Thursday, December 25, 2008

And the Nominee for Worst Travel Day Ever Is...

The trip down to Santiago was not an easy one. The original plan was to have a small layover in Lima, Peru and arrive in Santiago, Chile around 2:30 am (Chile is two hours ahead of Ecuador somehow, which I don't entirely understand). As it would turn out, it became one of the worst travel days I've ever experienced, and I've done a lot of traveling. It even ranks up there with the bus hijacking day and a 26 hour train ride from Amsterdam to Rome via Paris. So here is what happened:

On Tuesday morning I woke up at 8:15 am, very tired from the night before and the lack of sufficient sleep. I ate my breakfast, showered, and headed out the door to get my bus to Guayaquil. The bus was actually nice for once, with comfortable seats with a lot of leg room, and even a board you could pull out to lay out your feet. I had no one sitting next to me, and I thought this could start out to be a really nice trip.

There are two ways to get to Guayaquil from Cuenca. You can go through Canar or through Cajas National Park, which takes an hour and a half less. I took the company that went through Cajas, thinking I'd save time and get to see some nice things along the way. The bus driver, however, was driving 30-40 miles an hour around hairpin turns, left and right, left and right, over and over again. After a while I started to get nauseated. Every two seconds everyone on the bus was flying from one side to the other. 

I curled into a fetal position which helped a little bit, and though I fought as hard as I could for an hour and a half, I finally puked three times into a little plastic bag. It was just straight up liquid from the hot chocolate I had for breakfast. No one even looked or cared because it happens from time to time on these crazy mountain roads. But I felt like garbage and still had so long to go. The worst movie ever was being shown and I just wanted some sleep. 

Finally we made it to the coast and the bus stopped making crazy turns, so I was able to lean back again and close my eyes for a while. But soon my dad called and told me that LAN Airlines had called him to say that my flight from Guayaquil was delayed 6 hours. There was nothing I could do about it while on the bus, so I had to just wait until I got there to figure it out.

Arriving in Guayaquil's enormous bus terminal, I knew I could either pay $2 for a taxi or walk in the humidity and high temperature 10 minutes to the airport. I chose to walk, asking several people for directions along the way. At one point I had to pass down a narrow corridor with 30 or so people just sitting on the ground all staring at me. It was like running the gauntlet, and I just wanted to get out of there as soon as possible. Guayaquil isn't the city you want to screw around in. 

At the airport I went to the LAN desk and was told there was a 6 hour delay and I couldn't check in until 8 pm. The flight was originally supposed to leave at 6:30 pm. It was near 1 pm, and I had no plans of heading into the city, so with nothing else to do I stored my backpack at the airport, which cost $4, and grabbed some lunch. The prices of everything were embarassing. The cheapest thing I could find was a chicken sandwich for $3.80 which came with a small soda and fries (though they didn't give me the fries). I would wind up getting that again for dinner.

I walked around trying to find something to do and eventually sat down in a comfortable couch near a cafe with a TV and made some phone calls. I had a whole bunch of extra cell phone cash that would expire before I got back to Ecuador, so I went through the phone book calling as many people as I could get a hold of, wishing a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, and just talking with people I hadn't spoken to in a long time. But that total could only have killed an hour and a half. 

I read and wrote a little bit, but my attention waned and I finally settled on watching the first half of a soccer game which barely kept my attention. By this point I was laying out on the couch like I was at home. Throughout it all my patience was surprisingly level, as I'd gotten used to dealing with delays already. Even if there was no delay I still would have had to wait a while, but now there were 6 more long hours to waste. 

At 7 pm I picked up my bag and went to the desk, waited a half hour and finally checked in. The women behind the desk tried to help but had no idea what was going on. The first boarding pass they gave me was for the wrong time, and luckily I checked them carefully. The next one had me in two different seats, even though she said I wouldn't change planes. The delay, she told me, was because of some problem in New York, which set off a chain reaction of delays around the world there that plane was heading, and Guayaquil was one of its last stops. 

I had to go pay $27.50 just to leave Ecuador, and the woman found me to tell me she had to give me another boarding pass with new information now. I told her I hoped my bag would arrive and she said not to worry. By 8 pm I was through security and thought I'd just waste a couple of hours before boarding at 10 pm, which is what the ticket said. 


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