Day 0: Introduction: My quest for Machu Picchu and why I chose Mexicana + Avianca + LAN Peru
Day 1: Los Angeles to Bogota via Mexico City on Mexicana + Bogota to Lima on Avianca
Day 2: Lima to Cusco on LAN Peru + Cusco
Day 3: Cusco to Aguas Calientes on Peru Rail + Climbing Putucusi Mountain
Day 4: Machu Picchu + Aguas Calientes to Cusco on Peru Rail
Day 5: Cusco to Lima on LAN Peru + Lima + Lima to Bogota on Avianca
Day 6: Bogota + BOG-MEX-LAX on Mexicana in Elite Class
Carola told me the night before that I only needed to get to the airport about 15 minutes before my flight. I had no reason to doubt her, but planned to arrive about an hour prior to departure just in case there were any hiccups. When I awoke, I grabbed my bags and headed downstairs—I had not unpacked anything last night except my camera charger. Carola was standing by her living room window and motioned me to come over. “No flights. Airport closed,” she proclaimed (the airport was right down the street from her house). It was drizzling, but the sun was peaking through the clouds to the west and at 0655 in the morning, I did not expect to see a raft of flights departing.
She wanted me to stay for breakfast, but I told her that I needed to go and she instructed me to get out three soles, hand it to the cab driver as I entered the vehicle, and simply say, “Aeropuerto.” So, I went outside, hailed a cab, jumped in, handed him the three soles, and said, “Aeropuerto.” And he said, “No. Five soles.” Great. I had a few minutes, so I took the money back and stepped out of his car. I thought he might haggle and we could compromise at four soles, but he just drove off. Seconds later another taxi pulled up and I tried the routine again. Sure enough, he took the three soles, nodded and drove off.
We reached the airport in five minutes and I hopped out and entered the small terminal. I located the LAN self check-in machines, but the system could not locate my reservation so I got in line to speak with an agent. I made it to the agent at 0715 and after finding my reservation, she scolded me for being late and told me to “hurry up and pay your tax and go to the gate.”
I paid the departure tax and cleared security in less than six minutes and made it to the gate by 0725, exactly when boarding was set to begin. But there was no plane. I walked around the terminal for a few minutes then sat down to observe how LAN would handle the delay. There was no updates, explanation, or apology at the airport or onboard for the one hour Avianca delay a few days ago in Bogota and I wanted to see if LAN would handle a delay differently. They did not, but the aircraft finally touched down at 0805 and we departed at 0845.
Cusco (CUZ) – Lima (LIM)
LAN Peru 24
Seat 2C, Economy Class
1 hr, 20 min
I had noticed on my LIM-CUZ flight that even though the whole plane was designated as Economy, there was a curtain behind row three and the first few rows had much more generous legroom. I had checked in for the flight the night before and selected seat 2B. Once onboard, I was pleased to find I could stretch my legs out. I was even more pleased to find that the passenger seated in 2C never showed up. Once the door was closed, I moved over one seat right and enjoyed an open middle seat (one of the only ones on the plane) along with the extra legroom.
The snack onboard was the same as the LIM-CUZ flight and the overhead IFE consisted of a Canadian-style Candid Camera. I wasn’t the only one chuckling.
We landed in LIM with my stomach growling so I decided to head over to the Ramada across the street for breakfast. I love hotel buffet breakfasts when I am traveling because they allow you to tank up for the entire day, usually for just a few dollars more than ordering À la carte. The buffet was not great, but I enjoyed eggs, bacon, sausage, oatmeal, yogurt, cereal, fruit, and juices for about $12. Acceptable…
My hands were still bothering me and I could not decide whether to go into Lima or not. I returned to the airport and found an internet café where I researched possible activities I could do in Lima. I think I would have enjoyed a walk around the Miraflores area, but I ultimately decided to skip going into town and use the day to sit down (in the food court) and catch up on my reading. While I probably will regret not seeing central Lima, I really enjoyed my relaxing day at the airport. It was the first time in months I had taken a half-day to nothing but sit back and read for enjoyment.
About three hours before my Avianca flight, I checked in and tried to score an exit row seat. You can read about what happened here. After picking up my boarding pass, I decided to proceed to the gate. Getting to the gate required paying the international departure tax of ~$31, going through security, and then going through passport control. Again, the security screening was painless and the passport control line was minimal, though the passport control agent was not at all pleasant.
I walked all the way down to end of the terminal and found a gate area that was deserted. I read for another hour, took a nap for an hour, then proceeded to my departure gate, as it was now time for scheduled boarding. But guess what? The plane wasn’t there. A 45-minute delay ensued, but finally we boarded and I settled in for my flight up to Bogota. The flight was full but Avianca’s legroom is comparatively generous and I felt comfortable in my aisle seat.
Lima (LIM) – Bogota (BOG)
Seat 16C, Turista Class
3 hrs, 10 min
Dinner service started right after we leveled off and included the same pollo or carne choices as last flight. I went with the beef and found it pretty tasty for an Economy meal. The rice was so-so, but the green salad was appreciated. I also liked the little wine cups Avianca uses.
I landed at Bogota 30 minutes late and I was shocked to see the immigration line stretch for hundreds of feet down the arrivals hall. Thankfully, it moved fast (if you consider 25 minutes fast). While in line, I started chatting with a travel agent from the Washington, DC area who was in Bogota to visit his parents. He had just returned from a trip to Dubai in Ethiad First Class and heralded its in-flight service. We decided to share a cab and negotiated a price of $10 (~nearly 20,000 Colombian pesos) each for the 35-minute ride into the city. The travel agent was dropped off first and the driver had some trouble finding my hostel. There was no sign in front of the door and it was now after 2200, but we finally located the place and I made arrangements with him to pick me up at noon the following day for my flight to Mexico City.
The girl who checked me in at the hostel did not speak a word of English, but it really wasn’t necessary. She showed me to my room, a huge room with 12 bunks in it, and pointed to each one, intimating that I could take my pick. As it turned out, I had the whole room to myself. Even better, the sheets were clean and there was no obtrusive lights or noises to keep me awake. I fell asleep, knowing that I had only a couple hours in the morning to squeeze in as much of Bogota as I could before my flights home.
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