Saturday, November 26, 2011

November 2011 vacation diary - day 13

It’s odd that the only time Ally and I ever did anything special for US Thanksgiving was in the Galapagos. The restaurant was fuller than we`d ever seen it (six separate groups I think) and the buffet was quite nicely done. So we had a good meal; we even went back for seconds. It was a good note to end on, and the Royal Palm is a great hotel. Sometimes it seems to slip a bit like anywhere else, but then it`s a complicated operation. On our last day they asked we leave our check-in luggage outside the room by 7 am (although our flight wasn`t until 11.30) as part of their advance `VIP Check-in`. We duly did so, but then the bags just sat there until 7.45. Never mind – it all worked out. We`ve met a concierge and an assistant manager and various other people, all of whom seem on the face of it to be doing much the same thing. Most mornings, we see two guys maintaining the tennis court (which can`t possibly get used that much). This morning there were three of them. All quite endearing.

We had a final breakfast, looking over our surely unique view, and I (rather beyond the call of duty, I’d say) responded to a work email. The hotel is at its best in the airport transfer process. A cab took us to the port, and then the driver (accompanied by a little kid, maybe his son, maybe his grandson) took us across to Baltra on a boat with a bunch of other people. They all got herded onto a transfer bus, but were picked up by another guy in a hotel mini van. At the airport they handed us our boarding passes, already processed, and then took us to the front of the security line (other people must have hated us). Then we sat in the hotel lounge until the plane was boarding, at which time we just had to stroll a short distance. It’s nice to live this way once in a while.

The plane wasn’t even a quarter full, and we had an easy ride to Quito, at which time of course our hearts instantly filled with dread. Still, we had four hours to catch our next flight, so we knew the odds were heavily in our favour (by the way, I did not realize until today that Quito is right on the equator, and in certain places you can stand with one foot on either side – and then when you got stabbed your body could lie right across it). We had some nail-biting moments when a storm blew up and there was an announcement about some plane being unable to land, but by the time our flight came up that was all over. We took the two hour trip to Lima, where we had another two hours to collect our final boarding pass, which we easily achieved. The only mild hiccup of the whole day was that we were having a nice snack in the Lima airport and we had to abandon it half-eaten because our names were called and Ally thought the plane was about to leave (although of course planes seldom depart an hour early) (it was just some admin thing). At the end of the day, despite all the logistics on this trip and our occasional nervousness about them, we never had a single problem with any of the flights (except the last twist coming up below). By the way, if we were into that thing of counting countries you’ve visited regardless of the quality of the interaction, I guess we could have ticked off Peru too (in all integrity though, if you don’t need to complete the country’s entry form because you’re just passing through, then you probably can’t count it as a visit).

The last flight took off at 11 pm. Neither of us slept as much as we might have expected. I finished watching Yasujiro Ozu’s Equinox Flower, read the last of the five New Yorkers I’d brought with me, and found myself reviewing some draft financial statements at 4 am. Ally watched The Help. The thing I alluded to above…well, the bags didn’t make the trip home with us, they’re probably still in Quito somewhere (see, to the very end, that damn place was still taking shots at us!). Under other circumstances we might have been more perturbed, but on this occasion we only cared that we got home. We reported the missing bags as calmly and serenely as I imagine anyone ever could, then we went home. The roads were completely quiet; we were home by 8.30 am. Our home was cleaned yesterday and looked as immaculate as a hotel. In a way it’s oddly liberating to arrive home with no luggage – it instantly takes away a lot of the stuff you’d have to do otherwise.

The real benefit of travel, surely, is in making you appreciate your home; the more attuned you are to the range of possibilities in the world, the deeper the pleasure in deciding to live here, not because fate shoved you here and you can’t get out and you’re making the best of it, but because you chose it. We were just delighted to be back. The highpoints of our trip will last forever; the low points will fade, except as well-recycled anecdotes. All is as it should be.

We went to the St Lawrence market to stock up. Ally went to get a new bank card. And at around noon I collected Ozu! He gave me exactly the welcome you’d dream of from your dog – jumping up over and over, licking my face, just thrilled. He was looking up at me nearly all the way home; normally he drags his heels and sniffs, but today he trotted back the whole way, sometimes outright ran, often gripping his leash in his mouth as he does when he can’t wait to get home. We got home and he ran to welcome Ally; we had lunch and played for half an hour or so, and then he fell fast asleep next to me on the couch, where he still lies as I’m typing this. We're all home.

(PS It seems the bags are on their way!)

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