Tom & Cathy's South America Trip

April 7 - flights to Quito

Our South American adventure started with an early morning flight, followed by nearly four hours in the Houston airport waiting for our flight to Quito, Ecuador. To our amazement, the only extra process to the international flight was that the ticket agent looked at our passports.

As we were boarding the plane, the couple behind us in line asked if we were going to Galapagos with Wilderness Travel. They were Ken and Cecile, another couple on our tour who had recognized our names from our luggage tags. Tom noticed there was a beautiful new MacBook Air seated across the aisle from us. It belonged to David and Cherie, also members of our group. The flight was uneventful and landed a few minutes earlier than our scheduled 11:10 pm arrival.

Our one-bag strategy got us through immigration and customs in a jiffy while everyone else was waiting to collect their checked bags.

When we left the secure area, we found Monica waiting for us with a Wilderness Travel sign. She directed us to Jonathan Green, who would be our guide and naturalist for the Galapagos tour. Rudy and Lynn, a brother-sister traveling pair were also on the same flight. We were the last eight to arrive, and were lucky as the weather had been terrible recently with many flights to Quito diverted elsewhere.

Barbara, who had arrived earlier in the day, was still missing her luggage.

April 8 - Quito

Off to an early start on the first day, we met the group at 7:20 am for our tour of old Quito. We started with the Seven Crosses Road, named for the crosses in front of the seven old churches all on the same road. Indigenous people, mostly in traditional native clothing, met us as at each stop as we got off the bus. They were selling handmade souvenirs, but weren't overly pushy about it.

Monica telling our group about the Basilica
Monica telling our group about the Basilica
Stained Glass in the Basilica
stained glass in the Basilica

In Plaza Grande outside the presidential palace, police in riot gear were lining up around the Presidential Palace to defend it from the scheduled protest by the taxi drivers union. Amazingly, the police let us up onto the balcony from which the president was expected to address the protestors. Soon we could hear a noisy procession of protestors as they entered the square. They were fully assembled in front of the balcony before the presidential security people shooed us off the balcony. We thought it was funny that there were street vendors trying to sell hats and lanyards to the protestors chanting their displeasure.

police lined up in front the Presidential Palace
police lined up in front of the Presidential Palace

taxi driver protest
taxi driver protest, viewed from the second-floor balcony of the Presidential Palace

Tourists have trained the locals to expect payment when their photo is taken, even to the point that Tom got scolded by an ice cream vendor for pointing a camera his way while he conducted his business in the public square.

woman coming into Quito with her wares
woman coming into Quito with her wares
irate ice cream vendor
irate ice cream vendor

That evening, we had a group dinner at a very nice Italian restaurant just a block from the hotel. Jonathan helped us all figure out the Italian menu in Spanish.

April 9 - flight to Galapagos

The second day we got an even earlier start, meeting the group at 6:30 to head for the airport for our trip to the Galapagos Islands. We saw Barbara at breakfast and noticed she was wearing different clothes: she was very pleased to report that her luggage had been delivered the night before.

The airport was pretty chaotic, but Jonathan guided us smoothly through the process. While waiting to jump through the first hoop, a man was working the crowd selling cords to attach to eyeglasses, one of the items that was being offered to the protestors the day before. This guy had apparently figured out that we were carrying cameras and communicated that the cords would make it easy to remove and replace glasses when taking photos. It seemed like a good idea, so we bought a pair.

After we finished the full check-in process, we waited in a packed lounge for our flight to start boarding. The flight was a bit late and there was much confusion about when and what gate we were supposed to board through. The announcements were loud, distorted and only occasionally repeated in unintelligible English. It would have been crazy without someone to guide us. Despite being told we could only take one carry-on bag, we each had no problem getting on with our one-bag plus a camera bag. After a brief stop in Guayaquil, we landed on Baltra Island for the beginning of our Galapagos adventure.

We included just a few of our photos above. Please see our gallery of Quito photos for the rest of our favorite photos from our trip.

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