After about five days on the road, and everything working out according to plan, I arrived at the gate of the Jorge Chávez International Airport at Lima. That’s when the low-budget nature of the trip caught up to me. Because the Spanish government had apparently balked in the past about travelers coming from Peru with very little in their pockets, the airline company with which I was booked refused to fly me, saying that I had to have a return or onward flight just in case I was told that I had insufficient funds to enter the country.
This was a disappointing surprise. Apparently the EU had joined a number of island states in requiring an onward flight of visitors, even with a landward border and plenty of landward travel options by which to leave the country. It seemed early in the development of these sorts of rules, as apparently an onward flight within the Shengen Zone would work, but not an onward flight within the country I was flying to, Spain. The U.S. passport didn’t buy any reassurances – I suppose after 2008, the document has lost a lot of good will.
As far as my stay in Peru was concerned, I still had more than 12 weeks to play with on my current visa. I wasn’t in crisis there. I was in crisis in that I had a property owner waiting for me to get to Hungary and help sell a farm. After that, I had a wife and child waiting for me in Belarus to bring them out of that country to me. Waiting in Peru was not very conducive to either of these plans.
But with little other choice, I sat and waited. And rested – the cold I picked up in the last days of Valparaiso finally caught up with me in Callao. I hardly saw much of Peru, just the area near the airport. So, to keep up the informative nature of this trek to leave South America and return to my family, I present to you…
Ben’s guide to the neighborhood of Lima’s airport
The first half kilometer between the Jorge Chávez International Airport and Avenida Japon is mostly industrial. There is a sort of industrial park that sits across the street from the front entrance. It’s there that most people go to buy tickets and handle cash and trade transactions. The customs house is there as well.
Pay Purix, the backpacker’s hostel closest to the airport, sits about 1.5 kilometers from the front entrance at the edge of a residential area. There are several commercial establishments further from the airport (including one restaurant that the hostel recommends), and further along on Japon away from Avenida Tomas Valle (the road into the airport) is a hypermarket complex run by South American big box stores Tottus and Sodimac. Sodimac was a reassuring site, having been the place (along with another big box store called Easy) where you get construction tools and gear – this was a valuable resource during the mediagua building part of the trip. However, it apparently wasn’t as well stocked as the Viña del Mar Sodimac – there wasn’t any filtered water bottles like what you could find in Chile.
But fighting a cold, I knew I needed to gear up my food toward liquids, so after getting a 3-liter bottle of Inca Kola (a sort of banana-flavored Mountain Dew), I also bought a bunch of soups, and some road food (nuts, etc.) in case I felt ambitious about checking out Cerro de Pasco. (As it turned out, not on this trip.) At the cashout register, I also bought some quail eggs, apparently a well-loved delicacy in Peru. They were on sale, so I figured this was my chance to try them. Supposedly they are smoother than a regular egg. I must have been boiling them wrong – they just seemed like miniature chicken eggs.
Western Union exists near the Customs House off Tomas Valle. However, the better exchange places are closer to Tottus/Sodimac. Some outlet stores sit next to the terminal on the Pay Purix side of that building. These appear to be higher priced stores, catering to the tourists who can’t be bothered to travel too far from the front entrance of the airport.
A taxi will cost about 6 soles to get to the airport. A bus will take you there for about 50 Peruvian cents. The difference is like that between 2 USD and 20 cents. Not a lot, unless you are trying to conserve on trips to the money exchange.
Well, time to pack and leave. And yes, even with money now, I’m going to need all the well-wishes I can get from this point forward…