After seeing an amazing 100% Solar Eclipse we are on our way to Quito, Ecuador and the Galapagos. The stop over in Curacao was not planned so we took what we could get for the next available flight to Caracas on ALM Airlines. The ALM office was close to the hotel and we were able change our reservation to a 5:00 AM flight the day after the eclipse. Karen and I both figured that all the flights would be full so we did not want to push our luck. The ALM agent told us to be at the Airport two hours in advance. So lets do the math 5 – 2 = 3:00 AM which means get up at 2:00 am. I was beginning to think that we were both a little nuts. In our younger days we would have hung out in the bars until 2:00 AM and went straight to the airport. Instead we were in bed by 9:00 PM and 2:00 AM came very quickly. We got to the airport in plenty of time at 3:00 am. The only problem was the only person at the airport was the Janitor and a German guy who was also told to be at the airport two hours in advance. Let me do a quick recap; there was no one at the airport including the people who work at the airport. An agent showed up at the counter around 4:00 – 4:30 then we checked our bags and went to customs. The only person at customs was another Janitor. It was getting close to 5:00 AM when customs turned the lights on and we headed for the gate. Travel lesson learned on this trip is to ignore the two hour international rule for all flights before 6:00 AM and go with the 30 minutes prior to flight rule. We were headed back to Caracas two days late and eight hours early.
We arrived in Caracas around 7:00 AM and planned on waiting around for another seven hours and catch our originally scheduled 2:30 PM flight two days late. We had to go through customs to get our bags but we did not want to enter Venezuela because of the $20 US departure tax. So we explained our situation to the customs agent and he told us to pick up our bags and he would bring us back through. Of course his entire conversation was in Spanish and ours was in English and I was sure that we both understood the problem. In a few minutes we had our bags and were wandering around the Airport looking for an Avensa agent. Karen and I were feeling good about Avensa based on our earlier experiences traveling to Angel falls. We found an Avensa counter and handed over our tickets. The gentleman was very nice and figured that we were probably not interested in hanging around in the airport for another seven hours. So he started looking up flights, then grabbed our tickets, told us to wait and ran off. About ten minutes later he came back with another agent and motioned for us to grab our bags because they got us on an earlier flight that was boarding. The new flight was on Avianca a Columbia airline.
A Columbia airline, going to Bogota not what we planned on doing. In our very best Spanish we were able to determine that the flight only stopped in Bogota and we would not have to change planes. The next problem was to get our backpacks on the plane. We were in the boarding area that meant someone had to carry our bags down to the plane. We decided to wait until the last possible moment and see if our bags actually moved. I also began to apply the rule ask the same question five times and see if you get the same answer at least twice. I actually got the no problem answer all five times, so we got on the plane.
A Columbia airline, going to Bogota not what we planned on doing. So far our experience on Avensa the Venezuela airline had been great. The food was good and we discovered after our third or fourth flight that mix drinks are free and you can have as many as you want. The only problem with the free drink program, that so far all of our flights have been before 9:00 AM. It is very difficult to drink for free before noon unless you are in flying in first class. So I had all kinds of thoughts about a Columbia airline with pictures of live chickens and no seat belts in my head. We got onto the plane and found a sparkling 747 with newspapers, hot towels, a great breakfast and really nice people. We were on our way to Bogota.
We arrived in Bogota and the stewardess announced that all passengers should collect their belongings and depart the plane. Karen and I looked at each other and felt another airport adventure ahead. Since I do not understand a lick of Spanish I have been focusing on observing other people and interpreting the situation. My plan was to find someone else who was going to Quito and we would follow them. We walked on the tarmac to a door and Karen was handed a new boarding card with her name on it but they did not have one for me. I was then handed a boarding card with no name and lots of pencil marks. OK, I had a piece of paper, it did not have my name on it, but I had a piece of paper. Before I could walk up to Karen and ask her to ask someone what is going on in Spanish, people started to disappear down stairs. At this point in the trip Karen was really getting tired of me asking her to ask someone else in Spanish anything. I saw my Quito target heading down the stairs so we followed. We were back on the tarmac and boarding a bus. The bus departed and drove a mile or so and stopped at the International terminal but still on the tarmac. People started to get off the bus and we turned to the Quito target and asked do we get off here. He said yes but looked as confused as we were. The bus was standing room only and we had to fight our way through a crowd of people to get off. We were now off the bus and trying to figure out what to do next. I turned around to look for our Quito target, he did not get off the bus and the bus drove away. Great now what do we do. “Quito, Quito, Quit,” I started to ask any person with a uniform trying to apply and ask the same question five time rule. Each time I asked I was pointed to another door. Karen and I began to panic so we went through this door that everyone else went through. It took five seconds for me to realize; “WE ARE ON THE STREETS OF BOGOTA, COLUMBIA WITHOUT GOING THROUGH CUSTOMS.” I now no longer cared about the flight to Quito and I had visions of trying to explain to very mean Columbia customs agents in our very best Spanish how these Americans got into the country without an entry stamp in our passport.
We headed for the International terminal with my pencil marked paper in hand trying to figure out how to get on our plane to Quito and out of Columbia. The International Airport in Bogota must have flights to everywhere in the world because the sign boards listed a bunch of flights. We found Quito via Avianca and it was leaving from gate four. We started to follow the signs to gate four and ended up in a duty free mall maze. This was by far the most impressive shopping at an airport I had ever seen but we did not have time because we were illegal aliens in a not so nice country. I saw my first uniformed soldier dressed in his Sunday’s best and walked up and showed him my pencil marked boarding card. Then to my surprise he stated in excellent English that our gate was in that direction. I started to smile and felt now that our only problem was to catch our plane that was leaving in five minutes. I am used to those kind of problems. Around the corner we turned and the customs wall was before us. Karen and I stepped up handed over our passports and waited for someone to take us to a room. The customs agent was doing lots of passport page flipping looking for our Columbia entry stamp. I then added “Transit, Transito, Transito” this combined with the very special pencil marked boarding pass in my possession she shrugged her shoulders and she let us go through. I was quick to thank the parking gods for their help. OK we had time to run to our gate. As we quickened our pace we came across another set of uniformed soldiers dressed in their Sunday best who wanted us to stop for a little inspection. “Transito, Transito, Transito” showed them my magical pencil marked boarding pass and he told us in very nice English to hurry to our gate. We got to our gate, boarded the plane and as we walked down the aisle I saw the Quito target sitting in his chair drinking his free drink and I smiled to him in appreciation for his help.
Quito, Ecuador is an interesting place with a lot of history. The South American handbook and the Lonely Planet had the usual be careful and other general crime warnings. Quito is made up of two tourist areas Old Town and New Town. New Town cost about five dollars a day more for a hotel room, so when Karen asked me to pick I chose New Town. We changed some money at the airport and jumped in a cab. We have been taking a lot of cabs and the travel books state what the price should be from the airport to a particular destination. Karen has gotten very good at asking or telling the cab driver the expected price and so far we have not had any troubles. Every cab driver we have used has been very nice and extremely helpful. My pick for the Ambassadors of South America are the taxi cab drivers. Karen had her map out and she was getting better at her Spanish and asked the cab driver what street we were on. I guess he figured that Karen wanted to know every street as we approached it. He started calling out the cross street ahead and Karen followed along. We started to notice a pattern because most of the street names are actually dates like July 9th and December 20th. This it turns out is very common in South America and is used to honor various dates in South American history. We had asked him to take us to the Youth Hostel in New Town. We had no reservation or any idea if we would like this place. At this point in our travels Karen and I are still very much the travel rookies. I stayed with the cab and Karen ran inside to check on a room. At this point Karen had a huge travel romance about Youth Hostels and being able to get a nice room for under $10 US. She came out the Youth Hostel with smile and key in hand. We paid the taxi cab driver and headed for our deluxe accommodations. I stuck the key in the door, we walked in and the smile on Karen’s face disappeared. The romance was over and the cold hard fact of business and the fundamentals of capitalism hit her in the face. You pay $10 for a room you get a $10 room. We used the bathroom, locked up our bags and headed out to look for a new place to stay and to book our trip to the Galapagos. So if you look at the bright side it was only going to cost us $5 US a bag for private deluxe bag storage and a bathroom.
The new town of Quito is not what you would expect for a section of town called New Town. There is the main street called Amazonas with lots and lots of banks. The banks are very modern and when you walk inside your first reaction is this is a really nice bank, I wish I banked here. I think that is the purpose of the banks being so nice and to give the consumer confidence about were their money is being kept. Ecuador has gone through much turmoil and I would imagine every time there is a new group in charge, money disappears from the bank. The other thing that was kind of strange is the number of heavily armed guards at all the doorways. They are very helpful, when you are trying to figure out what line to stand in they direct you by pointing their machine gun in the proper direction. I was a little bit nervous about the requirement for so many armed guards. Where there is smoke there is usually fire. A couple of blocks off of Amazon is backpacker central. There are numerous hostels and backpacker hotels were you can get a room for less than $10 a night. From the stories we heard the cheaper you pay the crazier it gets. Karen and I spent the first part of the day walking around looking for a new place to stay even though we were checked into the Youth Hostel. There was actually nothing wrong with the Youth Hostel but what Karen and I did not fully appreciate about ourselves is that we both like nice things more than saving money. We visited a number of hostels asking the price looking at the rooms. I think the most expensive place we could find was $30 a night. We came across the Hostel Vagabundo the owner spoke a little English and showed us a very nice room for $15 a night. The place had a small restaurant and was overall a great looking place. So we checked in for the next three nights.
The next challenge of the day was to book our trip to the Galapagos. We were two days behind schedule because of the eclipse detour and wanted to leave the next day on Saturday for the Galapagos. The New Town has a tour company or travel agent about every other business. We found out to our great surprise that Ecuador has many adventure travel destinations. We began to wish that we had allocated more time to visit more places in Ecuador. The travel guide books had recommended three or four tour companies to use so we spent quite a bit of time trying to find them. The first challenge upon walking in was “Hablo English.” In almost every case we were able to find someone who at least spoke a little English. The next challenge in our day was that in the classic Karen and Scooter high speed travel mode we wanted to leave tomorrow.
I would have to say that when most people go on a trip to the Galapagos they make a reservation for a boat trip before they leave their home country. Back in October, Karen had called quite a few tour companies trying to reserve a trip. It turns out that the week we wanted to go was a full eclipse that started in the Galapagos and could be seen for up to four minutes. Each person Karen talked to about a reservation was quick to point out that they had been booked solid for two years. Karen was more amazed that many people actually new two years in advance that there would be a full eclipse. I have to remember to show Karen an Almanac.
It did not take us long to figure out how the boat booking system works for the Galapagos. We would tell the travel agent we wanted to leave on Saturday for a five day trip, we wanted to dive, and we wanted air conditioning. Each time they would look through a book and say it was impossible, then they would find a boat leaving on Tuesday or Wednesday show us a picture and the itinerary. Each time we would reject the tour boat for one reason or another and they would then come up with another boat for us to look at. The various travel agents all represent or have a relationship with the 100 boats that sail in the Galapagos. Each time they put a person on a boat they get a percentage. I am sure that the percentage varies from boat to boat and they are going to try and talk you in to a boat that they are going to make the most money on. It also appeared that some of the travel agencies actually work for the people who own the boat or a group of boats. At one travel agent office, which happened to be very nice, we told the agent that we would like to dive. She then asked us if we brought our wet suits and if we were experienced divers because of all the dangerous currents. She was very convincing and at this point we gave up diving as one of our criteria. We did not end up using this agent and the boat we did pick was one of the few that offered diving. Karen and I went on two dives in 85 degree water with the only currents created was by all the fish swimming by. The agent did not represent any boats that had diving therefore she had to make us think diving was impossible. We spent the rest of the afternoon talking to travel agents unable to find a boat leaving tomorrow.
Our next plan was to go to Safari tours which was highly recommended by the travel guides because they could book a trip on almost any boat in the Galapagos. We sat down with the agent who only spoke a little English and began to sort through our various options. The next goal was to leave on Sunday but we learned that was also impossible. We were now up to Monday and could only allocate five days without falling farther behind in the rest of our South American travels. The agent showed us the Seaman it was a tourist-class boat (middle price range) had a great itinerary and offered diving. The next choice was the five day or eight day trip. As it turns out a five day trip is actually three days and an eight day trip is actually six days because they count the day you travel to the Galapagos and the day you return as two days. What makes the five day trip even worse is that one day is spent at the Charles Darwin center which is located on the Island you fly into. So you end up paying for a day that you could do for free on your own. If you go to the Galapagos go for eight days, you will not regret it. The price per person for the eight days was $700 plus $320 for the round trip flight to the Galapagos. Karen took out her credit card ready to spend $2040. The travel agent in her very best English responded no credit cards, even though we were surrounded by Visa, MasterCard, American Express welcome signs. Karen was ready to lose it. It was only 4:00 PM but everything that you have read so far has happened in one day. The agent did point out that she could take a credit card for our plane flights, which meant we had to come up with $1400 cash. We had also encountered a resistance to credit cards through out the day from other business and travel agents. Most of them were quick to inform us that if we used a credit card there would be 10% surcharge. I am going to call American Express and Visa when I get home and find out what the rule is on that, because I am pretty sure that the merchant signs a contract prohibiting them from doing that. I think the real answer why they don’t like credit cards is because it creates an accounting paper trail that means you have to pay taxes to the government. “Cash only” is a great way to avoid paying taxes. This all relates to my theory about why the US economy has been doing so well over the last five years. The US consumer shifted from paying with cash to paying for goods and services with a credit card. This makes it very difficult for a business to only report 75% of their actual business in order to save on taxes. So the end result it looks like our economy is exploding because all the government statistics show more money is being spent and consumer confidence is high. I think we have just been experiencing a more accurate accounting system. OK, stop this is a travel web site, not a place for me to ramble on about my crazy theories. Don’t worry Ed the men in black know all about it.
Here we are short $1400 cash and ready to toss in the towel. We regrouped and headed to a bank for a cash advance on Visa or MasterCard. We had lots of banks to choose from and as we approached each bank we would either ask an armed guard or teller if they did cash advances. It took two or three tries before we actually found a bank that would do a cash advance on a credit card. After filling out some paperwork we got $1400 US which in Ecuador money is a couple of billion BO. Back to Safari tours, hand over our money pay for our plane tickets using American Express and now what to do for the next two days. The agent gave us some paperwork and told us she would meet us at the airport Monday morning at 7:30 AM and would give us our plane tickets. I was not happy about this but she stated it would not be a problem. Stay tuned for another Airport adventure.
Karen and I were exhausted and hungry so we started to walk back to the Youth Hostel get our bags and check in to our new place. As we strolled along before my vary eyes appeared a mirage or a hallucination. We could not believe it, that last thing we thought we would see for a year, yes they have TACO BELL in Ecuador. Karen and I are both addicted to Taco Bell and eat it at home at least twice a week. So far on our travels we have seen lots of Kentucky Fried Chickens and Pizza Huts which are owned by the same company. Taco Bell is also owned by the same parent company so it would make since that if they have Pizza Hut why not Taco Bell. I walked up to the counter ready to order. I did not even to look at the menu, I new exactly what I wanted. Then I thought to myself how do I order it in Spanish but wait isn’t Taco Bell Mexican which makes the menu Spanish. Hey I actually do no Spanish. A Big Beef Burrito Supreme, Nachos Bell Grande and a Sprite I ordered and what I got back was a blank stare? OK so I don’t know any Spanish after all but I know how to point. Dinner was great and it lifted our spirits. We returned a couple of times over the next couple of days but overtime we went know one else was there. I am not sure if Taco Bell is going to make it in Ecuador but if you happen to be in Quito stop by for us, we would hate to see such a wonderful American experience not make it.
Since we had a couple of days in Quito we set out to do laundry and get non-travel stuff done. We had a list of things that we needed for the Galapagos such as suntan lotion, sea sick medicine and diving mask. After our previous days experience with not being able to get cash we figured we should probably start to stock pile our change. As we became consumers and we started to notice another unusual trend, know one has any change. If you did not have exact change for your purchase the business was unable to sell you the stuff. They would just look at you and shrug their shoulders. I was trying to decided if this was some sort of scam to get you to let them keep the change but it was legit. So we started hoarding our change but every time we got change it would disappear on our next purchase. We walked through a number of markets and various areas of town and it seemed that every purchase was followed by the vendor running up and down trying to make change for what was the equivalent of $10. Ecuador is the land of no change. With all the banks around it should not be a problem. At this point we were also still a little nervous about security. It also appears that every other citizen of Quito had the same idea because every bank machine had a huge line. There is two major banking networks in the United States and the world. They are Cirrus and Plus. So depending on which bank you are with dictates if you are on Cirrus or Plus. Karen and I bank with First Union so that we means we had to find a bank machine that would accept Plus. The first line we stood in did not have a Plus symbol but we decided to try anyway. We got to the teller, inserted our card, entered the pin number, selected English, so far so good. The pressure at this point was huge, we had a huge line of people behind us and an armed guard kept walking by and looking over our shoulder. The machine wanted to know how much money we needed in Bolivars. We had not prepared for this so I told Karen to enter a 1,000,00.00 which works out to about $400.00 US. The other confusing thing is that Spanish uses a period in place of a comma and a comma instead of a period. The machine came back with a big “NO” and I then tried my card, we walked away poorer than we started. We repeated this process about four or five more times with no luck. We had a problem, the banks are allied closed and we leave for a week early Monday morning. Quito is a Cirrus and MasterCard town. We came across a bank that was Plus and Visa but it rejected both of our Plus cards. Our next option was to try and use Visa or MasterCard for a cash advance but neither one of us had a pin number. After walking to our sixth bank of the day Karen decided to try her Visa and use the same pin number she always uses. The only Visa machine we could find did not have an English mode so we blindly pushed buttons hoping to make it work. Things were not going well but we kept trying. One of the final key combinations seemed to work and we tried to take out 80.000,00 Bolivars but it kept saying we had exceeded the daily limit. We next tried 10.000,00 Bolivars the machine thought about it and gave it to us, we were so excited we had $4.00. OK, lets try it again, what keys did we press, OK enter 100.000,00 Bolivars, all right we had $40.00 more dollars. Let’s go for broke and let’s get $200.00. The machine ate our card. I forgot about the if you use your ATM card three times in a row, the machine thinks something is wrong so it keeps the card. I started to bang on the window of the closed bank. They had a very nice armed guard and he only had a shotgun so I wasn’t worried about making him mad. I used hand gestures and various gyrations to illustrate that the machine ate our card. He smiled through the window eager to help and happy he did not have to shoot me. About ten minutes later he handed the card to us through the crack in the door and we were happy to have $44.00 more dollars and our Visa card back. The travel tip we learned today, if you are worried about security and somebody taking money from you by force, do what we did. Spend the day waiting in line at every teller machine you find, walk up enter some numbers and walk away with a big frustrated look on your face. They will get the hint that you do not have any money to take. On a more serious note, we will open another checking account at a bank that uses the Cirrus network and make sure we have a pin number for both Visa and MasterCard. This way we will have Cirrus, Plus, Visa and MasterCard.
The plan for today was to try and get more money and head for the Equator the namesake of Ecuador. The travel guides listed a couple of options for getting to the Equator by local bus or hiring a taxi. It was Sunday and the bus ride would be over an hour and would be very crowded so we decided to take a Taxi. We walked to the Hilton which is at the end of the Amazons. They have a change place(Cambio) that also does cash advances on credit cards. Across the street from the Hilton is a large park that has a number of tables and vendors setup selling native crafts. Karen purchased some very nice silver jewelry at a reasonable price. We waved down a taxi and we were on our way to the Equator. The travel books state that you can take a taxi for $20 to the Equator, the taxi will wait for an hour and then take you back. We should of been brave and taken the city bus but we are very short on time and the fact we don’t speak Spanish would create more problems and frustrations then it is worth.
Taking the Taxi was a very wise choice. The drive to the Equator is over an hour through some rough parts of town. It was Sunday so the streets were packed with people on their way to the Sunday Market via the Bus. We arrived at the Equator and told the taxi driver we would be back in an hour. We were not quite sure what the program was but since he waved us off without asking for money we figured we were OK. Let me try to summarize the highlight of the things to see at the Equator, a monument with the four directions and Latitude 0 on it. Running through the center of the monument is a line that represents the division of the Northern and Southern hemisphere. The true spectacle was watching all the tourist do fun and crazy things with the Equator line. The tourists would jump back and forth from hemisphere to hemisphere or they would try to walk down the center of the line. During this comedy of line walking all the other tourist are trying to take their picture but other tourists are in the background jumping across the line. The monument is actually a museum that you take an elevator to the observation deck and walk down through the museum. The main focus of the museum is a representation of the lifestyles of the various natives of South America. They don’t allow pictures or video and most of the descriptions were in Spanish, so I was more interested in getting back outside. There is actually a tourist village around the Equator National Park with lots and lots of tourist things but for some reason I wasn’t interested (Can you say Tacky).
We jumped back in our Taxi ahead of schedule and contemplated how to tell the Taxi driver to take us to Old Town so that we could look at the old churches. The first thing the Spaniards did when they conquered a region was build really big and cool churches. Cusco has it share of very old churches. We did not know how much extra the little detour would cost us but we figured it would probably be less than getting out of the taxi and taking another. I have been very impressed with the taxi drivers in South America they are very outgoing and talkative despite the language barrier. Our taxi driver figured out that we wanted to see churches so he took us on his own special tour. The first place we stopped was a large church called Bascillica, it was very run down, covered with graffiti and did not look very open. We also did not know how long the cab driver was going to wait for us. We had not paid him yet but we also did not want him getting nervous about us disappearing. The church was not in any of our guide books and this was odd because the church was huge and had the most amazing set of gargoyles around the entire perimeter. As we walked around to the front we came across a table at the entrance, which upon paying a fee you could wander around inside. The actual chapel area was closed but the host pointed us to a set of stairs that took us up to somewhere.
We were strolling along on the second level admiring the stain glass when we came upon a gated area with an open door, and a wooden walkway leading across the top of the cathedral ceiling. Karen and I looked at each other trying to decided if we were supposed to walk across the flying stone buttresses of this 100 year old church. As we walked out on the rickety walkway I noticed that the steep roof of the church was made up of a modern steel framework. This church could not be that old or someone had replaced the roof. We climbed another set of stairs at the end of the walkway that took us to another set of walkways and these stairs led us to the towers that rose to the sky on every corner. I had never been so scared in a church but we continued to climb. I am not scared of heights but we had gone far enough and could not believe this church was not in the guide book. As we looked over the country side we saw our Taxi driver get in his car and drive away. He was looking for us and we did not want him to leave so we raced down the towers and across the ceiling to find him waiting for us at the front entrance with a smile. It turns out that construction began on this church in the early 1900’s and was never completely finished. So the church is open for tours and they let you run around exploring the true architecture of a yet to be finished amazing church.
The next stop was Old town to check out a couple of the must see churches. The first church on the list was the famous church listed in the travel books but it was closed for renovations. The entire area was nothing but a big run down market. Karen and I were both a little nervous, it was Sunday afternoon and everywhere you looked somebody was selling something or looking at you look at them. We held on tightly to our bags and went up an alley to our next church in the main plaza. The atmosphere told us to walk in the church walk out and get back in our cab. In hindsight we probably could have hung out all afternoon without any problems but this was the last thing we wanted to do so we asked the taxi driver to take us back to New Town. I had visions of Taco Bell in my future.
What has become common practice we had to get up early and catch a 8:30 AM flight to the Galapagos via Guayaguil. We did not have our plane tickets and the agent from Safari tours was supposed to meet us at 7:30 AM at the International terminal. Do you sense another airport adventure well here it comes. The day before we had met Arnie who is from Norway and it turned out that he was also going on the same eight day cruise aboard the Seaman. We shared a cab to the airport and he was filled with anxiety about finding the correct person at the airport who would have his plane ticket and voucher for the Seaman. We were kind of in the same predicament but we had our voucher for the Seaman but know plane ticket. Since we had no place to meet the travel agent we grabbed a corner and waited for 7:30 to come. The Seaman holds sixteen people so we started to meet some of our shipmates. The tour company gives you a sticker for your boat that you place on your coat, this way the agent from the boat can find all of the passengers. The agent from the Seaman boat had rounded up the passengers and was getting everyone checked in and all the different airport departure tickets in place, except for us. She had our names on her official list but no plane tickets. When the clock hit 7:45 AM Karen and I started to panic. The Seaman agent had Karen wait in a very crowded line with our baggage so that when our tickets showed up we could check in. I was trying to find our Safari agent, figure out how to use the phone and watch Karen from a distance tell the next group of people to go buy. At 8:00 AM we still had no tickets and now it was time to execute Plan B which meant had to buy two more tickets and worry about it later. The Seaman agent is was also stressed and spoke very little English and had know idea what to do about us. Karen got out of the baggage line and stood in an even longer ticket line to buy our new tickets. The Seaman agent then turned on her airport charm and took Karen to the front of the line and explained the situation. They had our reservation but we would need to purchase two more tickets. No problem that is what credit cards our for when they work. For what ever reason they could not process American Express or Visa. Since I have the MasterCard I got called into the process with no luck. The service they use to process credit cards was not working so we could not purchase our new tickets. It is now 8:10 AM and it looks like we are sunk. Then the agent for the Seaman starts talking to a gentleman dressed in a very nice suit waiting in a baggage check-in line. He opens his briefcase and starts filling out two more tickets. I fill out a credit card voucher for $700 and the Seaman agent tells us that she will figure out what happened to our other tickets and would let us know via radio on the boat. At this point we did not care because we would make our flight. When we got back from the Galapagos we called Safari tours and spoke with a gentleman and asked what had happened. He had not heard that there was a problem but he would look into it and we should call back at 3:00 PM. It turns out that the person bringing us the ticket had a traffic accident, so the story goes, and they had reconciled the credit card purchase with the Seaman Agent. All’s well that ends well and now onto the Galapagos.
The travel tip learned today a ticket in hand is better than waiting for someone to show up an hour before the flight.