It is not easy to get here! There are about 300 Quakers from around the world here and most had three or four flights to get here, and a few had five or more. I can't even imagine.
We left the house around 7am on Sunday morning and it was -14. Brrrr! My first flight, a quick one to Chicago, was slightly delayed on leaving as we had to be sprayed down by the de-icer and on arrival as they couldn't get the gangway thing to wheel out to the plane. It was cold in Chicago too!
I found Susan almost right away and we began a long series of "hurry up and wait." We had to wait for the Aeromexico desk to open so we could get our tickets. Then of course there is the line for TSA. We finally got on the plane and then sat there for two hours while they fixed a problem with the navigation system. There was a really nice guy in our row who had a short connection in Mexico City...which he ended up missing. Our layover was long enough that the two hour delay was fine. Unfortunately, right at the end of the flight I spilled my water in my bag all over my tickets! They were stuck together and not very readable. Oops.
In Mexico City we had to go through customs and immigration. Oh, I also got water on those forms. Grr. The immigration person made me fill out the form again. Customs guy didn't care. Half a dozen security agents almost didn't let me move on to security because of the state of my ticket. They let me proceed and the security screener folks wanted to look in my bag and then they were concerned about my bottle of water, which of course I hadn't drained because I'd come straight from the plane. They made me stay there and drink down the whole thing before I could leave. Ugh. Luckily Susan helped me out or I would have been sick.
We got on the plane about midnight. And slept!! We arrived in Lima around 6am or so. We had to go through customs and immigration AGAIN, and then we had to literally exit the airport, re-enter, and go through security. I hate traveling!!!!! But I do really like it when I get where I'm going. =)
It was getting more fun in Lima though as we started finding other Quakers. I could tell Cusco was a popular destination since flights were leaving for it every few minutes. After much waiting we were on our way. This was a short flight and didn't fly too high so I had a great view. First we climbed up out of the city, which is huge, and a little over the ocean. So beautiful!
For half of the trip we traveled over a very dry mountainous area. I don't think I saw a single tree or bush or river. It seemed uninhabited.
The clouds moved in a bit and there was nothing to see for awhile. As they cleared away, the landscape became more and more green. Lots of trees and farms. And mountains. It seemed like we were circling down and getting close for quite some time. Finally the captain came on and said we needed to circle for another 45 minutes or hour because the airport was busy. We were lucky that we got to land at all. They closed the airport later that day or the next day because of the clouds. It makes sense: it was the craziest landing ever. Cusco is in a deep valley. The plane had to circle around and make a pretty scary banking turn to get down in there. I felt like I was looking straight out the window at the ground! Yikes! When I recovered from that I saw how beautiful and lush the surroundings were and how amazing to be in this valley.
It was a wonderful thing to get off the plane and not have to get on another one! We quickly discovered our hotel couldn't pick us up because of a misunderstanding. So we hired a cab and were on our way.
Driving in Cusco is crazy! Cars and buses are all over the place at crazy speeds. Cars are trying to turn onto the road and are sticking way out so we had to swerve to avoid them. A big truck had spilled a load of bricks in the road so we had to swerve to avoid that and the people in the street picking them up. If there was any small space to squeeze into, our driver went for it.
We had to wind around the city the long way because there was a big festival in the Plaza de Armas so you couldn't get through town. Our driver got up in these narrow roads and then suddenly he stopped, put the car in reverse, and backed down this steep narrow road. He stopped right in front of our hotel!
This last picture is just a shot of the housing and housing-in-process that you see all throughout Cusco, with little shops in the bottom floors.