hippy art gallery, where I saw a woman who looked anglo at the counter. I went in and she told me to go down to the next corner and turn to find the migration office. She was wrong. She should have told me to go the other way and turn at that corner, but I was off in the wrong direction. I stopped and talked to a lot of people asking for directions. Everyone was very nice. Eventually I worked my way around in a circle and found the Migration Office was quite close to where the woman gave me the bum steer. As I walked away from the Migration office to the bank I took photos so I could lead myself back the next day.
With that settled I made may way back to the supermercado. I got there just as it was closing. When it was time to head back to the hotel I realized, that though I knew the name of the hotel I needed the address. I went back to the tourist information office to see if they could help me. When I went in there was an American couple asking questions. Well, not so much asking questions as gabbing incessantly about what they had done that day and asking only a few questions about what they should do next. The poor woman at the desk looked like she would like to shoot herself, as the other woman droned on, all the while shooting “if looks could kill” glances at me. It was as if she was offended that I was quietly waiting my turn.
Finally I gave up and went out. I had forgotten how light the front door was, though it looked as if it were plate glass, and slammed it open. I took off without waiting to see if I had broken it. I went across the street to a travel agent and explained my dilemma. The woman there told me that I didn’t need the address, that the taxi would know where the hotel was just by its name. She took me outside and put me in a cab. I could still see poor woman at the information office looking bored as the fat American lady nearly danced in front of the huge map on the wall. It didn’t look as if I had broken the door.
I was glad to get back to the hotel, but was mad as hell that I had let myself get off from the hotel without having a way to get back by myself. Though I really wasn’t in the mood for it, I went to take a short swim before going to bed. When I got out of the pool, I decided that I wouldn’t put that uncomfortable bathing-suit on again, even if it meant not going swimming anymore. Before turning in, I tried to study my Spanish only to find that the hotel’s internet was practically useless. I wasn’t happy with that. I needed to keep in touch with my real estate agent.
I felt better when I got up early the next morning. Though I didn’t much like being in a hotel, the roof top breakfast was quite nice. I just now realized that I had forgotten to take photos of the eggs and empanadas, and fruit cup, which I had that morning. It isn’t often I have been at a hotel with such a nice breakfast. After breakfast the hotel called a taxi and I returned to town. As I hopped out of the taxi and ran over to the bank, I found that the bank was closed. (I still haven’t figured that one out.) I tried, but couldn’t get the ATM to give me any money again. I was more convinced, that with what seemed to be a long weekend, they had restricted the amount of withdrawals.
Well, since it was no fault of my own, that I couldn’t pay my fine, I decided to head off and find something interesting to do. There was no charge going into Darwin Station. Remember that $100 I had to pay at the airport?
As I made my way back into town, I saw a little alleyway. At the end were some rocks right next to the water. As I walked out and took some photos, I was very careful how I was walking on the rocks, glad that I had on sturdy hiking shoes. Just as I was coming off the rocks, a woman dressed in sandals headed for the rocks. I warned her that they were very slippery, but I guess she didn’t hear me. After she had fallen, I helped her friend check her over, then went on my way.
For lunch I stopped at TJ’s Cocktail and Caffe. Though I shouldn’t have, I had Peruvian Ceviche and beer. I should have gotten something local to the islands, but I just like ceviche. It was quite a pretty plate, and again no photos. I am really falling down on the food porn.
When I got back to my room I was ready just to chill out and read. I did mange to get enough of an internet signal to establish email and text contact with my business rep who is taking care of the sale of the real estate. Also, much to my joy, I found that if I turned off the hotel WiFi, my phone was getting enough data for me to study my Spanish on the Duolingo app. I have a streak going, which I don’t want to break.
I really wanted to finally get the whole visa thing over with so as soon as breakfast was served, I headed up to the roof. On this day breakfast was eggs, plantains, passion fruit juice, cheese. It reminded me a lot of the breakfasts my brother-in-law Carlos used to make when I visited.
When I got to the bank there was already a line stretching out to the sidewalk. I took my place and saw that for some reason there was a binnacle mounted on a column on the porch. It wasn’t working, but looked as if once might have. Surprisingly the bank opened right at 0800. I had decided to find out if I had to have cash before trying the ATM again.
After standing in a line for a very long time, with some of the calmest quietest people I have ever seen in a bank line, it was my turn at the cashier. She told me that yes, it was cash only. I told her about the trouble I had had the two days before trying to get cash. She told me to put the card in for $200 at a time, not the $300. Though $300 was listed as the maximum, it never worked. A man in line behind me said he would help me with the ATM and everyone around him said they would hold his place.
Actually having him help me was more of a hindrance than a help. He really got me confused. One thing I was sure of, was that neither one of the debt cards were working, and I wasn’t sure of what the pins on the credit cards were. I am pretty sure that they are one or two of the few I have always used, but with him breathing down my neck fussing that I needed to remember my pin numbers, I didn’t want to run through them.
I gave up and headed around the corner to the migration office to ask for their help. When I got to the office it was closed, though it was well past their opening time. I sat down on the stairs and began digging into LastPass app, trying to find the pin numbers of some of my other cards. I found that one of my credit cards had the pin listed.
I went back to the bank. There was a long line at two ATMs, but not at the third one. it seemed as if that one was for withdrawing money only. Maybe my trouble the two days before, was caused by being at the wrong machine? My Spanish wasn’t good enough to investigate that. I used the credit card, it seemed as if it hadn’t worked, and I started to walk away. Everyone in line called me back as the machine was counting out the money. Wow, what honest people! Being more patient I withdrew $200 twice more. Then the ATM told me that I was at my daily limit. I still needed another $200.
I looked at my debit cards, I wondered if I had accidentally put one of them into the machine twice rather than one at a time, with the man making me nervous? I tried one, and it said that my pin was wrong. I used the other one and I realized that the message it was giving me (not in english for some reason) was that the card was expired, not that I exceeded the limit!
If only I had had a friend who could loan me that last $200. but no I didn’t. Then I remembered that my business rep had sent me my new debit card and I hadn’t put it into service. It was in my suitcase back in the hotel. I carefully put the money away and flagged down a taxi. The driver was nice enough to wait for me to get the card, which I had to activate. Thank goodness for the little bit of data I was getting on my T-Mobile plan. Back at the bank I got the remaining $200 and went back inside to join the line for the teller again.
It was a very long line and it was a very very long wait to the cashier. I didn’t care, even if the migration office was closed the rest of the time I was on the island, I would soon have the receipt in my hand showing that I had made a good faith effort to pay the fine off in a timely manner. Luckily I had my Kindle in my purse fully charged. That book really was interesting. I read quite a few chapters before it was my turn.
I had a different teller than I had before, but she was near the woman who had helped me earlier, and she was able to tell second teller how to handle the transaction.
With the receipt in hand, I went back to migration figuring that the office would still be closed. I reasoned that when I got back to the mainland that I could show them that I tried to make good on what I owed. As I got to the top of the stairs I was shocked to see that office door was open. Going in I found it was filled with lots of nice tourist, being good natured about their various issues.
I guess the usual asshole tourists wouldn’t have made it to that office. Only long term tourists get into these sorts of visa problems. While I was waiting my turn, I chatted with them telling my story with as much humor as possible, and pointing out that it wasn’t anywhere near as bad as a friend of mine. When she was young and beautiful, she found herself slammed in jail with a bunch of … hem … ladies, for overstaying her work visa. Or maybe it was for playing tourist on her work visa.
A bunch of us left the office at the same time and said goodby on the sidewalk outside. I was glad to be clear, and walked away, chalking it up to another interesting cultural experience.
Walking around town I took more photos around the seashore. I saw a bird perched on the edge of a concrete ledge looking down on the rocks. I took photos as it caught one of the colorful crabs. I continued my walk down the main street. Now that I was in no hurry to do to anything, I wondered up and down little walkways and side streets that reached out to the harbor’s edge. Iguanas were everywhere.
As my stress level went down, my hunger came up so I went to a bar I had seen the day before, but hadn’t stopped at, The Rock. I bought three beers and a plate of fries. The beers were all local and were very good. The fries were the best.
When I had finished forcing the bartenders to polish my Spanish, I continued my walk. besides iguanas being everywhere, there were sea-lions on ever conceivable surface. I spotted the Coast Guard base and found that I could walk onto the grounds, so of course I did.
Eventually I saw a boat agency office and popped in to ask the cost of a trip to Isabela Island, where they said there would be blue footed bobbies were. They told me that it would be $200. That seemed like too much to me. If it had been $60 I would have considered it. I later found out that the boat rides were around about $30 one way. The $200 covered a tour guide and entrance to a sanctuary. There had been a woman sitting in the office when I was there. I though she was just another tourist since she looked anglo.
It was a while before I realized she had followed me. When she caught up with me, she told me she could get me the same trip for less. Not on her boat because she was all booked up for the next day. She said that it was hard to get bookings at that time of year, because it was carnival season when Ecuadorians take their holidays in the islands.
She pulled out her phone and called around to other boat owners, but couldn’t find me a spot. It turned out that she was heading home in the same general direction I was going, so we walked together talking story. She asked me if I had been to Tortuga Bay yet. She walked me to a point where I would have to turn to go there and advised me to get water before going.
There was a small store right there. I dashed in to get the biggest bottle they had. We said our goodbyes and I headed off to the bay. The walk started off very nice, but it got hotter and hotter as I walked though a cactus forest. The walkway was very nice, with high edges, which provided a place to sit when ever I could find a spot of shade. It was supposed to be 2.5 kilometers, but it seemed much longer than that. When I finally made it to the bay. I was a bit disappointed it was just a beach, and the sand was too soft to walk on. I would have been too exhausted for the walk back to town had I walked up and down the beach before leaving.
On the remaining part of the death march, I carefully watched the level of my water, making sure that I only drank half of it before the halfway mark of the walk back. I was just finishing it off when i got to the end and found a place to sit in the shade and cool off. I was lucky that a taxi came to drop folks off just as I was ready to go.
As we were leaving the we saw some folks I had seen on the trail. I asked the driver to stop and pick them up. He explained that the taxi regulations wouldn’t let him pick up more than one group at a time. I could see that. I could imagine a truck filled with folks hanging all over, each paying $1.50, would be very attractive to a driver, and not the tourist board.
Back at hotel I ran into two women who were staying at the same hotel. I had the driver wait to take them. I realized that I was hungry, and wasn’t too tired to go back into town for dinner. I paid him and hopped out. Then I hopped back in saying that the women and I were now one fare to go into town. He grinned and laughed, driving us into to town. As he drove, he launched into a long joke where he pretended to be a stewardess doing the talk before take off. I was laughing my ass off, but I don’t really think that the American women, in the back seat, got the joke, nor appreciated my gales of laughter.
Once into to town I went to a brew pub, which had been closed when I had first found it. I had a flight of beers, which showed me that the beers there were not very good. The pupu platter of fried fish were much better. When it came to the table I was disappointed to see onion rings on the plate, until I realized that they were squid rings! All the fried snacks where quite good. That and the live music made up for the lackluster beer.
After eating I went across the street to the fish market. The men were cleaning fish surrounded by pelicans and sea lions waiting for scraps. Of course I saw the scrapes going to the animals, thinking what good fish soup they would have made.
There was a mother sea lion with her baby laying under the fish processing table. The tourists were getting way too close to it. I left the fish market and walked out on a pier sort of thing so I could take some photos of the market from a distance.
Continuing down the street I watched the two women from the hotel popping in and out of stores shopping, while I found interesting things to take photos of. The stop for beer and snacks had just be my first course, so I found a place to have dinner that over looked the harbor. Not that mattered where I ate, as dark as it was.
As I made my way to the dinning room, I was fascinated by a sea lion that seemed at home there. I got into a conversation with a man who had his photo taken with sea lion, earlier. He showed it to me. It was the funniest thing. The man was laying on a chase lounge next to the pool with his friend two lounges over from him. Between then on the third chair was the sea lion, looking as if she were on holiday.
The restaurant had good drinks. I am really on a fried fish kick lately, so I had fish nuggets. After dinner I walked down to the boat harbor and found a stand that could get me on a boat to Isabela Island. I had to go across the street to an ATM and get more cash. I had that ATM thing down by then. When I got back to the hotel, despite all the noise from around the pool, I slept like a rock. (Thank goodness I travel with good ear plugs.)
I woke up very early the next morning. I was afraid that if the hotel office was closed, I wouldn’t be able to get a taxi and would have to walk into town. I was pretty sure I had a good idea of the path into town, but gave myself an hour to make the walk. I needed to be at the stand where I bought my boat ticket at 0630, which meant that I wasn’t able to get breakfast.
There was some cold coffee in the pot in the room so I drank that and tossed an energy bar into my bag, hoping I wouldn’t have to eat it. One of the women tourist had given it to me when she found out that I was going out on the boat. As I had feared, at that time of day the hotel office was closed.
It was still pretty dark, and the area was very quiet as I started walking. Up ahead on the road, two dogs got into a tussle. I slipped my heavy purse off my shoulder and got it ready to use a a cudgel if one of them came after me. They stopped fighting and watched rather fearfully as I sauntered past. I wonder if they picked up on the fact I was ready to beat their brains out if they got near me?
I saw a man coming towards me jogging. I called out to him and asked if I was going in the right direction to get to the harbor. He turned around and walked with me down to the main road, where he flagged down a taxi for me. It was nice that I could walk as fast as I wanted to. Normally I have to slow down when walking with others. We had kept up a lively conversation as we walked, but the taxi driver, had his girlfriend riding shotgun, so no taxi language lesson.
I hadn’t actually planned on taking a cab, so I was way too early at the harbor. I met a man named Victor, who turned out to be an Italian married to a Philippina, and running a boat tour operation in the Galapagos. We got into the normal strangers conversation; are you on vacation, where do you live, what do you do for a living, and etc.
It turns out that Victor was also once a merchant mariner. We compared tattoos. He had a huge cockroach on his bicep (Look at the name of the company I booked the boat with above.) Later when he had to go man his booth, I realized that his company was the one I had booked my trip with. Victor hadn’t been at the booth the night before. There was a stand selling coffee near by, so I sat down and ordered a coffee. I was surprised when the woman put a cup of hot water, a bowl of sugar, a small pot of milk, and an open jar of instant coffee in front of me. Well, when in Rome …
When more people began to filter into to the area, Victor gave me a tag to wear around my neck so that I would be directed to the correct boat. I felt sort of like a piece of luggage. I saw Victor adorning the necks of a young woman and a preteen boy, who seemed to be together in a like manner. I went over and introduced myself since it seemed as if we were going to be spending the next two hours on the same boat.
I am afraid that I missed the woman’s name, but I heard her calling the boy, “Tony.” I later found out that Tony wasn’t her son, but her nephew. Tony called her “Tia”. So for the purposes of this post, they are Tony and Tia. It turned out that Tia and Tony were traveling alone for the first time as a test to see if they would make good traveling companions. Like me Tia has no children of her own, and like me borrowing her sibling’s child fulfilled any need she had for children.
Though Tia lives in New York, she was born in Cuenca, Ecuador, and was glad that I had loved living in the city so much. On the boat ride I showed her some of my photos and she was able to recognize the building I lived in. Unlike some of the American tourists I had spoken to about my visa issue, Tia was very supportive, and seemed to understand why I had found the whole experience interesting, rather than horrible.
We took a water taxi out to the speed boat, which was to take us to Isabela The water taxi cost $0.50. The speed boat cost $55 for the round trip. The speed boat ferries were about the size of a small sports fishing boat. Once we got to Isabela we took another water taxi into the dock for $1.00. I was glad I was carrying plenty of US coins.
Once ashore, Tia suggested that we stick together and hire a taxi to take us around the island. I suspect, being as pretty as she is she has learned that having an old woman with her would fend off a lot of unwanted attention. The taxi was $20 for each of us, and was well worth it. We wouldn’t have been able to see half as much as we did, had we not hired it.
That being said, I really didn’t like the driver. He acted as if Tony and I weren’t even there. He kept talking constantly, and very fast. I suspect that Tony’s Spanish wasn’t anywhere near as good as his aunt’s. He looked rather bored. Only occasionally Tia translated what the man was saying to her, so I suspect that she found most of it pretty boring. I was glad that mostly he dropped us off at sights and told us when and where to meet up with him again.We first went to a look out point, which gave a sweeping view of the island.
The next stop was at lava tube cave, Cueva de Sucre. We went in and crawled though a low spot to find a place where we could stand up and admire the roof, which was covered in golden looking crystals. We turned on all our phone flashlights and pointed them up, taking turns taking photos. They didn’t turn out well, leaving me wishing that the new phone wasn’t off the table for this year.
I was glad when the driver dropped us off at the tortoise sanctuary and told us where to meet him later. I enjoyed that sanctuary better than Darwin Station. I guess it was because having Tia and Tony with me made it that much more fun.
From the tortoise sanctuary we walked through a nature preserve where we saw some of the largest flamingos I had ever seen.
At the end of the line we came to a beach, where we were to meet up with our driver. We took the time to walk out to the shoreline and admire the view. I think that the driver said that swimming wasn’t allowed at the beach. The water did look too rough for me to be swimming in.
We drove next to a second lava tube cave. This one was flooded. We considered swimming in it, but we could hear the sound of the ocean at the far end, and were afraid that it might have some strong currents.
At our next stop we left the driver behind again and walked out to a beach were we could swim. We found a little pool, behind the protection of some rocks. Course, I didn’t have a bathing suit with me, but when Tia stripped down to her bathing suit, it looked like my boyshorts and sports bra. So a stripped down and joined the for a swim in my underwear. It is so nice to be old and not give a damn any more.
After our swim, I made the mistake of walking across the hot sand to a bench to put my shoes on. I thought my feet were going to burn off. When I got to the bench, I made sure to get all the sand off my feet before pulling my pants back on. Then I had to get the sand off them again when I put my socks on. I found the trick of using the outside of the socks to dust the last bit of sand off then beating the socks on the bench before putting my feet in them. As it turned out, my wool underwear and T-shirt dried out much faster than a normal bathing suit and cotton tee.
We walked along the beach to another spot which had a nice sandy beach. Tia and I just watched as Tony went out onto the beach and dug a hole, something his aunt said he had always loved to do. We didn’t say anything, but I think both Tia and I were thinking that he might soon be too old to let himself just enjoy digging in the wet sand.
We got back to the dock in time to have some lunch, but at nearly three o’clock in the afternoon, we were a bit late for that meal. Most of the lunch stands had closed, but one was still open. It was fun watching the wild life as we ate. One thing that really struck me, was how normalized the wild life was. No one paid any more attention to sea lions and iguanas than you would pay attention to cats in a roman cafe.
We weren’t quite through with lunch when Tony realized that he didn’t have his cell phone. Tia’s phone didn’t have a sim chip, as they were saving money by only having phone service on one phone. They went off, leaving me to guard the food, and found someone to call Tony’s phone. The driver had it and said the would be back to the dock in 10 minutes with it. It was more like 20 minutes. During that time we finished our meal and Tia told me to go on to the boat while they waited for the driver.
I was glad to see that they were able to make it to the boat in time, with the phone. After a day of talking so much, we had run out of things to say. I read my Kindle on the boat ride back, which Tony and Tia tried to sleep. When we got to Santa Cruz, I said goodby to them, saying that I had to go back to my hotel. Tia seemed surprised, as if she had expected me to continue on with them, and said, “Oh, yes, I guess you do.”
I wish I had stuck with them for the rest of the evening, but I guess it was good that we spilt up before we got tired of each other’s company. As I walked away, I realized that Tia was pretty close in age to my niece, so no wonder I enjoyed her company so much.
Back at the hotel, as I got out of the taxi, my glasses fogged up, so I really couldn’t see the people around the pool when a voice called out inviting me to share pizza poolside. I recognized the voice of one of the American women, so I went and joined them. They had the biggest delivery pizza I had ever seen. They told me that it was a medium. One of the women had been very pissed off at the $30 price of the pizza, until she saw that it was about twice the size of a US large extra large. On top of that, it was about the best pizza I have ever eaten.
I was glad that I didn’t have to worry about dinner. The American women were leaving the next day as well, so they were drinking up the beer and wine they had stocked their fridge up with. Only having had one beer, I really wasn’t up to talking with people who were a few over the limit, so I excused myself and went to get my dirty clothes to be washed.
I went to bed with my earplugs firmly in. It seems that not only was the pool area a source of noise, but there was some sort of night club next to the hotel. The earplugs I am using for sleep nowadays completely block out noise. At one point I woke up and pulled out one of the plugs to determine if I still needed them. It seemed as if the two American women were sitting right outside my room talking in voices to reach over the music that was still coming from each side. I put the plugs back in and slept though until my alarm went off.
The hotel had promised to have my clothes ready before breakfast, and they were true to their word. it only cost $4 for two changes of clothes. I went back to the room, changed into one set of clean clothes. Realizing that the bag my laundry had been in was perfect for the job, I bundled up the clothes I had been wearing and packed them. With my packing finished, I went up to the roof and had breakfast. The American women joined me, looking no worse for the wear for their late night.
We agreed to share a taxi back to the airport and too leave soon, just to make sure we didn’t miss our flight. I went to my room and got my bags, before heading to the hotel office and asking them to call a taxi. The woman at the desk asked me to pay for the four Cokes from the fridge, and the room service I had ordered.
I refused telling her that I had taken all the things out of the fridge before putting my things from the market in and replaced them with I left; that actually they now had extras with the things I had left behind. Then she tried to get me to pay for the room service, I pointed out that I had had pizza by the pool the night before which had been paid for with cash. She apologized saying that someone must have written down the wrong room number.
On the taxi ride the two women in the back were talking so loudly, I wasn’t able to get Spanish practice in with the driver, so I just sat in the front seat and enjoyed the view. There was a bike lane that ran alongside the two-lane blacktop that they call a highway. I was surprised to see a huge tortoise using the lane. It happened too fast for me to get a photo, but it was a perfect capping moment for my Galapagos adventure.
When we got to the dock for the boat to the bus to the airport, the American women only asked me to chip in $5 for the taxi fare, which I thought was very nice of them. When we got to the airport I took them into the the lounge on my pass. It was a rather empty gesture as one of them had a pass as well. The fact I wanted to sit under the fan and they didn’t gave me the excuse to sit alone and read.
There is one lounge at the airport. I was surprised that such a small place even had one. I liked the lounge, but was disappointed that there was no complementary alcoholic drink. One of the American women asked if she could buy me a drink. I accepted, but felt a little guilty not joining them to chat about our vacations. I was still pretty talked out from the day before.
The food in the lounge was okay. The first empanadas I ate where good, but the second bunch they brought out had a very strange, almost chemical taste. The non alcoholic drinks were very nice. I was drinking pineapple juice, which had been thinned down with water so it wasn’t overly sweet.
Back to the Mainland
The flight to the mainland seemed to go by faster than the flight out. I was glad that it was a domestic flight, so all I had to do was go straight from the plane out. I did stop in the lobby long enough to get my boarding pass for the next day and text a few people. I was disappointed, but a little relieved to find out that my friend wasn’t going to be able to join me in Arequipa. I rested for a little while before getting taxi to the same hotel I stayed at before. I was able to get a much better room and there was no trouble about the room being prepaid, the second time.
I was glad to find that the restaurant was open and would be open until late. I went up and settled into my room, and got on the best WiFi I had seen in days. After making sure that I hadn’t missed anything of a business nature and having a video chat with a friend about my vacation, I went down fo dinner. The food and service were great. The part of the restaurant I was in was very small. I saw a large party going though a door to the back, so I assumed that there were large areas, which I couldn’t see from where I was seated.
There were only two other people with me. We ended up talking, so I got another Spanish lesson on top of the one from the taxi driver on my way to the hotel. As I headed for my room, the desk clerk tried to get me to come back down for the free comedy show. I explained that my Spanish wasn’t good enough for me to understand the comedy.
Back in my room, I remembered that my friend and I had reservations for a cooking class in Arequipa. I went on line to cancel them, only to find out I had misread the Airbnb site about cancellations. I thought he had read that you could cancel 24 hours before the event, but it had actually said that you could cancel 24 hours after you booked. So I was out $97 USD.
I slept like a rock and actually woke before my alarm went off. I hadn’t unpacked much the night before so it only took me a few minutes to get ready to leave.
Heading Back to Peru
I had to leave for the airport too early too have breakfast. That was too bad, because I suspect that the restaurant would have a really good one, if the dinner the night before was any indication.
I didn’t get much of a Spanish lesson on that ride. My driver, on realizing that I didn’t like Trump, went into a tirade on how bad Trump was for the world, and how much he missed Obama. I sat quietly and listened the best I could. It was good listening practice. Every time he wound down I made a comment to keep him going.
Since I already had my boarding pass I was able to go straight to passport control. I have to admit I was holding my breath, hoping that my paying off the fine was in their computer. All went well and I headed for the only priority lounge at the International Terminal.
Though the lounge was listed in the Priority Pass app as being open at 0400, it wasn’t open at 0610 when I got there. I was the first person there, but before long there were quite a few folks waiting with me for it to open. After a while a bunch of carts were rushed up and whisked through the door. They must have been waiting for the food to arrive. The food was much better at than at the others I had visited on this trip. It was big, but not crowed, so after I at a normal breakfast, I found a place off to myself and read my Kindle while snacking on various finger foods and drinking more coffee. I managed to get to my flight just as my group was boarding.
Back in Lima Peru
The domestic lounge in Lima is not the best. While El Salon by Newrest, is touted as a lounge where you can sleep, you really shouldn’t count on it. The sleep chairs are really worn out and uncomfortable, and they are at the side of the main lounge, not in a quiet darkened area. I still grabbed one, because they are in individual cubicles with electrical outlets. It is a good place to charge devices.
The bartender was great, but you are limited to two drinks. I sat at the bar and ate some food with my two drinks. It was really enjoyable to watch him work. Though he kept up a constant conversation, he continually worked. Everything he uses to mix drinks is fresh, so he was cracking eggs for their whites. It pained me to see him tossing so many egg yokes into the trash. A lot of lime parts went in the trash too, as he only retained perfect circles of lime and even strips of peel. Next time I am in a bar where they drop a misshapen section of lime with the stem bump into my drink, I will think fondly of him.
From time to time as I waited, I got up and looked at the status monitor over the check in desk. I was worried as I saw one flight after another to Arequipa being canceled. I texted a friend and asked them to check the weather.
It didn’t look good, but when it came time to go to the gate my flight was still on. At the gate I started talking to a young man from Arequipa who had spent time in Peru. He was American but had lived overseas for 15 years. He was wrangling his three-year-old as we waited.
Time to board came and went. Eventually the flight was canceled. All the waiting passengers were rounded up and trouped to baggage claim through a backdoor area. I commented to the young man that it would make a good start to a horror movie, all the unsuspecting passengers being lead out into the back areas of the airport to what fate?
I went along, though I had no checked bags, hoping that someone would tell us how to get help rebooking. After the baggage area I followed the group in to the ticketing area and joined a group waiting for help. There were five agents helping people, but still the line crept along.
Two hours later I realized that the woman in front of me was holding a ticket for a different airline than LATAM. I looked at the monitors over the agents’ heads and realized that in big print over the notice Flight to Arequipa Canceled, had the name of the wrong airline.
There was no line for LATAM passengers to get help. Finally at the end of the departure desks I found a few people who were trying their best not to help the LATAM passengers. I had to go through several people before I convinced them that I couldn’t log onto the airline website, that my Spanish wasn’t good enough to call the call center. Eventually some one took a cell phone, got through to an English speaking agent and handed it to me. I got my flight rebooked for 0445 two days later.
I wondered around the departure hall until I found a place to sit. A lot of flights had been canceled and most all the spaces were filled with tired looking people. I found a bit of floor near an elevator, but out of the walkway, where I could sit. I sat texting people letting them know that I was delayed. I texted my friend and told her that it was good she had decided not to come to Peru, since had she, she would be on the floor with me. Suddenly the guy sitting next to me started freaking out. He had seen a roach. It was the first one I had seen in South America, this year.
With around about 40 hours to burn before my flight, and not much money, I got up and wondered around for a while trying to decide what to do. A woman approached me and asked me what I was looking for. I told her I was looking for the booth that would help with booking a hotel. She asked me how much I wanted to spend and where I wanted to stay. I said that I wanted to stay near the airport, for as little as possible. She pulled out her phone and called a few hotels, but they were all booked up. Eventually she found one that was s/120 per night or about $36 USD.
I knew the smart thing to do was walk away, but I was interested at how things would play out. I followed her out of the airport where we caught a taxi to the hotel. The hotel seemed to be pretty much what you would expect. There was nothing that set off any alarm bells. I took the key and went up to look at the room. There was no bed, and the room was under construction. When I got back down to the lobby the man at the desk ran to give me a different key, apologizing that he had given me the wrong one.
When I got to the right room, it seemed okay. I was pretty sure that it was the sort of hotel that normally rented rooms by the hour. There was a large long mirror mounted horizontally on the wall right next to bed, which could have only had one purpose. I took the bedspread and hung it over the mirror. I am too old to want to have a view like that.
As I went back down, to let the clerk know that the room was okay, noticed that the hotel was filling with delayed passengers. There were a lot of women and families, so I figured that no mater what the hotel was like on a normal day it would be fine for this night. Once I returned to the lobby and the woman from the airport was sure I liked the room, she left. I went back up to the room and only then realized that there was no WiFi or AC. I really didn’t care. I was just glad not to have to sleep on the airport floor.
When I went down to buy some bottled water at the desk, the man who had been there was gone and the desk was manned by and older man. The first man had given me the creeps, but I really liked the older man. He told me that when I got hungry just to come down and he would order me a meal from a local restaurant. When I returned he laughed at me for ordering American food. Fried Chicken and Potatoes. I assured him, that the food in Peru wasn’t close to being American food.
When my meal came I found out that I was right. The chicken was deep-fried without breading, which I really like. The french fries were next to perfect. The fries and chicken were on a bed of very tasty rice. There was a very nice green salad with sliced avocado, which could have held its own in a fine dining restaurant. The meal came with a drink in a plastic bag, like the ones I had in Mexico. I nipped the corner of the bag and drained it into the water bottle which I had already emptied. I was pleased to find that the drink was the watered down pineapple juice I like. When I finished with the chicken, potatoes, and most of the salad, I mixed the leftover rice into the remaining salad, which had a puddle of dressing at the bottom. That made a very nice rice salad.
By then the stress of the day was catching up with me and I set my alarm. During the night I noticed in a half waking state that the corners of the contoured sheet were coming off the bed, but I didn’t fully wake up until morning. When I woke up about 1130, I saw that the reason that the sheet had come undone was because under the clean white sheet was a black sateen one.
Flight Delay Day Two
I could just imagine the workers running around to all the rooms putting white sheets over the black ones when they got the word that they would be flooded by delayed passengers from the airport, to try to make the place look respectable. My alarm was set for 1530, but I just couldn’t sleep any longer. The older desk man had told me that I had the room for 24 hours. (After all they normally rented by the hour.) I had considered staying for a second night, but I really didn’t want to be getting up after midnight and trying to get a taxi to the airport. When I spotted a roach on the bed, I packed my bags and headed down stairs at about 1200.
There was a taxi driver hanging around in the lobby. He wanted to charge s/10 for a trip to the airport, though I had only spent s/6 when the local woman was guiding me. There was a different desk clerk in the lobby, so I didn’t bother asking for his help in finding a taxi. I left the hotel and went walking looking for one on the street. The neighborhood looked fine to me. Not one that I would like to walk at night in, but just fine in the day time. The first taxi I found told me that he couldn’t drop off passengers at the airport, but he pointed me in the direction I needed to be walking.
A little further on I found another taxi, with a driver who would drop me off in front of the airport, but not go in for s/5. Just then the older man from the hotel came along and took me away from the taxi driver and led me to the bus stop, where I could get a bus for 50 centavos. As we were walking to the bus stop he asked if he could buy me lunch.
I guess I had talked a bit too much the night before about how broke I was. He seemed to be hurt when I refused. I explained to him that I wasn’t hungry, and that though I didn’t have money for a second night in a hotel, I had money for lunch. That seemed to sooth his hurt feelings. Getting on the bus was very fast, and it was halfway down the block before I realized that I hadn’t thanked the man. That made me feel pretty bad, but soon I was at the airport with other things on my mind. When I got off the bus and looked back down the street I realized just how close the hotel was to the airport. I could have just walked.
I entered the airport though a cars-only gate, but after telling me, the guard let me go though anyway. Peruvians are so nice. Once in the terminal I went to the self check-in to get my boarding pass. I was able to check in, but the boarding pass didn’t print out. A man nearby told me that I would have to wait until six hours before my flight to get my boarding pass. Later, six hours before my flight, I found out that he was wrong. I just wasn’t being observant. Very clearly on the screen was a box to check to print out the boarding pass. I felt rather silly when I finally noticed it.
I had 12 hours to wait before I could pass through security and find the lounge. With my alarm set for 11pm I headed to Starbucks, since I hadn’t had any coffee yet that morning. I got a very large cold coffee, because at midday the terminal was on the hot side. Most of the people in Starbucks were just there to have a place to sit down. Some of them were not even pretending to be nursing a coffee. Luckily there were still a few empty places. I arranged my bags so that they were in contact with me and not blocking another of the other seats.
As I made myself comfortable and getting my Kindle out, I noticed that there was one couple who, along with their bags were taking up two tables and blocking the other side of the four person table I was sitting at. They of course were some of the ones not pretending to be customers. I looked down at my small bags, thinking that they deserved to be burdened down by all their luggage. After I finished my coffee I went off looking for a place to sit. From my previous times in the airport I knew where there was a long wide hallway where people tended to settle in on the floor, and headed there.
Since I had no internet connection, I couldn’t work on my blog directly on the WordPress site. I had been told that I shouldn’t work directly on the site, that I should work in a word processor and then transfer it over. I figured that there was no time like the present to do that. I decided that I should work using my iPad first since it would be easier than balancing my laptop and its external keyboard on my lap while sitting on the floor.
Time passed quickly as I worked. Eventually I began to get hungry. A little worried that I wouldn’t get such a prime spot on the floor when I cam back, I packed up my stuff and went looking for a restaurant. I was determined to indulge myself, as sort of a compensation for the hassle I had gone through in the last few days. I found a pleasant looking restaurant, Tanta Aeropuerto, which had a variety of Peruvian dishes on the the menu. The waiter was attentive. I explained to him that my flight wasn’t until 0445, so I wasn’t at all in a hurry.
As I waited for my order, I couldn’t help but notice that there were a lot of police officers standing outside the glass wall I was sitting next to. They had been there when I came in, but what made them remarkable was they were not continuing on. After a while a Canadian woman joined them. She was talking very loud, that is how I found out that she was Canadian.
It seems that she had reported theft of a bag from the trolly she had left outside the restaurant. The police had caught the couple and found where they had dumped the bag after finding out that there wasn’t anything worth stealing in it. The Canadian woman came back into the restaurant and rejoined her group and the cops wondered off. They had taken a seat right next to the opening of the restaurant and now had the trolly next to their table.
I was rather amazed at how many baggage trollies were left sitting outside the restaurant while the owners were inside eating. My bags were on the settee next to me in a corner. The waiter brought me the first of the two beers I was going to have and I settled back to read and feel very smug at how easy was to keep track of two small bags.
I ordered TACU TACU A LO POBRE or left over beans and rice for the poor. This basically peasant’s dish is fancied up with a breaded steak, fried egg, fried banana and a sauce of lime juice, onions, peppers and carrots. There was also roasted corn in the beans and rice. It was very good. I had two CUSQUEÑA Dorada beers to go along with it.
After I finished eating the waiter left me alone to read and finish my beer. when I signaled him he came and asked if I would like coffee and desert. Of course I did. He dashed off and returned with a platter of deserts for me to chose from. I picked a lemon tart, though I had thought I was going to have chocolate cake. Though the meal cost a lot more than I am accustomed to paying for a meal out, it was well worth it.
I walked around for a while, stopping to buy some snacks to have in case I got hungry after the restaurants closed, before finding myself back on the floor working on my blog. I had actually managed to get a better spot, where I could lean into a corner with legs along the wall rather than out toward the center of the walkway. Not that it really mattered, since there was a whole line of folks with their legs out. I just liked it better, not to have to worry about the others going away and leaving me exposed to inattentive walkers.
At one point I looked up and saw a priest in collar walking past, looking very harried, with a large crucifix sticking out of his tote bag. Not doing Jesus much honor, I thought.
Eventually just after 1900 I was getting sleepy so I make sure my alarm was still set to 2300 and made my way to a hallway I had spotted earlier, which was more out of the way and had no foot traffic. When I got there, a single woman was napping on the floor I found a space well clear of doors and the bank of phones to settle in. I figured that in this day and age there shouldn’t be much traffic around the phones, so the hall should be quiet.
I took my neck pillow out of my backpack and then clipped the strap of my computer bag through the straps of my backpack. I placed the connected bags on the floor where all the zipper openings were toward the center and placed my pillow on top. I took off my hoody and draped over my head and the two bags. Before going to sleep, I hooked my arm through one of the computer bag straps.
I did notice one thing, every few minutes the PA system blasted, “This airport doesn’t announce flights. Passengers are advised to keep an eye on the monitors and proceed to your gate well ahead of boarding.” You would have thought it would have been just as easy to make flight announcements. After a while I got used to it and was able to sleep. It is a good thing that I can sleep through just about anything.
I didn’t sleep for long, but then again, I had sept for about 12 hours at the hotel. I got up about 2100 and walked around for a while, when I noticed that a lot of the flights to Arequipa had been canceled. I started getting worried that I would have to go through the hassle of rebooking my flight again.
Using the data on my phone I was able to get a Viber chat going with a friend back in the states. I had him log onto the LATAM website, which luckily had a button for English. He told me he would take a nap and set his alarm to get up at 0330 so that if my flight was canceled he could help me.
I returned to the quiet hall and resumed my sleep until 2300. When I got back to the self check-in machines I still couldn’t get my boarding pass. I was really getting frustrated after having tried a few different machines, thinking that maybe they were out of paper. Then I saw the box I hadn’t seen before, checked it and got my pass. Boy did I ever fell silly.
When I got back to the quiet hall, I found my place had been taken. I went to the busier hall and read until it was time to go through security. When I got to the lounge, I set up my devices to charge and went to get two more drinks from the bar, and tank up on snacks. The bartender recognized me, and commiserated over the flight delays.
The lounge was filled, mainly by folks waiting for rebooked flights. I was glad that I was returning from a vacation rather than going to one. I talked with some Americans before going back to my cubical and reading. I had managed to get a cubical with a chair that not only wasn’t a sleeping chair, it was far too uncomfortable to sit in. I sat in one of the lounge chairs outside my cubical, where I could keep an eye on my stuff.
When I got to my gate, I found myself watching the status monitor expecting at any time for a canceled flight notice to come up. There was no cancel notice, but I realized that the time of the flight had been changed from 0445 to 0744. I texted my friend and he said, that the LATMA website also showed a delay.
I thought about going back to the lounge and seeing if I could talk my way back in, but I was tired and not hungry. I went up to a gate without too many people and found a wall to sit down next to. Before long the man next to me left, leaving a sheltered corner unoccupied. I set my alarm again, arranged my bags securely and went to sleep laying in the corner. The floor was far more comfortable than the so-called sleep chairs in the lounge.
When I was back at the gate again, I have to say I was quite nervous. I began to relax a little when they loaded us up on the bus to be driven out to the plane. When I got to the bus, this woman had planted herself right in the door with a huge suitcase, forcing everyone to edge around her to get on the bus. I might have let my backpack hit her when I stepped on her foot.
The bus was packed. When we got to the plane, the doors on the other side of the bus opened. The woman who had positioned herself to be the first person out was trapped by the flow of passengers and was one of the last to get out. I can’t say that I had any sympathy for her.
When I got into my seat I found that the middle seat was open and a nice young man carrying a very tiny puppy in a minuscule carrier was at the window. I remember when I was sleeping in the corner, I had heard the cutest little barks. It must have been from the puppy. Once we were airborne, the man put the carrier on his lap and wrapped his jacket around it to keep the puppy warm, though he looked quite chilly himself.
I was very glad when the plane touched down in Arequipa. Heading out of the airport the cabbies were all trying to get s/20 out of me. I just kept walking. One tried to offer me a ride at five, but as tired as I was I did remember to ask, “Five soles?” no he wanted five dollars or nearly s/17, not much of a discount. But after having been pent up for so long in hotels and in airports, I just wanted to walk.
I soon realized that if I walked with the traffic every taxi along the way was going to stop. I crossed the street and walked against traffic, that cut down on all but a few taxis trying to get my business. It turned out that there was a very wide smooth sidewalk almost the whole way.
As I walked, I debated with myself as to whether or not to go to the market before heading to the apartment. I was almost on top of the market before I realized what road I was on. I had thought I was one road over and that going to the market was out of my way. Since it was right there in front of me I went in.
Once inside I took my back pack to the lockers. They were a lot smaller than I remembered, but thanks to the soft-sided backpack I was able to push it in. I just got some beer, cheese, corn chips, and ramen noodles, promising myself I would come back for some real food the next day. (It was actually four days before I got back. Lucky had some food in the apartment to tide me over.)
It was good to get back home and unpack. I drank a few beers with the cheese and chips before sleeping for 12 hours. Boy, being a tourist is really hard work.
A Breakdown of Costs (USD) for a Non Budget Vacation
- Flights: $751.29 (from Peru and back)
- Miss items: $116.92 (bought for trip)
- Miss items: $53.63 (bought on trip)
- Hotels: 683.29
- Food from Market: $22.89
- Dinning out: $182.67
- Booze not part of meals: $32.81
- Transportation (non flight): $51.63
- Tourist stuff: $295.46
- Total: 1438.94 (leaving out the $788 for visa overstay and flights)
- Coming to $179.87 per day
- Total: $2978.23 (adding in the visa and flights)
- Coming to $372.28 per day
If you are planning on taking a trip to the Galapagos, you could pretty well do it for around about 1.5K for a week, but since the flight is a big part of the expense, a longer stay would be more cost effective. Also, if you stay in hostels rather than overpriced hotels, you could really reduce your cost and be able to bounce around between the island and see a lot more.
Eight Things I Learned
- Only stay 85 days on a 90 day visa
- Make sure that the pin numbers for all cards are in the LastPass value. It is amazing how hard it is to remember numbers you use all the time when you are stressed out.
- Test all debit cards as soon as you get them.
- Make sure that you have activated the app for all airlines you will be flying with not just the you booked with.
- Don’t book Airbnb experiences too far out. Better to miss out on one than to lose the money of your plans change.
- Don’t accept lavish gifts from well to do friends. It just makes you feel like a poor relative.
- I want to go back to the islands and do it as a budget traveler one day.
- Engage strangers in conversation as much as possible.