Taking it to a new level
15.03.2009 33 °C
So far our trip has basically consisted of blissful moments of relaxation, where we know where we are sleeping, eating etc. for a few days, and then periods of frantic organisation, which includes long hours in the nearest internet cafe (why did we not bring a laptop) trying to sort out where we are going, how we are getting there, and counting every penny that we need to do that. Our inability to organise anything (I thought Sam was an event manager??) has led to some of those moments when the sun is setting and you suddenly think.. 'Hey, do we have anywhere to sleep??'
After loving Cusco and not wanting to leave, we once again suddenly realised that we needed to be in North Western Mexico in 3 days... From there began 72 hours of transit hell... We rapidly booked a bus to take us back over the Andes to Lima. A plane takes 50 minutes but the good old school bus takes 21 hours. Great. We jumped on at 6pm, and as it was nearly two weeks since our last long haul bus we had almost forgotten how punishing it truly is. Almost. Several complaints, two naps, one whole ipod battery and 4 Twix bars later we arrived in Lima, where it truly sucks. Lima is a dirty, flat, hot city of ten million, 9.9 of which live in abject poverty. The thing that saves it is that despite the conditions Peruvian people seem relentlessly optimistic and helpful. We trudged to our hostel, had a shower and decided to escape reality for a while and attempt to stay up till 8pm by going to see a movie. We found a cinema and rocked in, careful to ask if the movie was in English with Spanish subtitles, and not the other way around.
Being the cultured creatures that we are, we decided to see Slumdog Millionaire, as the only english speaking show they seem to air in South America is Oprah, and she practically wets herself with excitement whenever she mentions it. Feeling very excited to be able to spend two hours without having to deal with not speaking spanish, we sat down and got comfortable. At this point any of you that have seen Slumdog Millionaire will be laughing because after ten minutes we realised that the movie is set in India and 80% of the time they speak Hindi. Which is fine, if you have subtitles. That arent in Spanish. Brilliant. We walked out to the disbelieving stares of most of the Peruvian moviegoing public...
Heads bowed in shame, we made it back to the hostel, where we slept in a room with the temperature hovering a few degrees off boiling point. Waking up with a tan, we hopped in a cab to the airport, sad to be leaving Peru but incredibly happy to be leaving Lima... We didnt leave ourselves nearly enough time though, as we failed to take into account the fact that peak hour is a global phenomenon, which occurs even when less than 5% of the population seem to have a job. Counting the seconds, we ran into the terminal, only to be told that we didnt have a ticket for the plane to Miami.
Three weeks earlier, when the beer haze had lifted long enough during Carnivale for us to realise we needed to change some flights, we had rang the airline (LAN - dont ever fly with them) and changed the dates on three flights, the first of which we were currently trying to embark upon. The guy on the phone had been very helpful and changed the flights on the spot, but judging by the blank faces of the check in staff he had only changed them in his head, because they knew nothing. According to them we were still flying on the original date - 4 days ago.
It took us quite a while to figure all this out, of course, because they only spoke Spanish....
30 minutes of arguing with whoever came in earshot later, the manager and then the managers manager were called in, and the problem was resolved. Nearly. The LAN idiots said we could get on the plane, but that we would have to check with American Airlines when we arrived in Miami for the connecting flight, as they 'couldnt see it in their system' or something. Fine, we said, storming off to the departures terminal, only to be slugged with a random US$65 airport tax, for no reason other than blatant fund raising.
By this time tempers were running thin, and when a guy selling sandwiches tried to extort yet more funds out of us, he recieved the full force of our frustrations... Leaving him huddled in a corner, hugging himself and shaking with fright, we got on the flight and made it to Miami... With no connecting flight tickets and less than 90 minutes we ran through the terminal, only to be confronted with our first taste of American Homeland Security. The line to clear customs was packed and not moving, because to get in doesn't simply require your passport and a smile, it takes three sets of fingerprints, 2 photos and an interview (interrogation) to get into America, whether you're from Iraq or Young.
Our bags didnt arrive on the conveyor belt, so hoping (but definitely not expecting) that they would magically arrive in Mexico City, we ran through the airport. The first airline assistant guy (we recognised him from the big ASK ME badge he was wearing) told us to rack off (Isnt that the American Way...) but we eventually found someone to direct us to the American Airlines help desk... In terminal D... We were in Terminal J. 4 km of Airport sprinting and fat yank dodging later we made it, skipped the line and breathlessly explained our predicament... The lady took pity on us and got us on the flght, despite the fact that the awesome LAN people in Lima had completey deleted our ticket from the system. And our future ticket from Mexico to LA, and our ticket from LA to NYC. What a bunch of CHAMPIONS.
We got on, found ourselves an exit row and settled in, looking forward to airline dinner (yes thats how desperate we are). It came, but with a US$10 price tag. No dinner for poor old us.
We arrived in Mexico City dirty, hungry and tired and our luck suddenly changed. Our bags had made it too. This may seem like a matter of course but we have learned to take nothing for granted....(see earlier blog on Chile). We made it to the hotel, which thankfully was quite nice, and flopped into bed.
We awoke with yet another bus trip ahead of us.. this time 20 hours to Merida, capital of the Yucatan... This bus made Peruvian buses look like Air Force One by comparison... Packed solid with Mexicans, we crawled our way out of the city and along the Gulf, finally arriving and finding the nearest bar in which to drown our sorrows in cheap tequila, thankful that our 72 hours of transit hell had finally ended.... Now, to rest up before the next leg...