Hello everybody! Gerrod here to fill you in on some of the not so exciting parts of our travels - the traveling part! The following recounts a tale of our misadventure flying with Avianca airlines starting in the Amazon and ending eventually in Paraguay with our beloved cousin Liz.
Getting to the Airport
It was finally time to leave the jungle, which I was very excited about. The amount of bugs and heat was finally starting to get to me. Lauren might tell you it was not that bad, but trust me it was. We had an early start in order to get ready to go before having our last meal at the Amazon Planet lodge. Soon after breakfast, we jumped in the boat and headed up river to the office.
The office was way hotter than the first time we were there; it even lost power a few times, likely due to the heat. The temperature had been following an ever hotter trend since we arrived - but I had hopes that we would soon be on a plane and on to cooler things.
Puerto Maldonado Airport
We got a ride to the airport in the Amazon Planet SUV, where we finally got a dose of cool air conditioning (I could finally stop sweating! for at least a car ride….). When we finally arrived at the airport, the check-in process for our flight with Avianca went very smooth, and we even got to hang out in the VIP lounge while we waited on the gate to open.
The Fated Meeting in the VIP Lounge
One man eventually joined us in the VIP lounge, and we were having some interesting conversation him. He was from the United States and was working in Eco tours to the Peruvian Amazon for his retirement. The man also just happened to mention that he has been flying back and forth from Lima to Puerto Maldonado for quite some time, and something usually goes wrong with the flights.
Let me say, I wonder if what transpired over the following 15 hours would have happened had this man not been in our company. Could this be considered foreshadowing? I am not an “English language” scientist, but for those of you who are, you can correct me if I am wrong. I assure you, I blame him in no way other than his foreshadowing of the events that would befall all of us very soon.
Soon after the fated conversation, we boarded our flight at 11:30 am (on time), and landed in Cusco for a quick stopover less than an hour later. We sat on the plane and waited for the next batch of passengers to board. Lauren watched Netflix while I continued to play some Nintendo Switch.
After the passengers boarded, we got the safety briefing as usual and the plane started towards the runway. Now since I have already mentioned foreshadowing, you can probably already guess that when we arrived at the runway, nothing happened.
Something is Wrong
The next thing we know the pilot is coming on the speaker system telling us that “the control tower says to head back to the gate because we are not cleared to take off, and oh, also by the way, there is a check engine light thingy on”. At this point Lauren and I look at each other and say, “didn’t we just fly here in this plane…?”
So the plane headed back to the gates and where we sat, and sat…..and sat, without being able to leave the plane, while they troubleshoot the issue. Lots of time went by with no information from any of the Avianca staff. They would occasionally get on the speaker and say, “ we maybe can take off in the next 30 minutes”, but after about 2 and a half hours of sitting on the plane we had still not taken off. They eventually gave us some crappy airline snacks consisting of a juice box and crackers, and told us we could get off the plane, only to wait for longer in the airport.
Bored and Waiting
After we got off the plane, we found ourselves in a mostly empty airport surrounded by many confused and angry passengers. Everyone was missing their connecting flights, but our connecting flight was so late that we were hoping we might still make it. During this time, Avianca made ZERO announcements, which only made all of the passengers even more confused and angry.
We originally were planning on spending our long, 6 hour layover hanging out in the VIP lounge in the Lima airport, but at this point we were just hoping we would make our connecting flight. Although Cusco is a pretty major city and tourist destination in Peru, the airport did not have WiFi or any outlets to charge our already dead electronics. This made sitting in the airport very boring, and made time pass very slowly.
Misinformation and Panic
Several of the angry and confused passengers went up to the kiosk to ask questions, and amongst all of the nonsense of waiting, misinformation spread like wildfire through the crowd. We made a few English-speaking friends while waiting for any information to come from the airline, including the man from the VIP lounge who foreshadowed the day’s events. He happened to be flying first class, and spoke Spanish much better than we did.
When Avianca did finally make an announcement, they made it only in Spanish, despite having a half English-speaking passenger base. After speaking with our VIP lounge friend, he said that they said “it would be at least 3 more hours so if you are going to miss your connecting flight to go to the desk to reschedule your flight”. We also heard muddled announcements and rumors that the flight was going to be cancelled, and that we needed to make arrangements to stay overnight in Lima.
Lines and More Lines
As all airports do, to get to the desk to reschedule our connecting flight, they sent us out of security back to the check-in desks to handle this unfortunate scenario. Wait, did I say all airports?
I have never seen so much ridiculousness and confusion in an airport in my life, and it could be seen on everyone’s faces involved. For the next few hours we were herded like cattle through different lines, were told to go different places, and eventually told to go out of the airport to the check in desk. We were told several times that our flight was cancelled, and then were told several times that our flight was not cancelled.
There was no order or sense to anything that was happening. There were three other flights with Avianca that were supposed to go to Lima that were all either cancelled or delayed, and the attendants would tell us where to go our shift us to other lines without even asking us what flight we were originally on; and none of these lines seemed to move.
Thanks for Nothing
There was only one Avianca employee that seemed to know what was going on, and finally one of the friends that we made wrestled their way to speak with him, and passed the information on to us. According to the one employee with the answers, our flight was not cancelled, only delayed.
After waiting in lines that didn’t move for at least 2 hours, we fought our way to the front to ask if we should just board the plane without rescheduling our connecting flight as this line nonsense had gone on so long that our original flight was finally ready to take off. Well as it turns out the reason the lines didn’t move is because the people on the cancelled flights were hogging the attendants, and were waiting for us to give up our seats so they could get on our flight! Lauren and I were very confused because how are we supposed to give up our seats while we are stuck at the back of the line???!! Thank you Cusco airport staff!
After the Avianca employee behind the desks looked at our ticket and told us that our flight was “not until tomorrow” (what?!) we finally decided to run back through security and board the flight. This of course consisted of a few more nonsensical lines through security, outside the gate, inside the gate, and even in the plane!
We boarded a new plane, and finally departed Cusco at 9 pm. Our flight to Paraguay was supposed to leave at 9:50 pm, and considering we landed in Lima at 10:30 pm, we definitely ended up missing our connecting flight anyways. Upon landing, we asked an airport employee what we should do next, and she said to grab our luggage and head to the front desk at the check-in area. So, we headed to baggage claim to grab our bags. At first we did not see our luggage, but after showing our tags to a truly helpful attendant, she tracked down our luggage! I guess they were just going to hold onto until the next flight to Paraguay.
Now THIS is Service
We made our way to the check in help desk as directed by the other airport staff. We saw some people from our flight get turned away, so when we finally made it to the desk we insisted that someone told us to come to this specific desk as we didn’t want to wait in yet another line. She didn’t try to argue with us, and immediately began helping us! Success!
After finding out that there is only one flight per day to Paraguay from Lima we realized we would need to stay in Lima until 9:50 pm the next day. There was some silver lining to this cloud of the bullshit the day had thrown at us - Avianca provided us with a very fancy hotel room, all of our meals, and taxi service to and from the airport.
On Our Way to Rest
We waited in line for a taxi with many other frustrated Avianca passengers. Apparently Avianca screwed up more than just flights from Cusco, but also from Argentina and Brazil. We got in the taxi and were taken through the city. The taxi driver drove like it was a race against time itself. Most of the buildings we passed seemed to be casinos. We finally arrived at the hotel, which also happened to be a casino hotel called Los Delfines.
We got checked into our room around 1:30 am and ordered some room service. Room service took some time, and we didn't end up going to bed until around 2:30 am. What a day...
The hotel served an amazing breakfast buffet with all the fixings we could possibly want. Since we had the day to spend in Lima, we looked up some directions using a combination of Google maps and Maps.ME and found ourselves headed to a district called Miraflores.
On our walk, we came upon a roundabout with a movie theater and many fast food joints surrounding it. Across the circle we saw what I could only describe as a church right out of the video game Morrowind.
Pit Stop for Smoothies and Dessert
Maps.ME had a viewpoint called Parque Grau Miraflores that supposedly had a great view of the coast, so we decided to head that way. On the way we came across a nice little cafe called Lucio Caffè where we stopped for some nice smoothie drinks and desserts; good choice for lunch right?
Miraflores and the View
After we finished up at the cafe, we continued down the road to the viewpoint. Miraflores was clearly a wealthy district of the city. There was a nice park with a statue and a bike trail. The first time we were in Lima, our Uber driver said he would not wander around in the area we were staying in at night. Miraflores had a very different feel - clean and very welcoming. The viewpoint called Parque Grau Miraflores had a great view of the Ocean.
Time to Go
After the park we made our way back to the hotel to have some free dinner before checking out. As we checked out there was a taxi driver right behind us who approached as we finished and asked if we were the people he was waiting for; and wouldn’t you know it we were!
Flying Round Two
This time at the airport we went in with a more defensive frame of mind; ready to deal with whatever crap they threw at us. Luckily that mindset was not needed. We checked in and headed to the VIP lounge to have some drinks before boarding the plane. After we boarded the plane, we were given an immediate announcement of technical issues with the plane… Oh no, here we go again!! Luckily we were up in the air only 45 minutes later than scheduled on our way to meet Liz in Paraguay.
What Did We Learn
Sorry for the super long rant, but sometimes travelling is not all fun and games and this is one of those times we thought would be worth sharing. There a few takeaways here: Do not fly with Avianca (the airline we have been dogging this whole time) unless you have to, be prepared for travel plans to not go your way, and try to be flexible and keep your cool.
We are learning that traveling by bus in South America is the way to go if you have the time, but we will touch on that later. Anyways stay tuned for our trip to Paraguay and our adventures with Liz!
Gerrod (and Lauren)