Sunday, March 28, 2010

Puerto Lopez to Guayaquil and Beyond

Folks heard the Spectacled Owl again calling in the night but as with the night before, no luck at finding any.
As we gathered for breakfast, the chef eyed my ECO cap with an embroidered Gila Monster. I had purchased it during a stop in New Mexico specifically for our trip. Following my attempt to explain what a Gila Monster is, he rushed off to the kitchen and reappeared with a cap with the Mantaraya logo on the front and “Ecuador” printed across the back. Between our respective pigeons (English and Spanish) it seemed he wanted to trade hats. After breakfast we consummated the deal. I believe I edged slightly ahead in the bargain since I would be able to purchase another ECO hat online back in the States (I since have) and certainly would never be able to purchase a Mantaraya cap without a return trip to the lodge. Then again, he sure seemed pleased with the trade.
During our stay, staff was extremely attentive and flexible to our needs. Mediterranean style architecture, hospitality, and some much needed relaxation (as far as anyone can relax on a birding trip).
Having departed Mantayara Lodge we worked our way back south along the coast. North of San Pablo we stopped to inspect a series of salt ponds. More great looks at Andean Flamingos not only feeding but flying. Many various shorebirds including Least Sandpipers, Semipalmated Sandpipers, Short-billed Dowitchers, Black-necked Stilts, and Snowy Plover. And we added another tern Richard picked out sitting on a post in the distance: Sandwich Tern.
Further along we made a roadside pond stop which produced Least and Pied-billed Grebes, Green Kingfisher and Masked Water-Tyrant. En route we had our box lunch, the last of the trip (what would we ever do?). José then offered us a couple of options for our return route to Guayaquil. One was to take a route similar to the one we had taken to reach the coast. The other route was more direct with far less opportunity to bird but would put us in Guayaquil by mid afternoon.
After nearly 18 days of birding, and recalling how rushed Jim and Naomi were our last late arrival at the hotel, the group opted to take the more direct route. As promised we rolled into Guayaquil around 2:00 p.m. Not a terribly birdy day but with plenty of time to spare before dinner, Marge and some of the group went for a walk while others relaxed in their rooms.
During our return trip José had fielded a phone call from Tropical Birding. His services were needed in northern Ecuador the next morning (another guide had fallen ill and needed to be replaced). José would not be able to join us for our final, final farewell dinner but he did join us long enough to complete our last run through of our daily checklist.
Following dinner we made it an early evening. We needed to be up in time to leave the hotel at 4:15 a.m. to make our flight connections. Steve and Rita were flying on a different carrier and would depart a few hours later which netted them a few more zzz's.
Niko met us bright and early with the bus to run us to the airport. While we faced a long day of flights, Niko was driving straight through to Quito! Our flight check-in went pretty smoothly although our flight was delayed a bit before being allowed to take off. We met with another delay with our connection in Panama. In Houston we had to claim our luggage then recheck it for our flight to McAllen. We barely had time to bid Marge, Melissa, and Claire farewell as they headed back to Wisconsin. We missed Risé who had to move quickly to catch her flight to Colorado.

After an unexpected gate change we then learned that our connecting flight to McAllen was running late. And, it had been overbooked. Continental asked for volunteers to take the next available flight. How many times had we sat in an airport and said to ourselves "Gee if we were retired with extra time we could pick up some easy flight vouchers." Well, we are retired so we opted for the next available flight which, as it turned out, arrived a hour later than our originally scheduled arrival in McAllen. The flight we had given up? It had landed fifteen minutes earlier - 45 minutes later than scheduled. We were met by our good neighbors Harvey and Gayle Pagel who drove us home. Finally got to bed around 10:00 that evening.
During the next few days following our return we heard from our fellow tour mates. It seems that Steve and Rita encountered longer delays and wound up arriving at O’Hare just in time to miss the last bus to Wisconsin. They wound up spending the night at the O'Hare Airport with, as Steve put it, “The homeless and the House Sparrows.” It turned out sleeping in a bit longer in Guayaquil paid off – they needed it!