October 13, 2016

Colombian Ridiculousness (with Ecuadorian photo support)

So, I have plans to post more with better photos and explanations from the Galapagos (which was an amazing experience) soon, but in the meantime, I think today's travel ridiculousness is entertaining enough to get its own post.

Gratuitous Quito 800m track photo.  Ecuador has 1 Olympic gold medal.  In speedwalking. 
Won by this guy: Jefferson Perez, in Atlanta, in 1996.

First, we arrived at the Galapagos airport 3+ hours before our flight.  There was no-one at the Avianca check-in counters.  Fine.  We watched our 8-days'-new 24-hour-bonded boat-friends check in easily for their flights, but kept our luggage and waited with them in the food court.  At 2 hours before the flight, there was still no one at the counters.  In other news, oddly, more people in Ecuador know where Atlanta is than California.  It's because their one and only Olympic Gold medal was won there.  Deep breath, let go my shock at California not being well-known, I can get behind this.

I made our Taxi driver stop so I could get this photo.  GIANT TORTOISES!
At 1h45 minutes before our flight out of the Galapagos, I insisted that we go stand in "line" even though there were no other passengers in the Avianca line (despite the departures sign -- oh so inconveniently not located anywhere near the check-in desk -- claiming our 12h45 flight was on time).  We watched a few people get addressed by the folks in the "ejecutiva classe" line and eventually, the professionals servicing that line took pity on us and waived us lonesome, sole, economy folks forward with the standard, "Siga!"

Who doesn't want an Iguana photo?
I must say, this is the first time when my (still developing, but somewhat useful) Spanish has come in as obviously more handy than English.  We tried to check in.  We were informed that the plane was 2h30 minutes late.  This was not unusual (we'd already experienced a similar delay on another flight whereupon we'd just owned it and enjoyed Top Gun from start to finish at the airport bar, en Español).  The problem this time was that we had a connection in Quito to Bogotá on a different airline and the delay was going to make it much too tight to make it on South American timelines.

One of many Galapagos Island otherworldly landscapes.
Oddly, this is where things got *more* useful than they would have been at home (as a general rule, I've found that South America is generally *less* useful when trying to accomplish things than the United States.  This isn't a value judgment, I think the pace of life in South America is probably better.  But it is a personal observation that was proven wrong today.)

Did we rave about the ceviche, humitas, or empanadas?  We should have (also the corn-nuts!)
I explained to the woman at the counter that we had a connection to Bogota from Quito.  She asked when.  I said around 5 or 6 but I wasn't sure because we didn't have Internet on the boat and the Internet didn't work in the terminal despite many claims to the contrary, so I didn't have specifics.  She then waived me behind the counters, past security, into the office of the airline where they let me login to my personal email on their computers and print my itinerary, whereupon they confirmed that yes, we did not have enough time to make our connection, so they would just put us on the Tame flight (the one our friends had checked into almost 2 hours ago at this point, not to mention a competitor airline).  She then stood behind the Tame agent (mind you, this is an Avianca agent) and waited for almost 30 minutes to ensure we got our tickets (which was very touch and go, but eventually it all worked out, just in time for our luggage to get going and for us to board).

Ecuadorian Dinghy Rules: Lifejacket if you are not carrying snorkeling gear.  Otherwise, no lifejacket required.
So, we arrived in Quito, grabbed our luggage (my bag was the second to last bag on the carousel) and headed to the international terminal.  Then we tried to check into our VivaColombia Flights.  Turns out, we had a reservation, but online checkin was required.  If you hadn't done it (which we couldn't from the ocean in the Galapagos), you had to pay a $15 per person fee.  Also, they wouldn't let you check in without a printed outbound (from Colombia) itinerary.

Check out that Marine Iguana!  (They swim!)
This is where I learned that my Spanish is now good enough that I can actually get coherently mad at someone in Spanish.  I started nicely but eventually got more and more agitated and finally yelled at the guy doing his job for VivaColombia asking him why this was the first we'd heard that we had to have a booked ticket out of the country when he was *not* immigration, and we were planning on taking an open spot on a sailboat from Cartagena, which is super common and *not* subject to formal itineraries, just like buses, which we (and any other number of airline passengers) could also be taking out of the country.  To his credit, I was clearly not the first crazy gringa to partially lose my shit at him, and he did not find me remotely intimidating or concerning (he also didn't change his position, so clearly my language studies need work).  Eventually, while E asked me if we could just book cancelable flights in English, Mr. VivaColombia told us where to find the business center and we headed there to print our boarding passes and book flights from Colombia to Panama at a reasonable departure date, print the itineraries, and then cancel the flights (thanks Expedia and your 24-hour termination clause!).  This was more than sufficient for the purposes of VivaColombia, and finally we made it onto our flight.  A big thanks to Avianca for re-booking us on the Tame flight or we would have never had enough time to deal with all of this in Quito and we would have missed our flight for certain.

View from our balcony over the Galapagos...
And now, for the first time in over 10 nights, we're in a western business hotel that we arrived at via a shuttle complete with non-insane driver and seatbelts and doors that closed fully.  Bonus, points = complimentary glasses of wine at the bar.

I tried to book us an AirBNB for Bogota for the next 2 nights, only to login and learn that we got a negative review from the last host we had because while we followed the instructions and left the keys under their doormat, the keys disappeared (also, apparently we were difficult because we expected the laundry facilities to actually, you know, work).  We actually considered taking a picture of the keys under the mat because it seemed so sketchy to leave the keys as requested, but we didn't.


Also, after poking around at Bogota AirBNB options we decided we were too exhausted to deal with another super-authentic experience, so that is how we booked the next 2 nights on Starwood points.

Tomorrow?  Laundry.


lucky_girl said...

Omg! Taking notes for our trip to the galapagos and will Def pick your brain first! Thank goodness for hotel points.

bt said...

@lucky_girl -- you will have an awesome trip, I am sure. But yes, hell yes, for hotel points (written from Panama Aloft, booked on points and minimal cash).