Arrival in Lima
Trip Start Oct 03, 2008
4Trip End Oct 11, 2008
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Where I stayed
Perú: Population 28,220,000 in 2007
GDP per capita: $7,600 USD (2007 estimate, Source: CIA World Factbook)
Year Visited: 2008
Country Order Visited: Number 30, after Mexico (#29)
Language Studied: Spanish
Exchange Rate: $1 US Dollar = S/. 3.00 Nuevos Soles (translation: New Suns)
Friday, October 3, 2008, 4:00PM
Bush Intercontinental Airport, Houston
The take-off from Houston Bush Intercont'l Airport was delayed due to the belated arrival of transferring passengers from Canada and Europe. Their airplanes were tardy in touching down in Houston. I looked around the gate and noticed a motley of tourists of various ages, sporting adventure wear akin to that of Indiana Jones, with Fedora hats and hiking pants. They were speaking in British English, French, German, Japanese, etc. In fact, they came from all corners of the Northern Hemisphere and now were converging in Houston for the final leg of their odyssey. In fact, I met several groups of people from London, Calgary, Paris, who all had the same goal as mine: to experience the spectacular splendor of Machu Picchu.
THE LONG TREK
On the plane, I sat next to two college girls from Nagoya, Japan's fourth largest city. Their English was marginal, so I decided to practice my Japanese with them. They were impressed. Their flight to Lima was probably longer than that of all the international connecting passengers. These two girls took the Shinkansen bullet train to Narita Int'l Airport-Tokyo (200 miles/325 km), flew 13 hours and across14 time zones, and were now on their last 6 hours flying to Lima. And I thought the 10 hour flight from Heathrow Airport-London that the UK couple in front of me had taken was exhausting. I was lucky that all I had to do was drive 25 minutes to the airport from my home and go directly to the gate.
A FRIEND ON BOARD
While I was getting on the plane, I ran into my colleague and friend, Justo, a pulmonary physician orignially from Peru, who happened to sit right behind me. He was planning to do a three-day weekend escape to partake in a religious pilgrimage across the desert of Peru with his family. We spoke in Spanish and English, and he gave me more tips about traveling in his country than Frommer's or Lonely Planet ever could. One thing he challenged me to do was to try the local cuisine of grilled cuy, or guinea pig, along with anticucho, or beef hearts on a skewer, and wash it down with chicha, or a purple corn drink. It all sounded very interesting, so I might be up for that. Anyone who had eaten horse stew or had drunk airag, fermented mare's milk, in Mongolia, probably could now be up for anything. However, he warned me about not eating seafood or raw vegetables in Cusco, due to the possibility of torrential gastrointestinal upset. He explained that since it would take some time to transport seafood up to the mountains in Cusco, it might lose its freshness and pose some risks. He mentioned that one of our friends and colleague, a cardiothoracic surgeon, who was invited to give a talk in Peru, had gone to an upscale restaurant for dinner with his wife. He thought he had a heart attack hours after eating some seafood and almost went to the ER, had he not brought some antibiotics with him. I smilingly looked at my bottle of broad-spectrum Levofloxacin, which might become a prized possession.
Aeropuerto Internacional Jorge Chávez, LIMA
The plane finally landed in the obscurity of nightfall at Jorge Chávez International Airport in Lima. As soon as we exited the jetway, my friend and I switched from English to an only-Spanish conversation. It was funny how the mind was strongly influenced by the surroundings, which consisted of Spanish signs, Spanish on the intercom, and Spanish conversations all around. I felt very comfortable and confident with my Spanish, and not at all nervous like the time I had landed at Gardermoen International Airport-Oslo and was hesitant to speak Norwegian. After passing through immigration and customs, I went out into the large arrival hall, where there were throngs of people standing behind a low metal barricade. They were waving placards from so many different tour companies, and my eyes scanned for my particular group. Then, I passed by someone who yelled out, "REI Adventures!" I turned my head, and there was a representative calling out my name. "How did she know?" I wondered. It was so nice to have someone welcoming me, as it was late, dark, tiring, and very stressful to travel out into the city alone. I greeted her in Spanish, and she was impressed. Then, she informed me that there were three other people arriving with me. But she gave me the option to go the hotel if I did not want to wait. Since by this time, it was almost midnight, I walked across the street and checked in at the four-star Hotel Costa del Sol right inside the airport.