KLM from Quito

We got up at 7.30 this morning, feeling quite sad that we would be flying home later today.  A lot of our fellow travellers had already departed for home last night (and even on Sunday night), so there were only four of us left now.

We enjoyed a delicious breakfast in the Bistro Latino one more time, then decided to take a walk outside.  The sun was already very hot, even at 8.30 in the morning, and the roads were very busy with the rush-hour traffic; we could hear the constant whistling of the policemen on traffic duty as we walked along.  We had considered taking a taxi to the Quito teleferico, or cable car, but I was worried that it might be further than we thought, or we wouldn’t have time, or various other niggles which would prevent us returning to the hotel for our taxi to the airport at 1.00pm.

We walked through the busy streets, looking in the shop windows and taking in our surroundings. After about a mile or so, we reached a park which had a few stalls open selling souvenirs and the usual holiday tat.  We sat on a park bench in the shade of a large tree, and watched several groups of people, each carrying a furled banner or flag, approaching a large marquee that had been set up.  It looked as if it were a protest or some other public gathering, and we could hear someone testing out a microphone and loudhailer.

After 15 minutes or so, we decided to take a slow stroll back and maybe have a cold beer in a little local bar somewhere, as it would be cheaper than the hotel.  We therefore ambled along amid the sounds of the city, and eventually we found a nice little cool and dimly lit café/bar; in we went, Trevor asking for “dos cervezas, por favor”.  (Everyone’s essential Spanish phrase) 😊

It was pleasant in the bar; we were the only customers in there as it was, after all, not yet lunchtime on a working day.  So we enjoyed our beers among the peace and quiet, and shared a third bottle between us before making our way back to the hotel to finish our packing. ☹

Back in room 640 of the Marriott, it didn’t take long to put the rest of the things in the cases and lock them up.  We then had time for a half-hour power nap before we had to go down to the lobby for 12.45pm.  At the front desk, we settled our bill, handed in our key cards and met the other British couple who were on our flight.  Then the porter whisked our two suitcases away, ready to put them into the private-hire car when it arrived.

At one o’clock exactly the car appeared, our cases were loaded into the back, and we climbed in, taking a last look back at the Marriott hotel as we pulled away and into the busy traffic.  It took about 45 minutes to get to Mariscal Sucre International Airport, and our taxi driver deposited us and our luggage on the pavement outside the terminal building, wishing us a good flight and a safe journey home.

Inside, we joined the quick-moving queue at the KLM desk and checked in our bags, before making our way through security.  Once air-side, we had about an hour and a half to kill before our flight, so we decided to go to the executive lounge where we’d be able to get some lunch as well as a couple of drinks.  This we did, passing the time in quiet and pleasant surroundings, much nicer than the standard airport departure lounge.  😊

Eventually our flight was called, and we proceeded to the gate, where we were able to board straight away.  The flight home would take longer than the flight out, because we were stopping off at Guayaquil (Ecuador’s most populous city on the Pacific coast) before continuing to Amsterdam.  We hoped we would be able to leave the aircraft during that time, otherwise it was going to make a long and boring flight even longer and more boring.

Soon we were airborne and advised that the flight time to Guayaquil was 30 minutes and that we would have a 90 minute stopover before taking on more passengers.  Thankfully we would be allowed off the plane, but obviously had to remain air side.

We hardly seemed to be up in the air before the captain started his descent again, and on arrival at the airport we were all given yellow “IN TRANSIT” cards and advised we’d be allowed to leave our bags and other things on the aircraft because we’d have the same seats for the remainder of the flight.  We took our carry on bags with us anyway, as I didn’t want to leave my laptop, phone, Kindle, iPod etc behind.

When we left the aircraft and walked into the terminal building, it seemed ludicrous that we had to go through security again, half an hour after previously doing so – what could we have picked up on the plane?  So our bags were x-rayed again and we had to go through the metal-detectors and all the usual rigmarole; I even had to discard the 250ml bottle of water I’d been given on the plane as it was over the 100ml limit!  What a farce.

We then had over an hour of playing the waiting game and hanging around before we were called to board the aircraft once again.  We were in the same seats in the middle set of four; Trevor on the left hand aisle and me on his right, then an empty seat beside me and a lady in the aisle in the right.  Behind us only two of the four seats were occupied; I was pleased to see there was no-one behind me as this meant I’d be able to recline my seat if I wanted.

The Boeing 777 took to the skies once again, and we tried to settle down.  It was difficult because the air conditioning was on full blast and the aircraft felt very cold.  We therefore opened our blankets and wrapped them around ourselves from neck to toes; we hoped the temperature would soon warm up.  All around us we could hear babies crying and kids yelling and we also hoped they’d quieten down; long-haul flights are tedious enough without noisy children making it worse.

Some of the boredom was relieved by the appearance of the drinks trolley, followed soon by our meal, then the duty-free items.  As the babies and children fell asleep and the plane eventually grew quieter, we got ourselves ready to settle down and try to sleep.

Suddenly, out of the blue, a commotion occurred in the seat behind me, just to my right.  A man stood up and started shouting in a foreign language at the top of his voice and gesticulating at his neighbour.  My heart leapt into my mouth; I thought we were being hijacked!!  Four stewardesses all converged on the guy’s seat as other passengers craned their necks and looked around in alarm.

I don’t know what the confrontation was about, but it would seem that one of the guys had annoyed his neighbour in some way, hence the argument.  One of the stewardesses took the guy away to the back of the aircraft (the one who was shouted at, rather than the shouter) to find out what was going on; he was then moved to another vacant seat.  When he returned to his original seat to get his stuff out of the overhead locker, his neighbour started having another go at him!  Eventually all was quiet again, but we noticed that the cabin crew kept a very close eye on this fellow.  We were still flying over South America and would soon be over the Caribbean islands, so there would be plenty of places where the aircraft could divert and land if necessary, and so eject any disruptive passenger.

After calm had reigned again for some time, the aircraft lights were dimmed and we tried to get some sleep.  Usually I don’t get good quality sleep on an aeroplane, but this time I reclined my seat back, adjusted the headrest at a suitable angle and used my neck-pillow, and I was able to snatch some good shut-eye, particularly as the air-conditioning had been moderated to a much more comfortable temperature.

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Flight KL755 sped on through the night, and we watched its progress, heading north-east over the Atlantic on our SkyMap, as the hours slowly counted down.  Now and again the cabin crew would come around with glasses of water to keep us hydrated, and once we were within two hours of Amsterdam the lights came back on again, and the passengers slowly came back to life.

Before breakfast we were each given the usual hot towel to try to get rid of the grubby feeling you always have after sitting for hours on a plane with 300 other people.  We then enjoyed orange juice, omelette, fresh fruit, coffee and water as we watched the time counting down and saw that we were flying over the good old English Channel and then the North Sea.

Finally, the “fasten seatbelts” sign was illuminated and we all buckled up as the aircraft made its final approach into Schiphol, Amsterdam, and we landed at 14:00 hours local time.  The longest part of our journey was over.  😊

We thankfully disembarked the aircraft and stretched our legs as we made our way through security yet again, for the connecting flight to Newcastle.  Then it was just a matter of whiling away a couple of hours before the last leg of our journey, the hour-long flight back over the North Sea.

On arrival we retrieved our cases more or less immediately, and trundled them out of the airport to the long-term car park, where we loaded them (and ourselves) into our car for the journey home.  It took a little longer than usual because we’d hit the rush-hour traffic, but we arrived at our house just before 6.00pm.  Our amazing, one-of-a-kind, incomparable holiday was over.  It is one we will never forget, for all the right reasons.

Go to the Galapagos Islands.  Just do it.

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