Paula and I took another cab ride to the airport. This was my last chit chat conversation in Spanish with a cab driver for a while. I swear these guys have driven for their entire lives in small spaces… the driver today went up a wrong street, so backed down this small alley, and managed a 3 point turn in the middle of it! Okay, so they all have these tiny compact cars, but still! It’s amazing! I guess even more amazing that we made it through several cab rides unharmed?
We had gotten up, finalized packing our bags, finished breakfast and after our cab ride were at the airport by 9:45. Our flight to Lima went on schedule at 11:15, arriving in Lima by 12:30. Since we had had that mixup in the beginning of our trip when we had to get our own cab to the airport to fly to Cusco, Footloose travel co. had a represetative come to the airport to provide us with “free lunch” before our international flights. While this wasn’t like luxurious lunch, it was a gesture for the company to make up for the previous mishap I guess. The lunch was paid for by the representative, and we actually got a lot of time to talk with him about Lima and Cusco culture and give him some insight to our corners of the world. That was nice- and interesting. He confirmed that many young people in Lima do try to be like “Americans”- they’re into the latest music, and clothing. I tried to get a better answer for why we’d heard fireworks each morning we woke up. He’d said that this was for the tourists. I thought that was interesting- the fireworks didn’t do anything but irritate me that we were woken up. (Of course, yes, the rooster usually woke us up in Cusco first, then the fireworks!) So, anyway, the lunch with the rep was good. But, we were happy when he left to have time to just aimlessly wander the airport and chat for the last time before leaving for our corners of the world.
7:00 p.m. Lima time
After wandering the small selection of shops for the 5th time or so, Paula and I went to the luggage storage to get her bags. That was nice that we didn’t have to haul our big bags around for the past 7 hours! I left mine in storage still, and Paula and I walked to the airport fee payment area and said our good-byes. It was so nice to travel together- I think we had the same ideas about needs and were both journeying with a certain level of flexibility. This is great, as you never know what will come up when traveling! After our good-byes, I prepared myself for another 4.5 hours of waiting for my own flight.
By 9:30 p.m. and reading some of this good book “Tortilla Curtain” I was getting tired. I’d had a super dinner at this little cafe in the airport- an empanada, bowl of soup, and the most delicious dessert called Tres Leches. Yes, some concoction of different pudding types and whipped cream, with nutmeg on top I think. A great recommendation based on my brief conversation with the waitress. I paid in soles, and got ready to wander some more.
Okay, since my flight was at 11:50, I could check in at 9:50. It was time to get my bag and get to the gate. Like I said, I was tired, and after reading my book a while on the upper level of the airport in this quiet area, I started downstairs to get my travel backpack, lugging my daypack with me. Looking both directions, I totally couldn’t remember where the storage was. Upon trying to explain what I was looking for at the information booth in Spanish, the lady trying to help me only could refer me to a map across the way where I didn’t see the storage area. The dumb part was, after giving up on the map, I walked behind the information booth, down around the corner, and found what I call the storage area… but it was called something like the guard station for luggage! Aye! Okay, next time I’ll ask for the guards of the luggage and get there a lot faster! The trials of being exhausted.
What happened next was ultimately embarrasing. (at least for me since I hate to ask for anything!) I went to the area of the airport where you have to pay this fee in order to fly. I think in the states this is taked onto our tickets so it’s all said and done by the time you get to the airport. So, anyway, I got up to the window to pay my $30 or so… only to find that I had 10 soles left and only $20 in my pocket! I then thought of my yummy dinner that had cost 50 soles (about $16) and cursed myself. From past experience getting money, I knew my ATM card wasn’t working here. I’d gotten money directly from a bank while in Lima and Cusco in larger amounts. I tried the ATM anyway. Didn’t work. I went to the “bank” there in the airport, and the man there said he couldn’t get me money, as they weren’t authorized to do that kind of thing. (Well then why the heck are they there in the airport then? Like who would be opening an account right there at an airport!) So, my next and only option was to find some people to bum money off of. This was crazy!!
As luck would have it, sheepishly I went up to a group of college-age Americans who were traveling with a Denver Catholic group. “I hate to ask you this” I told this group of 4, ”but I am short money to get back to the US…is there any way you can lend a few dollars?” They all chipped in and provided my $14 shortage, and I rushed back to the fee area and paid. Talk about ridiculous! I can’t believe I ended up in that situation, but so glad these folks could help me out! Ah yes, the perils of being tired. <:)
I was happy to be able to sleep on the plane for about 5 hours. I sat with a boy who was attending Jesuit High school in Portland, Oregon. Small, small world. (I used to teach for the Archdiocese of Portland.) He and his grandmother were returning to Oregon. She, of course, as part of the older generation, did not speak English. No matter, we were all so tired, conversation was not as popular anyway.
I was anticipating a tight connection between my international flight and my flight back to San Francisco. About an hour’s time, and since it had taken forever to get through customs in Lima, I was a bit nervous about the connection in Houston. So, I practically jogged to customs in Houston, daypack on my back. The guy in customs scanned my passport, asked how long I’d been in Peru, and said “Have a good day”. Seemed sort of casual for a customs guy, but that’s okay. By the time I got to my gate for the San Francisco departure, it had been delayed until 8:25 a.m. So, I hadn’t had to rush after all! Aye!
To make a long day shorter, our flight was delayed once again. We didn’t leave Houston until 11:15, arriving in San Francisco by 2:00. After getting luggage, I took a BART train to Walnut Creek (a loooong train ride) and then a cab to home. In total, if I count from when we left our room in Cusco at 9:15, my journey home was about 28 hours. I was in desperate need of a shower, and good night’s sleep!
Tuesday, July 22nd
I really appreciate two things: drinking water from the tap, and when you go somewhere, you are not being asked to buy anything. I went to REI today, to pick up things that had arrived too late for me to take on the trip, and was sort of surprised of how “in their own world” everyone was. No one was asking me to buy anything, and of course I really had no reason to ask for directions or anything in another language. I almost miss speaking in Spanish. (It was funny, but yesterday in Houston the same thing occurred to me as I accidentally told the lady who made my coffee “Buenos Dias”, and thankfully she was from Spanish descent and we exchanged a few more formal greetings before I left the shop.) I really think I’d love emersing into a culture for longer than these 12 days…who knows, perhaps next summer I will try that. One traveler in our hiking group had talked about his experience in the Peace Core in Africa… and while I’m not sure that’s for me (I’d rather be in Mexico or something) I think I’d enjoy an opportunity like that on a shorter time scale. Hmm… food for thought for next year.
I am so happy we got the chance to do this… go to Lima, Cusco, and of course Macchu Picchu. As I look back at photos, I’m reminded of the beauty we saw, and the kindness of the people.
I’m keeping my account with the blogg here… who knows where I’ll go next! – A.