I did not get off to a great start, having only had a total of three hours’ sleep Thursday night. When the alarm went off at two-thirty in the morning I was still jet lagged from my trip to Beijing the previous week. The sleep that I got had not been all that meaningful either, as I was running a 99.2 degree fever while switching between the sweats and the chills. I had also pretty much lost my appetite. I am sure that I had flu and a strain that I had caught in Beijing versus the USA. I feel pretty strong about this because I had the flu shot and I assume the variant I caught was not from my neck of the woods.
Besides being sick I was pretty much prepared. There is something special about laying out your clothes for the next day when travelling so that you simply need to; wake up, have a shower, dress and then drink your morning shot of espresso. This was exactly what I did with no concern for time. It was 3:00AM and I did not have to leave till 3:30. There was one problem, there always is, and one that could not be resolved. I had lost one of my luggage locks and after wasting 15 minutes looking for it I simply gave up and decided I would get a lock in Boston and lock the bag when I arrived in Lima before rechecking it to Mendoza.
Now I had these two huge bags, North Face Base Camp duffels, Large and Extra Large and a back pack filled with 20 pounds of electronics, yes I weighed it! The bags made it into the trunk of the car and then for the long drive to the Airport. A little Boston trivia, to drive to Boston from Concord, NH can take upwards of one and a half hours during rush hour but at 330AM there was little to no traffic. Being sick and weak, you know the feeling where every joint aches? I summoned up some strength and left the car with my two duffels in tote weighing about 45 pounds each, and with the backpack on my back, I found my way to the check-in counter and got rid of the bags. I felt totally wiped, went through security and headed directly for the United Club. The United Club is an Airline Lounge where you can settle in to recharge devices and yourself. Once in the club I got myself a cup of hot water and poured two packages of cough medicine in it. I began to drink it as if it was a chilled glass of water on a 100 degree day. My first stop would be Houston on this trip and I was lucky to have an Aisle seat. The flight left on time with no issues.
Now you might ask why I was travelling with flu. The answer is a bit complicated; the trip was planned one year in advance, the symptoms were controllable with medicine, and I could not change the flight by even one day as all the South American legs were full. So onto the plane I went. The first hour of the flight was uneventful but the remainder of the flight was pretty uncomfortable as I spent most of the time doubled over in my seat with stomach cramps or in the Airplane restroom, and as we all know avoiding the plane restroom is always the best option-one I did not have. This flight is where everything went downhill, I was so uncomfortable that I could not sleep and thus could not rest and I feel that it just made me sicker.
Once in Houston, I made it to a club and sat down for my five hour layover. I had lots of water, some Pepto and sat rather quietly and watched time pass by slowly. Still with no sleep and feeling weaker as every minute passed. It had occurred to me that since I could feel my head and know I had a fever was there a chance that customs in Peru, my first stop, would quarantine me when I landed. I popped some Tylenol and hoped it would reduce my flu derived fever. It occurs to me as I write this journal that making self-diagnosis may not have been the best decision I ever made.
I boarded the plane to Lima and after about an hour delay the plane departed. The plane was an older accommodated Boeing 767 and I was lucky to have an Aisle seat again. I was hoping to get some sleep on this leg of the journey. But it seemed the second the plane went to altitude I had a headache and cramped up again and I was in just pure pain, I spent six and a half hours between my seat and the restroom again, when I was allowed to get up, as there was plenty of severe turbulence when the plane was crossing the equatorial region. It was so bad that the also made the stewardesses sit down until they worked their way around the storm. The only thing positive about the flight was that I had an eight hour layover in Lima and I reserved a hotel room directly across from the airport at the Costa del Sol hotel.
We landed a few minutes before midnight and I was never so relieved to get off a plane. I was hoping that there were no lines and I would be quickly to my hotel, but it was not one of those lucky days. First, the line for immigration control took forever. Next it seemed like my bags were the last out on the belt making it a long wait in customs. Finally, there was a long wait for check-in at the hotel. I made it to my room around 1:30 AM. I felt so weak and so tired that I finally just set a wakeup call for 5:30 AM and went to sleep. Even though I was still jetlagged from China, which was exactly 13 hours difference making night into day, I pretty much just passed out.
When the call came to wake me up I felt so tired that it hurt to get up. My eyes burnt and all my muscles ached, it hurt just to swallow water, but I did and I got up and showered and headed down for a quick breakfast. The breakfast was far from great but to be honest I was not hungry and just forced myself to get a little protein in the form of sausage and eggs and a glass of juice. I then went back to my room and put my bags on the airport cart. Yes I had taken it all the way to my room, and I headed to check out. I paid my 89 pesos for two bottles of water and headed off to the Airport.
Travelling in South America at times can feel a bit sporty, not that it is, but it is just different. When I arrived at the ticket counter there was some issue, I immediately thought it was related to my bags because they had to retag them. I was guessing I should prepare for some fee, but after 16 minutes of computers and managers I was curious so I asked. Apparently the previous flight to Santiago was cancelled. Because of this they were having some issues and needed volunteers to take a different flight to Buenos Aires versus Santiago to Buenos Aires. This seemed interesting but I was unsure as to why it was impacting me, my plane was not cancelled.
Finally, the check-in Agent returned and he said he was registering me as a volunteer and I needed to sign a piece of paper, and I would get a future credit for 150 dollars and a breakfast voucher. Now I don’t remember volunteering ever to give up a seat, however I just shrugged and listened. I was told no worries because I would have 30 minutes in-between this new flight and a transfer to Mendoza. So, I went upstairs to the departure gate and waited for my flight, it was delayed, turning my 30 minutes between flights to more like ten minutes. I feared that even if I made the connection my bags would not. This flight to Santiago was about a four hour flight.
The second we took off or perhaps before I was so tired that I fell asleep. It was good, I believe I was dreaming, and then it happened, BOOM. Then more loud noise and my seat was shaking violently. I woke and saw everyone was calm, my seat was shaking and then I saw why. A little girl about five or six was using her tray table, the back of my seat as a drum as her mother slept peacefully. About the same time I awoke so did her mother and she caught my stare and she stopped her daughter for the first time. While I was able to sleep fate would prevent it because, well, that is the way the universe works! You might be curious as to what I was thinking on this four hour flight. Well, I was glad I did not need the restroom and had no discomfort and second that I knew I looked so weak and a pasty white and I felt the same way. I just felt like I had neither energy nor appetite.
I arrived in Santiago with several minutes remaining till the next flight was supposed to board, however, I found that the flight was delayed an hour so I was fine. More importantly, as I queued to wait to board, I saw my bags being loaded. What a great feeling it was to see my bags would make it. The flight was comfortable and fast and what a view as we went over the Andes. I saw the mountain and thought to myself that I am so sick and weak in this moment how will I ever summit Aconcagua. I relaxed for a moment and thought that that was not the goal of today, today’s goal was getting to South America and more specifically Mendoza and as I walked out of customs and saw the driver that was picking me up I knew at least these last two days were successful. And soon I would be in the hotel where I could sleep.
On a Side note: I lost the key to the Luggage Lock I purchased in Boston. It was easily removed with the Ice Ax I had in the other bag. =)