August 25, 2009
La Paz, Bolivia….
Only a 21 hour trip…. Right?! Well, it was only 30 hours later when I arrived.
I left Salem at 3am where my amazing Mother drove me to the airport (1 hour away). Flying from Portland, Oregon to Dallas Fortworth, Texas I slept a good amount. We landed on time and I had about an hour between landing and taking off again. Changing terminals making final phone calls and going to the bathroom filled my time. This flight was shorter, no movies or food for either flight, so I was glad to have my laptop to watch a movie on the 2nd leg of my trip.
Tim, one of my co-instructor’s had already arrived in Miami and was hanging out when I arrived. We were both tired and had conversation through sleepy eyes. There was 6 hours before our next flight so we made phone calls to family and friends and then went exploring to find food. Salads and mojitos filled our belly’s and we set out to charge our computer’s and cell phones. Helen, one of the instructor’s that will be leading the other group had a layover and came to meet us for a couple hours. I thought I was going to fall asleep mid sentence! Made last calls, then called Verizon to turn my phone to voicemail only. When I learned they can’t do this so my phone is totally off! So, I our gate changed only 3 times, but the flight was still on time. Time to board the plane…. Great, everything seems ontime! We will arrive around 5am after the 6+ hour flight. We found our seats, then realized the exit row was empty so we scored more leg room, but now our seats didn’t recline! The pilot came on and said the temperature was 31 degrees in La Paz!!!! Holy cow! I was just thinking that we would be in for some cold nights in the mountains! We sat, we waited, we waited… we were still at the gate… it had been about 30 minutes and the pilot was telling us they were fixing something on the wheels and looking for a bag with a certain tag amoungst all the baggage. This seemed odd, and we made jokes, then another 30 minutes or so and we were pushing away from the gate and started to taxi to our take off spot…. Taxiing, taxiing, still taxiing. It was taking FOREVER! We wondered if we were still in the airpot… were we going to drive off into the ocean, perhaps they fixed the wheels so they would fold up and the plane would turn into a boat?! Yep…. Still taxiing! “this is your pilot, we are waiting for a plane to land, then we can take off, it’ll be 6 minutes” hmmmm, six minutes we thought, that is VERY specific!..... 20 or so minutes later “this is your captain, as I engaged the throttle, we discovered we have a major problem with the right engine” yes, MAJOR problem with the right engine! Ding ding ding…. This doesn’t sound good. “we tried to fix it out here, but cannot, so we have a plane ready for us and will return to the gate and switch planes”
Ok, great, this should be quick, and easy.... it’s only been about and hour and a half wait. So we taxi back the one million miles back to the gate…. Ok… we are STILL at the gate! It is raining REALLY hard now, and we are still sitting at the gate…. Now I am waking up from a weird sleep to the captain telling us that they decided they were going to attempt to fix the problem there at the gate instead. Why we were not told this when we first came back to the gate is beyond me. He goes on to say that we are up against a time crunch because the flight crew has a legal amount of time they can be working, and if we don’t take off by a certain time, then mid flight they will go over and so we have to try and get things fixed as fast as possible.
Not going to fix it, so, grab your belongings and your pillows and blankets and exit the plane… we will board just at the gate across from the one we are at. Everyone piles off, wrapped in blankets, half asleep, we were on that plane for 4 hours and didn’t go anywhere! Everyone bombards the gate while we hang back and take some space, walk, and stretch. They announce it’ll be at least 20 minutes… everyone drops like flies. Finally we are going to board, it’s 3:15 in the morning. Of course we wait to board last to avoid being on the plane any extra time and one of the employees tells us that we are really going to have to hurry to take our seats, that that plane will be “waiting on us” and she was going to run ahead and pass on the word. I think everyone was moving as fast as they could given the hour of morning it was. In the last 48 hours I was operating on about 1 hour of sleep and a few airplane hours. I’m sure I was doing the best I could! So as we board a maintenance guy tells another, “so the gali is flooded and we can’t get the coffee pot to turn off”….. of course, right, the coffee pot.
So we resume the position sit, wait, sit, wait, I go to the bathroom and there are about 5 people trying to figure this thing out. It’s been another 45 minutes of sitting on the freaking plane and we were sining…. “We’re not going to take it…. No, we’re not going to take it…. Anymore…” haha! Yes, we were officially dilearious! Then, three people, one in a yellow reflector vest, a women in a suit, and someone else go running down the isle. Tim and I just look at each other. I was wondering if I should be running too! Was something going to blow?! They were running, but it looked funny and not super fast, but yet in a heard, all clumped together. Then we heard the door close and the engine rev up…. What?! Are we ACTUALLY taking off?! Yes, in fact that is what the announcement says. The flight attendance look worked, people are snoring, we taxing the one million miles out and actually start going down the run way. I’m sighing saying, finally, and Tim is saying, “I still don’t believe it” then it happens, we are airborn!!!!
Next thing I know I’m being woken up to be served food. We are pretty hungry, scarf down the mashed potato goodness, then pass out with trays still in front of us. I slept hard for 3 hours, would wake to thinking my head was falling off, fall back asleep on my zipper so my face hurt, it was just one of those nights.
Flying in over the Andes was spectacular, seeing Llampu, Huayna Potosi, Condoriri, Illamani, brought a flood of memories, and the thought of many more to come. Landing at 13,000 + feet was fine, the airport was TINY! Dealing with my visa wasn’t smooth, but not too hard. It was the most mellow South American airport I have flown into!
We got a taxi to Maro’s house. She is Bolivian and lives in La Paz. She will be working on the other trip, but is so great! I wish my Spanish is better because her and Tim start speaking in Spanish, I am so envious.
We head to Blueberries for breakfast, then Tim and I spent the day dealing with getting phones, learning about internet options for the house in Sorata, getting yummy smoothies, walking the market and the black market.
We got back to Maro’s and Helen had arrived so we all went to dinner to get traditional food from another part of Bolivia called Santa Cruz. I had rice with fried plantain and a fried egg, and of course we had fresh papaya juice! I am falling asleep again, but get a like 10th wind and we head to a bar for a little bit before returning to Maro’s where we all crashed out in her room.
I slept until 10 or so today before we went to get some saltena’s for breakfast. Catching up on emails, writing this, then headed to a Spanish school to find out about taking some classes before orientation start on the 31st.
Eva (Tim and mine other co-instructor) arrives on Friday. We will probably spend the weekend in Sorata at the program house…..
Thanks for reading!
I hope this finds you well,