Did We Go To Ecuador?

No, not really. I know, I can assure you we were more disappointed than you. Let me start at the beginning.

Two very good friends of ours got married in Loja, Ecuador on 2 July 2011. We were invited and of course thrilled to attend. We bought the tickets back in April. Flying to Guayaquil, Ecuador on 28th of June with a short 2 hour transfer via Miami. In Guayaquil, we were going to meet other friends of ours and then drive via Cuenca to Loja for the wedding. It was going to be marvellous - a leisurely road trip in Latin America!

As we got into the cab to Heathrow on the (very!) early morning of 28th of June, these were some of the random things you could find in our suitcase, especially bought and prepared for our trip to Ecuador:

- a super sized hummus sandwich pour moi (just in case the vegan meal I had ordered for our transatlantic flight wasn't very good)

- several raw snacks to be eaten on the plane (again, in case of extreme hunger you know - I am very particular about what I eat these days)

- several bottles with insect repellent lotion, spray, you name it, tropical strength of course

- a few pills in case of stomach bugs...you travel, you learn

- several bottles with suntan lotion for the extreme Ecuadorian heat

- no laptops, iPads, nothing...no need when you are doing a fun road trip with friends, right

- a lot of USD in cash, all in small denominations (5 and 10)...the travel advisory was clear that you DO NOT want to use ATMs in Ecuador

- a suit and tie for Bugi, a fancy shmancy dress for me to wear at the wedding

- Bugi's super sized earphones which he uses on long haul flights

- Melatonin, for the extreme jet lag we were expecting

So we get to the airport and I immediately explain that I love nothing more than to travel with Bugi (we had not been on a plane together for at least a month and I get nostalgic). We head to the BA desk to drop our suitcase. The nice BA guy compliments us on the seats I had picked for our flight to Miami (the best in economy, where the baby cots are located if there is a baby on board) and tells us that luckily we do not need to worry about our suitcase in Miami because it will be automatically loaded on our flight to Guayaguil. He places a bright orange tag on our suitcase with a "Do not unload in Miami" sign. How convenient! He then starts looking through my brand new passport (I need to write a whole different story to explain why I have a brand new passport) where he cannot see a single visa. Of course - it is brand new after all, specifically renewed for the trip to Ecuador! Bugi's passport has a couple of visas which the BA guy reviews with interest.

BA guy: "Are you using a waiver or a visa for your stop in Miami"

Me: "We don't need visas for the US, we will only be in transit transferring to a flight to Ecuador" I say with a glint of annoyance in my eyes. Come on, can't he read we are going to Ecuador and not Miami!

BA guy: "You still need a visa for the US even though you are transferring"

Me: "No, we don't and we don't need visas for Ecuador either, check again"

BA guy calls someone and has a quick conversation after which he hangs up and as he writes "Taken OFF the Plane" on our two boarding passes he says: " I am sorry but you will not be boarding your flight to Miami today. You need visas and you don't have them. Go to Customer service to try and re-arrange your flight for tomorrow."

Disbelief....so we take out suitcase (with the bright orange tag) and drag it to the Customer Service desk where they reconfirm that we will not be boarding our flight after all. And no, we cannot fly via Buenos Aires or Sao Paolo because most flights to those destinations are cancelled due to volcano eruptions. How lucky! We can fly to Miami the next day (provided we have visas of course) but there is no guarantee that we will be able to fly to Guayaquil after that. All the flights are fully booked. I actually have a visa for the US but it is in a really old passport safely tucked away in a drawer at home. Bugi doesn't have a visa and when he calls the embassy they tell him that the earliest appointment they can give him to arrange a transit only visa is in two weeks. Right...

This is when I called Travelocity to see what this really meant. It took them one hour to slowly change their advice from "Madam, you do not need a visa to transfer via Miami. Just tell BA that they must let you board" to "Madam, you were clearly informed that you need a US visa to transfer via Miami when you purchased the tickets" (not exactly, I checked and the ticket confirmation said "Please ensure that you have all required visas for your trip"). I then asked them to try to find us another route, not via the States. After another hour on the phone they managed to find two free seats on a flight to Madrid later that day, then to Lima and then to Guayaquil, taking us to Ecuador a mere 5 hours later than we were originally scheduled to arrive. Amazing!

Me: "Ok, book us on these flights"

Travelocity guy: " Madam, it will cost you USD 11,000"

Me: "Excellent, thank you, USD 11,000" I said and scribbled USD 1,100 the then useless boarding card I was still holding. How lucky I thought, we will still make it on time and pay even less for the tickets (our original tickets were more than USD 1,100 and we were going to get credit for the money we had spent on them.

Bugi: "Wait, you said eleven thousand but wrote down eleven hundred."

Me to Travelocity guy: "Wait, did you say USD 11,000 or USD 1,100"

Travelocity guy: "USD 11,000, madam"

Me: silence......"So you wasted about an hour to find us these tickets even though it should have been obvious that I would not be able to buy them. If I had USD 11,000 to spend on flights, chances are I would not be booking via Travelocity, no?"

Travelocity guy: silence

Anywho.....at that stage it became clear that we were not going to make it to Ecuador after all. Can you guess what we did next?