Our trip to Peru began on Tuesday, June 20. Even though our flight was scheduled for 2:00 am on Wednesday the 21st, that meant we had to be at the airport in Los Angeles no later than 11 pm, which meant we had to leave San Diego no later than 9 pm.
Our friend Kim generously offered to drive us to LAX – she was planning to visit her family in the LA area anyway, so it wasn’t much out of her way to take us to the airport. She picked us up around 8 pm. We made a quick stop at her house and then we were on the road. We arrived at LAX around 10 pm. Thanks a bunch, Kim!!
We gathered all our stuff and headed for the check-in line for TACA airlines. There was a bit of confusion at first as to where we were supposed to start – apparently there was a spot somewhere where airline employees were handing out some kind of ticket before you get in line, but the women at the podium at the entrance to the line gave us one anyway. The line was pretty long but it moved relatively quickly.
When we checked in, we got our tickets, but they weren’t taking the luggage. It turns out we had to then go to another line for the X-ray machine. Dave and I weren’t too impressed with this efficient process. Fortunately we had lots and lots of time, so we weren’t stressed about getting anywhere quickly. We fed our backpacks and our luggage into the X-ray machine and then walked off toward the gate.
We got to the gate, which was surprisingly small and claustrophobic, around 11 pm, with nothing left to do but wait. It was late and we were tired, but we wanted to save the sleeping for the plane. Occasionally there would be people in the gate talking loudly on their cell phones, which provided a small amount of entertainment.
We finally boarded the plane at 1:15 am. The plane was nice and new, and surprisingly roomy and comfy. The flight to Costa Rica was very smooth.
It was 8 am local time (7 am Pacific) when we arrived at Juan Santamaria International Airport in San Jose, Costa Rica. The landing was lovely; Costa Rica is exactly as one pictures it – green and hilly, with rainforest clouds misting around. The airport is in a valley surrounded by mountains, so it made it interesting for planes to take off and land.
The airport was pretty small, but it was nice and relatively modern. There were giant windows facing the mountain outside, so the view from the waiting areas was spectacular. Can’t say that about many US airports! It was good – we had to wait there for 7 hours, so it was helpful to have some scenery. There was a large waiting area at the end of the airport, which we found comfortable until they cranked up the air conditioning and we had to flee. Our gate was in the center of the airport near the food court, so it was busier, but at least it wasn’t freezing cold.
While we were in the airport, we spent most of the time watching World Cup matches. We realized quickly that the “Copa Mundial” (as it is called in Spanish”) would play a large part in our visit to South America.
We got on the plane sometime around 3 pm and were able to move into an exit row – hooray for leg room! We took off around 3:30 pm. We had been watching planes take off all day, and the take-off angle seemed very steep (again because of the mountains that surrounded the airport). When we experienced it ourselves, it didn’t seem as bad as it had looked from the ground.
The flight was pretty uneventful, with a bit of turbulence. Dave watched “The Tuxedo” (not recommended) while I read or slept.
We arrived in Jorge Chavez International Airport in Lima, Peru at 8 pm local time, which was about 15 minutes earlier than we were supposed to get there. The first step once we got off the plane was Immigration, where the lines were pleasantly short and we got our visas quickly. Then we went and had the typical wait for our luggage. We retrieved our backpacks and luggage with no problems and then headed for Customs. All we had to do was press a button to determine our fate. We got a green light, which meant that we could go through without inspection. I suppose if we’d gotten a red light they would have had all our belongings spread on a stainless steel table somewhere… thank goodness we avoided that hassle!
We walked out of the baggage claim area with no idea what would happen next. There was a gaggle of people holding up signs for various passengers, and taxi drivers asking whether we needed a ride… and finally I saw my friend Ana Maria, looking out for us with her daughter standing next to her. They were a little frazzled because our plane was early and they’d had to rush to get to the airport on time. They took us to their car in the parking lot, loaded up all our stuff, and we headed out of the airport.
Ana Maria wanted us to see a bit of the city before we headed home for the night, so we drove around for probably an hour and a half. She took us on her normal route back from the airport to her neighborhood, San Isidro; then we headed back toward the Centro (downtown) to see the Palacio de Justicia, the cathedral and the Palacio del Gobierno at night. There were also lots of big modern buildings lit up with neon lights, and there was a surprising amount of traffic on the expressway and the streets, given how late it was on a weeknight.
We finally headed back toward Ana Maria’s house and stopped at a sandwich place for some churrasco and chicha. It was delicious.
We got home and had some tea, and met Ana Maria’s other children. Mariana is 26 and works in telemarketing/sales, Deborah is 20 and is studying to be a lawyer, and Ricky is 17 and just started university to study international business. It looked like we’d have a good few days, hanging out with this family.
Ana Maria set us up in Mariana’s and Deborah’s bedroom, and we finally went to bed around 1 am. It was nice to be in a bed, for the first time in 48 hours!