Galloping to the Galapagos - Chapter One
When do you decide your plans are Ill-fated?
Author’s note: throughout these posts, I will use “Author’s note” to share my perceptions, observations, and thoughts that may not be part of travel log. If you just want to read what happened on the trip, skip them. You should know though, I wrote the first sentence before we left on our trip. I'll give you the answer at the end.
When Tom (my husband) and I started scuba diving in 2011 the Great Barrier Reef, Southeast Asia and the Galapagos were bucket-list dive trips. Author’s Note: Ten months in Southeast Asia checked that off the list, although Indonesia still beckons.
In October 2019, while on a Celebrity cruise, we booked a nature cruise on their smallest Galapagos ship, The Xploration with 8 cabins and 16 guests for October 29, 2020.
Authors note: ON the cruise I was in vacation mode without a care in the world. Returning home I realized “We Served - a Play by Veterans about Veterans” (another story entirely) would open on November 11, 2020. Since I was the producer, returning home two days before the show opened was impossible.
After weeks of searching, I found a new date: November 26, 2020. While Tom made our airline reservations, I informed the family I would not be home for Thanksgiving. We planned our week of nature cruising together on Celebrity, then a week-long scuba liveaboard for Tom. I would return to Quito, Ecuador to a high-rise Air B&B condo for some cultural exploring.
THEN Covid hit. One by one our other plans for the year crashed. Author’s note: The all girls cruise in a penthouse on the Princess Sky with my daughter and granddaughter for spring break cancelled. Our Alaskan cruise cancelled. The production of “We Served” cancelled. But the Galapagos remained in our sights. I also discovered that my allergies had developed into severe asthma.
THEN the last week of October Tom’s liveaboard cancelled. Deep Blue Adventures went to work to find him a new liveaboard reservation.
THEN on November 2nd (remember, we’re leaving on November 26th) Celebrity cancelled all cruises through the end of the year. Although their specialty is dive travel, Deep Blue Adventures went hunting for a nature cruise. They found a booking on the M/Y Bonita Yacht beginning on November 29th and ending on December 5th to fill the Celebrity slot.
Author’s note: This gave us a couple of days in Quito before going to the Galapagos. This is very important later.
Tom booked the Humboldt Explorer leaving on December 7th from San Cristobal.
Author’s note: This provided a couple of days in San Cristobal together before Tom boarded his scuba liveaboard and I returned to Quito. Tom would rejoin me in Quito on the 14th for one full day in Quito before flying home on December 16th.
We were on track again.
THEN my condo in Quito canceled. Covid in the complex eliminated outside guests. I used my Hilton points for both stays in Quito and again we were back on track to the Galapagos.
Traveling during Covid proved more complicated than in pre-Covid days. We needed a paper copy of a negative Covid test to enter Ecuador taken within 10 days of departure.
Author’s note: A paper copy of the negative test was required to receive a stamp in the Quito Airport. It could not be presented on a cell phone. Once in Ecuador retesting was required or we faced a fourteen day quarantine, which would wreck all the plans. We also needed a printed detailed account of where we would be on any given day - in Spanish. Deep Blue Advertures via Cacaoland Tours provided this for us. I’m not sure what would have happened if we traveled without their help!
In Ohio Covid results were available in three to five days, so on Wednesday the 18th we tried to schedule. No appointments were available near us. We finally located one on Saturday the 21st in Marion, Ohio, about an hour away.
Author’s note: We felt we were cutting it close, but there was no going back now.
My negative results arrived in the afternoon on Tuesday the 24th. Tom was anxious until his arrived the next day.
WE’RE ON OUR WAY, MOSTLY
Thursday November 26, 2020
At 4:00 a.m. my grandchildren delivered us to the John Glenn International Airport. As we settled into our seats on the way to Miami, I thought I dropped something. I looked and Tom looked as well, but neither of us could find anything.
We had a tight connection in Miami - just 40 minutes between flights and our plane from Columbus was late.
Author’s note: My right knee continues to challenge me. Sitting long periods exacerbates its problems. We requested wheelchair assistance for me which proved a grand idea!
When we arrived at the gate to board the plane to Quito, I no longer had my passport. That’s what I dropped on the plane.
Author’s note: Before we left home, I was worried about the short connection. I knew there was one seat on the later flight to Quito at 9:20 p.m., but I wasn’t sure there were two seats.
I told Tom, “Get on the plane.” He tried to say “No,” but the argument was compelling. He had a seat now and his luggage was on the plane. He might not have one later. He went. I stayed to work out my passport, which was found on the plane. I moved my reservation to the 9:20 flight.
Author’s note: It was now 2:30 p.m. in Miami. They could not guarantee me a seat until the gate opened at 7:30 p.m. All the lounges were closed. My backpack weighed over 25 pounds. Every time I needed the restroom I had to carry it with me. Between the dry air on the airplanes and sitting in Miami for six and a half hours I became badly dehydrated.
Meanwhile, Tom arrived in Quito and checked into The Hilton Colon.
Author’s note: It turned out our bags were mistagged in Columbus. Tom had my bag while his bag was in Miami with me. Luckily I made it on the plane.
Tom met me at the Quito airport.
Author’s note: My plane arrived early at about 1:30 a.m. instead of 2:19. The officials glanced at my negative Covid document-I assume for the date-stamped it and sent me on my way. I’m pretty sure I could have created one on my computer and they would have never noticed.
In the Hilton, I showered to ostensibly end the day. Later I woke with a migraine.
Author’s note: I took my migraine medicine. By morning the migraine was worse. I tried my medicine again as we went downstairs for breakfast. Breakfast did not stay in my stomach. The tsunami of events from the day before caught up with me: lost passport; potentially no seat; hours in a hard chair; dehydration AND now altitude sickness (9,250 feet in Quito vs. 846 feet in Grove City, Ohio) plus a tendency for migraines hit me hard. Nothing worked.
I managed the Covid test and returned to the room.
The hotel sent a doctor to our room. She administered injections but the pain didn’t stop. She urged me to go to the clinic. I declined hoping what she gave me and sleep would work. The next day the pain was worse so they transported me to the clinic/hospital in an ambulance. With an IV in place, soothing drugs began to ease my agony.
Author’s note: An MRI proved I had a brain, but no problems there.
Although I was still not completely recovered, in the afternoon I was released. The bill was $455.53. I hate to think what it would have cost in the U.S. We returned to the hotel (in a taxi) with packets of drugs to rest and prepare for the next day.