|Ready to go!|
As usual, I find myself asking where time goes. It’s the middle of March and we’ve been already been back from our last overseas sojourn for over two months yet, somehow, I simply haven’t been able to find the time to put ‘fingertips to keyboard’. Well, here goes!
|Leaving Melbourne Airport for the USA|
We were ready to embark on a different type of trip this time; Dad was coming with us to meet the family in Ecuador. We would be going for almost six weeks, and would spend the first few days in Florida, USA. Bags packed and everything under control, he would have two ‘experienced guides’ to show him the way! It was exciting. Alex and I have been together since 1999 and Dad has never met anyone from his family as they mostly live in Ecuador, with the exception of his mum and sister in New York and cousin in Fort Myers, Florida. There is no short cut to get to Ecuador! It’s long and it’s tiring, but we decided to break up the trip and stop over in Fort Myers before going on to Quito.
|Almost gone … Melbourne Airport|
There was NO WAY that we were going to be late to the airport on this trip. My super-organised Dad was going to make sure of that! He slept over our place the night before, and ensured that we were all on time. Fulvio, my brother, was here to pick us up by 7.30am and we left by 8.00am. We checked in and made our way through passport control and the security checks. Dad was surprised at how much rigmarole we had to go through. It had been about 17 years since he’d flown last, and things have certainly changed since then. I couldn’t help but think that this was nothing, wait until he got to the USA! All in order, we got through and had Dad participate in our ‘coffee before take off’ ritual. Dad was excited and so were we. I was really excited at the thought that not only would Dad now get a ‘live’ insight into my world but that he would also get to meet the family and the country that was now part of my world and that I had grown to love so much!
|Flying from Melbourne to LA|
The first part of the flight, Melbourne to Los Angeles, took approximately 15 hours. The flights were
Qantas/ American Airline code share with this first part being Qantas. As usual, I slept for most of the flight, whilst Alex and Dad watched a number of movies. We had a couple of hours stop over in LA and then we went straight through to Miami where we were picked up by Alex’s cousin Christian. It was then an approximately three hour ride to Fort Myers, where Christian lives with his partner Frankie. It was wonderful to see him again. The last time we had seen Christian was when we went on our around-the-world trip in 2006. He and Alex grewup and lived together in Ecuador. They are more like brothers than cousins!
|Dinner at Chili’s|
As we drove we laughed, chatted and reminisced. Christian had heard so much about Dad and Dad so much about Christian. We had a lovely four days together, but as you can imagine it went all too quickly. Dad was not overly impressed with the American cuisine but loved our meal at Chili’s, where we stopped for dinner soon after Christian picked us up. The food was actually quite good, if I may say so myself, but talk about super-size-me portions! I know that in Australia we talk about our growing obesity problem, but we just don’t seem to be as big here. I am always shocked at the sheer size of so many people when I visit the USA.
|Sunset at Fort Myers Beach, Florida|
Christian is a qualified nurse and is now doing further studies. So, between working in a hospital full time and studying, flat out mode is usul for him. Luckily for us he was able to take a few days off and we were able to see several things together. Apparently it was winter in Florida! Yeh right, 26 to 30 degrees; shorts and t-shirt weather… that’s not winter! We went on some lovely walks through some national parks, saw the Everglades, and even went on a mini-train ride through a local park. All very low key and relaxing. We also went to a variety of shops, including, Wal-Mart, and it just blew Dad away. He was stunned at the amount of everything and anything. All that you wanted, in whatever size, make and colour … and that included food! One day we visited Fort Myers Beach, and had a walk along the shore as well as the pier, where we were afforded some spectacular views at sunset.
|Train ride through a local park, Fort Myers|
And almost as soon as we had arrived, it was time to go! Four days is hardly enough to do anything, but we had managed to do quite a bit, and Dad had finally met the Christian whom we had spoken so much about! Before we knew it, we were back in Christian’s car, returning to the airport. Hugs, kisses and some tears all around, and then we had to go through the whole rigmarole once again. Passport control isn’t thaaaat bad, but the security checks … OMG! They do my head in! Breathe in, breathe out, breathe in, breathe out! Before we knew it, we were on a plane and flying to Ecuador, which was another three and a half hours (add: Melbourne to LA, 15 hours; LA to Miami, 5 hours; Miami to Quito 3.5 hours).
|Time to leave!|
As we were arriving in Quito at about 7.00pm, the views of the city as we descended were spectacular! The ‘old’ airport that we flew into has actually closed since our return (mid-February 2013) and the new one at Tabebela has opened. The old airport sits smack bang in the middle of the city, whereas the new one is some 20 kilometres north east of the city. It has been a long time in the making, as whilst flying in to the old one may present some marvellous views, high altitude, a cramped runway and towering volcanoes nearby make it one of Latin America’s most challenging airports for pilots.
|Christian with Thomas, Quito|
As Quito’sairport (old) is rather small, it hardly takes any time at all to get through passport control, grab your bags and walk out. As we were going through passport control, we could see some of Alex’s family waving through a glass panel above us! How exciting this was going to be! I still could not believe that after years and years of asking Dad to come and visit Alex’s family in Ecuador he had finally said yes! We grabbed our bags and in no time we were walking out of the doors, where we were greeted by Alex’s Dad, brother Rodrigo, sister Karen, brother-in-law Christan and Auntie Gladys. It was quite emotional really, and as Dad would comment later, he felt immediately at home. He too had finally met his second family!
Take it easy! At almost three thousand metres above sea level, the second highest capital on Earth is a bit thin on air! As I explained to Dad, it takes at least a few days to acclimatise, and even walking can feel like exercise. He would find that out soon enough! It was so good to be back … I am blessed with two families and two homes! I could see Dad just taking it all in. The Andes are spectacular!
|Isabella with her new Aussie backpack|
We all went back to Karen and Christian’s house, and Dad was first greeted by Denisse who ran out and gave him a big hug. In the six months that Denisse had spent in Australia, Dad had grown to love her like his own. We all then slowly went upstairs (although they were only on the second floor, how Dad would learn to hate those steps by the end of the trip!) where we were greeted by Axel, Thomas and Isabella, our nieces and nephews. They had all grown so much; Axel at 15 was starting to look more like a young man than a boy, Thomas was now three and a half and Isabella, the almost newborn we had left behind a little over a year ago was now one and a half. More hugs all around! It really was nice to be home!
We were all a little tired (perhaps a bit more than a little) and eventually just had to make our way to bed. The next few weeks would provide us with lots of love, laughter, happy times and good memories!
“You only live once, but if you do it well, once is enough.” – Mae West
|Something a bit different at the Fort Myers Flea Market|
|Brothers in arms|
|Fort Myers Beach|
|Boardwalk walk … Fort Myers|
|Fort Myers wildlife|
|The famous Florida alligator|
|Alex and his cousin Christian|
|Christian & Dad, Fort Myers Beach|
|Fort Myers, Florida|
|At the Fort Myers Flea Market … heart attack special, USA style!|
|Christian and Dad in Fort Myers, Florida|
|Pasta with Ombi’s homemade sauce, at Christian’s house|
|As the sun goes down, Fort Myers Beach|
|On the Fort Myers Beach Pier|