Longhaul to Lima

Once again we are jetting off to foreign shores, not on a cruise this time but on a land-based tour of Peru.

This morning our sleep was shattered by the alarm going off at the unearthly hour of 2.50am, as we were due to leave around 3.30am to drive to Durham Tees Valley airport for the first leg of our journey, a KLM flight to Amsterdam, from where we would then fly to Lima. A 13 hour flight to endure, but if we want to visit these exotic, far-away places then long-haul flights are a fact of life.

At that time of the morning there was no traffic on the roads, and we drove the 35 minute journey through the silent streets of darkened houses. Everyone except us seemed to be asleep!

On arrival at Teesside airport (I still think of it by its old name of Teesside, rather than Durham Tees Valley) we met up with our friends Stephen and Alison Musgrove, with whom we are spending this holiday. We all felt the excitement and anticipation of a long-awaited trip, in which we will take in some world-famous landmarks and sights such as Machu Picchu and Lake Titicaca.

Check in was very quick as the airport is tiny, and there were only half a dozen or so passengers waiting. We asked to check our bags right through to Lima and, once we got rid of our cases, we went to have a cup of coffee and await our 6.15am flight to Amsterdam.

Facilities at Durham Tees Valley airport are limited to say the least, and in fact there is some discussion as to whether it is worth keeping the airport open, as so few passengers and airlines use it. So there are no duty free shops or restaurants or bars; all there is is a WHSmith and a tiny little kiosk that serves bacon sandwiches and other snacks, and cardboard cups of tea or coffee and a limited selection of wines and spirits.

Just before six o’clock we made our way to Gate 1 where we could see the KLM aircraft sitting on the tarmac. Just then, an announcement came over the tannoy to say that, due to a “technical problem”, the Amsterdam flight would be delayed. Typical!

We waited around for a bit, and it wasn’t long before the pilot from our flight appeared and announced that the aircraft needed a new tyre and they didn’t have a spare, so they’d have to get a new tyre flown over from Amsterdam before the plane could go anywhere! This invariably meant that our flight was cancelled and we would be booked onto the next Amsterdam flight. The problem was that the next flight wasn’t until 10.05am (which is 11.05 am Dutch time).

We would therefore miss our connecting flight to Lima !!!

So we had another four hours to spend in the tiny airport with very few facilities, and the worry of how we were going to continue our journey once we arrived in Amsterdam.

Anyway… after calling the tour operator and speaking to the airport staff, we were finally advised that we were booked onto a flight from Schiphol to Madrid, then Madrid to Lima. We won’t arrive until 5.00am tomorrow, Peru time – 11 hours late. But because we weren’t all on the same booking, Stephen and Alison were booked onto a different plane to Lima; they were going via Mexico!

So we’ll all have to meet up once we get there.

KLM gave us some refreshment vouchers which we traded in for some tea and coffee and snacks while we whiled away the time. We all felt a bit disoriented through lack of sleep, but by the time we arrive in Lima we’ll look and feel like zombies. 😦

Eventually it was time to board the aircraft for the hour-long flight to Amsterdam. Our seats were right at the back, nowhere near Stephen and Alison. We took to the skies and enjoyed a snack and a beer before we landed at Schiphol just after noon. In the backs of our minds was the fact that the flight we should have been on, to Lima, was departing at 12.30pm without us, and there was nothing we could do about it.

Once we disembarked the aircraft we lost sight of Stephen and Alison in the crowds of travellers. We went straight to the check-in desk with our new flight information to get our boarding passes and had a look around the shops. We had over four hours to wait for our flight to Madrid, so there was no hurry, and we were able to take our time looking around the shops before making our tired way towards the executive departure lounge.

The exec lounge at Schiphol is really good. There was an excellent selection of spirits, wines, beers and soft drinks as well as hot and cold snacks, including cold meats, cheeses and hot tomato soup.

At least it was somewhere quiet and comfortable for us to sit. We were already tired and a little disgruntled after our early start and there was the disconcerting fact that we still had about 15 hours of flying to do!

When the time came, we made our way to the boarding gate and got on the Air Europa aircraft for the next leg of our journey. I had never heard of Air Europa, but I believe they are a Spanish airline.

The flight from Amsterdam to Madrid was about two hours. Another snack and another beer.

Dear readers, I apologise for the mediocrity of this blog so far; it’s been pretty boring for me to write it. But sitting around in airports and enduring delayed flights is pretty boring, and an experience I am sure will be familiar to frequent travellers everywhere.

Once we arrived in Madrid around 9.00pm it was the same old, same old. We had a look around the duty free shops then we decided to go and get something to eat. Our flight to Lima wasn’t until 23.55 so it would be a long time until we got something to eat and drink if we didn’t do so straight away.

Around 10.30pm we went to our boarding gate. I was hoping to find a couple of seats I could spread myself across and snatch some longed-for shut-eye, but the place was crowded. I walked over to the departure information board and saw, with dismay, that our flight to Lima was delayed, and now wouldn’t depart until 1.30am. What?! 😦

We couldn’t believe this day so far. First our flight was cancelled, then we missed our connection, got separated from our friends and now this?! At this rate we’d need a holiday to get over our holiday!!

Tiredness was really catching up with me by now so, retrieving my travel pillow from my bag I simply lay on the floor on my side and tried to get whatever sleep I could for the next couple of hours. Not an easy task with the airport tannoy blasting out announcements every few minutes.

Finally, finally, finally we saw the queue start to move and it was time to board the Air Europa A330 Airbus scheduled flight to Lima, Peru.

We were on our way at last.

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