Saturday, August 20, 2016

Ecuador: Our Final Days

Sadly, the end of our time in the Galapagos meant that our entire Ecuador adventure was coming to an end. The morning of August 2nd we were able to sleep in, take our time having breakfast and finishing up the packing and then were picked up to head to the airport. The airport is on the island of Baltra which is across a small channel from the northern point of Santa Cruz. Baltra is teeny and was used as an air force base by the US during WWII. It is dry and flat and the only thing there now is the current airport. To get there we took our bus up to the dock, got on a ferry that lasted about 3 minutes once everyone was on it (it seems a bridge would be a great option here but maybe they worry it will disturb animal life?), then got on a shuttle to the airport. When we arrived we got in the line for Avianca and it did not move, in typical Avianca fashion ;-). The two other airlines went completely through their lines and we had moved maybe one or two groups through ours. We ended up being in that line for TWO HOURS. Seriously. As we were getting closer to the front of the line we caught word that Avianca had changed what was supposed to be a direct flight to Quito and added a stop in Guayaquil! So annoying! I was chatting with a family in front of us who was also from the United States and they were able to get moved to a flight with LAN that was still direct. It was leaving an hour later than our Avianca flight but would still arrive in Quito before them with this new stop. The first worker we spoke with said they would only change our flight if we had a connection so we got back in line and spoke with someone else until they changed it. After traveling for a week and waiting in line for two hours I was not going to deal with getting on and off an additional plane when I specifically booked a direct flight. Thankfully it worked out, we got on the LAN flight and we made it back to Quito. It was such a relief to see Marco there waiting for us and know we were heading to the Dann Carlton hotel where we knew we could relax in comfort and order room service :-)! (we did let the kids check out the pool first and after a kind worker managed to find 3 caps they took a quick swim in the lap pool without bothering any of the people exercising)
The next morning we completely stuffed ourselves at the amazing breakfast buffet (we talked about that buffet the whole trip!) and then we were off to explore Quito for the day.
Our first stop (after checking out a viewpoint that I don't remember the name of) was the Intinan Museum to visit the Equator! When I came to Ecuador almost 20 year ago we went to the big, more fancy middle of the world monument (which I'm guessing was pretty new at that point). Since then they have discovered that the monument was built a little off from where the actual Equator is (sad for them), so there is this new place to visit. We really enjoyed our time here! You are taken through the history of Ecuador, shown some demonstrations on the Equator itself and they had a little shop for souvenirs that were well-priced. So different than when we stop places on the cruise and they try and charge you triple what it should be! We saw a lot of cocoa plants as we drove through the country and Marco had talked about the chocolate they make in Ecuador so we wanted to get some of it for sure and were able to have our own little demonstration of the process to make the chocolate as well as try lots of it (it was really good and we had a hard time picking which kinds to buy).
We added in a ride on the Teleferico Quito which I read about after the initial planning of the trip. The views at the top were pretty magnificent even though the kids were SUPER grumpy and complained about being cold. Then we battled traffic heading into the Old Town of Quito. The city is surrounded by mountains and old volcanoes and really is a beautiful place. Marco took us to have lunch at Lena Quitena where we tried a few traditional things we hadn't yet...a bite of his soup that had cow's stomach in it and dried blood sprinkled on top, roasted guinea pig that the kids all actually liked and a dessert of figs and cheese that wasn't our favorite. We were feeling tired and wanted to be sure to get back to the hotel at a decent time because we had to wake up at 2am for our flights (super critical error on my part...in hindsight it isn't worthy any amount of money to do that haha), so we kept our tour in the city pretty brief. We mostly just walked by the big churches and plazas although we did go into the Church of San Francisco where every surface is covered in gold (no pictures allowed inside). We did a little shopping for souvenirs, ran into the first missionaries we saw of the trip, and then headed back to the hotel to prepare for the next day and get to bed early.
Before we knew it we were off to the airport and saying our goodbyes to Marco. It was truly a dream trip and I still can't believe it is over after all those years of planning and saving! Time to start prepping for the next adventure now to keep me motivated :-)!
(we stopped to see Los Gemelos (the twins) on Santa Cruz Island on our way to the airport. They are two large craters that were once underground magma chambers. When the magma chambers caved in they left two huge impressive looking craters where you can also see many different types of bird and plant-life)
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blue footed booby...you can see his feat in my blurry pic
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Ella and her seagull friend :-)
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beautiful Baltra ;-)
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getting a bite to eat after FINALLy solving the flight fiasco. I told the kids to look exhausted
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you can see the old volcanoes in the distance from the runway
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landing in Quito
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just some of the amazing breakfast buffet
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shrunken head that is hard to see with glare
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the original monument in the background
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So excited about the cable car ride haha!
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The happier half of the family :-)
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love this picture!
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guinea pig!
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while walking back to the car we happened across this little shop with the prettiest hand made tops and yoyos. Preston picked one for one of his souveniors.
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we had planned to walk up to the top of the bell tower in this church but opted for a quick drive by instead because it was already getting late
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our van with our crew is in this one :-)
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Texas Chicken :-)
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And saying goodbye to Marco at the airport early on the 4th before we started our journey home
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