Thanks to the hotel, had another “taxi of death” experience up to El Alto, where the driver showed absolutely zero fear weaving in and out of traffic as he worked his way up the side of the mountain to the airport. There was no traffic at this hour, and we made great time. Got to checkin, and only had to wait one person to get an agent…who was so uncomfortable in English that we carried on the check-in in Spanish. I mean, I really appreciate all the practice, but I was blown away by just how reluctant Bolivians were to speak English. All four boarding passes came out, and I was set for today and tomorrow. Then, it was off to passport control. There was a 15 minute wait or so, but no problems at all…but again, the whole thing was conducted in English.
Most surprising, was after exit immigration…there was a luggage check. Open it up, and go through everything. Not too sure what they were looking for, but I got really good at the phrase “es ropa…sola ropa!” (it’s clothes, just clothes!) on this trip…and they let me go with a fairly minimum check.
Headed into the lounge, which was surprisingly nice. Juice, water, etc and a few small munchies on display, but more importantly there were outlets and a comfortable quiet place to wait for the flight. I could have used Priority Pass to get in, but Avianca business class also did the trick.
When it was time to board, the lounge agent came and got us, and escorted us to the plane. The jetbridge had an entrance from the lounge, so there was no need to go back into the terminal. A very nice touch which I never would have expected in La Paz!
Avianca flight 908 (Operated by TACA Peru)
La Paz, Bolivia (LPB) to Lima, Peru (LIM)
Depart 8:00, Arrive 9:05, Flight Time 2:05
Airbus A320, Registration N492TA, Manufactured 2005, Seat 2A
OJ and water offered prior to pushing back, and a view of the airport:
There was a great graveyard of old planes, but unfortunately with the sun and earlier rain, it was hard to get a good shot:
A view of El Alto on climbout. It was really unnerving taking off from El Alto, because with the high altitude the plane takes what feels like forever to get off the ground. I was hoping we’d go over the city to get a shot of how it sits in the valley, but no such luck. I was so excited to take pictures that I asked for a window seat, something I rarely do. Didn’t matter, because the aisle ended up staying empty.
After 10-15 minutes in flight, we crossed over Lake Titicaca:
Breakfast was served. Crew spoke VERY basic English, so I managed to pick up the choices of “eggs” or “french bread” in Spanish. Turned out to be some sort of egg souffle which was pretty decent. Kinda reminded me of a United breakfast…especially the super-cheap fruit cocktail, lol…and yes mom, I was drinking Diet Coke at 8am.
Landed in Lima right on time, and got a bus gate. Yuck. Bussed to the terminal, and then had to walk a bit before going through security…where despite the x-ray machines they also insisted on searching bags. Once again, repeat after me: “Es ropa…sola ropa!” I was getting good at this…
I had a little time, so swung by the SUMAQ Lounge. Now, a few things about this lounge. When I was leaving Lima last year, I was kinda excited to visit it, since it had won some “lounge of the year” honour or another. I found it sadly lacking, hot, no seating, poor food options, etc etc. Thinking maybe they/I were just having a bad day, I gave it another go.
At least this time, the Lounge Dragon was pleasant when welcoming me, and there were plenty places to sit. There were even outdoor seats….which was nice until I discovered it was just the smoking section.
The general repair of the lounge had gotten even worse, complete with construction pit:
…and don’t go in the bathrooms…it’s DANGEROUS!
Flight was running a little late, but left the lounge early to walk around a bit before boarding. Eventually, exactly at departure time, we finally started boarding.
Avianca flight 146 (Operated by TACA Peru)
Lima, Peru (LIM) to Medellin, Colombia (MDE)
Depart 10:22, Arrive 13:32, Flight Time 3:10
Airbus A319, Registration N480TA, Manufactured 2007, Seat 2C
Standard TACA Peru/Avianca juice or water while boarding, and looked like the only empty seat in business would be next to me…when just before the door closed, this petite over-fabulous lady boarded and plopped herself down with a dramatic flair next to me….I swore it was Shakira!
After takeoff, some mixed nuts and raisins…this was a first.
There was a choice of “fish or meat” so I went with the meat. Once again, Avianca absolutely nailed it. I can now say it’s probably not a fluke, Avianca is the only airline I’ve EVER seen who can nail a steak in the air. I was seriously impressed!
Perfectly cooked medium steak:
…and the desert. YUM. This was definitely one of the best short-haul business class meals I’ve had anywhere in the world. I give major points to Avianca for regional service.
So, after a couple glasses of wine…I couldn’t resist asking my seatmate…are you Shakira?!
Turns out, she was a professional Shakira impersonator, hired for events Shakira can’t make it to, lol. I asked if I could take a picture with her…and she said sure…it will be US$100. WTF! Um, no thank you!
Other than that, there isn’t much to say about the flight. Drink refills flowed freely, we landed into Medellin about 30 minutes late…and unfortunately ran into a 30 minute wait at immigration. The agents spoke no English once again, and the questioning was on par with what I’ve experienced in the UK and Canada…lots of questions about who are you, where do you work, why are you here, how long will you stay, etc etc. My agent spoke very slow and patient Spanish, and it was a very pleasant experience.
While waiting in a very long customs line, the “man with the dog” came up and started sniffing my bag….and asked me “do you have something you are not supposed to? drugs maybe?” Uh yes, I have lots of drugs, and I’m going to be bringing tea to China and then vodka to Russia next week. Boggle.
I stopped to grab a Diet Coke in the arrivals area at a small shop after getting some cash, and then hopped in a cab. It was a 30+ minute drive to the hotel, and I was tired. My driver wanted to be super chatty, and I asked him if he minded if I drank my Coke in his cab. No no, no problem. Then, my stupid non-Spanish-speaking brain substituted “bueno, el cocaine es muy importante en la manana!” (good, cocaine is very important in the morning!) instead of caffeine…..ugh, clearly I was still thinking back to the drug dog. *shakes head* WAY TO GO MORON.
He just laughed, and we had a good joke. Soon I was to the hotel, and ready to explore!