« Still more things you learn by traveling | Main | The Hilkeys WON!!! »

April 02, 2006

24 hours of solid travel, five meals, three airplanes, four taxis, one Ag check

We left Puno yesterday around 11:15am by mini-bus, to the Juliaca regional airport. It's nice to be headed toward secure food and familiar faces, but we all agreed the trip was ending too soon. Only an extra day or two and we could have made it to La Paz, Bolivia. Guess we'll have to keep it on the tick list.

Greg, Margaret and I flew to Lima via Arequipa, then met Andy at home for a lovely dinner out at their favorite restaurant. By 11pm we were back in a taxi to the Lima airport to fork over our Improbably Heavy bags for the next flights home (via Atlanta) and the classic Ghetto Delta Airlines service.

In Atlanta, our customs cards were marked "A" with a green grease pencil, which I thought was Awesome until we were redirected into the "Agricultural reinspection" line. Well, our plan worked—hiding our strappy backpacks in beat-up, nasty canvas mail bags made our luggage look so crappy, they thought we must be farmers trying to smuggle in some raw meat or something. Luckily this only meant an extra trip through X-ray. The guy in front of us, who had declared a lot of beef, had a more thorough inspection, in sort of a Guess What I'm Importing style of conversation:

Romulan-looking inspector: "Sir, do you have anything else to declare? (pause) Cheese? Queso?"
Innocent-looking Peruvian passenger: "um...(pause)....Oh! Yeah! Queso! I have some cheese."
Romulan-looking inspector: "Anything else? Sir, please don't open the bag now. Do you have anything else to declare?"
Innocent-looking Peruvian passenger: (pause. Staring at three very large suitcases.)
Romulan-looking inspector: "Potatoes? Vegetables?"
Innocent-looking Peruvian passenger: "Yes! Potatoes! and chocolates!"
And so forth. She was a pretty good guesser.

It was sheer luck that we didn't get fully searched because it would have been mathmatically impossible to restuff my backpack in any way that it would have latched closed again, if they had decided to open it. As it was I could barely lift it, with the camping gear and heavy manta cloths I'd brought back.

Greg's mom picked us up at the airport so we could hang with his two uncles and aunt who are in town from St. Louis, and we showed some photos and talked about the trip. Nice to eat a real, homecooked meal, not to mention Greg's aunt's flourless chocolate cake! And shrimp cocktail! A far cry from the simple soups of the Andes, and a supersonic leap back to cell-phone-studded LA.

Posted by sedda at April 2, 2006 10:01 PM