Our Antarctic/South American Adventure – Part XXVI – Final

Sun, Mar 1st – Our Trip Home

Return to Reality

Callao,-Peru-Flag We were not required to leave the ship until 4 pm Saturday afternoon. Since H. Stern Jewelers were still offering their free shuttle service to Miraflores, we decided to take it into town and see if there was anything worth seeing. By the time we arrived, about 30 minutes later, we were so tired and “out of gas” that we decided to just get back on the bus and come back to the ship. But before we did that we walked out to the viewpoint over the elegant mall. There were still some vestiges of this area’s characteristic garur (fog) along the coast road on the way in, yet it had disappeared by our return. After going through some of the craft stalls on the pier, we were “scanned” onboard for the last time. The colors in the flag on the aft deck are those of the Netherlands.

Up on deck I took the following pictures of the craft stalls and of our “replacements” boarding in Callao for the final segment of the cruise. (They are the ones with the suitcases in tow)

Callao,-Peru-craft-shops-on Callao,-Peru-replacements

Since it had turned out to be such a “clear” sunny day I decided to take my final pictures of the Lima/Callao skyline and the “working” portions of this busy port.

Callao,-Peru-skyline---1 Callao,-Peru-skyline---2

Callao,-Peru-skyline---3 Callao,-Peru-skyline---4

The rest of the day was spent saying goodbye to our friends who had remained onboard for the day, and using the Internet to print our boarding passes and the ones for our tablemates, Fred and Mary Klag.

Callao,-Peru-our-luggage All too soon 4 pm arrived and the “eight castaways” were escorted to our transportation to the airport. Along the way to the bus we watched our “checked” bags being loaded. They had been sitting on the dock under cover since early this morning. Our driver, Carlos, skillfully maneuvered our mini-bus thru afternoon rush hour traffic, and in about 20 minutes we arrived at a “bus unloading” parking lot. Before we were permitted to leave our “handler”, Melina, she gave us explicit airport instructions that we were to follow for the next few hours. She also helped us gather up several free trolleys (luggage carts) soon she was leading this little caravan into the upstairs waiting area of the airport.

The airline check in counters would not open until around three hours before our departure, so the six of us who were leaving on late flights huddled up with our trolleys in a section of the food court. We spent the bulk of the evening just visiting – ironically the third couple was Joyce and Charlie, our next door neighbors on the ship. This airport charges a “landing/departure” fee of $30, so that was one of the things that Fred and I went to take care of. While Fred was paying his, I was told that since we were flying Delta the tax had been included in our ticket – bingo – $60 saved for flying Delta. We had also saved an additional $50 because Delta does not charge for a second bag as do some airlines, and we were now traveling with 4 bags. By now we were feeling quite smug. When we went to get in line to check our luggage, we were surprised at the length of the line – man, we could be here all night, I thought. Then Barbara remembered Fred told her that when he checked in their luggage, he was told to go to the head of the line to a different counter because he already had their boarding passes. That was when I went up to an official at the head of the line and was told to get in the “advanced baggage check in ” line – that had only one person was waiting in – getting to feel really smug at this point. Once I reached the attendant, she advised me that our flight out of Atlanta had been cancelled, but we had been rebooked on one leaving four hours later. No problem I thought. Though I had to put the bags on the scale, she seemed to pay no attention to the total weight, although I don’t think we exceeded the weight limits on any bag. We are skating through, I thought!

Before I get to the final hurdle before boarding, I would like to mention some observations about our time in the waiting area (about 5 hours). This area was the airport food court and it was pretty much like any American food court – most of the providers were names we were familiar with, the one exception was called Manos Morenas doing a pretty good business selling tradition Peruvian food on one end and Mandarin on the other. I did order two tamales – Peruvian style – for 7 Nuevo Soles ($2.50US) and came up disappointed. The corn meal was there but the meat inside was just a very small piece of chicken. Barbara purchased a combination Chinese plate for about $6 and was quite satisfied. Each eatery had a young man or woman wandering through the eating area who would take orders, and deliver them. I did give the young girl a small tip when she delivered mine, and I think I made her day. We also enjoyed people watching – the interaction between members of the families there was precious. I must say that from my personal observation Peru has some of the most beautiful women I have ever seen, so the waiting was not a complete loss.

After our bags were checked, we shouldered our carry-ons and headed to the security entrance. It was very similar to our TSA in the states – quite a bit friendlier though. The young man who checked the contents of my dissembled backpack even helped me get everything back together. Barbara had the usual “hair-pin” search. We were amazed by those who, it seemed, paid no attention to the packing restrictions – we watched as a lot of their “stuff” got pitched in the garbage, much to their chagrin.

Our 1:35 am flight was delayed to 1:50 am and as we boarded I had to open my carry-ons once again for a cursory inspection. As we walked down the enclosed boarding ramp we were handed our sack lunch – what – no onboard hot meal? I am not used to eating “sack” lunches – I am used to being treated like loyalty! Oh well it IS a short 6 ½ hr flight, and I do have my snack bag. J Sleep came in bits and pieces, as we droned on through the night – I was thankful I had packed my IPod and Bose headphones. Having seats in a two seat row was nice as we did not have to contend with other passengers that much.

As we started our descent into the Hartsfield-Jackson Intl Atlanta Airport, I became concerned as the closer we got to the runway the cloud we were flying through did not diminish until just before the pilot flared the plane just prior to touchdown. After what seemed like the plane had taxied to Washington DC, we arrived at our gate deplaned, and started the process of going through Immigration, collecting our luggage and then through the Customs and handing over the Agriculture Declaration.

It always thrills us to the the “Welcome to the United States of America” as we enter the Custom and Immigration stations in our airports.

Now that we had our bags we had to figure out which of these unmarked lines we had to line up in to check our bags on through to Seattle. It was very confusing – I can just imagine what it must be like for someone that doesn’t speak the language – oh yes – it seems we were in that situation when we landed in Buenos Aires! Finally our luggage was checked back in, and we were free to find a Delta check in counter and get our boarding passes. In our search we kept hearing and seeing evidence that a lot of flights out of Atlanta had been CANCELLED due to inclement weather. Oh, great – looks like we might be in Atlanta for a while …..little did I know!

After finally working our way to the head of a line that was growing longer by the minute, we reached an agent. “Good News! Your flight is still on schedule for a 2:40 PM departure and here are your boarding passes”, she said. Well it looks like the Gundersen Luck must have followed us to Atlanta. After setting up our camp in one of the outlying concourses (somewhere in Alabama I think) at gate B23 we began to feel somewhat normal – we had fought the good fight and we were on our way to victory. But wait – what is that stuff falling outside the terminal window? SNOW – humungous snowflakes – SNOW – it can’t snow in Atlanta – it’s the 1st of March! Good Grief Charlie Brown! Our Grand Voyage Charm Bracelet is starting to gather rocks, big rocks!

Well our 2:40 PM departure came and went, and so did the 4 PM, then came a gate change to B24 requiring us to break camp and fight the growing crowd for a place to encamp. By now our arrival in Seattle seemed to be slipping from our grasp and along with it our 6:30 PM Kenmore flight to Port Angeles. Soon our departure had moved up to 5 PM and then the announcement “The flight crew for your flight is still on their way to Atlanta from California!” oh, and also “After we get everyone on the plane there will be another delay of up to two hours while de-icing takes place”. We had watched the snow build up on the plane at the next gate so we knew they weren’t kidding. After booking a hotel near the Seattle airport and letting Kenmore we would not be taking the 6:30 flight, we settled in for more waiting. Finally just before 5:30 PM they started the boarding process! One bright spot in all this was the unflappable grandmotherly agent at the gate, and the kind act that followed: “Folks, we have a lot of young military men and women on this flight and we are going to give them priority boarding and now let’s all give them a hand for their service to our country”. These young warriors received a standing ovation as they boarded – I was so proud!

For the next three hours we sat on the plane and waited in another line – the de-icing line. Our takeoff time was exactly 9:15 PM. I was glad that I had cancelled the Seattle hotel before we boarded as we would arrive too late to pickup our luggage and call for their shuttle to pick us up (they quit running at 1 PM). Our 5 hour and 15 minute flight got us to Seattle at 12:14 AM and by 12:45 AM we had retrieved ALL of our luggage and set up another gypsy camp in the waiting area by door double zero. We did make the 8:30 AM flight to Port Angeles in spite of a couple of more bumps, but by now we were so numb that even though they were upsetting, everything turned out okay in the end. Our mountain of luggage, including our carry ons were weighed and checked in without any questions. By 9:30 our son Chris had picked us up at the airport, (which was 14 hours later than planned) driven us across the new bridges – twice – and then delivered us home – how sweet it was to be home at last!

But – you know what? I’m gonna tell you! That last “rock” on the Gundersen Charm Bracelet was worth all the diamond memories.

Thanks for coming along with us – we should do this again – soon. JWC

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