Kathy and Dave got up early to get ready for their 8 AM COVID test. We were excited to be close to going home. As amazing as this trip has been, we missed our kittens back at home, not to mention the routine of being “home” again. We ate breakfast after the tests and then waited for our laundry to be delivered to the hotel. We also scheduled a taxi to take us to the airport at 7 PM. The laundry was late and so we had to ask for a late checkout, which the hotel accommodated. It arrived at noon, and we packed up to check out. As we dropped our baggage off at the front desk to hold for us until our taxi at 7, we were given an envelope. It had our test results. Dave slowly opened the envelope. Kathy’s results were on to and she was — negativo! Woo hoo! Then, he looked at his results – positivo! Oh, no!!
After a few stunned moments, Dave asked the hotel employee to verify the results, since they were in Spanish. Yup, Dave was “positive” and would not be traveling home. How could Kathy be negative and Dave be positive when they have been together 24/7 for the last couple of weeks?? As we gathered our wits, we began looking at our options. Dave could stay at the same hotel for $90/night (or $155/night with 3 meals a day delivered.) They could give Kathy a room next to Dave for another $90/night, but she would be able to go out and eat. They could not cohort Dave and Kathy since Kathy was negative.
We made the agonizing decision for Kathy to go back home by herself and wait for Dave to be cleared for travel. We have our kittens at home that Kathy needs to care for. Plus, it would be risky for Kathy to stay in Quito and possibly test positive when Dave was finally cleared for travel. We had planned on staying in Florida for a couple of days to visit Dave’s brother, Mike, and some old friends. We had to change Kathy’s flight to fly straight to Buffalo, and we had to cancel Dave’s flight. As if the situation wasn’t bad enough, trying to make these changes was extremely frustrating. We were disconnected twice (after which we had to wait another 30-60 minutes for someone to answer), we could not get anything done on the airline’s website or app, and we spent 5 hours trying to get this resolved. What should have been a few last hours to be together before Dave went into isolation, was instead spent in aggravation and sitting on hold. As each hour ticked by, the time for Kathy to take her taxi ride to the airport drew closer. Finally, at just past 6 PM, we got everything resolved.
Now came the crying. Kathy was heartbroken to have to leave Dave behind in a foreign country, in isolation in a small hotel room, and testing positive for a disease which has killed millions worldwide. She was also very nervous about having to negotiate the travel from a foreign country to her home in a relatively new area all by herself, without her compatriot and travel partner, Dave. A few minutes before 7 PM, Kathy said goodbye and headed to the airport. Fortunately, Dave has remained asymptomatic. He carries a thermometer and checked — 98.6. He ordered room service and the pizza TASTED great! No fever and no loss of smell or taste. Two symptoms checked. No fatigue, headache, body aches, runny nose, or cough.
Dave checked with the tour company and so far, no one else on the tour has tested positive. However, four of the others are traveling to the UK which does not require testing prior to flying. Two others are staying in Ecuador for another week. That leaves Katya. Dave emailed her to let her know of the situation and she told him her test was negative. Dave also asked the tour company if the boat crew will be tested since they are now all close contacts with a person who has tested positive. After messaging with them, he is still unsure if they will or not be tested.
Kathy and Dave took this tour of the Galapagos because they had a voucher from a previous tour that had been canceled. They chose the Galapagos because at the time, COVID was on the decline so much that Ecuador only required visitors to be vaccinated, not PCR tested. That changed after the trip was booked. We also felt more comfortable because the tour company required all passengers and crew to be vaccinated AND tested before getting on the boat. Being in a bubble of vaccinated and tested people for 14 days on a boat in a remote area seemed less risky than many things we do back at home in the US. However, two days before the end of the tour, we had an excursion onto one of the few islands which had a human population living on it. We visited the land tortoise recovery center for the national park and then had free time in the town. We were cautioned by our guide to avoid eating lunch in town. Another boat had had a passenger test positive and he felt that spending more time in town was risky. Disappointed, but agreeing that it was safer to eat back on the boat, we did as he requested. However, some of the crew, and our guide, live in the town. After dinner, they left the boat and went back to town. Some returned late at night, and from the sounds of the singing and carousing, it is assumed they had been drinking. Many of us were upset that they had broken our bubble and were concerned with catching COVID from one of them. Hmmm…