The Journey North
Trip Start Sep 15, 2008
16Trip End Oct 02, 2008
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We started yesterday in Cuzco where we had a last few hours of shopping, getting all the things that are hard to find elsewhere in Peru (ceramics, weavings etc). We picked up some very nice gifts for ourselves....and maybe a couple of things for other people! We once again braved a taxi to get back to our hostel and then off to the airport. The driver initially said it would be $18, I countered with $10 and he agreed without an argument....since he agreed so quickly, we figure we probably still paid him too much.....but really, it was a 30 minute drive.....I think we both got a deal!
We had checked in the day before so we just had to drop our bags, which we did, then picked up some postcards and waited for our flight. At the checkin counter, the guy said he would make sure our bags got transferred to our next flight out of Lima. The flight was unremarkable, same crappy snacks, same episode of "just for laughs, gags" that we had on our way to Cuzco.....we read the whole time. Got to Lima and were a little uneasy about the bag transfer, having been in Peru for almost two weeks now, we have learned a thing or two about the way things work here: mostly that things arenīt always straightforward and stories change frequently.
So, we figured we had two hours to wait for our next flight - we might as well hang out at the baggage carousel to see what came out.....well, lo and behold, Ianīs and my bag both come tottering out within the first 10 bags (we never get such good luck when we actually want our bags to come!!). We pat ourselves on the back for being oh-so-smart, pick up our bags and start heading out to re-check our bags.....wondering who we should complain to. The woman checking baggage tags at the door says "but you have a connection, your bags should be on the next plane, not with you" - exactly, but they werenīt. Well, put them back on the carousel and someone will pick them up to put them on the plane. Uhhhhh......I donīt think I like that idea much.....but we decide to trust the woman and put our bags back on the carousel.....two lonely looking bags go rumbling off behind the curtain - will they ever be seen again? Ian and I share visions of what our beach vacation will look like without anything but the clothes on our backs and books we have almost finished......
We wander the airport trying to decide what to eat between McDonalds, Peruvian KFC and pizza - not much of a choice......considering the prices and the fact that we had eaten pizza both previous nights for dinner.....but, we opted for pizza anyway.....I must say, this country does pizza, even fast food pizza, really bloody well!! And nobody ever got food poisoning from bad pizza, at least not that Iīve heard.....
When they finally call our flights, we head to the gate to go through security. We had paid our departure tax to leave Cuzco and we had the stickers to prove it. At the gate we show them to the guy and he starts telling us we need to go through the exit and something about the tax. We try to talk back and forth about this for a few minutes, me arguing that weīve already paid it and him agreeing and telling us to go through the exit. Have I mentioned that I really need to take spanish lessons? My french and one year of grade 9 spanish 15 years ago will only ever get us so far. We concede defeat and head through the exit to an official looking guy at a desk.
He then starts to check us out very carefully (boarding passes, tax stickers, passports) and then ushers us through the employee security gate! WTF? Why are we going this way? We decide there are some things we will never know and leave it at that. We accept our VIP treatment, move through the line faster than everyone else and wait to board our flight.
Same crappy snacks, same stupid episode. We arrive in Tumbes at 830 pm, wondering how we are going to get to Mancora, an hour and a half away. We thought we would try the $2 bus option, rather than the $40 cab option. We get off the plane and are swarmed by cabbies - why are they allowed to come into this part of the airport?! We are told by a cabbie that there are no buses to Mancora until tomorrow but that he will take us for a very good price - actually, thereīs a flat rate so itīs not too bad, no way of getting screwed there - I think itīs the cabbies that get screwed....$40 for what ends up being a 3 hour drive for them. Anyway, we agree to the cab since we donīt want to take the chance of being in a non-tourist town at night and getting mugged (....remember the crime reports from the first day? The consequences live on!). As we wait for our bags (youīll recall they were last seen alone on a conveyor belt) I get Ian to go ask some other touristy looking folks if they want to split a cab. He manages to find a couple from Sweden who are also heading to Mancora - and voila! Our cab ride is now $20.....
Our bags arrive!! Yay! And we pile into the cab for what is to be our most exciting adventure yet....Weīve talked about driving in Peru, yeah? Well, for any of you doubting Thomases out there, let me assure you, taking a cab in Peru is taking your life into your hands, well, the hands of the cabbie really. There we are, driving along a dark, two lane highway at night - we are coming up behind a bus and a police car and coming to a bend in the road, with a solid yellow line. What does our dear cabbie do? Slow down and wait for a safe time to pass? Not a bloody chance, he guns it and passes both the bus and the cop, in the dark, uphill, on a fucking corner!!! I guess the only reassuring part of this is that if there had been anyone coming the other way, he probably would have been in the oncoming traffic lane as well, since thatīs apparently what you do around corners on highways when itīs dark. So, donīt worry Claire and Anne - weīd have been fine!!
Through a few checkpoints, getting high on the smell of diesel leaking into the car, we finally arrive at Laguna Surf Camp - youīll recall the photos of it from my earlier post. Cute, beachside bungalows. Our new Swedish friends donīt have reservations, but we do - or so we thought. Itīs 11pm and the woman working speaks no english and has no idea who I am. She says all they have is one bungalow with 5 beds - we agree to take that with the other couple so weīll all have a place to sleep. I give her my name again and she says "ah, si, una momento" and walks off.....and doesnīt come back. We and the swedes sit and wait, and decide that these bungalows arenīt so cute, and itīs certainly not beachside. Weīre not sure whatīs happening, so I go to try to talk to her, again. I give her my name, again. And she says "si, si, matrimonial?" (which is peruvian for double bed). I say Si, and she puts us in another bungalow - what the hell is going on here? We go back to tell the swedes they can have the one with 5 beds to themselves, we are taking the double bed. But itīs still not beachside, itīs pretty much a dump and not at all what the pictures looked like......we are lacking the mosquito nets which the other beds had, but we have mosquito coils. We pee in the broken toilet with the tank that leaks all over the floor, in the bathroom that might as well be an outhouse (dirt floor, open, cold water shower), light our mosquito coils and crawl into bed, resolving to look for something better in the am.