French Polynesia Long Stay Visa Saga Continues
January 29, 2018
After Colombia, we headed back to Quito. In my previous Quito post, I told you about the first part of our saga to obtain long stay visas for French Polynesia at the French Embassy in Quito. Well, we were back in Quito to head back to the French Embassy.
We arrived back in Quito on the weekend and wouldn’t be able to get to the Embassy until Monday, so we decided to have a bit of fun. We took the TeleferiQo, which is a gondola lift, up to the Pinchincha Volcano. This is the place to get the most fantastic views overlooking Quito.
We weren’t quite up to the serious hikes you can do to the top having just arrived and not quite acclimated to the altitude yet. But, there were horses for rent! For $10, they gave you a poncho (it was chilly) and you got a nice little ride up the volcano. I dubbed us “The Three Amigos!”
Silliness aside, we were here for some business, so bright and early on Monday we were at the French Embassy waiting for them to open. We each got called individually into the interview rooms to present our applications and paperwork. Luckily one of the officers spoke English. He had some brief questions for us, looked through our paperwork to make sure it was complete, took our fingerprints, passport and payment and sent us on our way. We felt relieved but weren’t going to celebrate until we actually had the visas in hand. We were told to come back in a month and they would call or email us in the meantime if they needed additional information.
After that quick stop in Quito, we headed back to Puerto Lucia to unpack and repack and head out the next day for our month long trip to visit family in the States. As fun as it was seeing all our friends and family in the States, part of our task was to order and pick up supplies and parts that we are simply unable to get in Ecuador. Ecuador is a nice country, but getting boat parts is near impossible. Even if you could import them (which is questionable), there would be such an exorbitant duty charged that it isn’t worth it.
Because our plans are to take us across the Pacific to French Polynesia, we wanted to make sure we had spare parts of everything. So, that meant taking stock of what we have and making a long list of items to purchase in the States and haul back with us on an airplane.
We ended up with four bags (two we could carry on) and two large boxes that we would have to get on the plane, bring to Quito so we could hopefully pick up our visas, put back on a plane to Guayaquil and then somehow make the 2 hour trip from Guayaquil to Salinas. That is a lot of stuff to haul that far and not cheap!
Our flight out of Dallas got delayed (on the plane, off the plane, on the plane again…) which made us miss our connection in Miami. Despite the hassle, it ended up great as we had a day in Florida to visit with some of Mike’s family, who graciously put us up for the night, and a friend I got to catch briefly on our way back to the airport.
It is always a bit nerve wracking going through customs in another country, especially when you have a ton of boat parts that you can’t easily explain in Spanish and that could technically be subject to duty. We got questioned about what was in the boxes and asked for receipts about the solar panels. We’d had these extra panels in the garage for years, and I explained that I didn’t have a receipt as they were not new. So, the official asked, “Usando?” (“Used?”). Si! Yes! That was the magic word, usando. We got waved through.
We had called the French Embassy before departing the States and told to come in at 3:00 on Thursday afternoon. Dan (Kini Popo) wasn’t with us as he was already at his boat in Puerto Lucia, but we were told that one person could pick up all three passports. I got called in first and the officer told me that two of the passports were ready (mine and Mike’s) but Dan’s was not ready. Ugh. He said it would be ready the next day at 3:00. We were scheduled to fly to Guayaquil Friday morning. We called Dan and explained the situation. It didn’t make sense for him to fly all the way up there. We offered to change our flight and stay an extra day to pick up his passport.
With some time to kill in Quito, we found a tour the following morning of a neighborhood we hadn’t been to yet called La Floresta. This was a unique neighborhood with old hacienda style homes interspersed with new cafes, restaurants, independent movie theaters and lots of street art. The guide told us about the history of the street art and murals around town. They were fascinating and added such a colorful flair to this neighborhood. I wish we had found this area the last time we were in Quito!
Friday afternoon at 3:00 we were back at the French Embassy to try and get Dan’s passport and visa. There are two parts to the Embassy, the visa section where visitors go to get visas and the French section for French citizens. There was absolutely no one at the visa section where we had been the day before. We tried calling and there was no answer. After a few minutes, a local security guard told us that they were closed today and would be open on Monday. What??? He suggested we walk around to the French section if we needed to talk to someone.
At the French Section, a nice French Gendarmerie greeted us with Bonjour! And then, Francaise or Espanol? I guess it is Espanol, because I only know a few words in French and definitely not enough to explain what was going on. In Spanish I somehow got across why we were there and that we were told to come back this afternoon. He again explained they were closed on Friday and would be back on Monday at 3:00. At this point, I’m pretty much begging in Spanish, explaining we are leaving the next day and totally blaming the officer from the day before who apparently forgot that it was Friday!
Mike and I were led to a nice room with a couch while the Gendarmerie was rapidly speaking in French on the phone. After a few back and forths with us in Spanish and on the phone in French, he disappeared into another room and came back a few minutes later with Dan’s passport. He was a bit confused that the picture was clearly not Mike and we explained it was our friend’s passport, but he gave it to us anyway. OMG! Did we really just pull that off! Hallelujah! We are going to French Polynesia!