The Amazing Race (to buy a ticket to Puerto Maldonado!) – Peru Part 1

11 October 2010

I arrive in Lima International Airport brimming with excitement and it’s only 6am, given the hour, there’s very little I’d be excited about in normal circumstances, however, these aren’t normal circumstances. I’m in Peru! I’ve been dreaming about this trip for a long time and now it is finally happening.

One of the tributaries of the Amazon river snaking through the Amazon Rainforest

As soon as I cleared customs, I headed to a travel agent (bad move number one?) still rather unsure of what I wanted to do during my stay. Due to my lack of planning, there wasn’t open places for the Inca Trail and the other trek that I knew of which ended in Machu Pichu was too long and rather difficult , so I had to eliminate that one too. So I would simply do a day trip to Machu Pichu, and this didn’t require much planning so I decided to leave it for the middle of the trip.

Therefore my first destination and stop would be… (drum roll please!) the Amazon Rainforest. This too was a little dream trip of mine for a long time. So I told the travel agent (in Spanish by the way!), I needed to get to Puerto Maldonado (PM) and book a three day stay at an Eco-lodge in the rainforest. After contacting the lodge, Floriella (the helpful travel agent), told me that the due to the time I would arrive in PM I could only go to the lodge the day after, therefore I would have to spend a night in PM. Right… That wasn’t expected , but I didn’t have any options, so I attempted to book and pay for my flight to PM and subsequently to Cuzco, together.

Hiccup number one: My debit cards, both declined. Oops. That could be a problem. Floriella then tried only to put the stay in the lodge on the card. ACCEPTED! Great, but now I need to buy the flights. I tell Floriella, to only book the Lima/ Cuzco leg of the flight. She does. ACCEPTED! “Now try Cuzco/ PM”. DECLINED! Right. So instead of trying to waste time with this, I check in for my Cuzco bound flight and contact my banks to see what the problem. Card number 1: No funds in the account (Yeah, now I remember…). Card number 2: Daily spending and withdrawal limit has been reach.

Now I’m screwed. It means I can’t use one of my cards for the entire day. How on earth am I going to get to PM today!? Solution? Phone mom and ask her to transfer some money into the other account. I board my flight hoping that money will get into the account by the time I reach I Cuzco so I can buy my flight to PM.

My flight lands in Cuzco and immediately head to an ATM to withdraw money to try and purchase my tickets. INSUFFICIENT FUNDS! Dammit! I try and find a WIFI signal and get on the internet. Phone calls to mom and bank follow with me becoming slightly nervous… I don’t want to miss the flight to PM and lose a day off the holiday.

I head to the sales counter and try to buy the ticket with the card after being given assurances that the funds have transferred. DECLINED!! I bang my fist on the counter out of annoyance. I’ve already missed the first two flights to PM. I have another thirty minutes to buy a ticket, otherwise I’ll be spending the night in Cuzco.

I go to the ATM. I will try to withdraw the money. The ATM clearly feeling my desperation seems to take an eternity processing whatever options I select. Then finally I hear the amazing ‘tak-tak-tak-tak’ sound of the machine counting money. I kiss the ATM as my relief and joy completely overwhelms me. This brings cackles of laughter from the cleaning staff standing close to me and the ATM. I run (more like quickly walk) to the airline sales counter. I hand her the money. She gives me a ticket. I smile. She laughs (she’s witnessed my card being declined twice).

I finally check in. I sit in the departure lounge smiling at my little Amazing Race-type ticket purchasing adventure. It certainly has been an interesting morning, but too be honest it was fun. The unplanned nature of the trip was already giving me something to write about.

They start boarding for the PM flight. I’m standing in line when the I surprisingly hear Afrikaans coming from the people ahead of me. I pay attention and listen intently to make sure my mind is not playing tricks on me. I then hear : “As ek daai doos nou sien sal ek hom sommer uit hierdie venster uit donder! Kont!”. Translation: If I see that expletive now, I’m going throw him out of this window! Expletive!. Unable to control myself I burst out laughing. The two women look back curiously at which point I tell them I can understand them. They go on to explain that they missed their flight to PM due to a man from the airline not allowing them onto the flight for reasons I couldn’t really understand. It was funny though to hear this woman curse profusely about the whole saga.

The plane landed in PM and after collecting my bags I went outside and got a mototaxi (or Tuk-Tuk) to the hostel where I would be spending the night. Heading into PM I see this is a small town, which isn’t really aiming for the upmarket tourist. Most of the roads are dirt roads and the town certainly has a dilapidated feel to it.

The streets of Puerto Maldonado

I arrive at the Tambopata Hostel and check in. I immediately take a shower, as I’m feeling sticky and dirty (the humid, hot air did not help as well). This was promptly followed by some laying in a hammock with my book and iPod. Soon afterward I decided I needed a shisha for which I was joined by a Canadian who had spent a while travelling throughout Peru. Later on, I was joined by two Guadelupians and a dreadlock sporting Aussie. After smoking a good shisha and talking about movies and TV series in the UK (leaving the two Guadelupians completely confused) we went out for dinner in a small local restaurant before heading back and chilling out in the hammocks for a good while, before jetlag got to me and I collapsed in bed.

Enjoying a shisha with the other hostellers

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This entry was posted in Peru, South America, Travels and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to The Amazing Race (to buy a ticket to Puerto Maldonado!) – Peru Part 1

  1. Ah, yes, these are the misfires that make adventuring worth talking about. No one wants to hear about how everything worked out great on your trip.

    BTW, Love that last photo.

    PS, I posted again on my blog FYI

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