I left Lima on a 12:35 AM flight bound for Mexico City. I arrived at the airport 3.25 hours ahead because AeroMexico doesn’t have online check-in, and I heard from Tom the check in lines were around the corner and out the door on his LAN flight home. Besides, I have learned I am a “special needs” customer. Heaven bless the Latin American community: when they travel, they bring all kinds of presents and other stuff with them, in big fat suitcases! Finally, a place where my luggage doesn’t stand out at all. Maybe it’s silly to be frequently discussing this topic, but it’s figured rather heavily into my travel reality. More than I ever thought. I have to arrive early because of the luggage discussion, or because of something else. There is almost always some kind of problem or hassle either with the airline, airport security, you name it. Latin America has been pretty decent, and it’s really the only exception. It seems like the folks in Latin America don’t think I am a criminal right off the bat because I have one heavy bag and a backpack full of camera equipment. Everyone else is either suspicious or irritated, I guess because I am different. I have come to dread check-in over the last few weeks.
To make matters worse, I had to buy another suitcase, a small carry-on baby blue number. I did some shopping in Lima and my bag was already overweight so I wanted to ship some stuff home. But DHL wanted over $400 to ship seven kilograms. I weigh more than that and I don’t cost over $400 one way to air-freight home – plus I get cabin pressure and free sodas with the trip! Fortunately, nobody at AeroMexico seemed to mind my baggage, and cheerfully assigned me an excellent couple of seats for my two flights. With a couple of qualifications, Aeromexico is a good airline. One, they should never, ever serve “lemon-flavored cracker peanuts” to any one again. Horrid. Secondly, their seat headrests suck. Worst seats of the whole RTW voyage, sadly. Maybe they were made for crash test dummies. One’s head is forced forward way too far for any natural posture. So, sleeping in their seats is impossible unless you have an empty seat next to you, and can slouch down below the headrest. Even then, it’s not easy. I was pretty tired on arrival at 6:30 in Mexico City. But, I had plans, so I had to try to stay awake.
I went to clear immigration and await my luggage. We were in the new terminal of the Mexico City airport, which was pretty slick. Luggage carts cost either $1 or 10 pesos. Where on earth is *anyone* going to get local currency or dollars after an international flight, stuck between immigration and customs, I ask you? I have never seen this in an international arrival area before. What if I were a little old lady and needed a cart? It turned out that I had gotten a dollar in change from paying the Lima airport tax, so I was lucky, but most people didn’t get a cart. I used it as a chair while I waited for the baggage. And waited, and waited. It was about 40 minutes before the bags arrived at the turnstile (we could see them outside through the massive glass walls of the airport), but they were not sent in. Instead, about 30 at a time were lined up on the belt by the baggage guys. Then a couple of Federales and a German Shepherd inspected the luggage. The dog walked on top of all the bags, several times, sniffing each one as he went past, over and over. I watched him sniffing my bags and double checking them. After the police were satisfied, they would send those 30 bags in on the belt, and then stop the belt, and move on to unloading the next 30. Our plane had more than 30 pieces of luggage, so this took some time. I should also mention that as soon as each plane landed at its gate, a couple of big Chevy trucks driven by more Federales immediately arrived to supervise the baggage handling crew in their work. Security is pretty tight at the airport, especially perhaps for flights coming in from South America. I hope nobody had any coca tea!
Mexico City, here I come.