Our departure from Ecuador was not at all what we expected. After checking in online the night before we left Cuenca with TAME Airlines, we show up at the airport only to discover the airport is closed and our flight to Quito is cancelled. The sudden realization we are going to miss our connecting flight to Panama City settles in. Now what?
In our last post, we told you about a plane that slid off the runway on landing and got stuck in the mud. Well, that stuck plane was still there. So, Cuenca’s airport was closed. Apparently it remained closed for a week.
TAME issued new tickets to fly to Quito, but we’d have to get ourselves to Guayaquil to board the flight. Oh great. No problem, Guayaquil is a three and a half hour drive over the Andes.
Fortunately there were several confused travellers with the same problem that morning. It didn’t take too long to find a group with a couple of spare seats in a van that was leaving for Guayaquil in about 30 minutes.
After three hours of light hearted discussions in Spanish and broken English, we were good friends and arrived safely at Guayaquil airport. However, this meant we needed to change our connecting flight from Quito to Panama City. Credit cards can be so helpful at times like this.
Finally we’re off to Quito and our connection to Panama City went smooth. A few hours later than planned, but all was well once again.
One thing we’ve learned about travelling in South and Central America is flight connections can be a bit tricky. Most international flights originate early in the morning or very late at night. An airline may have two flights a day to Quito or Lima or Bogota, but it sometimes requires a night in the air or an overnight en route.
Such was our case in trying to get to Belize. I learned that COPA Airlines has direct flights from Panama City to Belize City, but only on Tuesdays and Thursdays. So, although we’d already spent one day in Panama City, we opted to spend a couple of more days in the Casco Viejo (old quarter) area until the Tuesday flight to Belize came around.
Panama City is the largest city in Panama with a population close to two million people. The city is the political and administrative center of the country, as well as a hub for international banking and commerce. There’s seldom a dull moment here and the city’s history is fascinating.
The city was founded by the Spanish in the 16th century. The Spanish Conquistadors then moved south and north in Central and South America, bringing an end to the Incan empire. During the process they relocated most of the Inca’s gold and silver back to Spain.
Fast forward to the early 1900’s and you have the building of the Panama Canal. As recently as 1989, the US invaded Panama while pursuing Manuel Noriega. (I wonder if Saddam Hussein was watching the news?)
Today you can read about the news of Mossack Fonseca and the Panama Papers, 11.5 million leaked documents that detail financial and attorney–client information for more than 214,488 offshore entities. Anyone we know?
Its May 3 and we are on our way to Belize. Once we got our bags in Belize City it was a short ride by taxi to the dock and then a water taxi took us to the island of Ambergris Caye and the town of San Pedro. This beautiful island is home to the world’s second larget barrier reef and some of the friendliest, gracious people we’ve met in a very long time.
Although our house sitting gig did not turn out as expected, we found an amazing self-keeping cottage at a hotel in San Pedro. With a pool and a long stretch of beach, we dropped our bags and stayed put for close to six weeks.
Is this the retirement spot we’ve been looking for? We met several Americans, Canadians and Europeans who certainly felt so. Although not as inexpensive as other places we went to, we were very comfortable. While there are lots of real estate listings here, a long term rental would probably be our first choice. But, before signing on, we want to explore more of Belize, particularly a few spots on the mainland. That will be something left for another adventure, further on up the road.
After nearly six months of wandering, we are headed back to Calgary tomorrow (yikes!). This is our last blog post for a while. Best wishes to all our followers and stop living vicariously… get out there and see this amazing world !