The Peruvian Adventure, Part 6: Escape from Peru

This is where the story gets out of control and becomes a literal sh*tshow.

Amanda and I woke up the next morning relatively refreshed and had a leisurely breakfast outdoors with some of the other partygoers. Sometime close to 10:00 AM, we went back to the room to take naps and spend some time packing up. Checkout was at noon and we expected it to be notoriously slow, so we wanted to head back to the lobby around 11:45AM. We checked out and waited with our bags, expecting the shuttles to arrive at some point soon.

Then, at 12:40PM, 10 minutes after the shuttle was expected to leave we heard that the shuttle schedule had been pushed back to 1:30PM. The reason? A good portion of the attendees had gotten sick and were unable to get their sh*t together in time. Literally.

My understanding of what happened is this:

Rewind to the previous evening, when people were drinking at the reception, and continued to do so at the afterparty at someone’s room. While under the influence, the crew of partygoers wanted to hydrate to help mitigate the effects of the inevitable hangovers the following morning. They asked the hotel for water. The hotel brought water.

The catch? It wasn’t bottled water, and you can’t drink the tap water in Peru without getting sick. It’s unsafe for Peruvians and tourists alike.

So a good third of the wedding party woke up with stomach pain and insane diarrhea the morning after the wedding and couldn’t collect themselves in time for a noon checkout.

Amanda and I go to hang out by the pool in the meantime, and 1:30PM arrives. People are slowly starting to board buses. Things are promising — temporarily.

I was initially scheduled to get on a 9AM shuttle back to Lima but because I wanted a more relaxed morning on Monday, I asked one of the bridesmaids on Sunday if I could get on the later shuttle on Monday. Around 2AM on Monday, after the reception, she confirmed said it would be fine and there was room on the bus.

Of course, when I tried to board a bus, the bus drivers were not fine with this since my name had not been removed from the 9AM list and added to the 12:30PM list. So I effectively snuck onto the bus, where there were only a handful of seats remaining. It seemed like I was not the only person who had opted to take a later shuttle.

By 2:20, the shuttle that was supposed to leave Paracas at 12:30 finally departs for Lima. Much of that busride for me was spent with me and Amanda on hold with American Airlines and me stress-eating plantain chips.

Even though Amanda and I didn’t book our travel together, we were on the same flights back to Boston, departing from Lima at 11:45PM on Monday, March 12 and arriving in New York at around 8:15AM on Tuesday, March 13, then departing from New York around 5:15PM and arriving in Boston, at last, at 6:30PM.

Mother nature had other plans : sometime after breakfast the morning after the wedding, our flights were being rebooked on account of Boston’s latest impending snowpocalypse. When we got on the bus, American Airlines notified us that they planned to fly us from Lima to Dallas at night on Thursday March 15 and from Dallas to Boston sometime on Friday.

That wasn’t an option for us. We were desperate to get back stateside.

With no more clean laundry or patience to spare for Peru, Amanda and I were determined make it back to America — at the very least, to New York City. At least, from there, we’d have buses, trains, and other transportation options at our disposal (not to mention English-fluent customer service and no more roaming costs while trying to coordinate our way back to Boston).

We stayed on the phone with the airlines and managed to reclaim the first legs of our flight back to Boston — from Lima to JFK — and decided we would figure out a way of getting back to Boston once we were ticketed for the flight.

Because of the rush hour traffic on a Monday evening, we get off the wedding shuttle in Lima a little before 7PM (reminder: we left Paracas at 2:20PM). Because Amanda and I needed to be at the airport three hours before our 11:45PM flight, and because the traffic was terrible, we called an Uber to the airport within a half hour of getting into Lima.

After a wild ride with a very resourceful driver (constantly looking for faster ways to cut through the insane traffic), we made it to the airport, got our boarding passes, and killed some time in a Priority Pass airport lounge and around the shops in the terminal.

Things we did in the airport lounge and around the airport:

  1. I took a shower, but because I couldn’t tear open the Pantene Pro-V shampoo packet, I ended up scrubbing my scalp with a piece of the crappy white bar soap. This seemed like a great idea at the time, but my hair would regret it for the next week.
  2. We had lots of snacks and drinks — in my case, given the lack of other gluten-free options, more plantain chips. I tried to bring a ton of free water bottles with me out of the lounge and onto the plane, but, in an unusual gateside security check, they confiscated all my water bottles, along with my Fanta.
  3. I spent my final Peruvian currency on mini bottles of Pisco for my coworkers and my favorite bartender in Boston, who had recently given me hell for not following through on a promise to show up at the bar on a certain night and whom I absolutely had to prove wrong. (I gave him the Pisco and a shotglass last night and he got a huge kick out of it).
  4. We figured out where we could stay in New York, if we had to. Knowing we had to do an overnight in NYC no matter what, at around 11:45PM EST, I hit up one of my best friends from high school, Ashley, to see if it would be terribly much trouble if she could put me and Amanda up in her apartment in New York. Despite the late hour on a Monday, she was still up and was down to host us
  5. Most importantly, we investigated how the hell we could get back to Boston when the snow cleared. (We were at the point of being willing to drive in the snowstorm). But seeing no availability for rental cars and seeing that all the trains and buses were being cancelled from New York to Boston for Tuesday March 13, we decided to book transportation for early in the morning on March 14, settling on a 6:15AM Acela train that would get us to Boston close to 10AM.

Regarding Number 4, by the time we landed in New York, that train had been cancelled. Because no other train would get us back in time before the end of the work day, this led us to scramble for buses. Eventually, we picked a Peter Pan bus that would go from NYC to Boston with a connection through Hartford, CT. If the connection from Hartford to Boston failed, we could rent a car from Hartford and drive back to Boston.

The flight landed early. We flew through customs, boarded the AirTrain, and then got on the subway toward Ashley’s apartment. When we left the subway, we got ourselves some Starbucks. A latte has never tasted better or been more comforting to me in my entire life.

Lacking clean, warm layers for winter weather, I entered New York City draped in my fake alpaca blanket over my Uniqlo down jacket, Target sundress, and Lululemon yoga pants, and Nike sneakers (in other words, definitely not a snow outfit). See below, with Amanda, sometime after we got coffee, made it close to Ashley’s apartment, and stopped for the bathroom at Whole Foods, where I asked a British traveler, hoping to fly back to London later that night, to take a picture of us.

Not my best look. Amanda looks cute though.

Ashley welcomed us to her apartment around 11AM, and after dropping off our things, we indulged in the greatness New York had to offer that day — Amanda hit up the Downton Abbey exhibit, and I headed to SoHo and Chinatown to get Laduree macarons and visit the Glossier showroom. Relishing being back in America, and in New York, in particular, we went out for Indian food for lunch and Afghani food for dinner — for dinner, we took Ashley and her fiancé, Steven, out for dinner, because it was the least we could do for their hospitality (that and my agreeing to be a bridesmaid at their wedding in Brooklyn in September).

After dinner, we picked up some busride snacks from a supermarket and tried to collect a few hours of sleep. The next morning, we got up a little after 5AM and got ourselves to Port Authority, by 5:45AM and then spent a good 15 minutes trying to find our bus. By 6:15AM, we were relieved to board our bus to Connecticut and go back to sleep.

Waking up around 8:30, I started freaking out. Looking at Google Maps and the roads en route to Hartford station, there was terrible traffic. The traffic looked so bad that it seemed as if we’d miss our 9:30AM connecting bus in Hartfortd and would have to kill 2 hours in the Hartford bus station until the next Hartford-Boston Peter Pan bus departed.

For what felt like the first time in the trip that we lucked out. Even though we didn’t arrive until 9:40AM at the station, the bus hadn’t left. By 11:35AM, we got back to Boston.

Mentally and physically defeated, Amanda and I parted ways: I, to walk home to Chinatown, work from home the rest of the day, and attempt a first night back at jiu-jitsu; she, to go shovel out her car at her place on Cape Cod.

Of course, everyone I saw that afternoon and in the following days wanted to know how the trip was, if it was “amazing” and “awesome” and “life-changing.” I told them I would have to write it out for them to really understand. It took a whole week to do it, but this is everything that went down.

If nothing else, I hope that it’s clear that this may not have been a vacation, but it certainly was a trip.

For the concluding post, read Part 7, What I learned, here.

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Quitter of the corporate grind in favor of the open road, a writing career, and a whole lot of jiu-jitsu. Currently writing from San Diego.

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Erica Zendell

Quitter of the corporate grind in favor of the open road, a writing career, and a whole lot of jiu-jitsu. Currently writing from San Diego.