Galapagos Trip: Days 2 and 3 (Miami and Ecuador)

This is the second in the series of Sara’s trip to the Galapagos.

Always the shutterbug, I simply took far too many pictures to upload them all. See a sampling below, or the whole shebang on facebook

My second day, which was spent in Miami, was nice. I went out for a sort of brunch with Cathy to a Cuban bakery where we got a mini sandwich and two cheese empanadas. The empanadas, covered in sugar, were the epitome of delicious! I considered getting more but my body revolted, telling me like an ever-present parent “Hey! That’s dessert, not breakfast!” To ensure I complied, my parental body promptly gave me a sugar headache. It was so worth it though :). I moved onto the sandwich and more tastebud awesomeness. Cathy and I looked at each other and, as only true friends can do, telepathically agreed to a pact of mutual fatassery to get another two sandwiches.

I went out to dinner with my aunt and uncle at a nice Peruvian restaurant, then met up with Cathy at a nearby mall. We went shopping with her little eight year old cousin for Hello Kitty stuff. I discovered two things from this expedition: The first thing was that mustaches are apparently in right now (seriously, they were on EVERYTHING, even vegetable earrings!). The second thing was that Hello Kitty was everywhere. Cathy and I had a sort of punch-buggy-Hello Kitty thing going (as in “omg, there’s another store that has Hello Kitty in the window!”). I know we had counted at least 10. (Seriously, try it sometime! It’s amusing)

Cathy was borrowing her grandma’s car so we went to pick up her grandma to drive her home. Almost immediately, Cathy and her grandma started having a heatedly animated argument in Spanish. I was amused and curious to know what could create such quick, passionate discord between them. Cathy translated for me: Her grandma feared we would be enslaved by people who would spray a perfume at us or put powder on our faces to induce amnesia and make us forget who we were. Naturally, we’d still be able to enter our pin number at the bank and give them the sum total of our bank accounts. Allegedly, she knew three people to whom this had personally happened.

However, that would only be the start of some crazy warnings we’d get.  The morning of the third day, Cathy and I had our flight to Ecuador.  Cathy’s aunt warned us that Mercury was in retrograde and that strange things were likely to occur for the next day or so. Yea, ok, whatever. Also in addition to her warnings about being drugged with perfume or face powder, Cathy’s grandma was also worried about me, saying that I looked too American because I was wearing shorts. Cathy and I joked that we’d say we were from different countries (I had decided on Sweden) and would give people pseudonyms.

Not long after leaving the parking lot, we got caught in a speed trap. It was a main road but the speed limit was only 25 mph. Granted, it was a residential street…ish. We saw the SIDE or BACK of many GATED apartment complexes. Either way, the cops were standing on one the side of the street, having pulled over 5 cars so far. Cathy’s mom, who was driving us to the airport, was furious. Allegedly, it was illegal for police to pull over more than three cars at one time for speeding . To add insult to injury, there were three cops doing this together. Cathy’s aunt, who was also there, gave me a knowing smile. Huh, I guess she was right. Mercury must have been in retrograde…whatever that means.

Once we got to the airport there were thankfully fewer than the thousands of people in line than we encountered in Newark. The fact that the line was gradually moving was also an immense improvement.  All felt right with the world until I got pulled to the side at security.

I’m obviously not a terrorist. I barely break five feet tall and could easily be disarmed of anything (including my intellect) by something as simple as a cute puppy. The most harm I’d pose to anyone not about to hurt me would be accidentally stepping on their foot. Considering I can sometimes get away with shopping in the kids’ section of shoe stores, that isn’t saying much. Yet even though I have nothing to hide and pose no danger, for some reason, I always feel anxious in these situations. I worry that a Ziploc bag of illegal drugs or some form of explosive will somehow spontaneously appear in my bag. I stepped forward, wondering if my neck pillow was now suddenly contraband. The man at security started making small talk with me.

Security dude: (probably noting how pale I was) So are you from around here?

Me: No, I’m actually from Jersey

SD: So, on vacation in Miami?

Me: Well no, my friend that I’m traveling with is, so we stopped here to rest before the next part of our trip.

SD: Where are you headed?

Me: The Galapagos. Well, we’re stopping over in Ecuador first.

SD: Oh?

Me: It’s a transfer flight.

SD: Oh.

The longer the conversation went on, the more nervous I felt. Then again, how would any woman feel about a strange man looking through her bag for a really long time? Why can’t they just invent a conscience scanner and determine that I’m genuinely on vacation? The fact that I stopped in Miami before heading to Ecuador made me worry about being suspected of drug trafficking or something. Cathy started giving me a weird look, having already gone through security and wondering why I was taking so long. She headed over and he started casually asking her the same questions he’d asked me.

Finally, the security guy gave me a look that said he’d found what he was looking for. As it turns out, I forgot that I had a bottle of water in my bag. Oops. He wished us a good trip and winked at me.

After finally getting through security, we went to our gate and sat down. We encountered a Latin American looking girl who wore shorter shorts than I did. I apparently wasn’t the only one wearing shorts on this flight. I felt assured, thinking Cathy’s grandma was just overreacting.

Despite LAN’s (a member of Oneworld meaning you can use your American and British Air points) website being extremely difficult to navigate and their customer service representation being very rude to me, my experience with their airport had no problems. The flight went very smoothly. The one weird thing while we were waiting for the flight to take off was the music they were playing. They played a tune that sounded like off-key windchimes. It was a bit unnerving. I was happy to be rid of the music once we were off the plane.

We got to Quito and had originally planned on sleeping in the airport. Cathy spotted an information stall for a hotel that had its own taxi service to take us there. The the hotel room was $50 a night and the taxi was $10. As it turns out the taxi was a worthy investment. Our cab driver was very friendly and informative. Cathy translated that we should only get in cabs with numbers on the door (a sort of visible taxi certificate on the front right hand side door). Those without (the fake taxis) were known for occupying drivers that dabbled in human trafficking. Our driver corrected himself, saying that sometimes the fake cabs put a number on the side too. The only way to be sure you were in a legitimate cab was to have the airport or the hotel call one for you.

We arrived at Hostal Jardin del Sol to find a perfectly nice, clean and simple room. As with the toilets we’d later encounter in he Galapagos, we discovered that we had to throw away the toilet paper instead of flushing it. Suddenly, we heard what sounded like gunfire outside. We were petrified, pulling the curtains shut and trying to stay away from the windows, convinced we’d get shot. The “gunfire” ceased and my curiosity took over. I slowly opened the door to the balcony to find a beautiful view waiting for me. The “gunfire” started up again. Turns out, they were only firecrackers.

Dialogue & Discussion