Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Traveling from USA to Ecuador - Here's a synopsis of our trip in May, from our Issaquah, WA home to our new life in Cuenca, Ecuador. Another post will review our feelings and unbridled emotions, intense at times, that we were feeling.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

We had little or no sleep on Tuesday night, as we planned to leave for the airport at 12:45am early Wednesday morning, thinking to be really early to avoid issues with long TSA lines. Michael tried snoozing on our bed, now in the dining room, while I did some last-minute stuff, like packing our airplane snacks, and wandering through our home saying goodbye. By 12 midnight though, we were both up and making sure we were ready for the Shuttle Express.

Our precious “Monkey” had already said goodbye and his batteries were packed. He would take special care of “Sweetums” as we traveled to our new home.

Our bed was the last item in the house, and we moved it to the garage, and positioned all of our luggage at the end of the driveway. So excited to be on our way. Thank you Shuttle Express for a complimentary upgrade to the SUV.

Our Shuttle Express driver arrived around 12:45 and we loaded up our seven (7) 50-lb suitcases / black cases, and four (4) carry-ons, plus ourselves and the all-important bag of snacks. We each had layers of clothes and jackets on, with our pockets full of “necessary” items not packed otherwise. Why pack two jackets, when you can wear both? Great idea, but we looked rather stout. And warm.

Fortunately, although there were moments (reminders to "breathe" and "trust"), our ever-present guardian angel team (thank you!) did an outstanding job, and we were very blessed to have everything go smoothly, as we flew out of Seattle, to Los Angeles, to Miami, and then to Guayaquil, Ecuador to start our new life adventure!

We arrived at the airport about 1:30am, a bit early for our 5:05am flight, but that’s how we planned it that way. Unfortunately neither American Airlines nor Alaska Airlines (our 1st flight was under American Airlines but provided by Alaska Airlines) was open and wouldn’t be open until 3:15am. So we would have only 1 hour 50 minutes to make it to the gate! Note to the airlines: they need to handle the timing issues at this early hour, because we know that many people have not been able to get through baggage check-in and TSA security in time for their flights!

We made great use of the wait time from 1:30am to 3:15am. Deborah saw the airline scales and had to verify the weight of EACH one of the checked bags. Whew – each one was 49.5 to 50.0 lbs. None were over the 50 lb limit. Such a relief! Back at home, one of us would get on the bathroom scale to weigh ourselves separately, then step off, and step on again with the heavy case, while the other read the scale. The scale seemed to be accurate, but periodically would weigh a few pounds higher or lower. Stressful but such a comedy as we stepped off and on, off and on, again and again, for each of the seven (7) bags, many times over! We didn’t want to be charged hundreds of dollars for overweight baggage. What to bring? What to leave behind? Especially at this late stage, it had been an ongoing stressful process that we could only hope would end well in our favor. And now, it was confirmed! We were NOT overweight.

We had decided on the less expensive economy booking, rather than first class. With first class, you get one more free checked bag and the checked bags could be up to 75 lbs each.  Apparently this extra bag bonus is going away, so check with your airlines as these baggage rules are always changing. And sometimes there are cargo embargos (usually out of Quito) where you are limited even more. We paid for our extra checked baggage, but still saved many hundreds of dollars with our economy flight choice. For us it was worth it, as we decided to bank that money to use in setting up our household in Ecuador, rather than schlepping even more stuff down.

We couldn’t check in on our own, as ours was an international destination with stops in between. The Alaska Airlines desk opened at 3:15am, and by the time the attendant had weighed each of our bags, charged us for our three additional bags, walked elsewhere to record the charges, handwrote the receipts, and sent us on our way, it was 3:50am. The only TSA line that was open was very long, and we knew we just wouldn’t make it through that line in time. Fortunately, we overheard someone talking about a second TSA line opening at 4:00am, and we scooted over to that one, being second in line there. Serendipity!

Getting through that newly opened TSA line was fairly easy. We just had to keep our shoes on, remove all those jackets, remove the lap top, and personal liquids bags, and voila, done! Although Michael had to unpack his blue backpack stuffed full of electronics. They just couldn’t make out what was what.

Finally, TAKE-OFF!  I could finally fall asleep on the flight from SeaTac to LAX.

We made the flight connections at LAX (it was a long, long walk but no complaints as it was nice to really stretch our legs) and Miami (only 53 minutes there - whew! but we easily went from Gate 41 to 44 to catch that flight easily - woo hoo!). I wouldn't chance such a short layover in the future though. Word to the wise!

We had to check the 8th bag at Miami since that flight was super full and prayed that it would make it through with the valuables inside with only one lock (we had ran out of locks so not all compartments were secure, but it made it through A-OK with nothing missing, and nothing broken).

For the international flight from Miami to Guayaquil, we had extra leg room being at the bulkhead (Michael at 6'2" was even more appreciative of that). Thank goodness for our packed snacks as no meal service is included in the airfare price any more between SeaTac/LAX, and LAX/MIA, although they did have some pricey offerings that weren't very appealing, and we enjoyed munching on our good snacks. On the Guayaquil flight we were treated to a nice, albeit small dinner (by then, we were ready for a "real" meal and the caramel brownie was luscious. Nice touch.).

We arrived in Ecuador an hour late last night (if there had to be a late flight, at least it was the last one with no more connections needed). And the travel ease continued. Our angels had definitely been preparing the way for us and I know I sensed their calming presence directly and often.

At Guayaquil, Ecuador customs and baggage inspections, we sailed through so quickly, like there was a wind at our back, with our 12 pieces of luggage – now eight (8) checked and two (2) carry-ons plus by then an additional bag of extra coats and of course the snacks. We easily streamed through the initial passport check (no questions!) and then luggage customs check (they only wanted to know what all those tiny bottles were – they were my Doterra essential oils), and quickly connected with Jorge Lopez, our driver / B&B host, and got to his B&B easily.

We had come with one-way tickets, and had purchased online bus tickets to Peru - many times, if you don't have residency status, they will refuse to let you into Ecuador unless you can show that you are leaving, even though you are not. You can do this a number of ways and we felt the lowest cost risk was booking the bus tickets. Many times, they won't check, but it's best to be prepared if they do.  

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Jorge made us a great breakfast this morning (thanks again for your hospitality!). We met a lovely couple from Georgia (hello to Elsie and Walter!), and enjoyed the 4-hour drive trip with his driver, Ivan to Cuenca today.

Travel note:  We decided to fly to Guayaquil instead of Quito, just to make sure to avoid any issues with possible Cotapaxi volcanic eruptions since it has been recently active. Of course, with the coastal earthquake that had happened one month previously, on April 16, maybe we should have considered that possibility too, but our tickets were booked.  Also, we didn't want to take a chance on flying into Cuenca and experiencing issues with getting our luggage to come along with us. Sometimes there can be issues with a local airline accepting all your luggage. Plus, the Cuenca airport had been known to close due to rain, and no refunds would have been given if that was the case. We also knew that there would have been no flights until the next morning, any ways.

We liked our decision to travel by van from Guayaquil to Cuenca. The scenery through the Cajas is amazing!  We chose a safe driver too, essential in Ecuador! Our AirBnB studio apartment in Cuenca on Mariscal Sucre is quite lovely and our host is very gracious. We chose one with a private kitchen and a modern bathroom. We booked a full month to give us time to explore and shop for our more permanent home with ease. No pressure, no rush, and we get to ease into Cuenca living slowly!

We're here! We're really here! We were thrilled to be back in Cuenca after our exploratory trip in September 2015. This is our view from our home for our first month in Cuenca. The first photo is looking to the left, the second photo is looking to the right out of our window on the third floor.

Our "Monkey" got his batteries back in, and his first words were "Ahhh...that's better". And then he said, "This is cool, I'm getting dizzy." Guess he's acclimating to the 8,400 feet altitude. More on Monkey later. "Sweetums" also joined us on our travels and both are quite relaxed in their new digs.

We had a great trip and feel quite blessed that it went as smoothly as it did. We could both feel ourselves decompressing at this point. Major whoosh! And we're actually in Cuenca, after all the planning and traveling!  What will it be like? Time will tell.

For now, we got to decide what will be our first dinner in our new home: Raymipampa at Parque Calderon, chosen especially for their delicious humitas we’d experienced before. Dessert was at Tutto Freddos – we enjoyed a tiramisu and their chocolate torte.

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