SIDEBAR: Galapagos Diving - If You Go

Side Bar: Ecuador Hot Spot for Diving and Volcanoes

Ah, Ecuador. Erupting volcanoes are your fitting metaphor. This is a democratic country where the president's name is pencilled in, foreign workers disappear into the amazing rain forest and the national currency takes a dump - daily. [Ecuador got rid of its currency - the sucra - after this article was written and adopted the US dollar as its currency of record]
For the most part I was on tour with the Quito-based Metropolitan Touring Company. This is a family-run business that gives five-star service and tries to leave nothing to luck. But, as chance would have it, a few things beyond their control did occur, including the following:
Volcanoes. An inability to speak Spanish left me ignorant of the fact that, while I was in Quito, a nearby volcano had started to spew smoke and ash. I thought the locals wore face masks because of industrial pollution!
Funny money. The dive shop charged me US$110 for the rental of the scuba gear, two scuba tanks, the boat ride and my cowardly dive guide. I was carrying Canadian currency and decided to pay them in their currency, the sucre (which has since been replaced). I went to the bank and exchanged Canadian dollars for the million and half sucres I owed them. At the bank all the big bills were gone. Do you know how long it takes to count to a million and half by hundreds? Over the course of an hour I got to meet everyone on the island and as a bonus I was given a bag to carry allthe money.
Ecuador is considered peaceful. But before I arrived in Ecuador, a dozen Canadian oil workers were kidnapped in the jungle. I, along with a few other journalists, was summoned to an afternoon lunch in a Quito. The foreign minister was there on behalf of the president. Canada's ambassador John Kneale was there too. Everyone apologized to us for the kidnapping, blaming it all on Colombian terrorists. A ransom was eventual paid and the Canadians were let go after months in the jungle. The president was forced out of office. In the Galapagos Islands, you only have to worry about the sharks.
M/N Santa Cruz
Metropolitan Touring
Quito, Ecuador
In USA Call Toll Free: 1-877-534-8584
As published in the Toronto National Post, 2000
CUTLINE: Quito-Ecuador, Oct-5-1999 eruption of the Volcano "Guagua Pichincha" while author in Quito. Photo from Flickr - Sankev -


Anonymous said…
Thanks for this info!!!
My little sister is planning an Ecuador Galapagos travel so I think she might be interested on reading this
thanks for sharing

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