Expecting the Worst

As I prepare for our trip to the Galapagos, I am doing some research. Unfortunately, in my case, I’m “a day late and a dollar short.”

The Mary AnneLeave it to me. I arranged the flight to Quito and then a second flight 600 miles west of the mainland to the islands. I booked a ship with Sailing Adventures, bought flight-for-life insurance, reserved a hotel in Quito’s historic Old Town, and then… and only then… after the arranging, booking, buying and reserving… did I spend some time on research. Oops!

The Galapagos - 500 miles west of Equador

The Galapagos – 500 miles west of Ecuador

Referencing  http://wikitravel.org/en/Quito,   I experienced some apprehension reading about crime and con artists in the capital. Is this, I wondered, why the sailing folks recommended staying north of the city in a high-rise hotel frequented by foreigners? Apparently, I cannot trust any taxi (including the yellow cabs) to take me from the airport to my hotel for an agreed upon amount.

As for taking a bus, Wiki warned me to keep my suitcase on my lap. I may encounter a man impersonating staff who will tell me to put my luggage overhead. (I shouldn’t do it!) Nor should I put my case under the seat between my legs because thieves sitting in the seat behind me may slash the fabric and remove everything of value.

Quoting wikitravel: “Do not travel up El Panecello… avoid Gringolandia as there is quite a bit of assault even during the day… the Old City becomes quite dead after dark… avoid walking around alone.” And my favorite: “Wearing gringo clothing will make you a target.” As yes… gringo clothing. Got it. But what about my suitcase? Won’t my arriving at an airport with a suitcase give me away?

Hotel Cathedral Internacional

Hotel Cathedral Internacional

Some might think that I should I have taken rooms at a high-rise hotel near the airport. But why would I want to stay in a modern glass and steel motel in a city reputed to be the best preserved colonial city in South America? I much prefer a centuries-old hotel with charm and history. So the faucets may drip… big deal. Our hotel is in the Old Town. What’s not to like – Colonial Quito is a UNESCO World Heritage site. I can hardly wait.

What a shame that we tend to expect the worse. Think of all the things we’d miss if we were too timid to step outside our comfort-zone. Traveling here and there over the years, I’ve had plenty of near misses and I’m none the worse for wear. If you aren’t going to rub shoulders with the locals (most of whom are just as wary of crime as you are), why bother to travel?

With me, it is all about the story.

One of my favorite stories took place in Russia. I was travelling on my own… on the night “milk train” between Moscow and St. Petersburg. It was maybe two in the morning, and we were pulling into a station. Wanting to determine where I was along the route, I stepped into the corridor just as three, uniformed soldiers were walking single-file my way. Instead of showing good sense and backing into my compartment and closing the door, I just backed into the doorway – inadvertently allowing each soldier to grope me as he passed. I was so dazzled by their military precision and the fact that they never hesitated or broke step that I nearly forgot to be indignant.

It was only after my return to the States that I read the precautions issued by the U.S. State Department. Their advice on travel within Russia was to never take the night train between Moscow and St. Petersburg. It was another case of a day late and a dollar short.

Yes, I will be cautious. I will take heart from all the positive posts that I have read from other tourists.  I will most definitely not dress like a tourist. That said, did you know that Quito is east of Pinchincha, an active volcano which last erupted in 1999 and covered the city in ash? Wow! To be in Quito during an eruption – That would be a good story!

About timeout2

I have lived 100 lives. I write essays, short stories, poetry, grocery lists and notes to myself. If I am ever lost, look for a paper trail, but be careful not to trip over any books that lie scattered here and there. I am a reader. I am a reader in awe of writers. When I don't live in Westcliffe, Colorado, I live in London where I am a long-time member of Word-for-Word - Crouch End.
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6 Responses to Expecting the Worst

  1. Richard Pohanish says:

    Howdy, When it becomes available from Net Flix, be sure to see the HBO production of Parade’s End (Ford Maddox Ford’s tetralogy….er quadrilogy) with a great cast and screenplay by Tom Stoppard. Its in 5 parts. D

    • timeout2 says:

      Thank you, Dick. I’m always up for recommendations. In return, I highly recommend (five stars) watching House of Cards, not the new one with Kevin Spacey (I give it three stars), but the old BBC series – same title but with Ian Richardson – Five Stars!

  2. Drew says:

    I had visited Central America a few years back and had read up (Blue Moon) on the area. They strongly advised against any but official cabs due to shady drivers. When I arrived I imediately took a non-official cab and used them the entire rest of the trip. They were amazing helpful, like overboard helpful, polite, and fiar the whole while. I showed one of them what the book said about them and he seemed pretty hurt and annoyed. Like anything else I think most travel sites are warning the average American who tends to not have a lot of street smarts along with a king of the world attitude…

    • timeout2 says:

      Yes! Not to pick on South America, but you encounter a bit of a hustle in any city. What a surprise when city citizens show kindness – all the more appreciated because their kindless is so unexpected. I look forward to meeting some kind people. Best wishes.

  3. Suzette says:

    Do be safe, Doris. And how can I catch that night milk train in Russia? A groping good story.

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