…and Planes – Adios, South America

20th April 2018

My original plan was to “pen” this whilst sitting comfortably in the business lounge in Lima airport, in transit after having travelled from Juliaca. I even put a “Farewell Puno” photo up on Facebook. Serves me right for being smug.

There was a “maintenance issue” with our Juliaca – Lima flight. Our 13th of the holiday, if you can believe that.

We sat on the tarmac in increasing heat for about 90 minutes until it was too hot to keep us on board, so we returned to the departure lounge. To their credit, LATAM did their best to let us know what was going on, via announcements and e-mail. I decided to be optimistic and write the valedictory blog post to sum up the holiday and sign off from regular blog updates (this is the 31st blog post of the holiday; I think I’ve done a reasonable job of keeping the blog up-to-date when I can, and I’ve had a thoroughly enjoyable time writing it).

So, whilst we wait for more information, let’s say a few thank yous – these are, after all, still valid whether we make the London flight or not. So, thanks for an utterly brilliant and beautifully-executed itinerary are due to:

  1. Judy Campbell, of Spear Travels, who took on the basic brief of organising our South America Odyssey
  2. Stephen Bray, of Sunvil, who created and tuned an itinerary according to our (slightly eccentric) demands. The resulting schedule was nicely paced (giving us occasional time to draw breath), met and exceeded our expectations, and was also nicely planned to help deal with potential altitude issues as we headed towards the Peru highlands.
  3. The agencies that Sunvil employed to handle us: Andes Nativa (Chile), Attipica (Argentina); Andesconexion (Ecuador), Ecoventura (Galapagos) and Coltur (Peru). Australis, operators of Ventus Australis also did an outstanding job.
  4. I don’t know who settled on the hotels that we stayed in, but, by heaven, there were some crackers: the Singular in Puerto Natales; the Llao Llao in Bariloche; the Casa Gangotena in Quito; both Inkaterras (Urubamba and Machu Picchu); these were exceptional. El Mercado in Cusco was very charming as was the Casa Andina in Puno. The boats, Ventus Australis and M/V Origin also functioned as excellent hotels.
  5. The guides who looked after us: Ronald (Santiago); Jenny (Perito Moreno); Malena (Easter Island); Paul (Quito); Hernando (Lima); Camila (Sacred Valley and Cusco); Alex (Machu Picchu); and Aidee (Lake Titicaca).
  6. All the others who picked us up at airports and who drove us places. At every new destination we reached (bar one) there was the reassuring sight of someone holding up a board with our names on it. Organising, checking up and executing these logistics is very complex and the whole thing operated effectively faultlessly.
  7. Last, and by no means least, Jane, who kept us organised, provided some photos and who has done her best to make sure this blog is as accurate and error-free as our failing faculties allow.

Excellent job all round, chaps – thanks!

In the second half of the holiday we learned a few new things to add to our first-half analysis.

  • Tips. Take more than you originally thought you might need. Our outlay was about US$100 a week beyond what we knew we needed for the two cruises. Of course, you could be British and just Not Tip, but the guides we encountered were such good folk and did such a good job that they all deserved extra for their efforts.
  • If you’ve moved to high altitude, be careful when opening items such as sunscreen bottles, otherwise you’ll be scraping stuff off the carpet.
  • For South America, pack earplugs. Everyone in South America owns at least eight dogs, and doesn’t seem to be able to stop them barking at night. Perhaps they wear earplugs.
  • I packed a travel tripod. It was space unwisely used in my suitcase, as I either didn’t need it, or didn’t have it with me on the approximately two occcasions it might have helped.
  • The pace of a long holiday is an important consideration. Tourism is relentless, and we’ve been forced to get up earlier almost every morning than is our natural inclination; 0630 was a common alarm time and even as early as 0430. The half- and full-day breaks in our schedule became very valuable for relaxing, doing laundry, pausing for breath and, of course, writing the blog.
  • It’s important to take notes as you go along. This blog will be a very useful aide-memoire for all sorts of things after we get home – organising something around 4,000 photos and 25GB of videos (250 clips), creating a photobook, a reference for friends and family rather than listen to us drone on, that kind of thing.
  • Specifically for me, as a photo buff, the right technology would have been to bring a Windows-based laptop or similar. I could have then (a) post-processed the photos as we went along to bring you better quality images and (b) used time on the flights to do this. The combination of Android-based devices I had at my disposal couldn’t deliver the image quality or workflow speed I would have liked.
  • And, finally, at the end of the longest holiday either of us has ever taken, we are still (a) having fun and (b) talking to each other. That’s not to say we shan’t enjoy unlimited Early Grey and convenient laundry facilities once we get home, and it would seem that six weeks is about right for a long holiday; but we shall certainly be looking forward to a similar scope of travelling in the not-too-distant future.

Ooh, look – there’s some activity indicating we might be boarding soon….

….and we just about made it to the gate for the London flight. We tried to get into the Club Lounge but it was full, so we’re sitting with a G&T by the gate, waiting for the flight therefore….

It must be Time For The BA!

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