Xpedition to Quito


Woke up early this morning with mixed feelings.  Happy, because it was our 29th Wedding Anniversary and what a fantastic place to be spending it in, and sad because we would have to disembark the Xpedition at 11.00am for the return flight to Quito, and we didn’t want our incredible Galápagos voyage to be at an end.

We got ourselves sorted out and went along to the Darwin Restaurant, armed with the bottle of fizz we had been given earlier on in the cruise.  We’d booked a table for six so that Jan and Jeff, and Neil and Gail could join us for some breakfast Buck’s Fizz.  Everyone arrived on time and we all took our seats, the others wishing us “happy anniversary” as Trevor removed the wire muzzle from the champers.  The cork shot out with a loud bang and hit the ceiling, to much laughter.  Then he poured our six glasses, and we mixed it with our breakfast orange juice.  We asked the waiter to take a photo of the six of us, and then we tucked into a hearty, delicious breakfast while enjoying the conversation and the laughter.  😊

Afterwards we returned to cabin 416 and collected our carry-on flight bags and had a last look round before leaving for the last time.  A small part of me would remain behind in cabin 416 in more ways than one; my cruise card with my name and stateroom number had inadvertently got lost down the back of the dressing table and I’d had to be issued with a new one, so it will be stuck there until the next time the ship has a refit.  Other people would be coming and going in that cabin, and all the time a card with “Debbie King” on it will be out of sight behind the dresser.  😊

We made our way to the rear decks outside the Beagle Grill and sat with Jeff and Jan while we waited to be called to embark the Zodiacs.  Eventually they were ready for us and asked for the first 16 people.  We were given the now-familiar orange life-vests and climbed into the Zodiac which roared off over the surf as usual.  From my vantage point at the rear of the inflatable, I could see the Xpedition receding into the distance and really felt quite sad.  I had to keep reminding myself it wasn’t the end of our holiday; we still had another two nights to spend in the excellent Marriott hotel in Quito.

We disembarked the craft at the other side with a sense of déjà vu; it didn’t seem five minutes since we were excitedly boarding the Zodiac to commence our cruise.  Then it was off on the bus for the short ride to the airport.

As we already had our boarding passes all we had to do was make our way to the departure lounge at gate D4.  When we got there, we found that Celebrity Cruises had reserved the VIP lounge for us, so we were able to spend the next couple of hours in comfort.  We sat with Jeff and Jan, and Neil and Gail, and enjoyed free teas, coffees and soft drinks (beer was $4.00 if you wanted it) as well as some snacks of sandwiches, cake and fruits.  Lots of little sparrow-like birds were flying around inside the departure lounge; I think they’d managed to get in through the open lattice work high up on the walls, and it was much more difficult for them to escape again.  Instead, they were flying and hopping around in search of titbits; one of them landed on Trevor’s shoulder and a couple perched on Gail’s knee, clearly after the watermelon seeds left on her plate.

Eventually our flight was called, and we all boarded the aircraft for the two-hour plane ride back to Quito.  All was uneventful until we were coming in to land; we almost seemed to be down on my side of the aircraft and I waited for the slight bump to indicate our landing, but all of the sudden the aircraft engine noise increased and we soared off into the air again. Our landing had been aborted!

We nervously wondered what was going on as the aeroplane continued climbing over the mountainous landscape.  It transpired, however, that there had been a very strong cross-wind and the pilot had deemed it dangerous to attempt to land at that time, so he was going to have another go.  Round he went until he lined himself up with the runway once again, and this time we came in without any problem.  Everyone breathed a collective sigh of relief.  🙂

Inside Mariscal Sucre International Airport once again, we passed through security then out into the sunshine for the ride to the hotel.  At this point we lost Jeff and Jane and Neil and Gail, as they were extending their holiday with a visit to Peru and Machu Picchu, whereas we were just going back to Quito for a couple of nights before the flight home on Tuesday (and back to work on Thursday).  ☹

As it was Sunday afternoon and a lot quieter than when we’d arrived, it only took 45 minutes to get back to the Marriott hotel.  This time we were allocated room 640, which was very similar to room 712 apart from it having two king-size beds instead of one.

We unpacked some of our stuff, then went downstairs to the lobby and bar for a cold beer.  We’d been advised by the Celebrity rep that there were still some included tours and meals tonight, then if we wanted to do an organised tour tomorrow we could do so at our own expense.  There was an all-day tour available, included 4-course lunch, for $99.00 each, so we decided to book that one.

We all gathered back in the hotel foyer for about 5.00pm, to go on a shopping trip in the city.  We boarded the coach and it took us a short distance to an indoor market, which consisted of rows and rows of stalls selling anything from hand-made artisan chocolate to coffee to alpaca scarves to hand-knitted garments.  It was a veritable Aladdin’s cave of bargains.  I bought a soft alpaca scarf/wrap in shades of pink, as well as some of those little hand-woven friendship bracelets; I also bought a chunky hand-knitted hat with earflaps and pompoms; it will be great for the impending British winter.

Trevor bought a grey alpaca scarf for Ben, our grandson, and a cotton bandanna for himself; we’d seen a lot of the locals (most notable the Zodiac drivers) wearing these pulled up over the lower half of their faces to keep out the wind and the sun.  I could have bought a lot more, but Trevor dragged me out of there before I could spend any more money.  😊

The market started closing up about 6.00pm, so we all boarded the bus once more for the next visit – to Galeria Latina which was a much more up-market (and consequently expensive) place.  The jewellery and other items were gorgeous, but they were expensive; one necklace I liked made of silver and semi-precious stones cost $475.00.  Needless to say we didn’t buy anything in there.

On arrival back at the Marriott, we were advised that dinner was at 7.30pm in La Hacienda  restaurant.  We therefore returned to our room to get washed and changed; I wore a pink dress teamed with my new pink alpaca wrap.

Dinner was delicious, but we could feel the slight effects of the higher altitude; a few hours ago we were at sea level and now we were over 9,000 feet.  One of the effects is fatigue and lack of appetite, so I didn’t do the meal justice.  I started with beef consommé and home-baked bread, followed by steak, corn on the cob, potatoes and fresh vegetables; tasty though it was, I wasn’t really hungry.  I accompanied the meal with a glass of Diet Coke and some water.

After dinner we just returned to our room as the bar wasn’t open; on Sundays in Ecuador the licencing laws state that alcohol can only be served up to 10.00pm, and only if accompanied by a meal.  As we were quite tired anyway and knew we’d have to be up at 7.00am to be ready for our excursion at eight o’clock, we just settled down for the night, in a room that was quiet and still.  It had certainly been a different way to spend a wedding anniversary.

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