It seems no South American travel story of mine would be complete without some misunderstanding at the airport.
We left for Peru on Tuesday morning, October 3, for a churches/leaders conference. I had to be up at 3 in the morning to catch an Uber to the airport, so I got very little sleep. However, I made it there without incident before anybody else did, so I decided to go ahead and check in. I wasn’t the one who purchased the tickets but I knew we were going to some place that started with an A and ended with something like a Pa. So I walked through the international travel line and presented my passport to the lady at the desk.
“I don’t have you in the system,” she said. My first thought was that Jason had somehow accidentally messed up my ticket and I was going to be fighting to get on this flight just like the one out of the US. So I discussed and questioned and wandered around trying to figure out what was going on. As it turned out, we were flying domestically to a city in Chile called Arica and then crossing over into Peru from there. Our final destination in Peru was Arequipa, so naturally I confused the two. I finally found my way into the domestic flight line and made it through. In the future, I really should know a little more about what exactly we’re doing. Two days before I had been asking, “Do we leave tomorrow or Tuesday?” Everything’s a surprise these days.
As you can see, the day before I thought we were flying internationally.
Our group consisted of Jason Holt and his family (His daughter Katie was coming with a group from Bolivia, so she wasn’t with us on the way there), Francisco Barra and his wife Connie, John Moncada and his wife Cóte, Francisco Nuñez, his wife Paula and their little girl Francisca, Mauricio Peréz and me. There were other people from Chile who went as well, but they left at different times.
On the flight, I sat next to an older lady from Peru who lives near me. She said when she returns to Chile in January, I’m invited over to eat and meet her family!
We landed safely in Arica and then hopped into three different cars to go through the border into Peru, where we crossed without incident and continued toward the bus station.
After purchasing our bus tickets, we bought a cellphone chip for our phones and headed out to Arequipa in a bus. It was a double-decker and we somehow got to all sit together in the bottom part with the room to ourselves, which was nice. The seats were also much nicer and more spacious than I expected.
Now, I get sick on buses sometimes, so I wanted to get the air flowing as soon as possible. I reached up to twist the nozzle and nothing came out. Oh no. Twist, twist, twist. Nothing. And then the door to our little space shut with a thud. It’s over. I’m doomed. Seven long hours in this hotbox. I just resigned myself to my awful fate.
As the bus headed off down the road I was pleasantly surprised to find I was feeling okay. After a while I realized there were vents elsewhere blowing out air, and the trip, while forever-long, was at least nausea-free. I sat across from Francisco Nuñez and Paula and was able to talk to them for a little bit, which was nice since of all the people on the trip, I knew them the least. This is them below:
Arriving in Arequipa, I was glad to get a chance to stretch my legs and find that we were in a city that reminded me of something you’d see out West in the United States (kind of like Cochabamba in Bolivia). Our first stop was the local mall food court to grab a bite to eat since we were all starving and hadn’t had a solid meal all day. As the twelve of us hauled our luggage through the mall, people didn’t even pretend not to stare. After eating, we hailed a taxi and headed toward the seminary, where the first service of the conference would be starting soon.
Getting in a taxi, especially with luggage, was always fun. If the taxi was pulled over on the side of the road, you’d jam everything in there as quickly as possible, pile in, and take off in about twenty seconds flat.
It’s blurry, but here we are in a taxi
Traffic in Arequipa can be handled in two ways. You can either panic and fear for your life the whole time, or you can sit back and enjoy the ride like a roller coaster. I opted for the roller coaster and wow, was that fun! We blazed through traffic with horns blaring and buses driving close enough for me to practically reach out and touch them. At one point we stopped at a red light and I hollered, “Hola!” at a man in the next car. He looked at me really fast and gave this panicked half-wave before taking off again. Our taxi driver was actually getting a kick out of the whole thing! To be truthful, traffic was always pretty busy, but I think that first night was the craziest because it was around rush hour.
We arrived at the seminary, where I was excited to be greeted by my friends from Bolivia! More than anything, I had actually been the most excited about going to Peru just to see them again. The married couples that came were shown where they were staying, then Mauricio (whose wife couldn’t come) and I were taken to our room, which was a large area with several bunk beds like you would see at camp or a dorm. We got ready quickly and headed down to the auditorium, where we were treated to an excellent service. We ate and fellowshipped afterward, went to our room, and fell asleep almost as soon as our heads hit the pillow.
All-in-all, it was about a twenty-two hour day with the time change factored in.
That was just the first day of a spiritually refreshing and fun week that would all culminate in one wild run back to the airport. But more on that later.