The Worst Week of Travel: 03-11 Mar 2020

Salento–> Papoyan–> Impailes (impressive church)–> Quito, Ecuador. Taking 4 days.

Long travel days in small buses (we should have flown in hindsight) with not a lot to see on our way out of Colombia.

We entered Ecuador with the knowledge that the Corona Virus had started to spread within the country. We will now flag up when crossing the next boarder (hopefully we don’t get stuck and all this calms down).
Immediately after crossing the boarder into Ecuador someone grabbed Adam’s big backpack while he was paying for the taxi and ran off across the road. We think he was trying to get us onto his bus to Quito by taking our luggage hostage but definitely went the wrong way about getting our custom. Adam had a few choice words with the man in question and we got the next bus to Quito.

We arrived 2 days ahead of schedule in Quito so had emailed the hostel ahead of time to let them know we would be there early. All email correspondence said this would be fine. It wasn’t. We arrived tired and hungry only to find that there was no room at the inn until our original booked dates. We set out on the streets literally looking for a bed. Luckily a hostel just down the road had room.

We settled down to have a nice dinner and found out that our basement back in the US was flooding. Our house Manager was on holiday, we had zero cellular signal and WiFi was infrequent and unreliable. We spent Friday night trying to call plumbers with no luck. We got the guests to turn off the water to the house and had an uneasy night wondering if our house would still be there when we get home. The next day we set off on the quest for decent WiFi. After an hour or so walking into cafes asking for WiFi and either being told they had none or finding out it wouldn’t be good enough for us to make our calls we found a McDonalds. I don’t normally seek out McDonalds in other countries but I was happy to see this one. We finally found a plumber willing to help. One job was done and we sat down to eat our meal only to have coke spilt all over it. It may sound petty to react badly to this but by this point all our patience was gone. The end of the water issue story was that our dishwasher had sprung a leak and at the time of writing water was restored to the house, the dishwasher was turned off and we are just waiting for a part to be delivered so the repair can be made (I will not tempt fate by saying everything is resolved until I know for certain that it is).

The next day we decided to each take some time for ourselves and reset after our long travel days and the issues back home. Adam went on a day trip to hike up a volcano and cycle back down. I decided just to have a movie day and chill. The only thing I had to do was move from one hostel to another. At the new hostel I found out that our room was not available as it had been given to someone unwell. We were given free bunks for the night with the promise that the room would be ready tomorrow.

On the same road as our hostel about 50ft away was a small cafe we had found. I decided to go here for an early lunch and it was within that 2 minute journey that a couple of teenagers blocked my path. The first of them went to get my money belt containing my money and passport and the other grabbed my arm. I protected my money belt but swiftly the second boy lifted my phone from my pocket. Everything happened so quickly that it took me a second to realize what they had taken when they set off running. In a burst of adrenaline (and afterwards decidedly poor decision making) I ran after them. I don’t know exactly what I would have done had I caught them. Luckily I am not a very good runner.

The shock of what had happened was worse than what was lost. We purposely bought cheap phones for our travels and all our photos were backed up on Google. I set to getting access on our tablet to all the apps I had used on my phone. I thought our problems were ending but it’s here that they really started. Over the course of 3 days I must have spent a good 5/6 hours on the phone to AirBnB and 2 of the most infuriating hours of my life on the phone to Microsoft to attempt to regain access to my email account. It turns out that despite knowing all log in details and being able to answer all security questions without the phone connected to the account there was no way to verify it was really me and apparently no work around. It really depends on the phone operator and for the most part we were unlucky. Everything was linked to my email address and without access to my phone or email it was just a disaster. By the last day we were getting pretty upset and frustrated as the following day we were leaving for the Galapagos Islands to an unknown AirBnB address with no way to contact our host. After an hour of a Microsoft “help” assistant refusing to help me in any way or put a manager or supervisor on I may have shouted something along the lines of “I don’t care who I speak to as long as its someone else, get me the CEO, get me Bill Gates himself but I need some help”. I really hope someone reviews that phone conversation. Right now I still don’t have access to my emails. On the final day we got a helpful AirBnB operator and accessed my account and she was able to connect it to a new email address. Success! 15 minutes later my account got flagged for suspicious activity and I was locked out. Luckily in the 15 minutes I had access to the system I recorded all upcoming locations for our trip. The one thing I have learnt from this experience is to add multiple phone numbers and multiple email addresses to all accounts.

As you can probably tell we didn’t get to see much of the city itself and our time in Quito was not in the least bit enjoyable. I was thrilled to get in the taxi to the airport and start fresh just to be sat in a long line of traffic behind an overturned potato truck. I couldn’t make this up if I tried. Long story short – after a stressful journey we made our flight and that’s where I am now, sat on a plane to the Galapagos.

Quick shout out to the immigration guy who gave us his valuable time in between completing levels of his game as we stressed about making our flight.

I apologize for the length of my rantings as I use this to vent. Today is a new day and from here hopefully everything is onwards and upwards.

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