My last post presented what was hopefully some helpful information about navigating the Cajas mountains. And I mentioned that our own upcoming trip wasn't happening at the ideal time.
The good news is none of the factors about the phase of the moon or time of the year adversely affected our journey. But we were still an hour late arriving in Guayaquil.
Flat tire? Engine trouble? Avalanche?
Nope. The police.
As best I can understand, none of the van services are properly licensed for what they do. Why? Faithful readers know by now you don't ask that question in Ecuador because the answer doesn't really matter, but I'm guessing either a) they can't get the correct license or b) it's too expensive.
So they're licensed as tour companies although no actual "tour" occurs. Periodically the bus companies from whom business is being siphoned complain loudly enough that the police temporarily "crack down" and hassle the offenders. We learned they are sometimes stopping the vans en route and making the passengers get out, forcing the van companies to find alternate transportation like taxis to complete the trip.
Not exactly the desired scenario when you've got an international flight awaiting.
We had planned to leave Cuenca at 7 AM and arrive in Guayaquil around 10, allowing plenty of time for our 1 PM departure. After learning at the last minute of these police shenanigans we switched to 6 AM "just to be sure." Plus we figured the police might not be diligent enough to be out hassling illegal vans so early.
Since we rarely arise when it's still dark the 4 AM alarm was in fact alarming, but we got to the van service's office on time and boarded a totally full vehicle. The driver instructed if we got pulled over we were to say we were going to Guayaquil for a city tour.
As we hoped the drive through the Cajas was uneventful and we figured we were in the clear. Nope. Our driver got a call from his counterpart coming from the opposite direction that the cops had a roadblock set up ahead.
Immediately we were off on a side road through the countryside. The guy sitting next to me got on his phone, pulled up some app that plotted our course, and became the navigator. Cynthia and I were having a great time enjoying our impromptu "country tour." We had plenty of time and were fascinated to be in a portion of what I like to call the "real Ecuador" that we knew we'd never see again.
Somehow we eluded the cops and emerged on a highway that took us into Guayaquil from a different direction than usual. This too was a revelation. I knew there was a lot of money in this city, but the vans from Cuenca drive through miles of slums to get to the airport. You thus get the erroneous impression Guayaquil is a huge dump that you want no part of.
I still want no part of it as far as a permanent residence because it's quite hot and humid, and traffic there is LA-like horrible. But we drove past gorgeously landscaped gated neighborhood after neighborhood with huge attractive homes. Beautiful malls. The Guayaquil Tennis Club. Tony Roma's, Goodyear, Chili's.
Although an hour "late," we arrived at the airport when we had originally planned and checked in. Being 6'3", exit row is a blessing for me that rarely occurs in the States (plus the SOB's charge extra for the privilege of sitting there). Since Latin Americans are small they could care less about extra legroom and I always score.
Such was the case on our nonstop LAN flight, perhaps the best flight we've ever taken. We had a ton of room in our 2-seat area next to the window plus the plane wasn't full at all, so I was able to stretch out on the empty 3-seat row next to us for a couple of naps.
For airplane food our lunch was quite tasty and complimentary wine was liberally poured. The flight attendants were pleasant and there was a wide choice of entertainment options on individual screens. The 6 1/2 hours, pardon the pun, flew by and we felt refreshed when we landed in JFK that evening.
We're now in Hoboken with our daughter and enjoying our newest granddaughter for several more days before moving on to our son's home in North Carolina until the end of the year.
Sure hope the police have found someone else to hassle by the time we return to Ecuador.