Sunday, 9.4.22 (writing this on Monday)
The dreaded Travel Day. I shudder to think. (And double-shudders because this travel day will only get us to Lima; tomorrow is the International Travel Day with all its attendant hoopla.)
Lindblad did its best to make the day noteworthy. Wake-up knock at 6am (enjoy that extra half hour!). Have your luggage outside your room by 6:30 (requiring a level of early morning efficiency that I believe Lindblad has TOTALLY overestimated in my case). Breakfast at 7. The morning was broken into tiny little fragments; not enough time to do anything (like go back to sleep!), too much time to do nothing. For the first time on the trip, it was actively raining. I stared out the window of our pretty cabin for a while at the (entirely active and fully happy) world around me. A good time to consider what *I* regard as normal and good, and what OTHERS regard as normal and good. Did we envy each other? SHOULD we envy each other?
I was distracted by a small bird on the mud. Black and flagrant, canary yellow. This was not a bird at which naturalists pointed; this was just a boring old shore bird in the mud. I took a terrible photo, which I present to you here. Perhaps the poor quality of the image actually serves to illustrate just how bored everyone around this bird was by its I’M A SHOWGIRL! front. Maybe we should be envying each other. Lola the bird hopped away through the rain.
Twig and I spent a lot of time staring at our cabin. What had we forgotten? Twig is upright and alert and highly intelligent in the early morning hours; see how good her posture is? I was slumped in the armchair and just managed to bend my elbows far enough to snap the pic. Blerg.
At breakfast, I tried to pay attention to what Twig was saying, or charming Terry—but right behind them, river dolphins were curling through the water. I’m sure what they had to say was riveting, but I kept gasping at the wrong moments. “So then we went to…” “GASP! OH MY GOD!” “What?? What??” By the time they turned around, of course, the dolphins had ducked back below the surface, no doubt chuckling over what a fool they were making of me.
Eventually we were all gathered near the skiffs. Our binoculars had been retrieved. Our crew tips had been left. Our hugs and promises of eternal devotion had been proffered. We were loaded into the skiffs for the last time…
…which went about twenty feet through the water and let us out at the VIP lounge, where the Delphin II journey started. No time to admire the elegant living room feel; pass through, traveller—onto the bus. Again…a bus.
We drove and drove and drove and drove. The landscape is endlessly, impossibly green, and broken up by shacks and hovels and roadside stands with four bananas and a few bottles of Inka Kola. They’re happy with their life; I was eager to get back to mine.
But Lindblad took us to a nonprofit called Amazonias, where earnest and clever volunteers were rehabbing and releasing endangered species back into the wild. The very first thing we saw was a beautiful blue and yellow macaw in a tree. My photo, she said proudly, shows a macaw, a dog, a manatee figure, and a primate. That’s a lot of wildlife content, don’t you think?
We saw manatee babies, and a sloth sleeping invisibly in a tree, and a giant Amazonian anteater with a damaged foot (like my nephew dog, Kirby). He won’t be returned to the wild and has become too used to humans…which was great for us! He’s handsome, isn’t he?
There were colorful birds and lackluster turtles and at the back of the tour, a very large tank in which were swimming three paiche, the largest of which wasn’t full grown yet; only eight feet long. That’s a big damned fish!
We took too long; the Lindblad naturalists had to call our guide on his cell phone. Hustle it up, Carlos. Off we went on the bus again. Bye, Amazonias; you’re awesome!
We were driving to the airport when it occurred to me. Peru is gearing up for some kind of elections, and the billboards advertising the candidates are everywhere. I’ve decided that there’s really only one guy running for office. From the misty coast to the Andean highlands to the Peruvian jungle, this guy shows up over and over and over again. Different name, different political party, even—but the exact same face. Middle-aged but with not a strand of grey showing (virile). Plump (what a prosperous guy). Wearing an XL sports shirt in white. (Tidy, see?) Grinning. (Approachable and friendly, as long as you’re just like him. What a glad-hander.)
Am I wrong? You look and see what you think. Same guy? Separated at birth? There was ONE lone woman (go, girl!). She’s not going to win.
In the US, we repose confidence in the JFK face. Young, white, square jawed. Kennedy, Mark Warner, you know the type. In Peru, there’s a different face that people want to see at the head of the conference table, or on their television screens…and it’s that one guy. Good luck to him, I say. Every now and then, there’s a different face, but they’re not going to win either.
Seriously. That one of the three identical guys—isn’t that a pretty flagrant type??
The flight from Iquitos to Lima was unremarkable. I mention it only so you don’t think my story continues in the wilds of the jungle.
We met up with Julio again outside the Lima airport and did a luggage dance. Rusty, hearing that we were going to a museum, balked. Put his foot down and refused to be led any farther. He took his suitcase and went directly to the hotel across the lanes of incoming traffic, where he lounged and ate room service. I tried to feel sorry for him (while wishing I had done the same).
We were put on the biggest tour bus ever made; it was so long that the driver had to creep over every speed bump for fear of ripping off hunks of aluminum skirting. This added to the excitement of driving in Lima. Our bus had the biggest dick on the streets, but the driver put that dick out there at glacial speeds. I was sitting in the front seat; after a while I regretted the choice. The wheels must have been WAAAAY farther back than normal because the bus looked like it was going to wipe out rows of cars with every turn…but we made it to the museum without tears (or putting a scratch on the luxe de luxe bus). At this point, we’d lost enough people that we were down to 20 hardy souls, so we were rattling around in the grossly oversized buss like dried peas in a stainless steel bowl.
(The guy who broke…something… on the first day and his wife were back home in Denver. Lorraine had to take her husband Leigh off the Delphin II for unspecified “illness.” And Rusty had, as usual, charted his own course. So we must have been only 25 total…huh. Yeah. The naturalists on the Amazon said—eight in one skiff, eight in the other, nine in the third. That’s 25. (You’d think I would have figured that out before now, huh?)
We had a great tour guide named Carlos. (Are you paying enough attention? Carlos was also the guide at Amazonias. Different guy. But you get bonus points for noticing.) He gave us earpieces so he wouldn’t have to yell his tour, but the static was painful. I quickly discovered that in our small group—and in this small museum—it was easier to take out the earpiece and listen the old fashioned way.
Here's a selection of flowers currently blooming in this museum's lovely grounds.
This was the Lantos Museum. It was pristine. Small but beautiful. They’d spent a lot on dramatic lighting, and the rooms were painted cocoa brown or even black (or occasionally a bloodthirsty red that was very effective, with its spotlit pieces.
But I had the hinky vibe just the same. The Lantos family owned land (a LOT of land), and they expected their workers to turn over any artifacts they dug up. Eventually they had the single largest collection in Peru of both Incan and the many, many pre-Incan civilization's treasures. They set up their museum to share the collection with the world…at a very reasonable fee, of course.
So again, this had a conquistador kind of vibe about it. It’s not mine, I don’t own it, I didn’t make it, I’m not related to anyone who did…but I’m taking it. And keeping it. And you may look at it. Aren’t you lucky?
In truth, the collection was pretty dramatic, and Carlos was a great story-teller…but we went in at 4pm, after getting up at 5:30 in the morning and taking buses and airplanes and I was simply DONE. Toward the end I managed to snap a photo of some spectacular funeral jewelry, which I offer to you here. Then, because I had no idea what I was taking a picture of, I snapped a shot of the English description, figuring you might want to peer at it. Interesting, huh?
But BETTY: Don’t you think it’s a little…um…greedy to go digging up Great Uncle Tupac’s body so you can raid him of his funerary finery? Is that yours to take? How would you like it if I dug up Granny Matilda to wrench the diamond wedding ring from the bones of her finger? And don’t pretend that putting the stolen articles in a museum excuses the theft. I mean…ew.
There was a visible storeroom with thousands of figural jugs (grouped by subject; an entire shelf of owl jugs. One of puma jugs. One of faces. One of demons. Etc.) We began following Carlos, who was fixated on a jug of a woman washing her hair, but it was easy to duck down a row and get out of the group. More pottery. More pottery. I ended up sitting in the courtyard waiting for everyone to come out. What time is it—midnight, right?
Then there was an extensive collection of pre-Columbian erotic pottery—also placed in dark rooms with dramatic spotlights. This was oddly awkward. It’s a strange thing to examine and then judge the size of appendages. To comment thoughtfully on how old the sexual positions are. Oh, look, Harrieet. He’s doing her doggy style. My, HE looks happy, doesn’t he? There were awkward figures engaged in fellatio. Two men pleasing each other. Three people in a menage. Dead people jerking off. (They can’t create life, but they can honor the gods by spilling their seed, or so the academic card noted.)
I began walking faster and faster through this room, suddenly entirely delighted that my 23-year-old son wasn’t forced to stare at copulating figures while in the presence of his mother and his aunt. Okay. It’s time to be DONE with this.
It took the restaurant at the museum almost half an hour to set up tables for the 20 of us. I am sort of done with groups, and so was thrilled to be seated at a table for four with Twig, Vivica (the asst. DA) and her son Jackson. We had some engaging convo, although right now I can’t remember a single thing we talked about. Charming, witty. Something about genetically modified foods and what Rusty had told them the night before. That kid cuts a wide swath.
Dinner went on…and on….and on…. I texted Rusty. He’d had a good room service meal and was lounging in slug style. I was bitter with envy. Finally I button-holed Julio and said “So. We’re going now. RIGHT?” He looked startled, but gathered his flock. A lot of the 20 people were flying out that night at midnight-ish, and they were all delighted to be having a really long dinner in a pretty restaurant as opposed to sitting in an airport gate waiting area. TOO BAD. I need to go to my damned hotel room in the airport hotel!
Twig and I were standing in (an unbearably long) line to check in at the hotel when I got a barrage of texts. American Airlines. Our flight to Miami the next day had been delayed. No longer at 6:10am; now it was at 2:30pm. What?! Wait—no. It’s at 10:30am. Can we make our connecting flight? Wait—no. Delayed to 3:30pm. Motherfucker. (Rusty was texting me at the same time; we’re delayed. We’re delayed. What are we doing?)
I texted Anita first, for she is the finest travel agent the world has yet produced, and I didn’t even think twice about texting her at what was either 7pm or 9pm on the Sunday of Labor Day weekend. I SHOULD have thought twice…but DAMN IT, I had to pee. I need my room. I need my flight. I NEED TO GO HOME.
Anita is a goddess. She responded almost immediately and was on hold with the Lindblad emergency travel line. I found Julio, the Lindblad rep in Peru. He’s sweet and has the most delightful giggle, but he was startled to think that I needed him to address the situation. (Plus I wasn’t sure he knew that he needed to figure out flights for me AND Twig AND Rusty.) He texted someone (I don’t know who) and then told me that I should also contact Lindblad. “I will,” I said, since Anita was already on the case. “Good,” Julio said. Then it was my turn to check in and AT LAST get my room and pee. Where did Julio go? I have no idea. I had Anita; that was enough.
Twig was in her room, Rusty in his, Anita in northern Virginia, and all three of them were texting me at the same time. Twig’s husband Harry was looking up alternate flights, so that was more input. I lost my cool for a moment and shouted (well—texted in all caps) for everyone but Anita to shut up. Anita left me alone for ten blessed minutes while she got through to Lindblad and the Lindblad Air department, then she called me.
There was a boatload of back-and-forthing. Two of us could fly out that night, but the third would have to wait until the morning. No, we all decided, we’re in this together. Then Twig texted—could she change her mind? Could she go tonight? COME HERE WITH YOUR CREDIT CARD.
By the time she got to my room, the last two seats on the midnight flight had been sold, and the one seat on the 9:50 was impossible; she couldn’t make it through security in 35 minutes. So we’re back to all three of us on the morning flight.
It was fraught and unhappy and stressed me much more than it should have if I hadn’t been so tired and worn. We got it all settled at last (Delta, not American, and I’m now devoted to Delta) and Twig went back to her room. Rusty and I downloaded the Delta app and fought through their hoop-jumping (nowhere near as bad as American’s). I uploaded a few of the blog posts I’d written, but didn’t have the energy to catch up fully. By the time I finally crawled so gratefully into bed (six and a half hours of fitful sleep is better than NO sleep), I think I was a little bit in shock. I was shivering like crazy. I couldn’t get warm, couldn’t relax, It took me a LONG time to finally drift off.
The view from my hotel room. When they say the hotel is at the airport, they ain't just whistling dixie. That's the check-in desk line through that window.