Five months worth of bad luck in 24 hours!

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January 4th 2010
Published: January 4th 2010
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On Saturday night I sat on the end of my bed and cried whilst talking to Mum about all the things that could go wrong with this trip. I have a rather vivid imagination and am a natural pessimist so I was creating allsorts of bizarre possible situations. However, even I couldn’t imagine just how much bad luck I was in for over the next 24 hours or so.

Getting to Heathrow airport was painless enough as was checking in for my flight. After a painful goodbye to Mum, Roger and Jon, I was comforted by a 30 minute wait to get through security and an exciting frisking by a particularly burly female security guard. The next hiccup didn’t come until boarding was supposed to start for my flight to Madrid at 7.20pm. Apparently someone had been taken ill on the incoming flight so the passengers could not disembark until the medics had arrived. At 7.40pm, when the flight was supposed to be leaving, one of the BA ground crew informed us that the flight was no scheduled to leave at 8.10pm. I started to get a bit antsy as I had only allowed 1 and a half hour stopover in Madrid before catching my connecting flight to Lima. Eventually we boarded the plane but as it had been standing around for so long the wings had iced up! When then had to wait until 8.40pm for the plane to be ready and take off.

Those of you who know me well will know that I’m not the calmest of individuals so you can only imagine how nervous I was about the prospect of missing the connecting flight. I spoke to one of the flight attendants who managed to bump me up to Business class for the last 15 minutes of the flight so that I could be the first person off the plane but they weren’t confident that even this would help. I’d show ‘em!

We finally landed at 11.52pm (local time), 2 minutes after the gate was due to open for the next flight. Once off the plane I ran as fast as my little legs could carry me. I’d like to be able to say that I imagined a blonde girl from the Southern states shouting “Run, Emma, Run!” but at that time I couldn’t think about anything other than catching that damn flight. As I emerged into the terminal I realised I didn’t have a clue where I should be going. I did a quick 360 degrees scan to see if I could see a departures board or someone official looking who might know something about anything. The only thing I could see was a large group of Orthodox Jews sitting around drinking coffees! I decided that running to the right would be a good idea and quickly found the mystical departures board. “LA2707 to Lima at gate S48. S48, where is that? I can only see signs pointing to gates with the prefix of U!” Another quick and hopeless twirl to see if anything would become clear and I ended up facing S48. I ran up to the gate and garbled something about needing a boarding pass and having just got off another plane, in English and between gasps for breathe. The LAN employees working on the gate looked at each other as if to say “OK, and why is she so important that she thinks she can talk to us like that?” I didn’t think I was that important I was just very stressed, very relieved, very tired and on the verge of breaking down in tears. I did get my boarding pass and sauntered onto the plane, happy as Larry. I have now probably set the new World Record for the shortest amount of time spent in an airport.

My boarding pass had been hand written to save looking for my details on the computer and printing one out but unfortunately that person’s handwriting wasn’t all that clear. I had reserved seat 29A but it looked like a D on my boarding pass. I assumed that as I’d been late I’d been allocated a new seat so calmly went to try to find this seat. Surely logic would dictate that aeroplane seats would be lettered A, B, C, D etc but no, for some reason on this Boeing 767 the seats were A, C, D, F, H, etc so I ended up walking down the wrong aisle on the wrong side of the plane. When I got to row 29, I found a man sitting in my seat. He was bent over tying up his shoe laces or something so didn’t see me gesticulating to him. The man sitting next to him did and looked at me as if to say “Yes, what do you want?” I thought I would at least start by using Spanish so asked the man if he spoke English. He looked at me blankly. I was appalled at how bad my Spanish obviously was. By this time the man in my seat was looking at me so I tried to get across the idea that he was in my seat in a mixture of English and Spanish. In response to this he got out his boarding card, which was clearly printed with 29D. I realised that the ‘D’ on my card was probably a poorly written capital A so did a quick about turn to get to a point where I could cross over to the other aisle. When I got back to row 29 I again used my Spanish to communicate to the woman in seat B that I was supposed to be in A and therefore needed to get past her. Another blank looked followed by, in an Australian accent, “My husband is in 29 D, want to swap with him?” I didn’t have the energy to argue so agreed to the swap and ended up sitting next to the first person who blanked me, who turned out to be French! So much for trying to use my Spanish.

Apart from a fair amount of turbulence, unusual vegetarian food options (vegetable lasagne for breakfast, anyone?) and a total of four hours sleep the flight to lima wasn’t half bad. So much better than it would have been with Iberia. In fact, the in-flight entertainment was the best I’ve ever seen with a choice of 44 movies, 116 TV shows and countless albums to listen to.

When I got to Lima, I decided to put all the negative things that had happened to the back of my mind and think positively. Within five minutes of being in the airport I decided that I really liked Peru but this new found optimism only lasted as long as it took to get to baggage reclaim. Yes, you guessed it, my bags didn’t turn up! There were two other girls in the same situation who had been on the same flight to Madrid. After some time of queuing we were told that the bags didn’t get on our flight and were still in Madrid. They would arrive on the same flight the next day. Great.

Feeling deflated again I made my way to arrivals expecting to find someone holding a sign with my name on it. Of course there wasn’t anyone. I assumed that they had probably given up on me as I was running late due to my bags not being in the same hemisphere as me. I managed to get an official taxi from the airport so at least I could be sure that I wouldn’t be driven to some dark alley way! The journey to the hostel took about 30 minutes and took me through areas of great contrasts. Eventually when I arrived at the hostel, surprise, surprise, they had no record of our reservation! Thankfully they had enough beds for us for tonight night but couldn’t promise anything for Tuesday. At that point all I wanted to do was curl up in a ball on a bed and cry but I couldn’t do that as the room wouldn’t be ready until 12pm and it was only 8.30am. I decided drastic action needed to be taken so I got out the book I bought at Heathrow and jumped into one of the brightly coloured hammocks in the hostel’s garden and immediately fell out again onto the hard and dusty ground. The second attempt proved more successful and within a few minutes of feeling the warm sun on my skin and listening to unusual bird song I felt that life wasn’t all that bad after all!

Its now 6.25pm here and I am sitting in the ‘lounge’ of the hostel using the wifi. After calming down in the hammock I checked my passport and discovered that I had only been given a 90 day visa at customs, not the 183 day one that I needed. I assumed this was probably due to my own incompetence but then remembered that I written how many days I would be staying in the country on the immigration form I filled out on the plane. The immigration man must just have not read my form and automatically given me the usual 90 day tourist visa. This now creates the problem of how to extend my visa. When I go back to the airport tomorrow to pick up my suitcases (if they arrive!) I will have to try to get it extended. If not I can just out stay my visa and pay a fine but I then run the risk of being held and missing my flight home.

All in all I’m feeling a bit miffed and wish I was back home. Erin and Karina will be arriving in a few hours, which will be good. I will keep you all updated on what happens tomorrow with the bags and the visa. I really hope all this bad luck hasn’t been a sign of things to come.

Love Emma x


4th January 2010

Sounds like a tough start. Don't worry it's great material for a future biography. I had the same visa problem in Uganda, it turned out not to be a problem I just told them at the airport on the way out that I had been given the wrong visa at airport despite getting permission for a longer one from the embassy back home (which was true). Nobody even really cared at the airport though, so hopefully it won't be too much of a problem for you. Goodluck for step 2!
5th January 2010

Oh Emma!
I'm so sorry to hear about your rough travels! Those are the absolute worst! BUT hopefully, with a good night's sleep, everything will be happiness and sunshine tomorrow (that's what my mom always told me, at least!). At least, you can rest assured knowing that you know have a fantastic story to share!!!! Right? Good luck friend!
5th January 2010

The Peruvian way
Ah ems - poor you. I had a very similar experience, and a far worse experience on the way back, fear not and just mark it down to the nature of the universe. Which hostel are you at? As for the Visa, if the worst comes to the worst, you can just pop out of Peru for 24hrs and then cone back again, it wont be a problem. :) xxxx
5th January 2010

Teething problems
Dont worry.... these are teething problems all explorers have to go through as a rite of passage. Once, in customs, the officials unzipped my suitcase and counted out all my pants in front of everyone (much to my horror) to see if I was telling the truth about how long I wanted to stay! I'm sure once you get to camp it will all be worth it. Lots of love and enjoy it x
5th January 2010

You poor love!
What a shitty day!!! I'm sure things will improve soon, though, and you'll be enjoying yourself in no time :) xxxxxxxx
5th January 2010

Yikes Emma you have had some adventures already!! Sounds like you are coping with it all really well though, and I'm sure it will all work out okay and you will look back on this and smile! I did laugh at the bit where you fall out the hammock :-p xxx
6th January 2010

Awww I will be thinking of you, hope it all goes well - and it is normal to get worried about trips when you start on them, I was misrible almost the whole of my first rain soaked Guide camp, but as soon as I was dry again (some four days later) I remembered the fun bits and I was too stupid not to sign up for every sucessive one anyway :o) Hope yu have a fab time. xXx Lizzie

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