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