Here is a little postlude while I am waiting for my flight: depending on the level of incompetence of the airline representative handling the check-in, it can sometimes be a lengthy, but rather amusing, procedure to get a boxed bike accepted as a piece of checked baggage. Tonight in Guayaquil it only took about 20 minutes. After then passing through the immigration area to exit Ecuador, I found myself in an impressively expansive duty free area. There are airports with duty free shops, but this one is essentially a shopping mall with tight security and jetways. I saw some people who were afraid that they had got lost between fragrances and spirits and were asking for directions to the gate.
The day after I had arrived in Guayaquil, I found a nice bike store (Bike Stop) in the affluent northern suburb of Urdesa. People working at the store were very friendly and it was no problem to get a box to pack the bike for my flight. While there were literally dozens of small bike stores on the very busy streets just a couple of blocks south of my hotel at the Parque Bolivar in the city center, the stores' owners were busy nervously watching their inventories, mostly limited to cheap parts and kids' bikes, and didn't seem to understand the concept of packing a bike into a box.
Besides sampling local bars and restaurants and partaking in the notable New Year's Eve festivities in town, I had some other entertainment that was as enjoyable as it was surprising: on the day I arrived in Guayaquil, I had the opportunity to watch an infomercial about Fidel Castro on the more than slightly left-leaning channel TeleSUR, which is based in Caracas. Underscored by a dramatic soundtrack, the piece was mainly showing Fidel Castro hugging other people and vice versa. One of the highlights was an appearance of one of the greatest contemporary comedians, Hugo Chavez, in which the President of Venezuela called Castro the "Pythagoras of socialism." Well, maybe that explains why things are so nicely squared away in Cuba.
I will continue to post here sometime in the not too distant future, maybe from Chile (Santiago to Lima), Alaska (Fairbanks to Kelowna, BC), or again Guayaquil (Guayaquil to Cartagena, Colombia).