The day was finally here… November 1st, at 4:00am, my alarm sounded. Time to depart on the biggest adventure of my life. Excited didn’t even begin to cover it. I jumped out of bed, had the worlds quickest shower and prepared for my 4:30 taxi. As always, my taxi was late arriving due to my address being impossible to find unless you live there. Basically my apartment is one street but the address is of another street (the next one over). They always screw it up, so I wasn’t surprised to be carrying my bag down the hill to meet the driver.
After a quick check-in process at Gothenburg Landvetter airport, I settled down to buy breakfast – I was too early for the lounge to be open! Breakfast was a cheese sandwich, yoghurt and a latte. Decent food, although at 5am anything tastes okay, I think.
I played my usual trick of waiting by the gate (since the lounge was closed) and was rewarded by being first on the plane – a nice feeling and small reward for my 100,000+ miles a year! Whilst waiting to board, I was amazed to notice that everyone was staring at their phones like zombies. Normally I wouldn’t pick up on this, but being phone-less made me much more observant (and possibly jealous?). I guess most people look like zombies before 6am anyway.
Once onboard, I was seated in my ‘usual’ seat, 8A, and settled in for a quick selfie before a micro-nap on the first leg of the flight – Lufthansa hop to Frankfurt.
The flight was pretty uneventful, but when we landed in Frankfurt the fog was intense! After a quick bus transfer to the terminal, I made my way to the lounge in International Departures (Z gates) – I’m always amazed at how quickly you can get through Frankfurt airport if you’re lucky.
Once through Frankfurt I found the United counter in the lounge and was issued with my boarding pass for the second flight – complete with the magic ‘SSSS’ mark which, the lady warned me, means that I was randomly selected for extra security screening. I was warned to be at the gate ‘at least 30 minutes’ before boarding time, since this process ‘can take some time’ and ‘we wont wait for you’. Great. So much for a chill out in the departure lounge. I did manage to squeeze in a second coffee (4am start!) and some cookies before I had to head to the gate for the screening.
The security screening turned out to be pretty quick – they gathered a bunch of us together and asked us to come to a seperate secreening areas. There we were asked to switch on all our electronic devices (for me, that was only my camera) and then we were allowed back to the gate to board the plane first. I have no problem with security screening since I would definitely prefer that to any problems when the plane is in the air!
We were boarded via a bus (Frankfurt has a tendancy to do this even for bigger flights), and our bus seemed to get lost during the journey to the gate (possibly due to the fog?). Even so, I took my seat pretty quickly and it was time for another selfie.
I love the United trans-atlantic service, not because its particularly good but i’m so familiar with it that I could basically recite the inflight announcements all the way through the flight. Our departure was delayed by almost an hour due to the fog in Frankfurt, which didn’t bode well for my 1h30 connection in Newark. Still, it’s a nice long flight so time to relax and enjoy some movies. During the 10 hour flight I watched:
- A fault in our stars – which made me cry, and was definitely a beautiful movie
- 22 Jump Street – which was really boring, just like 21 jump street
- Happy Christmas – which was weird, and made me uncomfortable because Anna Kendrick played a happy character instead of a grumpy businesswoman as she is typecast
- Earth to Echo – which I couldn’t decide if it was a kids or grown ups movie. For a kids movie, there was a lot of swearing, but the plot and style really didn’t cater to adults.
I also watched the obligatory “Diners, Drive-ins and Dives” which they always have on the United inflight entertainment. My dinner was served and it was basically Mushrooms and Rice, which meant for me that my dinner was Rice. Oh well, you can’t win everything.
Due to the foggy departure, we ended up landing in Newark 35 minutes late, leaving me with just 55 minutes to get through immigration, collect my bags, progress through customs, re-check my bags, obtain my boarding pass for the connecting flight, change terminal and go through security, then board the flight. As you’ve probably already guessed, that didn’t happen – I gave it a damn good go, but when I got to the check-in counter for my connecting flight it was already closed. I was pretty fed up at that point and shouted a bit to the guy at the counter, who helpfully told me to go bother someone else since he didn’t work for Avianca.
I eventually made my way to the United service counter, since I booked the flight with United, and they started by offering me a ticket on the same flight a day later… uh no! “I’m not misssing the start of a vacation I have been waiting for for 6 months” I told them, and started to throw a frequent flier fit (FFF?) – I was rewarded with a more senior agent at the desk who was able to rebook me onto a flight with LAN Peru directly to Lima, leaving New York later that day. The problem: the flight was leaving from JFK and I was at Newark. Luckily the United lady was on my side and even issued me a voucher for the taxi fare, and a meal voucher to cover my meal in Newark before I left. Being a frequent flier REALLY helps in these sort of situations – the taxi alone was $95, more than i’d paid for my ticket (since I used airmiles!).
Using my $7 meal voucher I invested in piles of bad food, since I had eaten so badly on the plane over.
The next challenge, I realised, was to contact Gadventures to let them know my arrival plans had changed – I was scheduled to arrive at 2:05am, and i’m pretty sure whoever was going to meet me wouldn’t want to sit at the airport until my new arrival at 6:50am! No problem, I thought…. i’ll call the US toll free number from a payphone. Oh. Payphones. Do they even still exist?! Well, the answer was yes, and I actually got to use 3 different ones before I managed to get through to Gadventures. Clearly the phones aren’t well managed on a Saturday!
I did find myself thinking that this problem would have been so much easier if I was holding a mobile phone in my hand, but I was determined not to let it bug me – I ended up changing some $1 bills into quarters and using coins to call the Peruvian office who answered immediately and were very helpful. My flight change was no problem, and all I had to do was cross New York in a taxi and wait in JFK for 6 hours. The taxi ride was uneventful, although we did get to see a great sunset over the Brooklyn bridge.
One advantage of this little detour is that I got to experience JFK – I’ve never flown through there, since it’s not a United hub. I have to say I was pretty impressed with it, although it was like almost every other US airport, with a Starbucks, Auntie Annes and a Hudson News… the US airports have so little local character (at least Hudson News is relevant in New York, I suppose).
At this point i’d been on the go almost 20 hours and still hadn’t boarded my flight from Lima – despite a coffee, pretzel and lemonade, I was feeling exhausted (maybe from all the carbs!) so as soon a I boarded my flight to Lima, I snapped a final selfie and settled in for the long night flight to Peru. I had basically the worst seat on any plane – the non-reclining, back row, next to the toilet seat. But it was a seat, and I was finally on the way, and I was so excited for the true adventure to begin!