How I love to write stories that involve the reader in the emotions and events that pass by. This time there is too much to tell, and too little time to tell it. So here is a quick run down of our journey to Peru.
Bus to BA
It was four days of journeying. First an 18 hour bus ride from Puerto Madryn to Buenos Aires. A quick stop for lunch and we were at the airport waiting for our flight. Flying with Lloyd airlines of Bolivia, which is still in financial problems, we experienced a little of their problems ourselves.
At the Airport
The ticket booth had no computers and all was done by hand. The baggage conveyers were even turned off and bags carried by hand out the back. Our line was long but the wait was not too bad. Then came our flights.
On the ticket was that we would travel from Buenos Aires to Santa Cruz, Bolivia and then direct to Lima. Since we were in transit, nobody bothered to check for visa qualifications required for Bolivia. We should not have been so naive.
The Problem at Santa Cruz
Upon arriving in Santa Cruz, everybody had to enter the country of Bolivia through immigrations. One of our party of ten people could not because of visa restrictions. They were stuck on the outside of the country, but in the airport. Because all of us had been processed, none of us could then be allowed to remain with her, and she had to be left on her own as we continued through the maze that awaited us.
Once in the country, we had no idea of what to do next. Our flight was suddenly moved forward from 10.15pm at night to 8.30 at night, which was in less than an hour. Nobody we asked could tell us what to do. We had boarding passes for the next flight, but were told to line up at the check-in counters. Our baggage was presumably continuing on with us to Lima on whatever plane we were to take next.
Confused and Concerned
Nobody at the check in counters was attending us so we finally asked somebody who told us to head to the security checks for the gates. There was only a national security check, and no international. Now we were quite confused as to where to go. So where the hundred or so other people herded at the door like sheep through a gate.
To try and add some sense to the situation, I wandered through the diplomatic doors and confronted some of the officials present. At first they thought I was diplomatic so they answered my questions about our flights, but then were somewhat shocked that I was a “common” person and ordered me back out to the herd of people waiting for the other doorway.
We were to pass through here and then wait at our gate for the plane. It took about 40 minutes to pass through the gate and then we waited… but at the wrong gate. That was for another flight. Fortunately our plane had not yet boarded when we finally found the right gate.
Reunited Once Again
Our friend who had been left outside of the country, was then seen to be escorted onto our waiting plane by some security guards. We found out later that she was never left alone because of her “illegal immigrant” status and her passport was carried by airline staff on the plane for the entire journey through Bolivia. The good thing was that she was on our plane though.
Next, as we are waiting in line to board the plane, an announcement is made that our seating numbers are now null and void and we are to sit wherever there is a place. This leads to a sudden panic that perhaps there are not enough seats for everybody and suddenly the peaceful line becomes a place of tense waiting as we pass through one by one. Our group all make it and there is still plenty of seats so perhaps our concerns were unfounded.
Hopping Through Bolivia
From Santa Cruz we do not fly direct to Lima in Peru but instead fly to the next city of Cochabamba on a national flight, and then to La Paz on the same flight. Fortunately we did not have to get off the plane in Cochabamba, but in La Paz we once again needed to disembarque.
Our Illegal Immigrant
Our next problem was our young “illegal immigrant” who was now walking beside us. Her biggest problem initially was that she did not know who had her passport, and without that she was in limbo completely. So I set out with her to find this and solve the problem that she had found herself in. We left the group and wandered back to the plane, finally finding the man with her passport. He did not give it to her however, but told us to follow him.
So we followed him. Out of the airport, into Bolivian soil on the “illegal” side of the fence, and then back to the line up for immigrations. This time it was immigrations for leaving the country… but she had never entered. So after some quick and stressed explaining to another official, we managed to get them to approach the immigrations officer and sort out the tense situation. When it was time to be processed, the same officer then looked at her passport and knowing all of the history of how she came to be without any entry stamp, let her pass without problems.
Just One More Little Hurdle
Thinking that everything was over, we waited for everyone to gather. But another of our party had decided that now her flight was over she did not need the (still very valid) boarding pass, and used it to wrap up her chewing gum. Suddenly she had no way of leaving the country because of no proof of an ongoing flight. Accompanied by another, she had to race to the airline office and ask them humbly to reprint another boarding pass for her.
Then, after many of us lost our scissors through the security checks (yes, I know. We should not have been carrying them in the first place.) we were aboard and finally flew into Lima, Peru, arriving two hours later than the scheduled time. It was around 6am Argentina time that we finally managed to sleep.
Our Last Bus Journey
The next night we then climbed aboard another bus for the 12 hour journey to Chiclayo, where we are now. Our travels have finally ended and we are at the place of destination. Now our work begins. But that is for another entry.