After an early morning walk amongst cactus
and sea lions on Islas Plazas, the last of our excursions, Fragata took
us back to Puerto Ayora. We said goodbye to our guide CÚsar and the
friendly crew including Eric who kept saying “Fuerte como una roca”
followed by sea lion noises, and were transferred to the airport. Having
been molly-coddled for a week, we were back on our own again. As we had
no internet access on the boat, CarolAnn Garratt in Florida had sent us
an e-mail to our Iridium phone with the winds aloft and the Guayaquil
terminal forecast. It was another smooth 4 and a half hour flight back
to Guayaquil and we had only light headwinds at 9000 feet and landed
after an ILS approach with 16 US Gallons remaining, which was
comfortable. We booked in to the Sheraton because we wanted a fast
Internet connection from our room in order to upload all the web pages
we’d prepared in our free time on board the Fragata. Also, the Sheraton
is conveniently near the airport and supposedly safer than staying
We enjoyed the direct and fast internet access from the room in the Four
Points Sheraton hotel in Guayaquil, and Flemming got up early to upload
all the many pages we had finalised while on the Fragata yacht in the
Galapagos. We had taken the expensive Canon EOS 20D camera and the new
tripod we bought in Panama City with us to the hotel as Flemming wanted
to take a photo of the Quito approach plate for the web pages.
We then had an excellent breakfast (8:15 - 09:03) and after breakfast
Flemming continued the uploads and other internet duties, while Angela
left the room to work on a computer in their business center. So we were
only ready for check-out by 11:35 when we left the room with all our
The check-out was quick with the usual Sheraton efficiency, and by 11:45
we carried our bags to the main entrance 20m away to wait for the free
Sheraton airport shuttle bus, which arrived 5 minutes later to take us
to the general aviation terminal at Guayaquil airport.
The porters carried the luggage to the luggage compartment in the rear
of the sbuttle bus under our supervision, and we entered the bus and
took seats in the second row behind the driver. Initially we were the
only passengers, but just as the bus was about to leave the hotel, two
businessmen like characters came running and said they were in a great
hurry and had to go to the national terminal.
One guy (bald) sat at the opposite side of the aisle just behind the
entrance door, one row behind us, and soon started to talk loudly in
Spanish on his mobile phone. The other (who came with a small business
like bag), sat somewhere behind us.
After about 4 minutes we were near the end of the runway and got caught
in a small traffic jam before doing a U-turn to get to the other side of
the dual carriage way to access the general aviation terminal at the
other side of the road. The two ┤businessmen┤ then said they were afraid
of missing their plane and did not want to wait to unload us at the
general aviation terminal which was before the national airport
terminal. So the driver stopped during the U-turn and let them out.
We then arrived at the general aviation terminal, and the driver helped
us to unload the luggage. We were the only people in the waiting room
except for three armed guards (yes, we are still in South America!).
Flemming filed the flight plan and General Declaration there for our
flight to Chiclayo, Peru, while Angela guarded the luggage in the
waiting room accompanied by the armed guards.
Soon a friendly guy from Civil Aviation came along to drive Flemming
around the various offices (airport fees, navigation fees, passport
stamps at immigration, fuel office). It was far less efficient than our
30 min stopover 8 days ago, and an hour and a half later Flemming came
back and we still had to do the refueling! We then went through the
baggage security check, and while carrying the luggage out to the plane
Angela noticed that the Pelican case containing the Canon EOS 20D camera
and telephoto lenses was unusually light (the case was not opened during
the baggage security check).
When we arrived at the plane (time about 13:30 now), Flemming also
noticed that the Pelican case was light, and opened it. IT WAS EMPTY!!!
The Canon EOS 20D and the two Canon EOS EF telephoto lenses were gone.
And all the best Galapagos photos were still in the camera stored on the
2 GB flash card. We could not understand how and where this could had
happened. We left the rest of the luggage inside the plane, locked it,
and returned to the terminal with the empty case. I was initially very
angry with the 3 armed security guards but they assured us that nobody
could possibly have accessed the case for the 1 1/2 hour Angela was
waiting next to the luggage together with them in the waiting room, and
they convinced us that it must have happened at the hotel.
We postponed the flight plan for a couple of hours, called the Sheraton,
explained the theft and asked them to send the airport shuttle mini-bus
to pick us up. It soon came and we then had a meeting with the front
desk manager Mrs. Veronica YAGUAL. The last time we had definitely seen
the camera was around 8 am just before breakfast when it was put back
into its Pelican case after taking the photo of the Quito approach
plate. So we explained to her that somebody might have accessed the room
while we were having breakfast in spite of the ┤don┤t disturb┤ sign on
We then had a quick lunch while Mrs. YAGUAL alerted the security service
and housekeeping about the theft. After lunch, she showed us some
printouts of security videos and the electronic lock records for room
908. It showed only 3 entries that morning: 9:03 entry when we returned
from breakfast, another at 10:42 when a lady briefly entered to check
the minibar while I was in the room, and a third entry shortly
thereafter when Angela returned from the business center. Veronica
assured us that NOBODY had entered the room while we were having
So it was a big mystery how and when this theft could have taken place.
The hotel then sent us by taxi to the Guayaquil police station to make a
declaration. We were accompanied by two Sheraton staff members, one of
which was from the security service. I brought a printout of the invoice
from PriceRite photo in New York where I had purchased the equipment in
May 2005. We had to wait in line for 2 1/2 hours before it was our turn,
so by the time we were back at the hotel it was too late to fly to
Chiclayo in Peru. Veronica explained that she had arranged for a meeting
with the Sheraton insurance company the next morning, so we decided to
stay another night at the hotel, and were offered a very special rate.
We returned to the airport to get our luggage as well as our laptop
computer back to the hotel. By the time we had finished dinner at 21:30
we were too tired and too upset to use the computer.
The next day Flemming got up early to send out an e-mail to family and
friends and update the web pages with the bad news - only to discover
that the Toshiba laptop WAS GONE!! Even worse than losing the camera
equipment. The computer case additionally contains numerous chargers for
video camera, mobile phone, iridium phone, the Canon IXUS 700 charger
etc. etc. so we had not noticed the change in weight at all. A closer
look at the contents of the computer case revealed that also our 40 GB
external firewire hard disk with all our photos for our trip so far as
well as complete back-up file of the laptop hard disk had disappeared.
Also the special charger for the Canon EOS 20D had been removed together
with a Logitech mouse.
This strongly indicated that the removal of these 3 items from the
computer case had taken place at the SAME time as the theft of the
camera, since the thief had carefully picked the computer mouse AND the
Canon EOS charger out of the numerous other chargers in the computer
case of no value to him.
We immediately informed the hotel management, and the fact that I had
used the computer few minutes before check-out confirmed that the theft
could not have taken place from the room. Together with Veronica, Monica
(another lady from Sheraton management) and the security guy, we went to
their security room and spent an hour watching security cameras covering
the lobby during the time of our departure from the hotel. It became 100
% evident that NOBODY had opened computer or camera cases between the
moment we came out of the elevator and the moment the cases were placed
in the back of the Sheraton airport shuttle.
However, we saw on video the two ┤businessmen┤ rapidly entering the
mini-bus from inside the hotel lobby just before it was leaving with us
already seated inside the bus. One of them was carrying a case, and we
could see on the video that he had immediately gone all the way to the
back seat of the bus!! So it became clear that those two guys must be
the thieves. While one was distracting our attention by talking loudly
on his mobile phone the other guy was on the back seat out of our view
emptying our camera case and computer case and putting the goodies into
his own bag. He had 4 to 5 minutes to do it before they left the bus in
a hurry during the U-turn near the general aviation terminal.
So it was back to the Guayaquil police station for another declaration.
Again a 2 1/2 hour wait and a second declaration was made on a manual
typewriter with many carbon copies. After that it was 3 pm, and we
returned to the hotel to check out, and leave our contact information
for the insurance claim. The hotel security guys told us that the
suspected thieves were not guests and they had their faces captured on
security video. So maybe one day the police will catch them.
Islas Plazas: The land iguanas scrape the spikes off the cactus leaves before they eat them