A Gringo Guide to Peru: Chapter One – Hindsight.

The Andes, I presume
Unsurprisingly, I did not take this photo

The Amazon Rainforest is absolutely terrible.

Actually, let me rephrase that.

It was a sunny January morning in Bangor as I was making my way through the university library, and happened upon friend and fellow zoologist Matt, who expressed an interest in volunteering for four weeks in the Amazon Rainforest.

The Amazon Rainforest.

Glossing over the fact that it will probably be one giant cow farm in 40 years, the sheer intrigue of such a massive yet poorly documented region could excite any zoologist that I have ever met. So I can assume none of them have ever been. But this is all hindsight. At the time, it was a no-brainer. It so happened that I would be a recently graduated 21 year old looking for a way to desperately stave off becoming an adult for at least a few more weeks. What better place could there be to hide from responsibilities than in a research centre 6000 miles from home.  A plan was slowly formulated, and we decided that five weeks would be sufficient to fully appreciate the Peruvian culture, with four weeks to work in the rainforest and the final week to visit Machu Picchu. This decision was made with the reasoning that, whatever happened, the trip would end on a high. This was fortunate.

The 20th of July, 9.00am. Matt and I were dropped off at Heathrow Terminal 4. But surely, I hear you ask; isn’t Heathrow Terminal 4 used primarily for Asian based airlines? That is a fair point and also the reason why I can tell you that the bus between terminals costs £2.

The 20th of July, 9.15am. Matt and I were dropped off at Heathrow Terminal 5. After a particularly invasive pat-down at security, we boarded our first flight to Madrid. I was seated at the very back because that’s how this entire trip is going to go. Two hours later, we landed at Adolfo Suarez airport, named after the two worst people in history. It was a four hour wait until our flight to Lima was due, which was filled with card games, beer and the occasional Long Chicken. At midnight, it was time to settle in for the long haul.

Except it wasn’t.

This was the first instance in the trip where Peruvians were in charge of punctuality, and it very much set the tone for the rest of the five weeks. The flight was delayed by three hours, with compliments of LATAM Airlines, who were rapidly cementing themselves as one of the worst airlines currently operating. After another tedious wait, tired and miserable, we trudged onto the plane.

My seat was at the back.

After 11 hours sat bolt upright, the plane waded through the smog and touched down at Lima Airport. This is a misleading name. Lima Airport is not an airport. It is a very gradual scrum, with tired and confused tourists oscillating from one end to the other as their gate is changed every five minutes. Due to our three hour delay, we had to sprint through check in, do a quick lap as the staff deemed my towel to be insufficiently tucked into my bag, hurry through security, find our gate, find our actual gate after it had been changed, then finally collapse in the queue to our plane. All whilst praying our bags had not been shipped off to Mogadishu, or destroyed for containing suspicious amounts of towel.

We boarded, I took my ceremonial seat at the back of the plane and watched as every other passenger marveled at the wonder of the Andes from their windows. I had a lovely view of the toilet. Although that could just have been Lima for all I know.

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