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Trip Start Aug 17, 2010
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Ecuador  ,
Thursday, August 26, 2010

After a somewhat hectic morning which involved our handler being late, a long wait in the heat beside the Navajo while we waited for our flight plan to be filed, and worrying a little over some thunderstorm activity along our route, we finally took off from Tocumen International for the final leg of the journey.

We did run into a few of the storms initially. They looked worse on the weather maps than they turned out being. Some rain, a bit of turbulence here and there, definitely IFR white-out conditions, but nothing too serious.

Colombian airspace was a non-event. The closest we got to the Colombian shoreline was over 100 miles. They asked us to report over a couple intersections, which were clearly marked on my GPS, and then they handed us off to Guayaquil Control. That was it. I guess applying for overflight permits in advance is really the ticket.

We did catch sight of the Ecuadorean coastline, but it was immediately lost under clouds as soon as we crossed it. Doesn't bode well for planning to take aerial photography. I took a photo of the Equator but it was just a ball of white. I did also take a photo of my GPS reading S00◦00.000' degrees, which was pretty cool.

Through the haze, we finally caught sight of the city of Guayaquil. It's on the Guayas River at the point where it empties into the Pacific Ocean, so there are quite a few bridges. The structures seem quite modern and resemble Latin American towns.

We taxied in and were met by Patty, our favourite Ecuadorean handler, and the crew from IDS, Melina and Jonathan. We were shuttled through immigration, moved the Navajo, and then had to go over to the terminal building for customs. It was a large, new terminal building, with the unique feature of a large koi pond out front of the main doors. They even had a little vending machine where you could buy food to feed the fish. Hundreds of bright orange fish were in a frenzy. It was surreal.

We got to our new home a couple hours after we arrived. The company has rented two apartments, each with 2 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms (I got the big room with the private bath, being the senior crew member), large kitchen, laundry room, living room and air conditioning.

Internet is dodgy. They bought these USB keys which use the 3.5G cellphone network to log on, so as a result it is not fast nor reliable. I couldn't get it working on my Mac OS, so I had to boot into Windows just to check e-mail. I have finally refined the system by getting the correct driver and it now works on my system. I can even broadcast the signal so my navigator Bryn can use it too. 

Jonathan took us out for a walk along the main street for a short tour. Our apartment is only a few steps from the main road, and there are tons of little shops and coffee places along it. We stopped for a cerveza and a late lunch at a little patio on the corner, and watched the most unusual form of panhandlers I've ever seen: jugglers. Every time the light would turn red, these jugglers would head out onto the crosswalk and do a little act with juggling batons (there was a pair of guys who were balancing rubber balls on their foreheads while juggling three batons and tossing them to each other, all at the same time). Then they would bow, patrol the rows of cars for handouts, and get off the road by the time the light changed. When the light would turn red again, out they would go. It was really amusing, and they were really quite talented. I gave them a dollar.

We were introduced to the little restaurant right next door, then Jonathan dragged us off to a casino for a while, where Bryn tripled his money playing Latin Poker. Apparently this has been a typical activity for them in the weeks they have been here. Jonathan lost a couple hundred, from his profits from the previous week. I watched.

Tomorrow will be a bona-fide work day. Bryn and Jonathan are now on standby to fly, and I have to meet with the military for an inspection of PXL. And there's a list building a mile long of things we need to do or learn from Melina and Jon before they ship out early next week or on the weekend. Their replacements won't be here until at least 10 days from now, as we don't expect PXL to clear into the country for at least that long. So Bryn and I will be flying the Aztec for the next week... if we get any clear sky to fly into.
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