KAPOORS ON THE ROAD
We found it necessary to make the trek into Quito from the new airport yet again, because we weren’t able to find any flights that would take us from Lima and on to Central America without an overnight stay in Ecuador. It was a bit of a pain because the airport is so very new that there aren’t any hotels established nearby.
The airport is only 20km from the city, but an old bridge provides a near-perfect bottleneck for traffic and it can take up to two hours to travel the distance during the busiest times of the day. In the end, the taxi trips to and from the airport cost more that our hotel stay. But hey, who’s complaining? Such is life on the road.
It is impossible to imagine our shock when we checked in at the airport in Quito for our flights to Bogota, Colombia and on to San Jose, Costa Rica. We were asked to present our Yellow Fever Vaccination Certificates. My heart sank right down to my toes.
Costa Rica was an afterthought to our plans for our swing through Central and South America. After visiting Mexico, Panamá, Ecuador and Peru, we found we had an extra week on our hands before we felt we wanted to fly back to Phoenix where we stored our car.
We could have stayed longer in Ecuador or Peru, but we had struggled with the altitude and wanted to be nearer to sea level once again. Anil spent many long hours searching for flights that would take us to a country we hadn't seen before, flights that wouldn't see us flying at the crack of dawn, or ones that didn't break the bank.
He finally discovered that we could fly through Colombia and on to Costa Rica, and that there was a direct flight from San Jose to Phoenix as a bonus. We quickly decided to visit Costa Rica for the week, and spend our last few days of Year Seven on the beach.
Things had been going so well that we even decided to book our hotels in the capital and the beach resort ahead of time. We don't usually lock ourselves in so tightly, but decided to take a chance.
I couldn't believe what I was hearing from the young woman at the Avianca check in desk. We have been vaccinated for Yellow Fever for our travels in Africa, but I didn't think that we needed to bring our vaccination booklet along with us. Anil had checked that it wasn't required in any of the countries we planned to visit. We were surprised that Panama wasn't concerned about the virus, considering how dramatically it had figured in the country's history.
Thank goodness our taxi driver Francisco had pushed us to leave for the airport earlier that we had planned. He had accepted another booking and wanted to pick us up at 7:00am instead of 8:00am. We had compromised with him for 7:30 am so that we would at least be able to have breakfast before the hour and a half trip to the airport.
There didn't seem to be anything we could do about the issuing certificate, but the gal at the desk suggested that we might want to try going to a hospital in Quito and see if they would consider giving us some sort of document attesting to our health. The way she promoted it, it seemed like it had been done before and we might be successful.
She told us there was a hospital about 20 minutes away, but we only had an hour to get there and back before the check in desk closed. We got her to write down the name of the hospital and rushed to the taxi stand. Our luggage was stowed and we set off only to find that the taxi driver wasn't at all sure where the hospital was located. I knew we didn't have a moment to spare.
I made the snap decision to have him turn around and take us back to the airport. Luckily, I somehow remembered the word for 'return' in Spanish, and he looked so surprised, but turned back as we asked. He held up five fingers indicating he wanted $5 for the aborted trip, and seemed surprised when we agreed.
Back at the check in desk, I asked the clerk to book us through to Bogota, and we would sort things out there. I thought we might have enough lead time to cancel most of our plans in Costa Rica, but for sure we would have to forfeit the first two nights at the B&B in San Jose. However, she told me we would have to change the whole ticket, and not just the first leg. Rats!
I was just about to cancel the whole deal and fly straight to Phoenix, when another ticket agent interjected. She apologized and asked me my age. When I told her that I was 62 and Anil 65, she breathed a sigh and told us the rule does not apply to travellers over 60 years of age! I could have kissed her!
I managed to restrain myself, grabbed her by the shoulders and called her an angel. The agent who had been helping us was so sorry that she was unaware of the rule. We were too happy to be annoyed with her. Besides, she was the one who had tried to help us by suggesting the trip to the hospital.
What a relief! The thought of all the dominos falling, one after another, was too awful to contemplate. Lesson learned. Carry ALL important travel documents ALL of the time.