You will laugh about this later

sunrise over the Andes

sunrise over the Andes

Those words were supposed to comfort me, but I just wanted to pull the duvet tightly around me, snuggle deep into the wonderful bed and never surface again.

My adventure had begun.  I had booked my coach to Heathrow and I was looking forward to my treat of a night at the Thistle Hotel where I had planned to enjoy a leisurely evening meal with a couple of glasses of wine, check out their roof terrace which overlooks the runway and Terminal 5 and experience their new Pod transfer system.

Instead of a fluttering of anticipation and excitement I began to feel quite queasy on the coach and before I even reached Heathrow, I was in the throes of a fully fledged vomiting bug.  Somebody up there must have been looking out for me because at least I had one of the better coaches with a decent clean toilet.  The bus deposited me at Terminal 5 and feeling dizzy and more light-headed by the minute I struggled with my backpack and my rucksack and staggered off to find to the Pod, the state-of-the-art transport system to my hotel.

the 'station'

the ‘station’

clean lines

clean lines

I have to admit that when the hotel had phoned me to enquire whether I had heard of the Pod I thought that it was an expensive sounding gimmick, but boy, was I glad of it now.  At the futuristic little station tucked away in Terminal 5 consoles rather than ticket officers waited, their screens glowing invitingly in the muted light, lined up alongside little docking stations behind a glass screen.  As I followed the very simple instructions on the screen an unmanned electric cart trundled into view.   Parking up next to the waiting business man standing at the next station I watched as he stepped in.  My Pod was not far behind and I gratefully collapsed onto the wide seat, whilst a soothing recorded voice welcomed me to the experience and advised me to remain seated. Smoothly and almost silently we whizzed along a little roadway, up and down ramps and bridges, crossing over main roads packed with cars.  The journey took just five minutes and I very quickly found myself in the car park of the Thistle.  Check in was luckily speedy and hassle free, no doubt hastened by my very odd grey complexion as I just needed to get to my room and collapse in a heap.

So no nice meal or drink on the terrace.  I couldn’t even take advantage of the tea and coffee making facilities in the room, but I did come very close to experiencing the on-call doctor.   Luckily by four in the morning my symptoms had eased and I felt more confident about taking two consecutive flights and travelling for close on twenty four hours.

the pod

the pod

As I checked out, I was able to experience the Pod transfer system a little better.  The little vehicles reminded me of some of the better bubble lifts at ski resorts, clean and nippy with stacks of room inside for up to four passengers and their bags.  The station was just a short walk from the hotel reception and whilst marginally more expensive that the Heathrow Hotel Shuttle Bus, it was certainly worth the extra.  I still come out in a cold sweat when I think how I was intending to catch the shuttle bus and I am not at all sure that I would have managed that journey.

Anyhow the day picked up and the adventure truly got under way.

The British Airways flight to Miami airport passed smoothly despite the American man to my left pointedly refusing to be drawn into any sort of conversation at all but he insisted on spilling over into my seat.  The British man on my right did chat away but he also kept falling asleep and snuggling in against my shoulder.

Customs at Miami was more interesting.  I had to go out through customs and then re-enter.  It was very busy and at the head of my queue there were two men joking with each other about who was to go first.  Well, the customs officer wasn’t having any nonsense at all and bounced out of his booth, got right into their faces and bawled at them, insisting that they tell him what was so funny. He really was quite menacing and was tapping his belt as if itching for them to give him an excuse for a good beating or a shooting. Torn between being nosy and trying to shrink down behind the man in front I really wished that I could have taken a photograph but that was a definite no-no.  After my turn of being photographed and finger printed I automatically drifted forward to lean on the officer’s desk – and was promptly ordered in a very loud voice and in no uncertain terms to stand right back IMMEDIATELY.  To lull me into a false sense of security, the official allowed the corners of his mouth to twitch in what was possibly a tiny smile, and when I responded with the same he yelled at me again – he was certainly revelling in his power and also managed to snigger at my passport photo too, but he did ‘ma’am’ me and wish me a good onward flight.

over Peru

over Peru

There then followed an extremely boring seven hour wait at Miami for my next flight which would take me down to Lima in Peru.  I have to admit to getting a little nervous at this stage, worrying about the imminent taxi ride and simply locating my hostel.  A couple of airplanes later (they kept breaking) and three gate changes we boarded two hours late but had another uneventful five and a half hour flight to Lima.  I managed to doze for most of it but woke to a magnificent sunrise whilst below the plane, the sharp jagged peaks of the Andes pierced the fluffy magicalness of the clouds, running all along the horizon on the left as far as the eye could see.  I was momentarily confused as the captain announced that landing was imminent and the clouds were still far below us, but all became clear as we suddenly descended and landed in thick fog know as garua.  Carmen, the dinky little Peruvian to my right explained that for much of the year. Lima is rather cruelly cloaked in a grey mist, not like any normal mist but one which bathes the city in a luminescent ghostly pale glow.  It lifts briefly for a few short months during the summer and is due to do so any day now and when it does the people of Lima will rejoice

My adventure did not have the auspicious start that I had hoped and planned for but I will certainly not forget it and Sis was right – I am in the southern hemisphere,  I am in South America and I can laugh about it now

Disclaimer:  I received complimentary tickets for the Pod by the Thistle Hotel: but this did not, in any way influence my comments in this article, which are my own, personal views.

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