So I left Ecuador. I had to argue a bit with LAN to get them to change my flight, there was only a two hour gap for me in Brazil for me to run through customs and board a domestic flight. The LAN attendant didn’t seem to get that I had more than one flight and insisted there wasn’t a problem. Luckily the ticket office both spoke better English and happily changed my ticket. I inquired whether it would be hard to catch my checked bag to change the tags, and they insisted they would do so. I tried to quiet the dread I had in my stomach. Everything would be alright.
I moved on to the boarding area. I was amazed at the security, I got to leave my laptop and liquids in my bag. I pointed at my shoes to ask if I had to take them off, the security guard inspected them and nodded as if to tell me I had nice shoes. Thanks, I like them too. Then I waited three hours for my flight, reading, checking out the various candy stalls, realizing there were all sorts of fancy edibles I did not see because i had stayed in the more rural coast. I’m not sure I was going to bring a dry ice pack of shrimp with me, but I appreciate that there’s a sign to explain the different sizing. I enjoyed answering some woman’s survey about tourism in the Guayaquil airport. Dear lady, I’m pretty sure you had a mild heart attack when I had to tell you to take a zero off the amount of money you think I spent here. Sorry, I like your country a lot, I just have no money.
And then, the travel snafus started happening. Apparently LAN and Ecuador thinks it’s a good idea to let you sit in the airport for a really long time and wait for you to board before pulling you off the flight. You are then told to sprint through half the airport to another floor. The entire boarded plane had to wait as another girl and I stood in a slow moving long line to have a police officer check your checked bag. He ripped opens all my zippers, pulled out all my packed bags within bags, sniffed my camping towel, and zipped close only the outer duffel. Then, as if standing in the long line was your reprieve, you are told to sprint back upstairs, through a security check, and onto the plane. And then I didn’t see my bag again for 6 days. Good security check guys.
After 36 hours of flying and four airports, I landed in Fortaleza. By observation, every airport I’ve been to has charging stations for your stuff except Santiago. I then waited forlornly by the baggage carousel cursing the security check I knew had caused my bag to never make my first plane, much less the other two. I was stuck in Fortaleza, my next stop was 7 hour buggy or 4×4 ride away and I’d never see my bags again if I had gone.
Fortaleza is a beach city that needs a little love. It reminded me of Miami, an endless spring break in a town that was no longer being taken care of. The markets were full of cheap, shoddy clothing and tacky sexual beach joke tchotchkes. The highlight of my trip was a hostel owner and some new friends at the hostel who were extremely helpful in helping me hound the airlines in my broken Spanish (they speak Portuguese here). These people were humorous and helped me keep my head on when all I wanted to do was punch LAN. We visited a beach with water so brown and frothy, it made Los Angeles post-storm water look clear and beautiful in comparison. I was a little terrified for the people swimming in it, particularly when a helicopter did a few fly-by runs looking for someone. You couldn’t see one inch into that water. I enjoyed eating some grilled cheese on a stick and bags of shrimp from vendors wandering the beach before we headed into the town cultural center. This was the one area in town more updated and patrolled by what looked like army soldiers. There were not any shows going on at the time, but we caught a samba group practicing for Carnival that was fun to watch. Dinner was had in a cafe that looked like the ten other cafes in the complex, except this one was labeled organic. We had tapiocas, crepes made from tapioca (cassava) flour that come in both sweet and savory. They seem to be typical of the area and are rather dry for my tastes. I passed a few days like this, wandering around town not particularly amazed and nervously calling the airport every few hours, to be told incorrect information. They would tell me to call back at a certain time or that they would call me, they would never call back or have any information. I passed on the expensive pirate party with the others in the hostel, I had enough of this town full of what appeared to mostly be old men with illegally aged or paid girls. Finally, my bags arrived at night two days after I had arrived and I wanted out on the first bus out of Fortaleza the next morning. I had spent three times as many nights as I would have liked in Fortaleza and I was happy to be gone. I will only stop long enough to get on a plane on my way back.