The story below is taken directly from my daily journal with a few modifications to clarify anything that may not immediately be clear.
Monday 10th July (Argentina – Buenos Aires)
It is 5.30am and we are still traveling. Arriving at the Liniers terminal in Buenos Aires early, we waited 1.5hrs for our pickup to the Ituzaingo YWAM base. A shower, some emails, lunch and time with friends and we are soon back in our bus on the way to the airport.
Waiting at the airport
Now we are in the airport – early, waiting for Lloyds of Bolivia to open their counters. Oops. We were watching the wrong counters. They were already open but their computers were down. This meant that we were all scattered over the plane with nobody together. I could not change the date on my ticket either, with my return still set for the 26th July instead of the 5th September.
Customs and security completed, I am still with my scissors, but our plane is delayed and we don’t depart until 4.30pm. Now we are on our way in an old Boeing 727-200.
(Bolivia – Santa Cruz)
It’s a shambles. Nobody knows where we are going or what we are doing. We thought we were in transit but suddenly everyone has to enter into the country though customs. Bewildered we fill out the paperwork, then pass through.
Mari, one of our team, is detained. Bolivia requires that people from her country obtain a visa to enter. She does not have one as none of this was expected. We are distraught, but after consultation it is agreed that she will be escorted to the plane just before departure. We leave, still wary, but unable to change or do anything about it.
Now we are officially in the country. I try to adjust my ticket dates again. They confirm that the dates are fine in the computer, but a dispute remains as to who pays for the changes. It as the agency’s error, but in this part of the world that may mean nothing.
Next, we are told to line up at the check-in counters again, but nobody is attending us. Jorge finally finds a person working there on other things who tells us that we can go straight through to the gate as we already have our boarding passes for the next flight. It is a national gate.
Crowds of people waiting to go through security checks.
Arriving at the gate we encounter a mess. It is like a herd of cattle all trying to fit through one tiny gate at the end, and indeed between 100 to 150 people (a rough guess) are all pushing in a group towards a tiny door (I find out on my return to Argentina that "Miss Bolivia" had just arrived moments before us and this was the contingent that had been traveling with her). We join them and move slowly toward our goal. Thirty to forty minutes of waiting sees us finally inside and waiting at our gate.
There is no Mari. While we wait, we send out a search party to find our missing group member, but with no luck. A second attempt encourages a guard to console us and he tells us that she will be escorted directly to the plane at the point of departure. After further questions we also discover that we have been waiting at the wrong gate, but our plane has been delayed again.
Finally we are on the plane. An announcement while at the gate scared us all. They told us that our existing seat allocations were null and void. Suddenly everyone was up and pushing into an anxious line, as many of us were now concerned that there could well be insufficient seats. With this airline very close to the point of closing down, anything was possible. We all made it aboard however, and there were plenty of left-over seats. To our relief we also see that Mari has also boarded this plane.
(Bolivia – La Paz)
After a short 45 minute flight we stop in Cochabamba at 10.15pm. This time we were able to stay onboard. After another short flight we are in La Paz, flying low over the mountainous edges of the Altiplano. Once landed, I get to exit the airplane by the rear tail-steps which brought back memories of my childhood flying days in Australia.
The old Boeing 727 allowed us to leave by the tail steps.
Once out, we all gather together in the terminal as a group and prepare to go through customs to leave the country. Mari still does not have her passport however, as it was taken from her and given to a flight attendant on the plane. She does not know who has it either, so I go with her to help sort all of this mess out. She is understandably quite concerned and worried about it all.
After finding an official person from the plane, we then seek another, until finding the man with her passport. He tells us to follow him through the checks into the common areas of the airport. Mari was even more stressed about doing this, but I reassured her as best as I could. Soon we were before another official who then took charge of the situation. She led us to customs and immigration and arranged with the officer there to allow Mari to pass through without a problem, after standing with everyone else in the line.
Once through, she was safe once again, and visibly relieved, although quite exhausted from the experience on top of all of the traveling. This was not the end of our dilemmas however. Katie, another of our team, considered her boarding pass old and used it to wrap up her chewing gum and throw it away. When she discovered that this was the very piece of paper that she needed to board the next plane, there was more rushing around between officials until somebody could replace her boarding pass for her. Soon enough however, she was passing through the security checks.
After safely making it through two previous security checks, my scissors were finally discovered and removed from me here in La Paz. Katie too, discovered that she had scissors in her hand luggage. Finally, at 12.30am in Bolivia (1.30am in Argentina), we are on our way again.
Flying over La Paz city in Bolivia.
Tuesday 11th July (Peru – Lima)
After a 1.5 hour flight we arrive in Lima very late, at almost 3.00am Peru time. I sleep most of the way, exhausted. Surprisingly, when we get there the pastor that was going to pick us up is still waiting. We pour out of the main doors of the airport as a group, pushing two loaded trolleys filled with our luggage. As we leave the lobby, we pass through lines of taxi drivers, all looking for customers.
The airport here has a very modern feel, recently built by a German company and complete with electronic eye bathrooms where everything is automated without touching a thing.
Two cars carry us all back, six in each car with four in the back as is common here. We pass through an area that looks like Las Vegas with all of the lights and casinos lining the street. Nobody feels like talking, but as I am in the front seat, I try. It was hard work trying to clear my brain of enough of the tiredness to think conversationally.
Late at night, everything seems like a blur.
Finally we reach our destination. A large house that is also used as a mission base for a church. I quickly find my bed down in the basement and within minutes am in and asleep. Exhausted.Â It is something like 6.30am in Argentina. 4.30am here.
The journey is over, I have finally reached Peru.