Peruvian Adventures

9 10 2007

We´re in Peru! Cuzco, Peru.

But our adventures began yesterday. Jen D. picked us up at Jo Ann´s, in Chicago, and drove us to the Blue Line El Station, where we took the El to O´Hare. Pretty calm flight to Houston… lots of time in Houston. Then the 6-and-a-half hour flight to Lima. We began taking our altitude-sickness-pills yesterday morning. Supposedly you take them 48 hours prior to reaching the altitude. Lima is not high altitude. Cuzco is 11,000 + feet. High altitude. But we forgot until yesterday morning. And I´m kind of glad, because they ´make me all tingly. In a weird, can´t-tell-if-I´m-feeling-my-fingers-and-toes-or-not way. On the plane, before we took off I went to get Jo Ann some gingerale from the flight attendant. I got some, and he was incredibly talkative. He talked and talked and talked and talked. Quite fascinating, about the airline, the flight-attendant´s schedule, the amount of food that is not used on flights, the malaria resurgence in Peru (don´t worry, not where we´re going), just about anything and everything. It was funny. Then I went to sit down, and two separate Peruvians speaking Spanish thought I was a flight attendant, and asked me for help. I pointed them to him.. one was fine. The other, didn´t speak English. So I told her I´d take care of it. I went up to my new friend and explained the situation, and he resolved it. Pretty funny.

We walked through the immigration line, got the PERU stamp in our passports, and picked up our luggage. Yeah.. it all arrived safely in Lima.  Amazing and wonderful. Then we had to go through the customs line, and press a button which gave us either a green light or a red light. Red lights had to go to the right to be searched. We all got the green light. Another whew! Jim reminded me that we had to confirm our next plane reservation, for this morning at 10:40. Yes, I said, but I don´t see where.. and I was overwhelmed by all the people holding signs, all the tourist agencies trying to drum up business, all the ladies dressed in blue suits trying to get us to rent a cell phone during our Peruvian vacation… then we saw our guy. Our Pay Purix Hostel guy, holding the sign with our name. Yeah. I told him we needed to confirm our next morning flight.. ¨No¨, he said… ¨¨Mañana…you can do that tomorrow. You can get here early, at 8, and that will be plenty of time.¨Ok.

His taxi friend drove us to the hostel, which was in the warehouse district–a bit scary. But the hostel was cute. Very cute. Erick´s hospitality was sweet and fun… he´s doing all the work in this new hostel, including painting the Inkan calendar on the walls in his spare time.

This morning Erick´s mom made an egg tortilla for us, and we had coffee. Hmmm.. Soon it was a few minutes past 8, and we had to get to the airport, to both confirm our reservation and fly to Cuzco. A different taxi driver picked us up. We got to the airport around 8:15-ish… got in line at Aero Condor, and a nice guy walked over and asked us, in English, ¨What flight?¨  ¨The 10:40¨we said. He looked stunned. We gasped inside. ¨We don´t have a 10:40 flight to Cuzco¨he said. ¨Yes you do, we even have a reservation code right here¨and I pointed to my neat chart with all our reservations and such. ¨No, we haven´t had a 10:40 flight to Cuzco for many months…¨Uh oh. We were stunned. No way. ¨The next flight to Cuzco is 1:30¨he said. ¨What?!!!!¨Ugh. 5 hours in the airport. ¨Is there anything you can do to help us?¨we asked. We talked for a bit, and he went to talk to his boss… he told us to wait in line, while his boss finished up with someone else. The boss came over, asked what was going on, we explained again, and this time in Spanish, though the boss spoke English. But three of them were discussing our situation in Spanish. ¨Has the 8:30 flight already left?¨I asked. ¨Yes.¨¨Can´t it come back to pick us up?¨they laughed… then said, hold on, we´ll see what we can do.

Within 20 minutes we were being checked in to a Star Peru flight to Cuzco–for 9:15. I don´t even know what time it was at this point, but apparently it was getting close to 9:15, because next thing we knew we were being told to run, follow that man… a man already running to lead a couple to the gate. Jim said it felt like the TV show, ¨The¨Amazing Race¨. He´s right. Only there was no chance for a million dollar prize. We ran, gasped, our lead man was leaping up stairs, we attempted to follow, kept falling behind, then would catch up… then had to pay the airport tax, then go through security, and the security guy said, ¨Please RUN!! Fast…¨We were the last ones on the airplane.

On the short hour flight to Cuzco, we pàssed over gorgeous mountain peaks, some covered with snow.  I spoke with the Australian lady on my left, and the Peruvian mountain guide on my right. Quite interesting.

In Lima, as we walked into the luggage area, we were blasted with live Peruvian music. Loud. All our luggage again arrived safely. Whew. Then we went to look for a phone to call our Hotel, and tell them that we had arrived early, and would either take our own taxi, or could they pick us up early? But some guy ¨leading us to a phone¨led us instead to Jose Luis, a taxi driver, who promised to take us to the Hotel. Within minutes he was trying to convince us that we deserved a better hotel, for the same price, same amenities, but much nicer, and even closer to the main square, ¨Plaza de Armas¨. No, I said, it´s ok… thenI asked if he could call, on his cell, our hotel, and tell them we were on our way. He called, and they appeared confused but finally found our reservation. Then Jose Luis suggested that we stop by Peru Rail to confirm our train reservation to Machu Picchu on Thursday, or they would give someone else our seats. Ok, we said. We left Jim in the car guarding the bags, while Jose Luis, Jo Ann, and I went inside. Jose Luis immediately got us a numbered ticket to wait in line.. and we waited and waited and waited… only one number was called up in the approximate 20 minutes we had been waiting, and we still had 11 to go. We were getting nervous. So I ran back to the car (taxi) to tell Jim what was taking so long, and as I turned around, there came Jo Ann and Jose Luis. ¨Their system is down¨they said. ¨Let´s go check out the other hotels, then go to your hotel and you can choose, then we´ll come back¨JL said. Ok, I said… He swerved, pulled over on the side–kind of –of the road to talk on the phone, went up this narrow street, then parked. Here, he said. We´ll check out this third one first. You might like this one. WHAT? We weren´t sure what to think. But actually, we liked it. Then we went to the one he recommended, but on our way in we had to walk in an alley, and he told us that this alley was dangerous at night, so don´t walk there.. That hotel was gorgeous, but we decided against it because of the alley. Then we decided, Let´s not even go to ours which is farther up the hill, more walking in high altitude, and the surprise hotel he showed us was cheaper anyhow. So that´s where we are. The hotel seems to have two names: Qori Inti, and Hospedeje Belvedere.

After we brought our bags in, we were instructed to go to the top floor for Coca Tea, the tea given to people to supposedly prevent altitude sickness. We drank that, talked with a lovely Peruvian family also drinking the tea. (their little girl was adorable and spoke great English). And Jose Luis drove us back down to Peru Rail. He dropped us off, and told us (it had been close to an hour, I think, since we left?) that our number would now be up soon. It was long gone. Apparently, when their system is not down, they work quite quickly. So we got another number and instantly it was called. So now we have our tickets in hand, paid for, not being sold to anyone else.

We walked our way, slowly, back to our hotel, looking at an Artisan´s market first, a fountain, stopping for lunch at a charming place where three children of the family also participated in serving and helping… then Jo Ann and I took naps, while Jim putzed around.

Late this afternoon we walked to the Plaza de Armas (central square), and sat in a coffee shop in a narrow balcony, overlooking the square. Lovely.

Ok, more tomorrow.. my time is up on the computer…