South America Trip



2015/07/31: Heading to South America

Preparation

Packing completed!

I stayed at work until 4:30am, drove home straight and went to bed around 5:00am. I woke up at 10:00am. The first thing I did was to download “Canon Connect” application on my iPad to check how it works and it did pretty good. Since I can download pictures on my camera to iPad via Wi-Fi, I decided to take my iPad on the trip instead of the tablet PC. I don’t have to carry two different adaptors which save same space, and iPad has longer battery life.

Stretched my body and took a shower. I drove to a bank to withdraw $800, with $500 in T/C and $300 in cash. I wanted to get $400 in both T/C and cash but I was told that T/C can only be in the domination of $500. I then stopped by at chiropractics at 11:00am for an appointment. The treatment was pretty painful this time. Maybe because I was carrying heavy backpack all the time when I was in Colorado two weeks ago, my back and left leg were in trouble. While the doctor is pressing muscle on the left butt, I had to move my leg which was quite a thing. Ouch… Finally got my body aligned again just in time for the nine days travel.

I still had a few items I need to buy for the trip so I will be driving around the town. I had lunch at Izakaya Wa around noon; another weekly half and half, then moved to LTF for 30 minutes workout before making stops at Sports Authority for a swim suit, and at Office Depot for the power plug converters and travel tags. I come home around 2:00pm, began laundry for 5 loads while packing, when I finished them, it was about time I need to head out.

To the airport

I put trash bags in the bin, put my gears in the car. Leaving home at 7:00pm, the traffic was not bad for Friday evening. Because of working nights for the past four weeks and packing all day, I was quite tired already so I had hard time keeping the speed for the traffic. Arrived at the parking at 8:00pm but did not see any staff at the entrance. Finally found one and parked at a spot. I requested a carwash. I still have plenty of time to for the international check in, so it did not matter for being dropped off at the Terminal E at last.

I walked in to the terminal building, and dropped off my bag and received the ticket. I then proceeded to the security screening and passed with no problem but I must have misplaced my windbreaker. So I dropped in at Eddie Bauer store inside the terminal and bought a thin fleece, which turned out to be a lifesaving investment over the trip. The only issue was that I could not find my size so picked loose fit of XL, I can wear over on anything. I wanted to grab water before going to the gate so I stopped by at a store, lined up to pay but the line would not move… When I took a peek at the table, I see all kinds of coins; pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters… Seeing a kid with M&M in hand, asked the cashier how much is short and she said $1. I just gave her the money and the line moved on. I also stopped by at Travelex to exchange currency. For today’s rate, Peruvian Nuevo Sol was $1=2.71SOL, and Chilean Peso was $1=568CLP. So For $400, I got 540 PNS and 100,000 CLP, that sounds a lot of money

To Lima, Peru: UA1286 IAH(10:55pm CDT) - LIM(5:45am on 8/1)

I reached to the gate E9 by 8:50pm, the outside looks dark now. There were a lot of seats available at the waiting area but soon they were filled. Many people speaking Spanish but I also see people in hiking boots with backpacks like me. With a little bit of nervousness to travel to unknown countries, I felt the tingling sensation similar to what I felt back in 1996 when I was coming to the U.S. While listening to the ladies video chatting on a phone in Spanish, I was using my phone to check emails and FB posts to let the time go by. The moon began to rise over the horizon as the night sky is set.

The boarding began on time at 10:00pm and I lined up with others. They make announce in Spanish first then in English so I am a bit overwhelmed. I got in the cabin at 10:20pm, took a seat and waited for the door to close. I was still nervous because I felt I am here not prepared enough. The plane was pushed back from the gate at 11:00pm, began to taxi for 10 minutes and took off to south at 11:18pm. I can see the Port of Houston, Baytown area's lights on the ground as the plane gains altitude. Soon the plane is over the water. We flew over a region where thunderstorm is nearby. I could see the clouds lit up as lightning appears around midnight. Ravioli was served for the dinner which tasted different and spicy, maybe because of the airline route is Latin America bound. I tried to sleep with some successes, and the plane was getting near the destination when I woke up around 4:00am. Snack was distributed; small sandwich and carrots. Descending started at 5:00am, the plane lowered from 37,000ft to 30,000ft and kept coming down. The approached was made from the north, cutting through foggy night sky, where I can see street lights warehouses and trucks on the ground, as the wingtip of the plane creating strong vortex. The plane landed at 5:20am in the dark and taxied off the runway but did not move for another 10 minutes there. I suspected that the gate was occupied. Waiting on the tarmac still in a country I came for the first time made me nervous but began moving eventually. The plane finally arrived at the gate 17 at 5:35am local time.

Boarding

 

Dinner

Snack

Getting close to landing

Landed at Lima

2015/08/01: Arriving at Cuzco

Lima in the morning

Wrapping service

Dunking Donut. Papa Johns, McDonalds...

Breakfast

I got out from the plane at 5:45am, walked on a hallway to the immigration. I was in the line at 5:50am, watching the people talking on the phone, checking emails… very different from the U.S. immigration. The place posting signs which informing people that this place is safe when an earthquake hits. At my turn, I showed my passport and paper for a simple inspection and passed at 6:10am with no problem. I was expecting more but I guess I am a normal guy. I then proceeded to the baggage claims to retrieve my bag. Before exiting, I had to put all the belongings on X-ray machine for inspection at customs. I carried out my bags through the exit door and now I need to recheck my bag with LAN (Latin Air Network) for the flight to Cusco. (done)  

 Just like I expected, there are overwhelming number of people by the exit, people waiting for someone to arrive, taxi drivers looking for customers. It is not noisy but a lot of people… Getting out there at 6:30am was a quite experience. I had a concern that someone takes my bag or money but did not happen. To check in for my connection, I had to exit from the building once so I walk under cloudy sky with other people, showed my passport to get back in the building. I lined up to get a ticket for the next flight at 6:35am, looking up the indicator for the flight status in Spanish, (Demorado = Delayed, Fin Embaro = Boarding Finish, Ul Llamada = Final Call, Llamada = Regular Call) I am getting used to it now. My turn came at 7:10am and got my ticket with no problem, in English of course. I walked to the upstairs for the security screening. I see all kinds of American restaurants as I walk by; Pizza Hut, Starbucks, Dunkin Donut, Subway… I passed simple security check with metal detector and arrived at the gate 10 at 7:30am. (done)

 They had a free 10 minutes Wi-Fi so I checked FB and email. I needed my breakfast so I bought a cup of coffee, two bottles of water, and an empanada. I was quite surprised that the price for the food was quite expensive. While I wait, I located a couple of Japanese looking folks, so I approached them and chat. They were from Japan and have been in Peru for a bit with other 20 Japanese in the tour. They are in the 50s and 60s, probably retired from work, enjoying the life after. (done)

To Cuzco: LAN2023 LIM(7:45am) - CUZ(9:05am)

 The boarding started at 8:40am, passengers lined up in two lines to board. I walked down the jet way and took seat at 8:55am. The plane was pushed back at 9:25am and taxied to the north end while following a long line of the planes. It departed at 9:50am and the flight was smooth and straight. The plane reached above clouds in a couple of minutes, and I can see mountains in a view. For the next one hour, it was like flying over Colorado Rockies and Grand Canyon combined. I do not see any city but simply beautiful scenes of mountains and canyons. Some mountain peaks were snow covered, indicating that they are very tall, or the effect of being in the middle of winter in south hemisphere. I had a couple of passengers next to me visiting South America for nearly a month from France, I think they are lucky. Because of the short flight, I thought I would only get a drink but LAN gave passengers snack boxes on top on that. As the plane approached to Cuzco airport from west, it flew just south side of the Plaza de Armas for downwind, turning to the base after passing a small mountain. When the plane started the final descent for landing, I heard of a pop, and felt the plane depressurize. The plane kept approaching to the airport and I was breathing heavily. This is quite uncomfortable. The plane landed at 10:44am and taxied to the gate. It’s time for me to brave the elements. (done)

In flight snack, much better than U.S. carrier!

I can see Plaza de Armas Cusco View Downwind by mountain turning to the base Landed

Baggage claim at Cusco

To Hotel

I got out from the plane at 10:50am. The air was pretty tough to breeze as I walk on concourse but manageable. I understand why many books warn people about the thin air and making bad decisions. I got my bag at the baggage claim, talked to a taxi driver who offered a ride to the hotel for 45 Sols. I thought it should be only 30 Sols but anyways. The car left the airport property; I was excited but also nervous of seeing a new place for the first time. The taxi drove the main street (Av. El Sol), passing by Qorikancha, making right then going up the hill to turn left into Calle San Augustin, then arrived at the hotel at 11:25am. I checked in, and put my bag in the room, relaxed a bit in the quiet room since my nerve was under tense condition since I left Houston. At least I am at a safe place.

Taxi pick up

Hotel Plaza I

Hotel Check-in

 I took shower to get refreshed but I had to bear with the cold bathroom area. I spent more than half day travelling so I needed. Get changed into a fresh cloth and rested in a quiet room until 12:35pm then got up. The room is chilly but will be colder in the night for sure because the daily low here is in the 30s. I began unpacking and put the Chilean Pesos, U.S. Dollars and excess Peruvian Nuevo Soles in a safe box in the room then walked out to get my lunch after looking up information on Lonely Planet on my iPad. I took a step outside where I may not be able to communicate I walked to a restaurant nearby called Marcelo Batata, and saw four other people at the front. The door was closed. When they knocked the door, there was a person came out and told us to come back after 1:00pm. So I decided to take a walk around. There are a lot of people, visitors like me, and the sunny weather made me feel relaxed. I stopped by Plaza de Armas, Santo Domingo, La Mercedo, Ex Hotel Cusco, Plaza de Regocijo, walking on Garcilaso Street and saw a line of people to buy ticket to Machu Picchu, I also stopped by at San Francisco Mission, La Compania before coming back to the place. (done)

 When I returned, the place was open. I took a seat, and soon realized that unlike in the U.S., things moving very slowly… Waitress took a while to show up, order took a while to be taken, food took a while to show up… I had Alpaca (Llama) steak and potato, and coca tea for drink (S./48). After the meal, I went up to the rooftop for a view. I can tell that the place is surrounded by mountains, and a lot of houses in the flat area available. (done)

Merced, Catedral, Compania

Lunch, Llama (Alpaca) meat

Sightseeing Saqsaywaman

   
Stair Rumi Punku    
       
       

 Walking out of the restaurant around 2:00pm, I began walking up on Calle Palacio toward hill to see a ruin called Saqsaywaman. It took me about 20 minutes on steep hilled cobble stone road up slowly and under heavy breath to the entrance. The admission was 70 Soles, which blew my wallet for the day. (Although there was another option to pay 100 Soles so I can visit many other ruins…) Going uphill on the ruin, it was breezy and I felt a bit cold time to time because the day time is getting short now. They set several courses so that I can see various items with brief descriptions. I wrapped up the tour around 4:30pm and decided to walk back to the hotel. The sky was shifting to the evening light, I grabbed a couple of water and postcards at the stores on the way back. (done)

Cruzmoqo Sayaqmarka Muyuqmarka Suchuna o Rodadero Parking Bus     Qocha

Dinner, At hotel

12 Angled Stone

Sandwich for dinner

I walked out from the hotel around 6:00pm for dinner, the outside was getting dark. I felt I spent too much money today, so I stopped by at A Mi Manera Café/Restaurant to have a sandwich. I had it in Peruvian Style (Peruanissimo) with a bottle of Inka Kola for the first time. Back in the room, going to bed at 8:30pm after confirming tomorrow’s pickup with the agent on the phone (they were supposed to call me at 7:00pm!).

2015/08/02: Machu Picchu Day 1

Going to Aguas Calientes

 I had a hard time going to sleep over night; waking up at 10pm, midnight and 1am then 3am. So I gave up. Got up from the bed at 4:00am, washed my face and finish packing. I then walked down to the hotel entrance, paid the hotel fee and get picked up at 5:00am on time. When I walked out from the building in a dark sky, I felt the air very cold, the winter here in Cusco has daily low in the 30s. The local tour agent took me to a place where a couple vans are parked at corners. The van was filled up with local Peruvians who want to go to Ollantaytambo. Once all 12 people are set, the van left around 5:20am. Under dark and cold sky, the van moved fast in the urban area, with a lot of turns and crossing of railroad tracks. I started to believe that the driver must be crazy. The van moved away from the city and now I can only see trees and mountains in foggy air. It made a stop for fuel at 5:40am (hey!) then kept going. (done)

 The outside was getting brighter as the van driving up in foggy mountain range. I can feel the air getting colder, and began building condensations on the windows. Their defogger is not working well so it was scary. I can also smell the exhaust from the vent which was quite stinky. They even try to pass two trucks in a row in foggy road and narrowly missing the incoming traffic, so I had a word “a taxi from hell” in my head. The van passed Chinchero district, dropping a guy at road intersecting to Maras. At certain point, I can see snow covered mountain at far way, or the ocean of the clouds. If I took a train from Cusco, probably I won’t see those sights. The van began going downhill like crazy and arrived at Urubamba around 6:30am. From here, the road is flat and the van kept going and arrived by the train station of Ollantaytambo at 7:00am. Got my backpack, and walked to the station gate at 7:10am. I am glad I am alive. (done)

a.k.a. Hell Taxi...

Ollantaytambo station

Expedition train

 I passed the gate but had to wait for a while for the train to come. Minute by minute, passengers are arriving to the place. I was looking at the mountains on the opposite side of the station, in a cool and quiet morning. It was under nice clear weather but a bit too cold to stand still. Because of the stress on the van, I did not feel like drinking a hot coffee… I saw a train came in with unfamiliar look, I found out that there is another train company called Inca Rail, running on the same line as for the Perurail. I guess people who could not buy the train ticket for Perurail still have chance. Around 7:25am, the Expedition 83 came in to the platform and I followed the sign for the car “A”. I get my ticket checked with a scanner and boarded the train. At 7:45am on time, the train left the station. The diesel locomotive gradually gaining the speed as it moves by the river (Rio Vilcanota). I can see some farmland right next to the track, and mountains across the river. Sometimes I see big rocks sitting in the river, and sometimes I see rapid stream. The train passed by at camp for the Inka trail around 8:00am. Snack and Drink were served soon later. It was like a short flight to somewhere. Inka themed music kept playing on the background, and I began to enjoy the ride although it shakes a lot. During the ride, I get to know more about the passenger next to me, she is from Argentina and travelling a lot in South America. The track is getting into more frequent curves and going through tunnels. At 9:11am, I saw Choquesuysuy right before arriving at Aguas Calientes. The train had to stop nearby hydroelectric power plant for the engineer to switch the point, then proceeded to the station. (done)

Machu Picchu

 Getting off from the train at 9:15am, and I walked to the station entrance. Met with a lady who is an escort for this place to the bus stop, who does not speak English but able to communicate somewhat. Walking through gift shops, she guided to me to a hotel where I am staying to drop off my bags before heading up to Machu Picchu. I was told that I was behind of schedule, so I had to forget about the breakfast… (done)

 I lined up to the bus service at 9:30am about 50 meters from the stop up hill. For every 5 to 10 minutes, a bus with 40 passenger capacity will come down and make a turnaround in front of the people waiting, and pick us up. The line moved slowly, and I bought water along the way; 3.5 Sol. The guide told me that they buy water around 1 Sol. The line was moving and at near my turn, the bus in front of me just needed one more so I called out “Uno!” then I joined. I was lucky. The bus took off at 9:55am and proceeded along the river on paved road until it crossed a bridge then the road became narrow, no pavement, and steep hill up the mountain. The bus moved up fairly quick, crossing each other at any given spaces. This was a thrilling ride. The bus arrived at the top at 10:19am and I got off the bus to find another guide here. (done)

Entrance at Machu Picchu

 This guide let me through the entrance with special access, wow. He made call on his cell phone a couple of times to locate the tour guide and I was able to catch up with the group. The tour was done in English with about 20 people in the group. We walked around and get some explanations. Started from the fountain, , ?, 3 windows, sun dial, Main Plaza, Sacred Stone, Housing, Temple of Condor, The tour ended at 12:00pm. First time walking around the place, and it was beautiful while watching the city made out of stones at atop of mountains, and I can see many mountains surrounding it, some in far away are snow capped.

Lunch

 I exited from the gate, used a restroom (where costs 1 Sol) and had lunch at 12:15pm. The area nearby the entrance is occupied by a hotel, and which also operates restaurant, cafe, bag keeping service and restroom. The hotel offers a buffet for 40 Soles, which I felt quite expensive so I bought water (8 soles) and vegetable qiche for 18 Soles at cafeteria. It was still expensive but better than at the restaurant. While watching the mountains nearby, I quickly ate the whole thing in 15 minutes and went back in the Machu Picchu. I began walk toward the Sun Gate by going up stone stairway and headed toward south. The pathway was mostly paved with stones, and some soil, and I was going up narrow and hilly road, I needed to take a break a couple of times but arrived at the Sun Gate at 1:20pm. The place used to be the entrance to the Machu Picchu via Inka trail, so I was thinking of how ancient people felt like when they get here. I took a short break, looking at the main village part and also the town at the foot of the mountain. I began coming back. I met with a family from Poland with a guide with them, I was told that one of structure between the Machu Picchu and the Sun Gate used to be a shrine (not on the map) and was built before Machu Picchu. It was good to know. Once I am back in Machu Picchu, I turned to the left and walked toward wooded area to visit Inka Bridge. There was a check point for the Bridge so I signed in and began following a narrow passage. It was a bit scary when wind breeze pass me since the route is hugging the mountain. The construction of the bridge was amazing and worth seeing. Arriving there at 2:30pm, and I felt cold because of the wind. I walked back to the check point, and felt satisfied for the day. I want to relax at the hotel, and maybe the hot spring.

Main Gate

 I lined up for the returning bus at 3:10pm under sunny sky, the line was about 100m long, much longer than when I was at the foot of the mountain. It was a quite a walk to reach the end of the line and it took nearly one hour for my turn to get on, occasionally I see people complain that they are going to miss their trains. By the time when I get on the bus, the line was much shorter, only about 20m. The bus did another crazy ride down and arrived to Aguas Calientes at 4:20pm. I walked up the hilly road by river from the bus stop, checked in at the hotel at 4:30pm. I was tired so I took things easy for a while. (done)

Bus to the foot of mountain

Turning sharp curves

Dinner, hotel

Hotel

 When I got up, the hotel receptionist gave me a map so I know where to go. I decided to go to the Hot Springs (Banos Thermos?). The hotel kindly let me use their towel. I walked to the entrance at 6:30pm, paid 10 Soles for a ticket, and began walking up the hilly path. It was rather a long path and had to help a lady pushing a baby cart. I saw her having difficulties so I very much helped her all the way to the spring. It took nearly 5 minutes so I would not recommend if you have disabilities. (done)

Hotsprings in Aguas Calientes (6:00pm?)

 Down the concrete stairs, get changed in a booth then gave my bag and shoes to the storage clerk in exchange for a tag at 1 Sol. Walking in the hot spring area where has various sections, some of them are like pools, and even shower styles. When I tried the first one, it was way too cold so tried on the second, they were much warmer so I stayed there for 20 minutes to get refreshed, the sky is not totally dark yet but I can look up to see the sky surrounded by mountains in the area. The water was murky so I am not sure if it was good or not. Getting out from the pool, changed back in my cloth, and walked back to the town area under dark sky. I can hear the sound of the river as I walk. (done)

 I walked to a place called Toto’s House for dinner at 7:00pm. There was very much no people inside and I was wondering where all the visitors at Machu Picchu (nearly 4,000/day) stay and eat. I had pizza and Sprite to save some money. I feel a bit miserable about my situation while considering I am on a vacation. Well, I spent a lot of money for this trip so I have to trim expenses where I can. The pizza, unfortunately was not that good as I hoped. It was flat, hard and almost like the frozen one came in the box at grocery stores. After the dinner, I stepped out to the street, the surrounding was much darker than in Cusco. I can easily think that someone could be following me so I walked with care, changing route sometimes. Walked back to the hotel, I can hear the sound of river (Rio Aguas Calientes) running down in front of the hotel even I am in the room. Going to bed at 11:00pm.

Dinner, Pizza and Sprite

2015/08/03: Machu Picchu Day 2

Huayna Picchu

Breakfast at Hotel; Fruit salad, bread, egg, coffee

 I woke up at 4:00am again, stretched my body, took a quick shower and came downstairs to have a breakfast. They had fruit salad (watermelon, nuts, pineapple, and yogurt), sunny side up, bread, coffee and tea. I felt this place has a very nice hospitality. While I eat delicious breakfast, I kept seeing people with gears walking down on the street. So I wondered, are they already lining up for the bus?! I had a bad feeling about this so I hurried upstairs and packed my gears, walked out to lined up for the bus at 5:30am. My gut feeling was right. The line of people waiting was already about 100m long, and end was at right in front of my hotel. There must be brokers that reserve positions for tourists; I kept seeing local people switching with travelers. When I lined up, the sky was totally dark but it was becoming bright as I wait for my turn to board the bus. A lady was checking bus ticket and paperwork and I found out that I somehow used the wrong ticket yesterday and I had to run back to the hotel and get the old paper, ran back in to the line. I made it on time. Get on the bus shortly after and departed at 7:00am; nearly 90 minutes after I lined up. While I was on the bus, I kept thinking of how to proceed with the claim. Arrived at Machu Picchu at 7:20am. It’s show time. (done)

Entrance in the morning.

 Negotiations, Hyuapicchu Ascent

 At the entrance, I explained what happened yesterday to a staff. I showed them both tickets for yesterday and today, with today’s ticket already stamped yesterday. This is clearly their mistake; scanning the ticket for the wrong date and accepting it. First they tried to revoke my privileges to enter, including the one to go up the Hyuapicchu, so I complained and provided my pictures on the digital camera as a proof of how I spent time yesterday. The person who I talked calmly had decent understanding on the situation. So, I got a ticket reissued for today with permission to go up the mountain. Good, and Thanks. (done)

 It was already 7:30am so I needed to hurry to the gate in order to start the climb on time. I walked fast in narrow passage in the ruin but when I see the city partially covered in fog and look so wonderful, I had to stop for picture. Arrived at the control gate for Wyuapicchu at ?. I showed my paper and signed in on the registry then began walking on the trail. It went down once but the rest was steep climbs. I have seen many people out of breath as I pass them on the way. Some parts are so steep that I had to hold on to rope along the route. I imagine how did the people lived here long time ago. As I go up I can see the Machu Picchu below my view, crawl through a tunnel and finally reached at the top about one hour after the start. There are many people taking picture from the top, as well as some meditating. After a short break, I thought about going to the moon shrine but taking 4 hours total may be too much. I decided to go back down. I walked around the summit and passed by a shrine, merged with the same path where I came from and came down the trail, I met with some people, including a couple wearing University of Houston jerseys. I decided to go up at another smaller mountain called ?. At the dividing point at 9:45am, a short 15 minutes climb to the top. During ascent, I met with a guy who is travelling around South America. So we exchanged information and became friends. I guess I am doing well here.

 The view from the top of the mountain is not as good as from the Wyuapicchu, but I can see the Machu Picchu closer. Began walking back to the gate and it was just a few minutes walk. Came back to the gate, signed my name off on the sheet and began walking back to the entrance. I had a good time here. I guess I will go down to the village and do some shopping.

Sacred Rock

Entrance Gate

From the summit

 Exited from the gate and walked down to the bus stop. The line of bus this time was not long this time. I had to wait only a couple of bus before my turn. I get on the bus at 10:55am, and it reached Aguas Calientes at 11:20am. I walked uphill to the hotel, while seeing men carrying merchandise, propane tanks and other life necessity items. At the hotel, got recommendations for lunch, I tried to go to a couple of places including the Tree House but the place had a reservation so I could not get in. I walked around the town square to see what they offer, it was a quiet day under nice sunny weather.

Bus back to Agua Calientes

Back to Cuzco

Lunch

 I walked around to find the place to eat my lunch. I was told of a restaurant, but I cannot find it at the location. While I was standing there and looking around, I was approached by a couple of guys from different restaurants. They showed me their menus and tried to get me in. Longer I stand, cheaper the meals get. I took an offer of one giving me 5 sol discount. In the inside, there are a couple of customers drinking beers and sitting quietly on sunny afternoon. I had a beef fried rice and a bottle of Coca Cola. I had Coca Cola with real sugar and it tasted so good. When I finished, they tried to overcharge me so I walked to the casher and had a good conversation about the price and paid ? Sol and left. I always need to be careful on these matters.

 I walked back to the hotel and relaxed at the lobby where I chat with a lady from New Jersey. She told me that she has a boyfriend in Houston so there were a lot of topics we can cover. I informed her on several interesting locations she has not been yet, and they are going to try them out. At 2:15pm, I grabbed my bags, thanked the hotel manager and left the place. I walked toward the station under sunny sky. I crossed a bridge to the other side of the river and walked down toward the train station. There were many gift shops by the station, and I was walking around for a while to see if I find something interesting but I guess not. Since this place has limited access, I also guessed that the items I buy here maybe cheaper at Cusco. At the entrance, I get checked my passport and ticket then walked inside the building, which is shared with Inca Rail, there was a train waiting to depart and passengers were boarding. The gates are closed, and the train departed. Soon the Peru Rail came in and I saw many local people getting on to the regular car. The gate for visitor opened at 2:40pm, and I walked to the car, getting onboard by 2:50pm after taking the picture of the train.

Expedition Train

 The train left station on time. I was looking back the good and amazing memories of the visit to Machu Picchu as the train slowly moving away. My next seat passenger was a guide for Inca trail, a local Peruvian who speaks English, Spanish and native language, very cool. The train moved slow and made a stop at 3:42pm for 2 minutes to get passengers off. Passing by ? at 3:45pm And another stop at 3:58pm, the engineer needed to switch the point, at 4:00pm, 30 minutes to go.

 At 4:40pm, the train arrived at Ollantaytambo. I picked up my bag from compartment and got off from the train. I began walking toward the exit and I now need to locate the shuttle to Cusco as written in my iternarly. So I called the travel agency and being told to wait for 5 min. Soon a short guy in blue shirt showed up with a list of names including me. We followed him to a parking lot nearby where a lot of vans and buses waiting. When I saw vans, the bad memory flashed back and I was annoyed. However, I was assigned to a larger bus this time. What a relief. I guess I don’t have to worry about the speed this time. I loaded my bag to the trunk of a bus soon the bus was filled with people and left the parking at 4:55pm. The bus back to Cuzco was not so bad. It could carry about 40 people and moving at reasonable speed, unlike the way coming over here. Watched Ollantaytambo situated in a mountain as the bus passing by the central square of the town, getting on the highway at 5:10pm towards Urubamba where we passed at 5:20pm, The outside was getting darker already because of the mountains behind, the bus goes up hilly winding road at 5:30pm. The bus slowly moved toward Cusco. I was tired so I almost fell sleep a few times and managed to keep myself awake. Once back in Cusco, the bus was moving slowly in Jammed traffic toward the center of the town.

 The bus arrived at the Garicilo around 7:00pm, that's near the hotel so I stepped o ut, My bag already been taken out. Of course.

Hotel room

 From the plaza, I walked short distance on Calle Garcilaso with my backpack to Hotel Garcilaso. They could not find my reservation so I showed a copy of reservation I made online, and they honor that so I am staying here for $60 tonight. After getting a key, I dropped off my bags and other belongings in the room and relaxed. I got a map surrounding the hotel at reception so I stepped out to take care of three things. (done)

 First, laundry; one place asked for 6 Sol/kg, another at 4 Sol/kg so we have a winner. Second, money exchange; I wanted to exchange USD to Soles. There are many stores displaying “Money Exchange” at south side of the Plaza de Armas. Very much all of them shows $1=3.17 Sol, but when I tried to exchange $100 in Traveler’s Check, none of the places, including the ones says “Traveler’s Check” wanted to exchange. One place asked for 15% devaluation, that’s not acceptable for me. I think I have to learn how to live in Cusco. The last item for tonight is the dinner. I kept walking around the Plaza de Armas, a guy showed me a menu but looked expensive. When I walked by at a restaurant at a corner which had better pricing, I decided to take it. Went upstairs at 8:00pm, began my dinner with salad buffet, and I had a cuy (45 Sol), which is a guinea pig. They brought one for me for display, then cut it up for eating. It tasted like rabbit or duck, felt sorry so I did not eat the head. I finished my dinner around 8:40pm, walked back to the hotel in chilly air under dark sky. It’s going to be cold again tonight. Went to bed around 10:00pm, I set the oil heater but not sure if it is working right. (done)

2015/08/04: A Day in Cuzco

Breakfast (6:00am?)

 I woke up around 5:00am, it was still cold with the oil heater on. I guess I should have set the dial at higher. Get changed and I went downstairs for breakfast at cafeteria. They had fresh juice (Orange, Pineapple and Papayas) and fruits (Bananas, Oranges, Apples) as well as bread, ham, cheese. There was a group of people from Eastern Europe, demanding certain kind of bread although they ran out... I did not want stay in such hostile environment so I finished mine quickly and came back to my room. I spent time to write post cards, now need to take them to somewhere to buy stamps. Informed the hotel clerk that I will be checking out later, stepped out for morning walk. I have visited San Francisco, Santa Clara, San Pedro, Central Market, Sam Blas and come back to the hotel. I walked to the Plaza to see the San Francisco, then kept walking south to

 I took my laundry bag to a nearby store offering 4Sol/kg for washing at 9:00am, dropped off in exchange with a green slip, I will see if I can trust them, or buy all the clothing at Easter Island when I get there in case I never get them back. I checked out from the hotel after asked to see if they can keep my bags. I visited Museo Inka between 9:25am-10:30am. They had many exhibits covering almost 10,000 years ago. After getting out, I checked the map to assess how much places I have covered.

Sightseeing

Doubledecker bus

 Walked up a hilly road to see the Mission San Christbal, on the way, I saw a group Italians carrying a hard copy of “Lonely Planet”. I wonder how they judge the book. I wanted to know… so bad since I felt the copy the book was not accurately representing the place. At the site, I was surprised to find out that there is a carnival like events going on. You can eat meals,

 I took a road which is paved with stones and San Teresa where has Virgin Mary in South American way, Av. El Sol, Oreto, Santo Domingo, Market (Mercado), Supermarket (Super Mercado) called Orion to check out the prices of the items I buy at . and come back to the hotel.

Santa Teresa, Santa Clara, Santa Catlina, San Pedro, San Francisco, San Cristobal, Qorikancha, former Inka temple, overwritten by Spanish

 Around 1:00pm I felt hungry. I wanted to eat the corn with butter on but I cannot find a place to sell for lunch. I was thinking of spending regular 40-50 Sols so eating at central part is but just as I was walking by the plaza, I saw a burger shop like McDonald's. So without hesitation, I walked into Bembos and placed the order. This place I can only use Spanish, conversation was a bit troublesome but with smartphone, they can show me the price (18 Sols). I had Queso Tochino, which was delicious although eating American fast food in south America… People here use ketchup, mayo, hot sauce. It was good economical meal, but why they sell beers?

 While I am walking, I sometimes walk into streets where I can immediately tell this is not a place for foreign tourists, so I need to turn around in such cases. But those areas are not where I felt dangerous but actually intrigued by the energy of the people live here. I see electronics appliance store filled with big screens, washing machines, refrigerators, people's dream to own those are like of Japan or U.S. 40, 50 years ago. I see people inside looking at the products, determining which could the best ones for them.

 Market (1:45pm): Stopping by at the market again, they sell meat, vegetable, fruits, textiles, flowers, and also have area serving food and teas. I saw woman powering a sewing machine by foot, a kind of old style which no need of electricity. The sounds familiar to me and bring backs memory when my grandma and mom used to operated them.

 Walking by a train station, I was hoping to take a peek inside but there were tons of people in front and trying to get inside the building from a narrowly opened door. This tells me something about this country. I gave up taking picture of trains.

Super Market(2:00pm): Before walking out, I wanted to check out a supermarket located across from the central market called Orion. Inside looked like regular stores seen in the states, neatly organized rows with stuffed with similary looking items, detergents, snacks, drinks, alcoholic beverages,  

 While I was walking, I realized that in the streets of Cusco, there are many buses running around. They do not look like a public one, so I guess these are the balanced private competitions. If I want to use this, I guess I have to figure out how things work in here first. It’s after 2:00pm so I guess it’s time to turn around and get back to the hotel.

Armed Car

Burger at Bembos

Inside the Orion Super, Lay's Chips - Clasicas...

To Airport

 I stopped by at the laundry right before coming back to the hotel, they were saying that they have not got my laundry back yet and asked me to check with them 10 minutes before 3:00pm... Oh man. I came back to the hotel at 2:00pm, get my bag and waited for my taxi. While I wait, I checked emails and Facebook posts. When I stopped by at the laundry, they had mine back at 3:50pm, just in time for me to leave. What a day. I packed the items in hurry and get ready for the ride to the airport.

 The taxi came on time and began travelling to the airport. The driver did not speak much of English but we somehow managed to communicate in broken Spanish. I know he works 7 days a week, from 7am to 10pm. He told me about his 6 brothers and sisters. The car moved along Av El Sol then turned toward the airport near south end. I got dropped off at 3:15pm, grabbed my bag and lined up for the ticketing inside the building. With no surprise, there was a long line for the check in. I lined up and waited patiently. I was able to get the ticket and check in without a problem at 4:00pm. Since my departing from Peru would be at Lima, this time is a domestic flight. Walked up the security, get the document checked, and passed screening. The wait time to starts from 4:20pm until 6:40pm.

Laundry is back, finally...

My bag and Taxi guy

Waiting area of the airport

To Lima: LAN2066 CUZ(7:15pm) - LIM(8:45pm)

Snack

Getting off from the placne

 

2015/08/05: Arriving at Easter Island

To Santiago: LAN637 LIM(12:25am) - SCL(4:55am)

Proceeding to the gate

Sandwich and Cristal Beer

Waiting at the gate

To Easter Island: LAN841 SCL(8:05am) - IPC(12:00pm)

Breakfast

Getting off from back

 

View from the airplane exit, I can see the ocean

LAN plane at ramp.

 After the plane pulled to the parking, they opened the front door to let the passengers out, later they also opened the rear door too. This was my first time getting out from the plane from the back like an emergency… One step out, take a breath of the island, I can see the ocean at the end of the runway, yes, I am here. Using steps to come down to the ground because there is no boarding bridge in here. I walked into the terminal building around 1:30pm. While I was looking around to check out the new place, I met with a Japanese guy who is taking several weeks off from his work to travel South America without Spanish skill. I waited for my bag to come out at the baggage claim, and walked out to the exit. There were people with signs but I could not find the tour guide for a while but eventually get picked up. Received a flower as a welcome gift. (done)

 After they picked up a few more people, we are all on a van to hotels. It was just a short hop to my hotel, but I was told of a bad news that they rescheduled one of my half day trip which starts from 3:00pm instead of a day after tomorrow. I walked in at the hotel lobby at 2:00pm, signed in and got my room key. Now I have less than one hour to rest. I unpacked my items and packed Chilean currencies in my wallet and stored others in the safe. Took a nap to get as much rest as I can.

  Baggage Claim at Easter Island Airport

Hotel room I will be in for next three days

 Tour #1.

 Hanga Roa Lookout

 Woke up, and walked to the lobby. The van picked me up at 3:00pm, they picked up more people but very much all of them spoke Spanish. We drove on the road toward Orongo. Made a stop at a lookout for Hanga Roa at 3:30pm, it was windy and cloudy. I wished the day could be sunnier so the view could be better. The wind was so strong I felt cold even with a fleece. I must wear a windbreaker tomorrow…

Orongo

 The van kept going up the hill and arrived at Orongo at 3:50pm. There are some stone made houses along a hill by the cliff, and there are two small rocky islands in the ocean. The guide told us about the story of the Birdman, an event to decide which tribe to rule the island every year after the resource became scared and needed to have a kind of order in the island. In the history, there will be a man from each tribe (total of 9), swim to the island and the first one who bring back the egg intact from seabird’s nest will be the winner. From here I can take a look at another view of the former volcano. They plant vegetable and fruits to harvest. Walked around the place for a while, back to the bus and left at 4:40pm. (done)

Vinapu

 The van came back to the town area, and kept going to east side to Vinapu, driving on a road next to the airport. The ruin is located by the ocean near the east end of runway and needed to drive on unpaved road to reach it. We arrived there at 5:00pm, and there are cows in the place. We spent about 30 minutes walking around. The guide explained that this place became a ruin as the result of wars between tribes. They took the Moai facing down and without resources they cannot rebuild, I guess my first encounter with the Moai is not in a glorious manner. They had a standing stone representing human also. I saw a ship off the coast which guide told me it is from the mainland after 10 days journey. The van left and I get back to the hotel at 5:30pm. (done)

Lunch at Island

 Back in the hotel room at 5:30pm, checked items on the internet finally. Maybe I was tired, or expose to the wind with lack of protection, I got sick. I needed to eat something so I left hotel at 6:30pm on foot, since I was told that the place can be reached. It took me about 10 minutes, and found a place called Club Sandwich. I had a sandwich (6,600 Chilian Pesos) at 6:50pm, leaving there in about 30 minutes. (done)

 I was walking around the town to get familiar with the location even though I was not feeling well, I decided to walk to the main street where has fire station and post office. I also walked by ocean before coming back to the hotel, I was breathing heavy as I walk. I bought a couple of water at the hotel desk, and took medication and went to bed. I hope I feel better tomorrow. (done)

Sandwich for dinner

Post office, Open M-F 8:30-12:30/14:00-17:00, Saturday: 9:00a-12:00p

2015/08/06: Easter Island Tour Day 1

Trip Day 1

 I woke up several times over the night, fever is gone by midnight but still sick in the morning. I got up at 6:00am but rested until 8:00am then took a shower and had breakfast. They have a nice breakfast, the offer of eggs I needed to decline because I had no appetite today. Come back to my room, packed bag and for windy condition. I waited for the pick up at 9:30am by the lobby.

 Akahanga (9:50am-10:20am)

 I got picked up by a van, it picked up a few more people before began heading out, driving along the coast line to the east. First we made a stop at Akahanga, in this place, I get to see a cave, grill and the posts which ancesters used their boat flipped as a roof of shelter which was supported by sticks. They also had a toppled moai, and the base which was not completed.

 Tongariki (10:45am-11:25am)

We continue going along the east coast of the island. The van parked at 10:45am. It was still under morning sun, so the guide parked in the opposite side to avoid seeing sun on the back. Tongariki is a restored site which has about 15 moais on the base. This was the place where Tadano Crane, a Japanese construction machinery company, helped to rebuild damaged moais by tsunami in 1992. We were giving a time to walk around, looking around.

 

 Lunch, I only could eat the rice, no chicken. The guide told me about the life in the island, it is expensive to buy items from the mainland, that’s the reason I see many cooler boxes at the airport check in. People go to the mainland to buy a car, pay between $2,500-4,000 for the fleet, but also they pack everything inside the car…

 Pito Kura, and Anakena Beach.

 One more stop at Pito Kura between 2:10pm-2:30pm, by looking at it, there is only on moai fell on the ground. However, they had a stone made chicken shack, to protect them during the night, and piled rocks around a potato plant to protect from wind and also a magic stone which did not come from this island. They believe the rock is used as ballast so the boat won’t tip, and four additional stones surrounding indicating NESW.

 

 For the last stop, the driver took us to the beach at Anakena 2:55pm-3:20pm. In the island, there are only two beaches. This place had moais, I was not in shape for swimming so I passed it up. I just let the time pass here by looking at the moais, walking around, sitting under palm trees

 

 Returning to the village, the van took the road in the middle of the island back to the Hanga Roa. My impression of the island is not much trees but in this region, there were many trees, see more wild horses. I get dropped off at the hotel. Today’s 1 day tour is over and I can relax in the evening.

Chicken noodle soup (with big potato!?)

 Evening Walk at Hanga Roa, Dinner

 Back at the hotel, I relaxed until 6:00pm. I dragged my heavy body out the room and stepped out to find the Tadano crane at the port but could not find it so I kept walking around the town, checking out places. I stopped by at Inkai Restaurant for dinner just before 7:00pm. Because my body has not recovered well yet, I decided to go with Chicken Noodle soup (8,800 Chilian Pesos). Stopped by Supermarket to check the price on items around 8:00pm, chocolates are in cooler then walked back to the hotel to finish up the day. The sky was getting darker, I was getting over sick finally but still not in a good shape, walking was a bit of trouble but did not want to spend money on taxi. Back at my room, relax, took shower and going to bed around 10:00pm, tomorrow is the last day.

 

 2015/08/07: Easter Island Tour Day 2

Trip Day 2

 Horseback Ride to the highest point of the island.

 I woke up at 4:00am, still totally dark at outside, so I fell back to sleep until 8:30am. I took a quick shower then had breakfast to get ready for the day. I did not eat eggs today. While I wait for the pickup, I asked the hotel manager about the location of the Tadano crane and he walked to the neighbor who owns a garage to find out about it. Small community, I guess.

 I got picked up by a guy in a van for a half day horse ride. It was a 9 passenger van but ended up carrying 10 people, I guess this is the way of living in the island… After a quick check-in around 10:00am, I got assigned with a horse, left the property at 10:30am, kept going on the road toward Ahu Akivi. We began going up the trail. The horses were strong but don’t want to listen the rider. I tried to control but going slow, and only go fast when the guide comes up or you whip the horse. We kept going up and arrived at the top of the hill at 12:30pm. Giving a horse a break and people walked around. It was breezy but the weather was nice. I can see the island actually surrounded by ocean with my eyes. Start coming down from 12:50pm back on the trail, and dropped off the horse at Ahu Akivi around 1:45pm. The horses went back to the stable and we get picked up by a van. The driver began dropping off customers at their hotel, there was a group leaving by the port so I just followed them.

Kivi

 Lunch at Tataku Vave

 Because I am still recovering from sick so I was not in the best shape yet. However, I cannot miss fresh seafood while I am in the island. I walked to Tataku Vave, one of the restaurants told by local guide. The restaurant is located behind the port, by rocky cliff. I took a seat and watched high waves crushing under sunny windy afternoon. I had to wait for a while to get my food, but enjoyed my lunch from 2:30pm. I did not have

Hanga Piko

Lunch

 I asked the store owner how to get my U.S. Dollar exchanged, because the bank was closed by then, and he told me that the gas station also take U.S. Dollars at the same rate as at bank. So I walked up to the (only?) gas station, get money to changed.

Probably the only gas station on the island

 As I was walking up hill, a Tadano crane was coming down to the port. I watched it drove into the port area to get ready to unloading of supplies. I walked along the coast and back to the town center at 4:00pm, there seems to be something going on. I stopped by at post office to mail out cards, and stamped a proof of landing on my passport. ICome back to the hotel around 5:00pm, and get some ret before I head out for the dinner show.

 

 Dinner Show at ?

 At 7:40pm, I got picked up by a van from the restaurant which was much nicer than any others I have seen in the island but this must be a Chinese built by looking at labels inside and unfamiliar logo. The van drove unpaved road into wooded area, away from the downtown for about 10 minutes. The destination was at a property surrounded by trees. The show was getting started and I see other people have arrived already.

he First part of the show was at outdoor shelter like place with a mound in at the center. While music is played and some dances, people got their faces painted and offered a drink. While we wait for the meal to be ready, both male and female groups got simple dance lesson. When the food is prepared, they took down the mound and opened up the stone oven. After the food is brought inside the house, we followed for the dinner.

The second part, dinner started from 9:00pm, I sat with 10 others from variety of countries. A couple of them were from U.S., doing bucket list, another couple from South Africa taking a month long vacation before transferring jobs to France, I guess there are many people travelling from all over the place. If you live in a boring life, there is nothing to tell people in this kind of situation After the dinner was over, we moved to another room.

The last part from 9:40pm is the dance show. They showed us the story of the island including the arrival of king, birdman and the war. Other dances are some classical portion and modern ones. The show finished around 10:40pm, and after the performance, I get to take a picture with them. Hopped on the van to be back to the hotel. for the first time, I get to see the night of the island. There were still some people there, and certain major streets are lit up. Came back around 11:00pm, tomorrow I will leave the island.

Dinner

2015/08/08: Begining of homeward bound

Morning Walk

 Spending the morning in the Island

 I woke up at 6:00am, stretched my body and took shower. I had breakfast from 8:00am, while the sky is still dark which gives me a weird feeling. Today I had one egg. I come back to the room and packed belongings, it’s been a nice place to stay for the last few days and I am glad I decided to travel over here for the once in a lifetime event. Museum, Shopping After requesting the hotel to keep my bags until my departure, I checked out from the hotel at 9:00am and got on a taxi called by the hotel to the museum. I used the taxi for the first time, with cost of 3,000 Pesos, just in time at 9:30am for the opening but the place had its gate was closed. While I wait, I found out that the place is across from the horseback riding place and saw the same guys I met yesterday.

Rain came as I waited, good thing that I had a rain jacket on. Until 10:15am sometimes under rain, I chat with a guy from Wichita, KS. Over the talk, I learned that the museum is free when the power is out because they cannot see many exhibits.

After giving up, I walked to the downtown area with a dog. The dog ran away as another pack of dogs scared him. They must be still doing kids festival. I see a part of street blocked, and there is a market on the street. It’s kind of a nice environment which I won’t see in the U.S. much. I stopped at many stores and compared the prices on gift items. I was looking for a table cover and mats. There are maybe more than 10 stores but they all carry things alike. The prices are the same but in some places, had lower one, assuming it was bought when the dollar was weaker. I bought a few items I wanted and call it done. I stopped by at church for the picture then walked back to the hotel, coming back by 11:40am so I can get picked up at noon. I had time to check emails one last time before a van to drop me off at the airport comes.

Church

 

Breakfast

 

To Airport

 I was picked up by an SUV from the travel agency at noon. I bid farewell to the hotel owner and left. The ride to the airport was a short hop and the agent dropped me off in 10 minutes with a farewell gift of a wooden caved Moai necklace. The agent saw a bus rolling in with tourists so she rushed me in to beat a long line of wait. I made it just in time to have my bags X-rayed before the big group come in. I lined up to the ticketing counter, seeing some people carrying large cooler boxes and I know what that means; they are local people who bring food back to the island on the returning flight. When I look close, even the weights of small bags are nearly close to the limit also. They know how to live. At my turn, I gave my bag, got my ticket to Santiago where I need to switch to Copa. I took a seat at bench and watched people for a while before going to the screening.

I walked to the screening. Get my bags scanned with X-ray machine, and passing metal detector. The waiting room had rows of chairs for the people waiting for the flight. There are some souvenir stores but they look pretty pricy. I am glad I took care of it before come here. A café inside, serves both people in this side, and also people outside the secured area.

Waiting is simple but also boring since there is no wifi or entertainment. I just let the time pass by while the airplane is getting ready for the returning flight. Soon the boarding process to start.

To Santiago: LAN842 IPC(1:30pm) - SCL(8:10pm)

  Dinner?

 Get on the plane and took a seat at 2:00pm, the plane departed from the spot at 2:37pm. As the plane turned left toward the runway, the reality sinks in. My vacation is over and I have to take a long journey back to the U.S. I watched outside as the plane taxied toward the west end of the runway and turning around, taking off at 2:40pm to the east. As the plane taking off in partly cloudy sky, I can see a part of island, and a glance of old Tadano Crane. Soon land disappeared from the view and I can only see ocean water and clouds in sight. The B787 climbed to 41,000ft for cruising. Later the plane was flying at 43,000ft. Had lunch around 3:50pm I had chicken and rice. The sky was getting darker as the plane fly toward east. I think it would be night when I arrived to Santiago. At 8:14pm, descending began. 300km more to go. Turning north at 8:35pm, landed at 8:45pm, taxied to the gate. At the gate 9:30pm.

2015/08/09: Coming back to Houston

  Baggage claim, so many people and I cannot get my bag!

 Layover at Santiago

Arrived at the baggage claim at 8:45pm, I was so packed and I cannot even approach the frontline row for the conveyor. I picked up my bag with help of strangers and my little Spanish. I walked across the hallway to an elevator which leads to the third floor of the building for rechecking. When I get to the check in counter floor, I could not find COPA desk, so I asked at information desk, being told that I need to go to the counter 1. So I kept walking toward to it but the counter looks like closed. I asked a security person standing nearby, and he guided me to the end of a line of people. I am not sure what is happening so I asked a guy standing next to me and found out that the counters only opens from 11:00pm. Now I am stuck here and cannot move because of my bags. I waited nearly one hour without moving. The line kept growing as I wait. 10 minutes after 11:00pm, I still see no service, it was another 10 minutes before they showed up. I lined up in the line and get my ticket at 11:40pm. (done)

People waiting for COPA to open the check in counter

To Panama City: Copa495 SCL(12:19pm) - PTY(6:05am)

My dinner

To Houston: Copa1931 PTY(9:55am) - IAH(2:16pm)

 They setup a secondary screening by the gate so I had to go through again. The issue is that I will be in an enclosed area and cannot use bathroom once I am in. So I waited until 8:45am to line up for the screening. One issue was that they do not allow people to bring any liquid including unopened water bottle, so I had to give it up. Since I drink a lot of water during flight, I will be pretty dry when I arrive at Houston at 2:00pm. The boarding started and I took my seat at 9:25am, looking at overcast outside while thinking of homebound, it is something comfortable. The push back started at 10:10am and the plane left the gate beginning to taxi to the runway under cloudy sky. Departing at 10:20am to north from 3R, taking off in the area surrounded by jungle but soon a board view of housing developments nearby and shopping mall. Almost all the houses have red roof and I see two sections of 500m x 500m square. I am not sure how many people can live there. The plane flew over cloud cover and occasionally I see ground where is covered by trees. Getting out to the Gulf of Mexico. The plane flew over Cozumel Island and Playa del Carmen at 12:15pm in CDT. It was cloud covered but I can see the most of the island. The customs form was given at 1:00pm, about 1 hour prior to the landing. The plane kept flying over the Gulf of Mexico, began seeing oil rigs at the surface and the plane slowed down at 1:40pm CDT, approaching from the south shore, passing by High Island at 1:48pm and flew northwest toward the airport. The plane turned to west for the landing to the west at 2:02pm. The place taxied to the gate and arrived at 2:07pm.

Breakfast

United plane to Houston

Secondary check in progress

  Shoreline

I-10

  Crossing TX-59

Landed at Houston

Back to home

As soon as I get off from the plane, I hurried in hallway to the immigration although I have no connecting flight. I do not want to be behind of so many people in line. When I reached the end the long line at 2:20pm there are about 600 people. Waited for another 20 minutes to have the line in half; occasionally agent led about 50 people to the other side of the lane which is designated for the U.S. citizens to speed up the process. I was among of them in my turn. Because of the person in front of me spoke Spanish, I joked on the inspector that I came back from South America, then the rest of the process was in Spanish. Passed the immigration and walked to the baggage claim, picked up my heavy back and walked passed the customs, getting out from the doors then out of the terminal building to catch a van to the parking

The van took me to the parking lot, and I get dropped off by my car which went through waxing and cleaning while I was gone. It looks clean and smells clean, too. Still somewhat hot outside, so I started the engine and turned A/C on then drove to the exit to pay up and left at 4:00pm. I headed to Sam Houston Tollway. The traffic was not that bad, arriving back to my apartment at 6:00pm. It was a long, stressful trip in one way but also incredibly fun, and a lot of thing I leaned, and received from people


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