Highlights: Second birthday in South America & having passport, phone and laptop stolen.
Pictures taken: 36
Travel: Flight from Lima, Peru to Guayaquil, Ecuador and taxi from there to Montañita.
Favorite picture of the day:
Happy birthday to me! 35. And i’m waking up in an airport. If all goes well i should be watching the last rays of sun disappear below the horizon of the pacific with a cold beer in hand.
I kill my last few hours in Peru and gladly board my LAN flight to Ecuador’s largest city – Guayaquil. The plane was not full so i had a few seats to myself. I plugged into my earphones and zoned out.
We landed and after clearing customs and immigration i took a taxi toward the bus terminal. The driver tried talking me into chartering his taxi clear to Montañita instead of taking the bus. He said the bus took 4 hours and only 2 to 2.5 in the cab. But it would cost $120.
It was just after 1 PM. I seriously contemplated it. That would definitely have me to the beach in time to enjoy my birthday.
Hindsight is 20:20.
I decided against it because 1. i had spent a lot more money in Lima and on this trip than i had planned and 2. riding a bus is part of the experience here.
I walked into the bus station but it was more like a mall. There was even a food court. I found the bus line booths and bought my ticket for a 3:30 departure (i could have been to the beach by then!) for $5.50.
It was on the bus line CLP and was bus #33.
I went to the food court and ate McDonald’s.
I killed some time by walking around. I kept hearing whistling behind me. Coming from different people. I changed directions frequently and held my bag close to me. After checking out the first floor i ventured to the second and hit an internet place to pass the rest of the time i had.
Then i went to the third floor and found my departure gate. There was a security guard that scanned the barcode on my receipt to allow me in. I felt a little more secure and didn’t hear the whistles any longer.
I dug out my nail clippers and trimmed my nails away from the crowds waiting for buses. The place reeked of stale urine. I was yelled at by security for venturing over by the open air behind the idling buses.
Finally my bus arrived. I gave the baggage handler my bag with clothing to put under the bus. I waited and watched him put it under. Then i got on the bus and found my seat.
Someone was in it. And they had a big bag in the spot next to my seat (the aisle one). I told them they were in my seat but they didn’t understand. I wanted that window seat! They moved their bag off the aisle seat so i sat down. Then someone they were traveling with needed to switch seats with them. So i let them out and an older woman in.
A bus line employee came on and pointed to my bag on my lap and pointed to the storage above the seats. I reluctantly put the bag up.
A minute or two later the woman sitting in my seat needed to switch again. I stood to let her out and saw my bag was gone.
I looked around quickly and then jumped off the bus. We were still sitting at the terminal and people were still boarding. They had a door open in the middle of the bus and i figured someone had grabbed it and scooted on out. I told the three CLP employees that my bag was missing and they said it was underneath. I told them my other bag had been taken and they told me to look on board. I did. Twice. The bag was small enough it could be hidden anywhere.
I gave up and asked for my other bag from under the bus and also asked for the police.
I went to an information booth and tried to tell my story. After 45 minutes of waiting for the police to get there i grew angry. The terminal security staff wouldn’t let me look at the security footage to see if my bag had been removed from the bus. They were working really hard on getting the bus line to give me a free ticket to Montañita though. I could care less about the $5.50. I just wanted to get my police report filed.
They gave me the address for the nearest police station. Another $5 taxi ride. I hopped out at the address and it wasn’t a police station. It was just a canopy tent with two policemen and their motorcycles under it. They gave me directions to the police station though – 3 blocks down then 5 blocks to the left. I had to ask another officer where it was when i got there. I was standing next to the building but didn’t know it.
I went up a floor to the receptionist room. There was a line. There were four desks in the room. One had a woman working and talking taking people out of the line. The next had a citizen sitting at it trying to look upset. The next had a boy playing a game on one of the two computers in the room. Other people watched him play whatever game it was. They were amused. The last desk was vacant except for a man that would sit for a few moments then get up and walk away. Then he would come back after a few minutes, sit down, and then moments later get back up and walk out of the room. It was 4:30 and the only person in the room working was looking at the clock while she listened to people.
I finally skipped ahead of everyone and interrupted. I asked if that was where a police report could be filed. She told me to go upstairs. I did. There were girls with copiers at the corners of the landing and i asked one where to go to file a police report. She pointed to a ticket window. I went to it and the girl at the copier told me to just go in the door. More people sitting around and one girl at a desk. She asked my problem, made a note on a slip of paper and told me to go to office 1.
I went there and opened the door. First thing i see is a guy with his feet propped up on his barren desk. He told me to go to the next desk. I sat and he asked the problem. I tried to explain and was interrupted in English by a man standing in the room. He asked if i needed help.
He translated my situation and used my bus ticket for filling in some details. The man at the desk clacked away on an old typewriter.
Here’s what was in the bag
- Camelbak M.U.L.E. bag $90
- Passport $100
- Acer Aspire One netbook $418
- Wireless laser mouse receiver $50
- Palm Centro $280
- Prescription sunglasses
- Lonely Planet guide to Ecuador $24
- Earbud headphones $35
- LED flashlight $10
- A spare battery for my camera $34
- Lip balm $5
- Pen $1
- Sharpie $1
- Audio jack for using headphones with the Centro $10
- 2 gig micro SD card $20
When done they read it back to me, had me sign it, and then they signed and stamped it. They gave me directions to the U.S. Consulate in Guayaquil and so i took another taxi there.
They were closed.
Next door was a nice hotel. I went in, asked about their business center and paid for a $230 (plus taxes) room. I wanted to be able to deal with the problem and get out of there as soon as possible the next day. I went straight to the business center with my remaining bag and got online. I found out that the counsulate wouldn’t even be open for the next few days. It was Friday. I checked their website. Open Monday-Thursday 1:30-4:30 PM.
No way was i going to stay at a $230 a night hotel until Monday afternoon.
I sent Levy a message telling him i wouldn’t be on the bus and that i might charter a taxi. I took a beat up taxi to the airport to catch one of the newer ones that were there. I agreed to $120 for the drive to Montañita.
It started to rain. And then pour.
At 7:30 we started the drive. It was raining hard. Standing water up to 8 inches deep was on the road in places. There was lighting too. I miss lightning. Then the cab driver put on some reggaeton and i smiled to myself. I’d make it to the beach.
A little after 10 PM we rolled into Montañita. I had the hotel written down in my phone so just by memory i thought it was called “Las Palmas.” We got to “Las Palmeras” with the help of the locals and i thanked the driver.
The owner of the hotel let me into Levy’s room because he was expecting me.
I walked the busy streets looking at the faces of others walking by and those of people sitting in the bars and restaurants that lined the streets. About five minutes away from the hotel i found Levy. We greeted each other and sat for a beer while i told him of my woes.
We went to a club full of the Guayaquil weekenders but we didn’t get into it. We left there and had mojitos from one of the street booth bars. After finish them we went to a different club where they were playing live music. After the band cleaned up i danced and drank the night away.
At some point i decided i was done so i walked back to the hotel. Levy had the only key though so i settled into a chair outside the hotel on the sidewalk – or where a sidewalk would normally be.
I got a number of bites but they didn’t wake me. Levy woke me and we settled in for the night.
The total value of the stuff i had stolen is $1,054 plus the cost of the prescription sunglasses. Since i’m due for another pair of glasses soon anyway it looks like filing a claim won’t be worth it. I’m out that money and those items. A negative income birthday sucks! But i made it to the beach and the next day would soak up the sun.