Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Peru Trip, Days 10-11, Coming home

Monday, October 17, 2016

Santos and I woke up at 4:30 am so we could get to the train station in Machu Picchu on time for our 5:30 am train trip to Ollantaytambo, making it our third straight night without a full night's rest. We gathered our gear and walked down to the train station, waved our tickets, and waited for the train to arrive. When it did we climbed aboard, and to our sweet relief we discovered the ride was smooth and without any curves like our hair-raising drive through the mountains less than 48 hours before.

After talking briefly with a French couple who had wisely come to Cusco a week before to get adjusted to the altitude, we kicked our feet up and rested, snapping only a few photos along the way. Every once in a while the train would stop to let another train coming from the opposite direction pass through a tunnel ahead of us where only one track was laid or to switch back onto another track in order to climb higher up the mountainside.

Once we arrived at Ollantaytambo it was up to us to find a taxi driver to take us to Cusco. Fortunately, there were a whole bunch of them just waiting for a fare. Since we had paid 40 soles for a one-hour ride between Chazuta and Tarapoto, I figured 80 soles was a good price to haul the two of us the two hours back to Cusco. A cabbie stepped up and offered to take us for 100 soles, and I told him firmly, "80 soles, no más," and he accepted without argument. He even grabbed one of my suitcases and started hauling it to the parking lot.

I let Santos ride up front after he had taken the bullet riding in the back on the trip to Santa Teresa, but the ride between Ollantaytambo and Cusco hadn't made us sick on the way up, and by now we were getting used to the altitude enough that we didn't even feel any effect from the driving. The driver asked if we wanted to stop at a place where some Quechua women sold souvenirs. We had the time, so we agreed. When we got there we were treated to some tea and a presentation showing us how they spin wool, dye it, and turn it into cloth. It was quite fascinating. Afterwards Santos and I perused the items for sale, and we both picked up a couple items to take back home. Before we left we all posed for a photo.

Once in Cusco we checked our bags at the airport and took a cab to the Plaza de las Armas, the center of the city and the old Inca Empire. We wandered around taking in the sights, visiting shops, and just enjoying ourselves in a way we hadn't been able to before because we had been rushing from one place to the next. We had until 3:30 before we needed to take a taxi back to the airport, and we weren't going to be rushed. For lunch we stopped at a nice restaurant where I enjoyed a nice cut of llama steak after deciding that my children would never forgive me if I ordered cuy (guinea pig).

We finished our shopping and made it back to the airport with time to spare. Our flight was slightly delayed (never going with Avianca again), but we managed to get out on time. In fact, once we were in the air our pilot apologized for rushing us onto the plane when we finally did get to board. He explained that the rush was necessary because our aircraft was not rated for night flying and we had to get off the ground before it was too late. This was a little unsettling as the sun set over the Pacific Ocean on our approach to Lima, but we made it with no problem.

We had another layover in the Lima airport, but this time, for some reason, we had no problem falling asleep even with the constant announcements over the loudspeaker. I set my alarm and drifted off into dreamworld on one of the benches. Santos woke up about an hour before our midnight flight and nearly had an infarction thinking we had come so close to sleeping through boarding until I told him my alarm would have gone off in a few minutes anyways.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

On the plane I didn't even try to sleep until we were in the air and I could recline my seat a little. Again, I was surprised at how easy it was for me to sleep when I had been unable to do so on the way down. Santos, on the other hand, had difficulty sleeping due in part to the elderly lady on his left using his shoulder as a pillow. I didn't get a chance to ask her how she slept, but Santos believes she slept well.

We arrived in JFK International Airport in New York City just before 9 am. Customs was quicker than I had ever experienced, and we enjoyed one last trip to Starbucks and awaited one more flight. The closer I got to home the more excited I became. Santos had the itch to return home too, despite having planned to stay the night at our house. After a short flight to Buffalo, Santos made up his mind and bought tickets to Indianapolis, not willing to spend one more day apart from his wife and children. When Hannah came with the kids to pick me up Santos said goodbye, and I hopped into the front seat of the van. I was finally home.

Thank you all for praying for me during this trip. To those of you who helped shoulder some of the costs, I am eternally grateful. To all who have read through these recollections, thank you. I was richly blessed, and the believers in Chazuta, Santa Teresa, Machu Picchu, and beyond were encouraged. To God be the glory.

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