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Posts Tagged ‘Peru’

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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To quote Mark Twain, “the reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.”  However, at one point, I wasn’t quite sure I was going to make it.

It all started with a vacation in Peru.  Having survived a 50 mile hike through the Andes ending with a tour of Macchu Picchu and losing my luggage on the way to Cuzco (more stories for another day,) I found myself almost home in New York at JFK airport.  All I had to do was to survive a short trip to Baltimore and a three hour drive home to Pennsylvania.

I was sooooo close!

We boarded the plane in New York.  It wasn’t made by the Wright Brothers, but they were probably still alive when it was built.  It was a small plane–two seats on one side and a single seat on the other.  Only one luggage bin on one side.

When I got to my seat and sat down I was welcomed by this:

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I’m having a bad feeling about this.  If the best they can do to fix a tray table is duct tape and a warning label, I’m not sure about the level of maintenance of the more important parts of the plane, like the cockpit and engines.

Turns out, they must have used duct tape and a label on the rudder.  Halfway into our flight, the stewardess announced that when we start to land it might be noisy.  There was a problem with the rudder, but it wasn’t important.

Wait!  What?

Isn’t the rudder used to steer the plane?

Of course, it explains why the pilot kept coming on and asking everyone to lean to the left or lean to the right.

Not long after the rudder announcement, the stewardess is back on the speaker with more good news.  She told us not to be alarmed, but there will be some emergency vehicles parked along the runway.  Just.  In.  Case.

And as an exclamation point to this tidbit of news, the duct tape fails and my tray table falls in my lap.

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The stewardess is now coming down the aisle collecting trash.  I point to the broken tray table and tell her, “I think I need some more duct tape.”

With a perfectly straight face, and no amusement whatsoever, she replies, “I don’t carry duct tape.”  She slams the tray back up and reattaches it with the old duct tape.

I wistfully look out the window and wonder if the rudder has fallen off yet or if the duct tape is still holding.

Sure enough, as we land, there were 7 or 8 firetrucks with lights flashing along the tarmac.  One of the other passengers noted that there were no other planes taxiing near our runway.  Someone was prepared for the worst.

But we landed in one piece, although I can’t say for certain we didn’t leave a trail of parts between New York and Baltimore.

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