“Live with no excuses and travel with no regrets.’
Now, I’ve flown before, but never in something the size of a 767. My uncle was a pilot, and as a kid, he would take me on some of his short flights. But these were just small two seater Cessnas. Nothing like this. And as I have mentioned before, I have a hard time patiently sitting still for a long time, so the 7.5 hour flight felt like a week.
With nothing much to do but sit and wait, I think I checked the screen in front of me every 10 minutes just to see how close we were to Lima. The highlight of the entire flight came as the sun was setting, in the form of a full moon. Sadly I couldn’t get a very good shot of it through the window. At around 11:30 pm, we started our decent in to Lima. Looking out the window, I could see dim street lights peppering the landscape, but little else. Our ability to see the city in the daylight would have to wait until our return flight from Cusco.
After landing and departing, we were ushered down several long hallways to the immigration area, and to a line with what seemed like hundreds of people. It took us about 30 minutes or so to reach the desk and get our passports stamped. On past immigration was another gift shop which we avoided. We had enough of gift shops in Atlanta. Down another hallway and we found ourselves in the main lobby where domestic passengers were arriving, along with hordes of taxi drivers holding signs with names on them. They are there to pick up their passengers and drive them to their destinations. As for us, we will be spending the next 5 hours roaming the terminal or trying to nap while waiting on our next flight.
Before we could do that though, we needed to find an atm, and on the second floor we found several. We withdrew as many Soles (Peruvian currency) from it as it would allow. The reason for this? Some of the rooms we had booked for this trip only accepted cash, and the fact that atms are less common in the smaller towns we were heading to. At that time, the US dollar was equal to about 3.35 Peruvian soles, and when you withdraw several hundred US dollars, that turns into a lot of Peruvian cash to carry around. With that taken care of, I headed to a restroom stall to organize our money into small envelopes we had designated for each hostel we were going to be staying at.
With the money squared away, we roamed the terminals second floor and found a spot on the floor to try and rest for a bit. Certainly not comfortable but that’s all we could do. After that got too hard on the old bones, we moved to the food court area and found an empty table to rest our heads on.
It was a long night.
Around 5 am, we were allowed to start boarding. From our gate, we were ushered onto a bus and driven to the other side of the airport to our plane. After we had found our seats, one of the attendants handed me a folded paper with instructions on how to operate the emergency exit, which to my surprise was right beside my seat. She then proceeded to question me in Spanish if I could help in case of an emergency. Now, I am decent at speaking Spanish, but she was speaking way too fast for me to keep up, so i just nodded and smiled.
It was still dark as we took off from Lima so I figured I would try to take a short nap before landing in Cusco. Yeah, that didn’t happen. I realized that no matter how hard I try, I can’t sleep on a plane. It turns out that this was a good thing, otherwise I would have missed one of the greatest sunrises I have ever seen. Halfway in to the 1 hour and 20 minute flight, I look out and see the sun rising over the snow capped Andes Mountains.
I was speechless. A tear came to my eye. I had waited so long for the chance to make it to this beautiful country, and now i was here. Sadly, the pictures I took simply don’t do that sunrise justice.
Landing at Alejandro Velasco Astete International Airport is quite different from any other airport I’ve ever visited. The terminal is relatively small, and there is only one runway. On the way out of the terminal, there are baskets of coca leaves for passengers to take and chew if needed. Why, you ask? ALTITUDE… You are now at approximately 11,000 ft above sea level. Coca leaves or coca tea is said to help with the effects of altitude, and are available everywhere. When you get off the plane and take a deep breath, you immediately realize the increased difficulty in breathing.
Outside the terminal is another horde of taxi drivers waiting for their passengers. We find a driver and load our packs in the trunk. It is now a 2 hour drive to The Sacred Valley, and our first real stop on this trip, Ollantaytambo.
To be continued….