Friday, April 22, 2016

Passport Problems in Peru

We arrived at the train station well ahead of time. Maria escorted us to the boarding gate. One needs a passport to stay in a hotel, to buy various tickets, or to board a train. We couldn't find ours. We'd packed everything we needed into our two small bags but there were no passports in sight. 

After searching our bags thoroughly, as well as Brian's travel vest, we called the hotel. Maybe in our haste we'd left them in the safe. The hotel couldn't find them.

Maria checked and told us we could board the train with alternate ID And the hotel could fax their photocopies of our passports to our Aguas Calientes hotel, and that would admit us to Machu Picchu.

We explained the larger problem. If our passports were lost or stolen, we would have to apply for emergency relief at the U.S. Embassy in Lima. It was Wednesday and we assumed we would have to get to Lima by Thursday to generate the process before the weekend.

We decided our first stop had to be the Cusco Hilton Garden Inn to have a look at our room and inside the rollaboard we had left there.

Demitrio, our driver, was returning and drove us there for US $50. Maria hitched a ride. It's about a 90-minute ride on a fairly twisty ride.

Finally we arrived. Our room had already been rented and the employees assured us they had looked through it thoroughly. We looked through our rollaboard - no passports. Maria suggested we go to the airport to try to buy a flight back to Lima. We thanked her for her kindness and assistance and said our goodbyes.

We decided to have one last look through our bags. Brianreached down to the bottom of his and felt - a passport. The second one was right next to it, both dark blue documents sitting inside the black bag and on the black base, a great hiding place, and far from one of three specific places where we habitually store them. The whole procedure of moving essentials into our two small bags had defeated us.

How stupid was that! All that overshadowed our annoyance with ourselves was our relief at finding them.

We hired Cusco Shuttle to take us back to the train station at Ollantaytambo and hope we could get seats on one of the later trains. 90 minutes and a hundred bucks (plus tip) later we were back at the station after an exciting ride in the dark with our new driver, David.

We had been advised to claim a medical emergency but that's not our style. David in Spanish and I in English explained that we had lost our passports and returned to Cusco to find them.

The Peru Rail clerk told me in fluent English that she was sorry but we had to buy new tickets because we had missed our train. What about a bus? The bus ride takes seven hours.

Brian handed over a credit card and $132 later we were ready to board the train. Our car was, by our count, less than a third full. The clerk had assigned us to backward-facing seats but moving to forward-facing seats was not an issue. We even had time to buy a basic sandwich in a tiny cafe before boarding, our first solid food of the day (not counting the Pringles we'd bought at  the HGI back in Cusco).

Brian has has already complained to Peru Rail, but we won't hold our breath waiting for a positive response.

The final indignity of the day occurred at the Aguas Calientes train station. This was a cheap train, not the tourist train we'd paid for. The train didn't park at the platform but one track over. Kathy, who can't bend her knee, had to sit down and slide down the wet and dirty steps on her  bottom before crossing her fingers and dropping the final six inches to the ground.

On the bright side, we had called the hotel about our late arrival and a young employee was awaiting us patiently in the rain to escort us to the hotel, a short and only slightly steep walk. We had arrived, tired, frustrated with our own stupidity and with Peru Rail, and ready for bed.

Still, it's only money (and how!), not illness, injury, or crime, and we were on our way to Machu Picchu after all.

And if this tale of our stupidity and Peru Rail's cupidity makes you feel better about your own less costly travel mistakes, so much the better.

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