Welcome to Peru

May 20, 2010 (Day 2) 

The day started with us landing at the Jorge Chavez International Airport in Lima (Peru) just after midnight.  We were stuck sitting on the runway for a while as another plane was still parked at our gate but once we got out of the plane, there wasn't much issue finding our way around the airport.  We filled out our customs paperwork on the plane.  One of the forms was almost entirely in Spanish so we weren't 100% sure what we were exactly signing off on but there did not appear to be a close examination of our responses so we got past customs with just a passing of the form and showing of our passports.  The official scanned our passports and our info showed up on his computer.  A quick check and a few keystrokes later, our passports were stamped and we were on our way to pick up our luggage.  Interestingly enough, no one ever mentioned that we had to keep our copy of the Andean Immigration Card with us at all times.  Luckily, I read about this little mentioned fact before our trip and we kept our cards with our passports.  (Apparently, the loss of this card can result in a lot of headaches when departing Peru).

On our way to the luggage pick-up area, we were greeted with offers to rent us cell phones, which we respectfully declined.  We're on vacation after all!  We picked up our backpacks and walked over to security line-up. You have to press a button to determine if your bags need to be scanned.  Sure enough, we were selected but so was everyone else.  But it was no big deal.  You just feed your bags through the "CAUTION: RADIATION" box and you're then free to go on your way.  Once past this part, you're greeted by a multitude of offers to take your bags to a taxi and who knows what else.  Just say "No" to everything.

We were scheduled to fly to Cusco at 5:45 am but the TACA Airlines check-in counter wasn't open yet so we checked out the stores and food court on the second floor, and then the Telefonica Internet cafe  (7 soles for 1 hour; 4 soles for 1/2 hour). The girls then tried to catch a few zzz's on the floor in the corner next to the Internet cafe while I stood guard and gave the evil eye to any guy who dared to even think of coming our way.

Now we were informed that the TACA check-in counter would open 2 hours before flight time but in actual fact, it was only 1.5 hr before our flight that the TACA staff showed up.  The representative didn't speak much English and we spoke limited Spanish so it was a bit difficult to answer her questions.  My name was apparently not showing up in their system.  Nevertheless, that issue was quickly resolved once I showed her our confirmation code.  I suspect she just typed my name incorrectly.

Now comes the crazy part where we felt like we were herded through a miniature IKEA to pay the domestic departure airport tax of $6.82 USD (note that they gave change if you didn't have the exact amount) and pass through the security checkpoint.  Never have I been so rushed through such a loud and busy security area.  It happened so quickly that I find it hard to believe they would have caught anything but the obvious but anyways, we got through the hectic lineup and made our way to the TACA gate through an ordinary looking corridor that takes you downstairs to the tarmac where you board an almost-exclusively standing-room only bus that slowly drives you to the airplane where you climb the stairs to the airplane.

On board, you are offered a beverage and old-fashion headsets for the entertainment system.  The movie didn't play so they hid the video screens almost as quickly as they appeared but the 45-minute flight went by so quickly, it was hard to find time to a catch a nap.

Flying into Cusco looked difficult as it looks as though the airport is in a valley.  I didn't have a window seat so I can't be sure but according to others, the runway looks really short.  Getting off the airplane, I took a few photos while walking toward the terminal.  By the time I got to the front of the plane, I felt like I was out of breath but it did not hurt in the chest or head like I had expected but rather in the throat.  Perhaps, it was dehydration as opposed to the altitude as I was fine afterward.

The airport terminal is relatively basic.  The luggage conveyor belts lead directly outside and you can see them unload your bags onto the belt.  All throughout the airport, you are encouraged to accept brochures for various hostels, tours, etc.  One of the hostel brochures was proud to provide "heather"!  Talk about providing ALL of the essentials!   We had some good laughs about that and finally figured out that they were probably taking about a heater and not a good-looking woman named Heather.   Yes, we were a bit slow in catching on but we blame that on the altitude!  

Our hostel offered to pick us up so we looked around for our driver but could not so we stepped outside, and sure enough, there he was with Stephanie's name on a sign.  Driving away from the Cusco Airport, I honestly wondered what in the world I was getting myself into as the buildings on the way to the hostel were definitely not up to the UNESCO world heritage status standards I was expecting to see.  Our driver then strayed off the major streets and into narrower alleyways where it did not appear as though a car could possibly fit, let alone a pedestrian, but he managed to do it.  He parked the van in San Blas Square and we walked the rest of the alleyways to our hostel.  It was a little iffy at first, as the alleyways smelled of urine and feces, and piles of dirt and garbage could be seen along the way, but we were greeted by friendly folks at the hostel and showed to our room.  The view from our floor's balcony was spectacular.

Not wanting to succumb to altitude sickness or jet lag, we journeyed our way to Plaza de Armas where we were soon greeted by a multitude of street vendors eagerly trying to sell us their wares and services.  Sure enough, traditionally dressed women with alpacas were walking around and agreeing to having photos taken with them.  After snapping a few photos, they wanted to get paid 10 soles.  Interesting how they mention this after the fact but no biggie, we got our token photos in Cusco.  The soliciting did not end there as it seems as though there's a line of people trying to sell you paintings, toques, sweaters, gourd carvings, scarves, sweaters, etc.  Speaking of gourd carvings, we encountered a very good saleswoman who convinced one of us to buy a carved gourd jewelery bowl.  She had a bag ready to pack the bowl and seal the deal and everything.  It was definitely not her first day on the job!

There was also a children's parade around the Plaza to celebrate Education Day, in which the kids walked in traditional and non-traditional costumes.   After the parade, they celebrated with a sweet treat, and well, some of the boys, a piss on the street.  Funny and cute at the same time.  We decided to grab a drink at one of the restaurants with balconies overlooking the Plaza to people watch.

is definitely a great place to people watch, especially from a second storey balcony where you can avoid the hassling street vendors and peacefully appreciate the scenery and the people.

Then it was back to the hostel to relax and recuperate from our flights earlier in the day and yesterday.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Popular Posts

Gadgets By Spice Up Your Blog