Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Travel - South American style

Yesterday was a b.e.a.u.t.i.f.u.l day. The weather gods in Cusco decided to play nice and I had one last great day in what is, when the sun shines, a beautiful city.   Wandered around, window shopping ... you know, enjoying and soaking up the atmosphere.

This morning it was freezing and raining... Haha.  I shivered through breakfast, very pleased that I was heading away.  Of course a bit of cloud cover and rain makes for many cancelled LAN flights.  Six to Lima alone.  Mine was thankfully not one of them, although the airport was packed with those not so fortunate.

Now getting to the airport was an experience, albeit not as fascinating as the ride I just endured. But I digress.

The cab dutifully picked me up on time, although had my flight not been delayed I likely would have missed it.   The driver went sooo far out of his way I was beginning to think he was going to DRIVE me to Lima.   Set price or no, and considering just how close the airport is to the city centre, it was a grand city tour.  Roadside markets, donkeys, churches, crumbling shacks, and more stray dogs than you can shake a stick at.

Pay airport tax, go through security (well, what passed for security) and then into the standing room only departure lounge area.  Nice chat with rescheduled tourists from Victoria.  Finally we board the plane and are off.  I had a window seat (unusual for me) and had a great last view of the green mountains and lush patchwork farming valleys as we climbed into the heavens.

Chocolate cake and orange juice, and a lovely chat with a couple from Los Angeles.  Before I could really think twice we were landing at the Lima airport, coming in low over the water, affording a great view of fleets of fishing boats, tankers, beaches, and a city sprawl filling up every visible space until the mountains took over.

Humid.  Warm.  Wonderful.  Took off my fuzzy and rain jacket and smiled.  Maybe it was the oxygen rich air or the sea breeze, but I felt much lighter on my feet.

What a change of pace and face.  I stopped at Starbucks for tea and a muffin, and after a few minutes I realized that, except for the fact that everyone was speaking Spanish, it felt like I was sitting at Toronto Pearson. Everyones' skin colour had changed.  Not an Andean Indian face to be seen.  Gone were the high foreheads, forceful chins and prominent noses, a pity really because those faces usually came with a smile.  Many too many very serious looking white folk. Tourists not included because they mostly looked confused.

Followed the prompters to gate number 13, and sat to wait for my departure.  Some time later they called for boarding for Porto Mondanaldo, a jungle town.  Hmmm.  Go check the monitors and see that they have changed my departure gate to number 8.   I hurry over, and am glad I did because my flight was boarding already.  They would have been calling my name over the intercom, which I could not possibly have understood because the spanish and english messages were flying overhead at garbled warp speed.

The approach to Trujillo was startling.   Lots of sand, and not much view of anything else.  A palm tree or two, some brick walls and barbed wire.  My ABSOLUTELY NOT LOST luggage showed up right on time and I headed out into the terminal.  Except there wasn't one.  Just a big parking lot and no taxis in sight.   I rounded up a security guard, used my best ¨lost female¨ look, and the nice gentleman was off and running to find me a ride into the city.              

And what a ride.   In a car that you probably couldn't give to a teenager back home, I learned that in this town painted lines / lanes, one way streets, and stop signs mean absolutely nothing. As I was reflecting on this I became aware of the fact that the driver was using his emergency brakes as his stopping mechanism.  Several very close calls later I put my life into the hands of fate and just held on for the ride.   Passed what seemed like endless sand dunes that the driver pointed out as Chan Chan, although I hope that when I actually visit the site it will look more noteworthy.

After trying to get me to change my choice of hostels, he finally pulled up in front of a rather questionable looking building and let me out.  Yes, this is the right place.  Yes it had been recommended by Lonely Planet.  Yes it was getting dark and I had no intention of beginning a search for alternatives.  Good thing really, as I am close to the historical main square and once I actually got inside the premises they were much more promising.  Lovely inner courtyard / garden and the room is not half bad.  Not the Ritz to be sure, but for $18 a night what can you expect?

Did my unpacking and noticed that almost all my bottles and tubes had reacted in a very interesting way to the change in altitude. They all looked like someone tried to squish them. Just the opposite as when I got to Cusco they all looked like someone had blown them up like balloons.

Changed into my sandals and short sleeves.

And that leaves me here, typing away to cyberspace in case someone decides to check in with me.

So I survived my day of travel, and feeling tired and pleasantly warm I am going to head off to find some food, and have an early night.

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