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It was supposed to be the trip of a lifetime.  A trip to remember.  And remember it we will.

We fly to Peru.  We hike the Salkantay Trail through the Andes Mountains, and arrive at Macchu Picchu.  What could possibly go wrong?

Never ask a question you don’t want to know the answer to.

We flew out of Baltimore to Miami via American Airlines.  From Miami we flew to Lima, Peru.  From Lima we flew to Cuzco, Peru, from which our (mis)adventure would begin.

Unfortunately, the airline did not tell us that we had to retrieve our luggage in Lima to go through customs before heading on to Cuzco.  The Cuzco airport is a domestic airport, and does not have customs.  While my girlfriend has had some experience in world travelling, this was my first time out of the land of E. Pluribus Unum (unless you count a driving day trip to Canada via Maine back in the early nineties when you didn’t need a passport to cross the border.)  I have never flown outside of the United States before so how would I be expected to know this.  Dammit, Jim!  I’m just a doctor!

As we waited in Cuzco for our luggage which never came, the error of our ways became apparent.  A few phone calls confirmed that our luggage–along with most of our hiking equipment, was enjoying the scenery in Lima, not Cuzco.

Here is the view as we left the airport in Cuzco:

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Now, I don’t know about you, but this is not what I would consider a “vacation view.”  This is a vacation:

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Fortunately,  our tour company flies masochists hikers in a couple of days ahead of the trek to allow them to acclimate to the altitude.  So we had from Sunday afternoon to Tuesday morning to somehow retrieve our luggage.  Paperwork was reluctantly completed.  In Spanish.   People frowned. In Spanish.  We tried to keep smiling.  The travel agency put in a good word for us.  Apparently, we are not the first pioneers to show up without luggage.

It’s not as though we couldn’t rent equipment. We could.  But we had already invested money in new sleeping bags, backpacks and air mattresses prior to leaving on this trip.  It made no sense that they sit in Lima having a better time than we were.  This was a matter of principle.

So we tried to enjoy some tours of Cuzco and learn about the ancient Incas, while the airline industry took their good old time saving our trip of a lifetime.  Most of my clothes were on the checked luggage because I hate toting heavy carry-ons through an airport.  I paid dearly for my laziness.

I had to wear one of my girlfriend’s coats, as my outer gear was in the lost luggage.  It wasn’t pink, but a brighter purple than I would have ordinarily opted for. And her hiking pants were a little tighter than socially acceptable I suppose.  People kept asking her who her muchacha (Spanish for young lady or maybe cross dresser I’m not really sure) was.  I was apparently abused but not amused.

The hotel we lodged at was quaint and had a European flair.  Don’t ask me how I know since I’ve never been to Europe, but dammit I do watch movies.  It’s probably the Spanish influence.  But I was somewhat confused by the fact that you couldn’t throw toilet paper in the toilet.

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Each bathroom had a little trashcan sitting on the floor to dispose of toilet tissue, etc.  Seriously?  Help us protect the environment?  Did you just see what I flushed out of my system?  And you’re worried about some paper?

Time ticked by and at nine o’clock Monday night we finally get our luggage and hiking gear.  We were scheduled to leave at 3 am the next morning because they apparently close the only road that leads to the base of the trail at 7 am for road construction and we have to get past checkpoint Charlie before the window of opportunity closes.

Only ONE road in . . .

 

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I was travelling to New York with my mom to see my sister.  I had been to her house once before, but I had printed MapQuest directions that took me through a roller coaster of back roads that made no sense.

This time, I was going to use my Garmin GPS.

I hardly use it.  I am a man.  I KNOW where I am going.  I also don’t travel much.  I can find my office, the surgical center, and McDonald’s without the help of 21st century technology.

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Now my mom has made this trip multiple times–even having driven it herself for years before ministrokes and poor reflexes led to her losing her license.

As we passed Tyrone, she points.

“Isn’t that where you should have turned off to go to Philipsburg?”

First of all, even if it was, pointing to it after we have passed the exit isn’t helpful.  And secondly, it was not the exit we wanted.  She was off by one.  Close but no cigar.

Now because I don’t use my GPS very often, I actually had to spend a fair amount of time to find it.  The charge was dead so I recharged it.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t find the car charger that plugs into the lighter so I would have to depend on a fully charged unit lasting me 3 hours.  I didn’t look all that hard figuring it would last a three hour tour with Gilligan, mom and the doctor too, and I had more important things to do before I left like watching Penn State lose to Temple for the first time in 74 years.

If wishes were horses, beggars would ride.

The GPS died just as we entered Bradford, PA.  My sister lives across the border.  We are probably twenty minutes or less from her house.  But this is the most critical 20 minutes of the whole trip–it is the final set of turns and roads that I am not familiar with.

If I had known the battery wouldn’t last, I would have waited till I got here to turn it on.

If I knew Penn State was going to play like crap, I would have left three hours earlier.  The damned GPS would still have died, but at least it wouldn’t be dark out.

I pulled off to the side of the road.  I was going to throw a Hail Mary.  I was hoping the cord to connect it to the cigarette lighter was in the glove box.  I was pretty sure it wasn’t but I was desperate.  I didn’t even have the bad directions from MapQuest.

“I know how to get there,” my mom insists.

This from the woman who would have had me get off the wrong exit two and a half hours ago if she had pointed sooner and I was an idiot that didn’t know where I was going.

I don’t know where I am going right now, and I can’t find the car charger.  Kettle meet pot.  I am an idiot.

So at 10:30 at night, on a remote stretch of highway, I am going to let my 78 year old mom guide me.

What’s below idiot?

So I cautiously get back on the road thinking we are never going to get there.  Maybe I should just call my sister and have her give directions.  With my luck, the phone would die.  And that option would entail me having to give her meaningful landmarks of where we were (um, it’s a dark road, with some dark trees, does that help?) and hoping that she could guide us in for a safe landing.  She’s had benign brain tumors–three craniotomies, two gamma knives and a radiation treatment in a pear tree.

I should have taken that left turn at Albuquerque.

So down the road of perdition I go.  As I come up to an exit, marked with a flashing light, I stop.  I have the yellow flashes; I don’t need to stop.  Fortunately there is no traffic behind me.  I am pretty sure this was the next target destination according to the GPS before it died.  It’s final words so to speak.

Rosebud.  Or I-86/Rte. 17.  Something like that.

I look at my mom.

She looks at me.

Abbot and Costello have nothing on us.  I almost want to ask her “Who’s on first?”

Instead I ask, “Are we supposed to turn here?”

She looks around.  This is quite an ordeal, because of arthritis in her neck.

“Yes,” she finally replies.

“And when were you going to tell me that?  If I didn’t stop here, we’d be past it before you told me.”

So this is how it went.  Every intersection, I had to come to a stop and ask if we were supposed to turn here or not.

At one point, we come to an intersection with only three roads.  You can go straight or right.

“Go left,” she says.

There isn’t a road to the left.  There is someone’s house.  I’m sure they don’t want me to drive through their lawn.

“You mean right?”  I am so optimistic she will correct herself.  I also thought Penn State would win.

“No left,” she insists.  (She knows where she is going!  She has insisted this to me several times now, probably because I am questioning her choices and my sanity. I am beginning to have my doubts.)

I point out that I can’t turn left.  She looks.  Another ordeal.  It looks painful.

Then, she looks the other way and points (to the right,) “go left.”

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We did eventually make it to my sister’s house.  God only knows how this was accomplished.  But score a victory for the Geriatric Pointing System.

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