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My trip to Peru began the week my Dad was diagnosed with renal failure. I jumped on a plane not knowing if I’d see him again, assured by everyone I would. If that wasn’t a bad sign for my impending trip I don’t know what would have been better. The stress of it caused me to break out in a form of stress eczema which created thousands of tiny blisters on my hands and toes, very itchy and then very painful.
I am a budget traveller, when I can save a few bucks I usually do if it’s going to make the vacation budget last a bit longer. So my flights are usually longer including stop overs and the such.
It turns out when my flight was due to refuel in Aukland, New Zealand, there was a fuel shortage because of some international strike happening at the time that wasn’t broadcast to the travellers. So what this meant was that an extra leg was added into a four flight trip making it a fiver with an added stop over in Tahiti for jet fuel.
Not thinking much of it I happily chatted to fellow passengers one of whom was telling the rest of us how she’d been to Peru multiple times before and to make sure we didn’t pack any breakable souvenirs as they were known to be the roughest baggage handlers in the world.
Upon our arrival into Lima the pilot announced the local time and temperature, as they do. It took me a few minutes to realise he’d said 9:30pm and after confirming with the flight attendant, it was actually 9:30pm. The problem with that was my connecting flight to Arequipa was due for departure at 8:30pm, I’d missed my final flight..
I hadn’t researched Lima, I hadn’t planned on staying there. I had no idea where anything was. I collected my suitcase from baggage claim, noticing the entire front zipped section of my material suitcase had been ripped open and the zipper was broken (she was right). Luckily I hadn’t packed anything in there on my way there but it left me feeling annoyed to begin my trip with a broken suitcase.
On my descent into the airport foyer it was obvious the terminal was closing down for the night. Shop windows were closed and there weren’t many people left wandering around. A man of about forty five in a black suit and an official lanyard was waiting at the base of the escalators near where the check in desks were. He looked to be an advisor of some kind directing people.
This man took one look at me looking at the flight departure screen and stated that I’d missed my connecting flight. I confirmed and he told me that I needed to head to the airport travel desk to rebook onto the next flight because the girls at the check in counter wouldn’t be able to change my flight. He then informed me that the travel desk wasn’t in the same area where the check ins were and he said he’d show me where to go. So I began following him, pulling my flapping suitcase along after me, tired and bewildered I’d just missed my first flight after years of travelling.
He offered to take my suitcase, I’d read enough Peru safety blogs to know never to let anyone take your bags, so I declined. We then headed for the exit. I exclaimed I didn’t want to exit the terminal but he eased my mind saying we had to go out and over the road to some shops where the travel agency was. It was very close he assured me again, and safe.
We walked past at least a hundred seedy looking taxi drivers, up and over an over pass and down through an armor-guarded fence. I began to freak out as the security guard closed the huge security gates after us, leaving us in a dark, area with a few stores that were all closed for the night.
But then I saw a dim light coming from one of the little stores further down and instantly felt better realising it was the little travel agency. He had in fact brought me to a travel agent.
As I walked in it was evident there was only one clerk working this night. There was another guy in there, maybe his friend and a girl. I could instantly tell she was a traveller also, about the same age as me. I sat down next to her and when she’d finished talking to the guy I discovered she’d missed the same connecting flight from Lima to Arequipa as me. She was having trouble booking a new flight as she had travelled with a different airline and they didn’t want to honor the time delay which caused the missed flight. She eventually secured a flight online and would deal with the insurance to claim the original flight later.
I could tell she was just as freaked out by the whole situation as I was. I asked her to stay with me until I had worked out my flight as well and we’d head back to the terminal together. She quickly agreed and we were somewhat mildly relieved.
When the agent looked at my itinerary he told me I had to book my new flight inside the terminal at the check in desk as I was flying all the way with the same airline company. They would just transfer me onto the next available plane. I was livid! I didn’t even have to be there, in that scary little travel agency, in the middle of the night (by this stage it was about midnight).
The man that had brought me from the airport had waited and offered to bring his car over to drive me back. I thanked him but refused, me and the girl had agreed to walk back together. She had also been brought over by a different man. This other man also offered to drive us back, we said no. Then my guy said again he’d get his car, we said no, he was overly persistent and offered to drive us straight back saying it was safer.
We got in his car together and he offered to take us to a hostel his friend owned. We declined, I’d seen the movie and I knew how that one ended. He was very pushy, I presumed he got a cut of the takings doing this often. We declined again and had to be quite mad at him to at last have him take us straight back to the airport. He drove to the terminal, then requested we pay him 80SOL which is about $30. We had literally driven about two hundred meters. It was ridiculous considering in Peru the taxis are super cheap.
I tried to tell the man that he had watched me come down the escalator from my flight and I had no money (I usually get cash at an ATM when I arrive at my destination but I just hadn’t had time with the confusion). He didn’t care, he wasn’t driving us all the way in until we paid him. I considered running but our suitcases were in the boot of the car. I asked the girl if she had cash on her and she did. She seemed too scared to deal with the situation so I asked her to pay for us and I’d pay her back once I got out some cash inside.
She agreed and we paid the man his ridiculous fee, he let us out and we bolted back to the safety of the airport. I immediately withdrew money from the ATM and paid her back.
By this time the reservations desk in the terminal was closed and didn’t open for a few hours. The first flight to Arequipa wasn’t until 4:45am the next day.
We couldn’t access the shotty airport Wi-Fi, most of the shops were shut for the night, I still didn’t have a confirmed flight and we were bummed from the whole situation. We quickly discovered that Lima airport doesn’t have any comfortable seats or waiting areas for people on layovers so we spent the next few hours bundled up with our bags on the concrete ground sleeping against a pole, our bags between us.
Once the reservations desk opened I was able to secure my seat on the first flight of the day, we bought some good old McDonalds and headed to our gate.
I slept my way to Arequipa. We collected our bags from the carousel and headed for the exit. Two taxi drivers approached us and we took off in separate directions, not even having time to say goodbye to each other. I didn’t even get her full name, we didn’t connect on the socials. I am so thankful for this girl! It was just one of those times in life where you are meant to meet someone and you help each other through a situation.
Upon arrival at my hostel there was more confusion, the lady at the desk didn’t know where I had been or if I was coming because I’d booked in the night before and I’d had no way of contacting them. My Spanish was very bad at this time and I tried to tell her about my missed flight and sleeping at the airport. She was lovely and took me to my room with some breakfast so I could rest.
Because this was now about lunch time the next day, (the first day of my holiday) I’d already pre-organized to take part in a cooking class that afternoon. It was all booked via email however I then couldn’t access my emails on my phone as Microsoft was thinking my phone had been hacked by someone in Peru. I couldn’t access my phone to make calls and I couldn’t enter into my email software.
I went back to the front desk and was able to masterfully do charades to the lovely lady that I needed her to call the cooking class and confirm I was still coming. She rang the number and they knew nothing about my class. Apparently it had been cancelled a while ago and they hadn’t informed me or given my money back.
Taking this as a good sign that I needed the day to just rest and recover, I went back to my room to nap. Taking out my room key I then noticed the zipper inside my handbag had just broken as well. With everything happening one after the other, and still with sore hands, this trip possibly had the worst beginning to any holiday I’d ever taken! I remember when I finally got on some Wi-Fi telling my sister I just wanted to go home.
After the first day, things slowly began to work themselves out. I spent the following month pulling my broken suitcase around Peru. It became one of the most memorable and transformational holidays still to this day I’d ever been on. The people turned out to be so lovely and their culture runs deep. My dad ended up being OK too. I grew so much as a person during this trip, learning to just go with the flow and to not give up when things seem to be all against you.
Have you begun any trips with such disasters or have you been in a similar scary situation? Share your experiences below I’d love to hear about them.
Happy wandering x