Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Day 1: Travel Day to Lima, Peru

Friday May 10, 2013
As I write this, it is actually Day 6 of my trip and I am sitting on a bus traveling from Puno to Cuzco in Peru. Just 2 more sleeps and I will be trekking the Inca Trail! It is a 7 hour bus ride and as I haven't been able to do much in the way of blogging as yet, I thought I would try to catch up. As you can imagine, since I haven't been spending much time blogging, I am having a great time and every minute is full of new and different things and times with fun people. You will need to wait until the Day 2 blog to hear about it though, Day 1 was just a busy and tiring travel day.
Another pre-blog comment, I am having trouble uploading my blogs from my offline blogging software, so I am not sure when you will get to read this. I don't have any time to trouble shoot the issue, but I have sent a note off to the support people and hope that they will have a simple answer. I used the software without problem last year when I traveled Europe, but they have had several major upgrades of the software since then, so perhaps I have to do something to sort it out.

In retrospect, I did not spent enough time planning what to take and getting organized. In stark contrast to my travels of last year, for which I devoted hundreds of hours planning and organizing right down to the last detail, this trip prep has been quite different. Because I am doing a G-Adventure Tour, everything has been done for me (used to be called Gap, somehow they lost the "ap" from the name), and so except for getting myself to the starting point in Lima, everything has been arranged. So not much to do to get ready I thought - but in hindsight I could have been better prepared. I forgot a few things I would have liked to have with me, but since none of those things were essentials, I guess I am doing just fine.

The flight consisted of 2 legs - the first leg, Toronto to Atlanta was via a tiny plane sitting only 4 across. The layover was not too bad - only 2 hours, enough time to find the gate for the next flight easily with only a short wait gate side before the flight to Lima.
The flight from Atlanta was relatively uneventful. I chatted to the young lad from Raleigh who was with a group of 25 young folks who were heading Peru for a month and after a trip to Machu Picchu would be studying Spanish in Cuzco. The plane landed at Lima at 10:30 in the evening and dumped hundreds of tired travelers from the Airbus to stake out a place in the long, long line through customs. Someone said that there were 3 arrivals at that time and so the crowds were thick.
I have to say that the Lima Airport was the most disorganized and frustrating of all the airports I have been through for waiting in line to clear immigration. The airport time and motion "experts" funneled locals to the right side at the start of the line up and the tourists were put in a long line on the left. After going maybe 20 yards in this single line we arrived into the immigration hall proper and where our line started to snake left then right on the left half of the room as we made our way forward towards the customs wickets. The line on the right side, for locals, was just about empty, so at one point someone decided it was OK for tourists to use this line. I watched with feelings of frustration as I saw folks from the back of the line be directed to fill in this void. The next step was to merge the two lines so when my line snaked to the center, the divider was removed and now my line had to travel the entire distance to the other side.
The snaking lines ended about 10 feet from the front and turned into single file lines in front of wickets, where the rule it seemed was that chaos should prevail. There was no one directing folks to the various wicket lines and in fact as I stood and waited in the line which I thought was a good bet, I noticed the line beside me actually was serving 2 wickets and so was moving rather quickly. Being very tired and slow witted at this point I just held my ground rather than move over into a line which seemed to have twice as many people as my line. As the time passed, I noticed that the 2 agents in the other line also were able somehow to serve more people. My agent seemed to be working in slow motion, and processes half the number of individuals in the same time as the other agents to my right. **sigh**
By the time I got clear of Immigration and then customs (2 separate lines), changed my money and had collected my baggage, I was semi catatonic and just wishing for my bed. I had done some investigation on taxis from the airport and was advised to get a "Green Taxi" within the airport to assure that one would not be overcharged. I went to Information and was directed to the proper door to find the cab - and happily followed the cab driver to his vehicle. I asked the price - and he said $40 - and showed the rate card quoting $40 US or Sol 125*. So off I went.
When I got to the hotel I realized I had been scammed - there was a sign in the hotel which provided cab information - $22 to the Airport , not $40!
Oh well, I guess I should be glad that it wasn't worse than that. The hotel was all right and I had arrived in Lima safely and could have a good night's sleep. Tomorrow I would be seeing Lima and meeting up with the G-Adventures Tour group.

*The currency used in Peru is the Nuevo Sol -- 1 CAD is about 2.6 Sol.

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