Published: January 19th 2012January 17th 2012
It felt like my head had barely touched the pillow as my alarm went off at 6am. Wide awake with the nervous energy that usually precedes an international flight I showered and packed my bags before heading up to the bar for breakfast. Due to the fact it was so early, only bread rolls, coffee and hot water had been put out. I had to make do with the slightly dry, sickly sweet rolls and Coca Tea until I got to the airport.
My secure taxi had arrived promptly at 7.15am and even though I could have haggled with an unofficial taxi for a cheaper fare, it was too early in the morning to run the risk of something untoward happening. Alberto whisked me through the city, taking as many short cuts and detours as he could to miss the morning traffic. I wished I had had him for more of my trip because it would have saved a lot of the frustration of sitting and waiting.
Arriving at the airport I thanked Alberto, and loaded my bags on to the nearest trolley. As I entered the Jorge Chávez International I began to understand why it was recommended to arrive three hours before your departure. The queue for the check in to my TACA flight snaked halfway down the terminal building, where I begrudgingly made my way to wait patiently along with everyone else.
It was almost an hour before I reached the front of the line and was called forward to check my luggage. Happily there was no weight restrictions on checked baggage, and looking around, there was clearly no limit to the number of bags either. Having checked my backpack and bag of gifts, I made my way up to the departure lounge, where to my relief and sheer delight, the departure tax that had worried me last night was already included in the price of my ticket. Pleased to have saved myself US$31 (£20.18) i passed through the incredibly short immigration queue to the departures lounge.
I bought a few last minute gifts from one of the many shops before going in search of something to eat. There wasn't a lot of option for food, and to my surprise it was all priced in US Dollars rather than the now familiar Peruvian Nuevos Sole. For US$9.50 (£6.18) I got a warm croque-monsieur and a croissant that was overly full with delicious dulce de leche! I was almost uncomfortably full after my second breakfast, but deeply satisfied to have eaten. The one thing that I had learnt over the past eleven months was to eat when you could, as it may be sometime before the opportunity rises again.
We were called to board the flight to San Salvador one section at a time. When I eventually got to my isle seat, I was sitting next to two girls from Western Australia. They had had some difficulty checking-in, and asked me if I had had the same trouble. I said that the only thing that the attendant had asked me was where I would be staying in San Francisco, which I had found strange. One of the girls explained that only half of their luggage had arrived at the end of their last TACA flight, which didn't fill me with confidence.
Our flight was forty minutes late leaving Lima but thankfully I had no idea, as I had fallen asleep before we had even begun taxing to the runway. I only woke up once the cabin crew began serving our in flight meal two hours later, and felt hugely refreshed as a result. Unfortunately our landing wasn't nearly as smooth as I could only assume our take off had been, dropping rather more rapidly than anticipated; which made it clear why the two Aussie girls weren't big TACA fans.
It was a far quicker turnaround than I had expected in San Salvador, and I barely had time to find my much sought after fridge magnet before the flight was called for boarding. I had yet again been assigned an isle seat over the wing and hoped that for this flight I might get someone who would want to see where they were going. Sadly I was let down, as the same chap I'd sat next to on the way to San Salvador was again in my row. His brother, who sat between us, was the most fidgety person in the world. Lacking any sense of spacial awareness whatsoever, he persistently nudged and jogged me whilst making himself comfortable. I managed to remain calm and serene however, and felt deeply vindicated when he became irritated by the screaming baby three rows back.
As we pulled away from the terminal, the cabin crew performed the now familiar game of charades, running through the safety briefing as we began to taxi. The entire plane juddered as the wheels left the ground, and lurched dangerously to the right as we rose into the air. I was pleased that this would be the final TACA flight on my trip, as I was so far unimpressed with their pilots abilities.
The cabin crew came around with immigration cards, and I filled it out straight away to save time later. My pointy elbowed friend next to me asked to use my pen and being a good Samaritan I passed it across. Sadly he continued to be a thoughtless cretin for the rest of the flight by taking every opportunity to encroach on my personal space. I was just thankful that it was a relatively short flight, and I had suffered far worse in the past.
As the flight wore on the two brothers next to me got ever more frustrated with the crying baby and I decided very calmly to intervene. Asking them if they had always been quiet as children, or if they had been blessed with the ability of speech from birth they looked at me puzzled. One said that he thought that maybe they should make pills to give a baby, and almost disgusted at the suggestion I asked how old they were. Unsurprisingly they were in their early twenties, and had only begun their travels that morning. I explained that I had been travelling for almost a year and that in that time many people and situations had annoyed me, but learning to be patient and not let it wind me up was a great lesson that I had learnt - something that they might appreciate when they were older. Seemingly dumbstruck by what I had said, I turned around to continue reading the in flight magazine pleased that their incessant whining had stopped.
We arrived in San Francisco not long afterwards, and all that was going through my head was little of 'The Star Spangled Banner' I could remember. I was so excited to finally have arrived in the States, but was still a little nervous about getting through customs and boarder control. The line was huge when we finally disembarked, and it took almost an hour to get to the front of the queue. It felt like I had spent most of the day queuing in one form or another and I was so pleased when I finally got seen. The customs officer was jealous that I had got to see so much of the world, and having stamped my passport wished me a pleasant stay.
I caught the subway from the airport to Powell Street Station, where I made the short walk to Dakota House Hostel. I had the biggest grin on my face all the way there, even giggling like a school girl when I saw an SFPD patrol car! I was finally in the USA and couldn't wait to start the final part of my adventure the next day.