Monday, June 27, 2011

The Journey Begins

I must start off by reminding you about Jason's blog. Thanks to work, he has his Blackberry on him and therefore can email/blog as we go. Hence the posts this morning, and hence the fact that you knew that he had recovered his passport before I knew.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.

When last I left you, we were in the airport in Houston. After the 6 hour layover, we had a happily uneventful flight to Lima. We watched Rango (strange movie), read, dozed, etc.

We rolled into Lima at 10:30 PM, picked up our luggage (yay!) and went through customs. After adding another stamp to our passports (yay!), we stepped through the doorway into a sea of drivers holding signs.

Really, it was remarkable. There was such a crowd of people pressed against the gates, most of whom were holding signs. I despaired about finding ours in the sea, but happily Jason spotted my name on one of the whiteboard paddles in the crowd.

The driver led us outside, then scurried off to pay for the parking while we waited and enjoyed the cool temperature (66!). He then drove us through the city, pointing out the sights and jamming to American techno.

We arrived at the hostel in Miraflores a little after midnight. By the time we checked in and the clerk led us upstairss to a bunk-bedded dorm room with a green door, it was almost 1 AM. We crept through the other sleeping travelers, set our alarms for 7, and went to sleep.

Dorm sleep tends to be light sleep, so we were both still blearied-eyed the next morning. We ate some "breakfast" provided by the hostel (a piece of white bread and "juice") while waiting for the cab to the airport.

We traced our way back to the airport, taking a different route along the coast (ocean!). It took twice as long as the night before, being rush hour Monday morning. The driver dropped us off at arrivals and we towed our selves and our luggage to the door. "Passporte?" the young guard at the gate asked. He checked mine and waved me through, laughing about my last name ("Si, si, Aguacasa" I replied smiling). As I went inside, I heard Jason call my name in a panicked voice. He had stepped to the side and was frantically going through his bag. I went back out, pointing "mi amigo" out to the guard when he blocked me with his arm.

"My passport," Jason said as I approached, "I can't find my passport."

Duh, duh, DUH!

I gave him my phone and he called the hostel. Sure enough, the front desk checked and found the little black bag in the living room area where we had eaten breakfast. Two hours away. And our fight was leaving in 90 minutes.

With a very Fonzi-like "Hey...!" from the passport guard, I went back inside to ask an agent about changing our tickets. There was quite a line, though, so I went back outside ("Una vez mas!" says the guard) and suggested that Jason go back to the hostel while I tried to change our tickets.

He headed over to the masses of cab drivers and the guard waved me through, scoffing at the idea that he needed to see my passport again.

I spoke to a ticketing agent, and happily we were able to switch to a later flight. I emailed our hotel in Cusco to inform them of the pickup time change and then I went back to the windows near the door and my friendly guard and sat on the window ledge-bench-ish thing and waited.

And waited, and waited, and waited.

It wasn't too bad. I mostly had to work on
1) not obsessively checking my email to see if Jason had reported yet (he had not),
2) not thinking about how much I needed to use the bathrooms that were all located on the other side of security, and
3) learning how to secure luggage in green plastic wrap.

I was right across from one of those wrapping luggage stations, and I watched them wrap a lot of bags while not checking my email.

A little under two hours later I spotted Jason coming up the walk right after getting an email from him saying he was almost there. He seemed to be searching for the door he had left me at, so I stepped up next to the guard and called "Jason!".

"Jason!" the guard immediately echoed, waving at him, too, then grinning triumphantly at me when Jason turned around.

He passed through this time, we got boarding passes printed for the next flight out, and we dashed through security to the gate. Happily, we even had enough time to go to the bathroom.

And so we settled in for our flight to Cusco, relieved and a bit high from the adrenaline rush.

The flight was lovely. Once we got out of the Lima fog, we could see the Andes mountains the entire way there. Despite being a short flight, they handed out drinks and snacks (Ritz crackers!), prompting Jason to point out how yet again a third-world country does a better job treating people than ours does.

The plane descended onto Cusco through a series of figure eights (Vomit Watch Level 4!) and stellar views.

We landed, claimed our bags, and looked for our pickup from the hotel to no avail. I had no idea if they had gotten my series of emails from the morning, but since we didn't see my name on any of the signs, we accepted a ride from the guy who flashed a very fancy-looking badge to prove his taxi officialness.

He spent the cab ride trying to talk us into coming to his travel agency to get free information about tours. His partner was actually waiting for us in front of our hotel and followed us inside, determined to get us to come listen to their spiel. Jason finally managed to shrug her off by getting her phone number to call later that day.

We dropped off our bags, got a map of the town and a restaurant recommendation from the very friendly clerk, and headed out to see Cusco.

So far, I love it. We followed the Lonely Planet walking tour and saw some of the churches, plazas, and Inca walls that are indeed impressive in their ability to carve and place such tight-fitting stones without mortar. I like the atmosphere here. There were people everywhere, mostly a lot of non-gringo families. We hit Plaza de Armas right when school was letting out and there were kids everywhere in brown or green uniforms chattering as they walk home from school. There are the salespeople, of course, coming up every few steps to offer "Massage?" or "Painted cups?" but they're not as persistent as the ones in Turkey and a polite "No, gracias" seems to do the trick.

We had some tasty fried chicken at the restaurant while King Kong (the newer one) played in Spanish on the TV overhead, then walked about more, enjoying the thin, dry mountain air and cool temperatures until the sun set and we decided that bed was calling. We stopped off at a pastry shop on the way back to the hostel (pear pie for Jason, a banana wrapped in puff pastry for me), and settled into our room to enjoy wifi, power outlets, and a clean bathroom with the prospect of a full night's sleep ahead of us.

Despite the panic of this morning, it wound up being a pretty good day.

Photos to come! (Again, Jason beats me here since he has his laptop and is uploading from his good camera to blog. Oh how the technology-tables have turned!)

P.S. I apologize here and now for not proof-reading these posts. I'm typing on my iPad keyboard, which tends to double letters without me seeing it. Sorry!

1 comment:

  1. I want to go to there.

    Also, Peru is not a 3rd world country. It's not in the same class as us, but it's only one notch down. Economists don't really use 1st world, 2nd world, 3rd world, etc any more, but Peru would probably be at the top of the 2nd world list. It's considered to have a 'high' Human Development Index, while we are considered to have a 'very high' HDI.