by Gretchen Richter de Medeiros
“OK, remember,” I wrote for the third or fourth time, “we will be arriving very, very early on the morning of September 23. Likely around 1 AM. Will it be possible to check in at that time?”
“No problem.” He assured me in his email reply. “The doorman will have the key and he works all night.”
Regardless of my careful planning and of multiple email communications, I still had a vague feeling that things might not work out just right. Did Manuel really understand that we would be arriving at oh-dark-hundred-hours? I even mentioned it to Rodrigo about 5 weeks before we left. “Maybe we should just get a hotel in Lima for that first night, after all, we get in really late.” Nah, we decided, it’ll be fine, we made our arrival time really clear.
We arrived in Peru exhausted. We’d been up since 4 AM, packing away a few final things – toiletries and clothes that we’d been using until the very last minute– loading our packs into the car, and having a simple breakfast of delicious banana bread made for us by our neighbor Debbie. My dad acted as chauffeur, and got us to the airport by 5:20 AM.
We’d flown from SEA to LAX, and then had a short layover, followed by an uneventful 8-hour flight to Lima. We got through immigration without a hitch, dragging Heather through the line with us as a member of our family. 60-day-stay stamps were officiously pounded in to all our passports.
Arranging a taxi was easy as pie, despite exiting the baggage claim at 12:40 AM. I had memorized the address in Lima’s Miraflores neighborhood and was able to make
myself understood in my High School Spanish (thank you Senorita Panadora!) mixed with Portuguese. We raced through the darkened streets, commenting several times on how much Lima reminded us of Rodrigo’s hometown, Natal. Our driver pointed out important, brightly lit buildings and plazas as we curved through Lima’s historic center. And then, we were there.
The apartment building was chic-looking with clean modern lines and a gorgeous wood front door. We buzzed the doorman, the taxi driver hanging out on the sidewalk to make sure we got in OK. The doorman sounded surprised to hear that we wanted to check in to apartment 402. “Here,” he said, pointing to the buzzer button for 402, “press here.” “Don’t you have a key?” I asked. “No, you’ll need to buzz upstairs.”
I knew immediately that this was not right, and sure enough, someone answered. “Oh, no,” she said in accented English, “you are not checking in until tomorrow, I am here tonight.” “Uh, no,” I replied, “we’re supposed to check in tonight. We told the guy multiple times…” She cut me off. “Well the guy was confused,” then hung up.
Thank goodness the taxi driver was still there! I simply turned to him and asked him if he could help us find a hotel. We loaded our bags back into the rear of the vehicle, and he expertly maneuvered us around the narrow road and back to the main boulevard. The first hotel he stopped at - Hotel Miramar - had 2 rooms available at a reasonable price. We tipped the driver well, got ourselves and our luggage up the tiny elevators (it took three trips!), took birdie-baths and flopped in to bed. I slept like a rock until 10:30 AM.
So, I guess you could say that our first hours in Peru were rocky. But at the same time, what a relief it was to know that we had the financial wherewithal to simply find an available hotel and check in. And it also helped to know that we aren’t in any rush. We don’t need to be running around to cram everything in, as if we were going home after 2 weeks. This trip will be a marathon, not a sprint. Patience, problem-solving and the kindness of strangers will be crucial elements for dealing with other, harder challenges we’ll face somewhere else along the road. The way I see it, we got our Peru challenge out of the way.