Getting there - Denver to Miami to Lima and finally Cusco . . .
June 11, 2001
Our American Airlines flight out of Denver left at 7 a.m. en route to Miami where we would connect with our LAN flight into Lima, Peru. We left Cheyenne at 3 a.m. and dropped the truck at the off site parking for the duration. Check in went fine as we were timely and AA does not do too much business out of Denver, hence there is not the potential long line that often comes with a Denver hub airline.
Our trip through security was quick and painless, putting us on the concourse and ready for our four hour flight to Miami. We walked around a bit rather than sit and took a quick breakfast at the usual concourse cafe, Lefty's. We upheld tradition by asking if the Indian immigrant working the register if she was "Lefty" a haggard joke that we take joy in every time but one that the help rarely finds amusing or entertaining. Well, its a cheap thrill . . .
Thrills aside, we were on our way to Miami, where we had a wonderful 8 hour layover if you like being trapped in an air conditioned terminal under threat of immediate spontaneous combustion if you set foot outside in the ambient heat. I know, we are from Wyoming where we have no a/c in our homes because we count the total number of 90 degree days for the year on one hand.
Unfortunately, the Miami airport is too far from anything short of a $30 cab ride. We thought about a trip to a mall to see a movie, we thought about a trip to the beach, but in the end, we ended up sitting out most of eternity at the airport. We were however somewhat entertained . . . .G and I tried to convince the fellows shrink wrapping luggage to wrap Bob for the trip, this time to Bob's lack of amusement. Our eight hours were also broken by a good meal at a Cuban themed restaurant . . . no surprise there . . . then overpriced beers at a concourse bar . . . and finally a walking tour of the airport. We walked the concourse many times, literally until the plane left, covering no less than 4 miles by my estimate. Boredom was defined by endless concourse circuits, watching the various shops close their gates until there were none open and we realized were were marooned in a dry and foodless desert. Our penance for wanting to fly in the comfort of LAN did come to an end and we were eventually rewarded for our wait with seats aboard a new 767 and a comfortable 7 hour flight south to Lima.
June 12, 2011
The overnight flight put us into Cusco at about 5 in the morning and we quickly passed through Peruvian customs and immigration. Next we had to claim our bags and transfer them to the domestic LAN service, in other words . . . a trip out into the general check in hall and a wait in line for the airline to re-check our bags onto the one hour flight into Cusco. Well, that went with little hassle as Lima is LAN Peru's home turf and they know how to move a line. They had a ticket agent putting folks in the right line and before we knew it, like 20 minutes or so, we were at the counter and separated from our bags for the flight to Cusco.
Our next stop was concourse coffee shop for a bite to eat and then onto the departure gate where we waited all of 30 minutes for the call to board the Cusco flight. The run to Cusco was aboard an Airbus 319 that took off on time and climbed through the wet clouds of Lima into the bright sunshine above. At this time of year, Lima is one dull gray place, low scud and lots of fog. We did not have any non airport layover time in Lima and that was fine by me. It's not exactly an enchanting place and with a population of about 10 million, its lower economic zone could be used, without modification, as the set for a remake of the scoop scenes of the movie Soylent Green.
The flight to Cusco only takes about 65 minutes total and the descent portion of the flight takes every bit of 20 minutes. The Cusco field is at an elevation of 11,000+ feet and even at that elevation, the airport and town are in a valley. Our plane did not make a straight in approach but instead spiraled down onto the field, making 4 to 5 circular loops before being greased onto the runway. Those young guys on the flight deck were just plain good at their game. The scenery during the descent was great as we could see the Ausangate Massif of the Vilcanota range, our climbing destination. We could also see the pyramidal Salcantay, near the ruins of Machu Picchu, as well gain an understanding of how Cusco lays in what is known as the sacred valley.
I had heard that the airport in Cusco was a bit of a madhouse but it was nothing compared to classic Mexico City of the '90's or perhaps I've just been to Central and South America enough times tono longer notice. We made our way past the tour company touts to the luggage carrousel where, to our hope and relief, all of our bags appeared without too much delay. We had arrived in Cusco, we had all of our bags, but there was no sign of the driver who was to meet us. Well, he was not inside the terminal with many others so we gathered the bags onto a cart and made our way outside to find John and Mariella waiting with a sign bearing all three of our names. This was our initial contact with John, whom Carlos had arranged to cover the driving, and cover the driving he would do over the next two weeks, never missing a beat and leaving no doubt he had the situation under control.
We were soon loaded aboard the van and off to the Apu Huascaran, our accommodation in the older part of colonial Cusco. The traffic was not bad, the usual mix of cars, trucks, pedestrians, and push carts that yielded to narrow one lane cobblestone streets as we neared our hotel. A bit new for Bob but old hat for G and I . . . and certainly better than El Alto, outside the airport in La Paz. Fifteen minutes later we were at the hotel and unloading our bags and hauling them up to the front door. Soon enough all was in our room and we set down in the open air courtyard for a traditional cup of tea. We had arrived . . .