Andes, Airports and Atlantic

Wednesday, 21st May 2014

So… we got up this morning and I had a good long shower, washed and blow dried my hair and rummaged through my case for my cleanest clothes.  We had a long, long couple of days ahead and goodness knows when I’d next be able to get a wash.

Then we had a leisurely breakfast, packed up our cases and brought them down to the hotel foyer, then just basically sat around whiling away the time.  Those who were going to the Amazon add-on were due to leave the hotel at 10.00am, at which point we’d have to say adios to Rosario, but the rest of us weren’t leaving until 11 o’clock.  I hate all this waiting around once the holiday is effectively over; all we want to do now is get back home.

Eventually the bus arrived and took us to Cuzco airport.  It’s only a small airport and basically just provides domestic flights rather than long-haul.  We were here to await our LAN flight back to Jorge Chavez International Airport, Lima.  Out of curiosity I Googled ‘Jorge Chavez’ and found out he was an early Peruvian aviator (around 1910) who was known for his aeronautical stunts.  Hey, you learn something every day.   🙂

When we boarded the LAN aircraft and took to the skies, I was quite nervous as we’d been told it would be a turbulent flight due to the many contrasting air currents over the Andes.  However, the 90 minute flight wasn’t too bad; there were some slight turbulence but it wasn’t anywhere near as bad as I’d braced myself for.  During the flight we enjoyed a snack and a beer each, before it was time to land in Lima once again.

Inside the airport we were advised that the KLM check-in desk wasn’t due to open until 4.00-4.30pm, so we had over an hour to kill before we could even check in our cases.  We therefore went, with Stephen and Alison, to a café upstairs where we had some drinks and pottered around.

Back down at the check-in desks the queues were starting to form, and as it was now 4.00pm we took our places.  There was still no sign of the desks opening.  After about half an hour, however, we saw some activity when some airport staff came out and started motioning for us to move back, and back, and back.  It was to make some space to allow them to erect the barriers that form the zig-zag queueing system.  Like they had all day to do it so they decided to start now!   😦

What had been orderly queues up to then, however, turned into a massive crowd of people, complete with trolleys piled high with luggage, all milling around waiting for the desks to open.  But still there was nothing happening to indicate this.  Instead, the staff got together into a group and decided to have a team briefing, much to the chagrin of waiting travellers!

The briefing lasted for 16 minutes (Stephen timed it) then the staff started to disperse.  At this point the crowd of people started clapping and cheered in a sarcastic sort of way.  This made the staff take even longer (just out of sheer cussedness) and it was at least another 10 minutes before we could begin to check in.  Hoo-flippin-ray!

Once we got rid of our cases (which we checked all the way through to Durham Tees Valley) we still had a couple of hours before boarding, so we decided to go along to the executive lounge.  Again, that was a complete farce.  In all the VIP lounges we’ve been to all over the world, we have never had to queue, but at Lima there was a massive queue outside the lounge.  It turned out that one of the other VIP lounges wasn’t open, hence the queue.  But at some point they decided to open it (probably because this one was getting full), so once the doors opened there was a mass stampede and another queue formed.  We stood in one of the queues for over five minutes without it moving, and thought “to hell with this” and decided not to bother.   😦

So we went along to a bar/café and had something to eat and a beer each.  Then we looked around the duty free shops and I bought some Yves St Laurent Parisienne perfume.  Then we made our way to the departure gate where we met up once again with Stephen and Alison, who looked as fed up as we felt (and we still had the 12 hour flight to come!)   😦

Eventually we boarded the KLM Boeing 777 flight for Amsterdam and took off on time.  This time Trevor had an aisle seat and I was seated in the middle of three.  But the seats were quite comfortable and if it hadn’t been for the dickhead sitting in front of me who reclined his seat almost into my lap, I could have almost enjoyed the flight.

When the stewardess came round with the pre-dinner drinks though, she made the dickhead in front put his seat back up to the upright position, until after dinner had been cleared away.  Ha ha!  🙂

We enjoyed some wine with our meal, which was actually quite nice as far as aeroplane fare goes.  Then, once the meal was finished, the cabin lights were dimmed as everyone settled down for the long flight back across the Atlantic.

Thursday, 22nd May 2014

As far as long-haul flight goes, I actually spent quite a comfortable night and did managed to snatch bouts of shut-eye from time to time.  We watched the progress of the flight on our Sky Maps, walked around a bit to stretch our legs and basically just got on with it.  It was quite a smooth flight with hardly any turbulence, and that suited me just fine because there is something very disconcerting about being stuck in a steel box with five miles of nothingness between you and the deep Atlantic ocean.

At some point we had to put our watches seven hours ahead to Amsterdam time, and eventually the lights came back on again as the stewardess came around with hot towels before a nice breakfast consisting of juice, scrambled eggs and bacon and some sort of croissant.

As we’d had a good strong tail wind, we landed in Amsterdam Schiphol ahead of schedule, where we had about six hours to wait until our connection back to Blighty.

But this time we made a beeline for the executive lounge, signed in, and settled down in the comfortable chairs and relaxing ambience to wait it out.  In this VIP lounge there isn’t a time limit; some lounges have a maximum-stay policy of three hours.  So I sat in a big leather chair with my feet up and enjoyed the food and free booze and read my Kindle and looked out of the windows at the aircraft taking off and landing, before it was time to go to our departure gate for the last leg of the journey.

The flight was on time, and it was only an hour-long hop across the North Sea back into Teesside, where we landed around 9.45pm.  It took no time to retrieve our cases and stash them in the boot of the car, then set off for Durham.

On the way back the traffic was very light, and we were able to make it to the “Newton Grange” pub (our local) in time for last orders.  🙂

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