At midnight the crew showed up. The captain said the weather in Quito was worsening again and we might not be able to land. We boarded at 12:30 a.m. and sat on the tarmac for half an hour before taking off. The half-hour flight to Quito was quick, and then we began our descent. I watched the flight numbers on the tiny TV screen on the seat back in front of me. At 10,000 feet the plane accelerated and ascended to 18,000 feet. The pilot came on the PA and apologized. At 800 feet above the ground he still couldn't see the runway, so he was going to try coming in from the north. We circled for 15 minutes, then descended steeply to 15,000 feet. A few minutes later, another quick descent to 12,000 feet. At 10,000 feet I looked out the window and the lights of the city were immediately below us - we were landing in Quito, elevation 9,000 feet! The passengers applauded when the wheels touched down.
In midafternoon we arrived at our destination: Casa Quinde (Hummingbird House), on the grounds of Hacienda Cusin, in the town of San Pablo del Lago, province of Imbabura, Ecuador.
Notes on the first two days:
1. My fractured Spanish is adequate and I'm glad I brought along a Spanish-English dictionary/phrasebook.
2. I am patient with delays. Anything out of the ordinary adds to the uniqueness of the trip.
3. Diversions to other airports is okay if you don't have a tour group to meet; Delta put us up at a nice hotel and fed us for 24 hours.
4. I get a bit winded going up a flight of stairs at 8,500 feet, and it bothers me a little until I remember I'm at 8,500 feet! We're supposed to take it easy for a couple of days until our bodies adjust.
5. If you're going to be in places where you have to walk a quarter of a mile to the wi-fi hotspot, you can write emails ahead of time to send all at once.
6. Quito is in a beautiful setting - a valley between two mountains. I'm looking forward to spending a day here when we're getting ready to go home. And Casa Quinde looks like Shangrai-La.