On our way home from Peru, we went to Ecuador

25 10 2007

It started in Puno, Peru, after we returned from our day on the lake. In an all-too-familiar theme, we learned that our flight from Juliaca to Lima (Juliaca is 45 minutes from Puno), was probably not leaving at 2:40-ish, but two hours later. Hmm. Good to know. So the next morning, we woke up, packed our bags, stored them in the hostel’s luggage room, and confirmed our flight to Lima.

We walked around the “plaza de armas” of Puno, took photos of people in the square, then of the cathedral. This cathedral facade was one of my favorites. The intricate details, the perfect sky in the background, the three Peruvian women sitting on the cathedral step sewing and trying to sell their goods. The facade had so many details that I’d love to know about. One was a large cat on both sides of the cathedral door. So I asked the three women if that was supposed to be a puma. (Pumas hold significance for Peruvians, and especially in Puno…and unfortunately I have forgotten what it is right now.) They weren’t sure, then decided that yes, it must be a puma.

The inside of the cathedral was also interesting, though I preferred the facade, so I went back outside, and took several photos. I wanted a good view of the sky and the cathedral facade, so laid down on the ground to take my photo. I sat up and saw the three ladies were laughing at me, smiling, curious about what I was doing. So I showed them the photos I had taken and they were impressed. “Ooh..” … “Aah…”… “some souvenirs to take home as remembrances” they said. I wish I had taken their photo and address, to send them some photos.

We eventually found the shuttle office, reserved three spots, and continued wandering around Puno until it was time to get ready. In a strange South American moment, the shuttle arrived 15 minutes early! Our new friend Tommy, whom we met on the shuttle, informed us that he had been picked up 45 minutes before that, and was being chauffered around Puno, not sure what was going on. This continued until the shuttle was full… and we made our way to Juliaca.

Our flight from Juliaca to Lima (via Arequipa) was fairly uneventful, except the gorgeous scenery outside the window, and the incredibly rude flight attendants.. but once in Lima, we couldn’t find Continental Airlines. Oh, someone told us, they open at 7:30. It was now around 6:45 or so, I think. We waited around, with Tommy, whose Air Canada line was not supposed to open until 9-ish. Finally, there was some life at the booth where we were told Continental would open. We waited in line until a representative informed us that our Lima–Houston flight would be two hours late. Oh joy. That meant we’d be missing our Houston–Chicago connection. Which meant less probability of Jim and Cathy making our church meeting on Tuesday night in Madison! But our Continental Agent, Franz, booked our new connections, so we felt ok that at least we had a new flight.

After we checked our bags, we went to the food court, where Jim had his Big Mac.. and I ate a McNifica. Jim likes to try McDonald’s in different countries, and I was happy just to have some food. I went to the internet center to let Madison know that we might not make our meeting…Jim and Jo Ann went through security and waited for me. And we waited, and waited and waited… Finally, we boarded our plane, and I was asleep even before we left the gate, I think. Our flight left around 1:20 am, Tuesday morning.

A while later, around 2 am, I woke up to the word “heart attack”. What?! A flight attendant was explaining to Jo Ann that someone in first class was having a heart attack, and we would be landing in Guayaquil, Ecuador, for a medical emergency. The pilot announced the emergency landing, but only said that there was a medical condition… and later we found out that the first class passenger was having panic attacks and irregular heartbeats, enough to lead to a heart attack. But they had to remove her by force off the plane in Ecuador, because they couldn’t risk that possibility, even though she wanted to get home.

We landed in Ecuador around 2:15 ish… and left Ecuador around 3:30-ish.. Because we were full of fuel, we had to be maintenance-checked to ensure that nothing was damaged in the landing, then refuel a bit more for the take-off…

We finally made it to Houston, having now missed our second Houston-Chicago connection. But amazingly, in Houston, Continental had a counter all set up by baggage, with all our newly-arranged-connecting flights already on boarding passes for us. Thank you, Continental!

It was a strange, surreal night… fortunately the passenger with the medical conditions was ok, we found out, and so we are able to laugh about the incident. We missed our Madison meeting… Jo Ann, who had been quite sick on the last day and a half in Peru, was feeling slightly better, while I was feeling pretty sick… on the drive home from Chicago to Madison I slept in the back seat the whole way, waking only when we arrived home.

It’s not everyday that we get to go to Peru. It’s not everyday that we stop in Ecuador on our way home from a trip. It’s not everyday that we have such crazy stories to tell. But now it is everyday that I think about Peru, about our trip, about the people we met, and wish.. that I could do it all over again. Or, at least most of it. Perhaps not all.

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