The flight consisted of fast swings from one side to another, from tilting sharply to the right to tilting sharply to the left, from moving from one geoglyph to another in order to fit them all into the short flight window, so the opportunities for recording a captivating video were limited at best.
The video contains the take off from the Maria Reiche Neuman Airport with the arid landscape surrounding the city of Nazca, aerial views of a few of the geoglyphs, namely the Astronaut, Monkey, Hummingbird, Spider, Condor, and a whole bunch of energy runways with lesser known images, concluding with the views of the mountains surrounding the geoglyph fields filmed on the return journey back to the airport.
The weather in Nazca was great, but that could be expected in the place where it only ever rains in January, February or March. The rest of the year it’s bone dry, which explains why the entire area is either desert, or rigid rock covered dry land on which basically nothing grows.
We took off, and the captain’s assistant informed us that we’ll approach each major Nazca images, from the air and the captain will tilt the plane first right, and then left, so both people sitting on the right and the left get a good view of the geoglyphs. He also informed us that the entire flight would last about 36 minutes.
The captain did exactly as we were told and took a half circle over each geoglyph with a plane tilted to the right, before doing the same with the plane tilted to the left. This was great for making sure everyone on board gets a good view of the lines, but whereas the low altitude flight in the small plane was already pretty bumpy to begin with, this fast and rapid tilting from one side to the other made for a fast onset of airsickness.
I started feeling it too, but the poor girls who were with me felt it more and quickly went from losing all enthusiasm to take pictures, to grabbing the vomit bags and dumping the contents of their stomachs into them. I felt the whole time like I was never too far from that either, but managed to hold it back with deep breathing. I felt really sorry for the girls. One especially had a very hard time coping with it, which I can imagine totally ruined the whole experience for her. It took her a while to recover even after we got off the plane.
Overall, the flight was amazing and so were the views. The lines extend over a large area, much larger than I thought, and the vastly flat parts containing the images are surrounded by towering vegetation-free hills, making the entire area spectacular to behold. It’s arid, sun fried and wind swept in the most profound ways imaginable.
I was glad I caught the last flight of the day. The sun was lower in the sky, offering a deeper dimension to the experience and a less intense head fry. I had good experience flying with Aero Paracas and would recommend the company to anyone. Their equipment is well maintained, pilots well trained and the staff professional. The flight with them was safe and enjoyable, so I ended up giving the flight crew a tip of 10 Soles.
Here’s the gallery of the images I took from the air:
After arriving in Peru’s Lima, I wanted to stay in the area of the city called Miraflores, because it’s known for being one of the safest and has numerous tourist facilities, including hostels.
I found out beforehand that a company names Airport Express Lima has regular services between the airport and Miraflores, precisely because Miraflores is popular with tourists. I however also found out that a smaller company called Quick LLama also offers transportation from the Jorge Chavez International Airport to Miraflores, and unlike the former, which costs 25 Soles, the trip with Quick Llama costs only 15 Soles.
However because Airport Express has a stronger hold on the market, it is far better advertised, so a tourist arriving in Lima will know right away where to find them. There are no indications at the airport that Quick Llama even provides that service, so one simply has to know about them in order to seek them out.
Nevertheless, both companies depart from the same parking lot, which is located behind the Costa del Sol Wyndham Hotel. To get there, walk out of the airport, and you will see the hotel right in front of you, on the opposite side of the road passing by the entrance. Walk around the hotel to find the parking lot behind it. Airport Express bus will likely already be parked in the most prominent location there, and will have a small booth set up where one can buy a ticket.
Quick Llama doesn’t have buses, but rather vans. The vans have large stickers on sides, so they can be easily identified. If there is one already waiting for passengers, it will likely be parked more in the back of the parking lot.
When I got to the parking lot, it was already 7:15 am. There was no Quick Llama vehicle, but Airport Express already had their bus waiting. I asked the staff at the booth at what time it leaves, and was told the next one leaves at 8am. Whereas I had enough time, I went back to the airport and returned to the parking lot in 15 minutes. By that time, a Quick Llama van was already there. I spoke with the driver who told me they were leaving at 7:45 (15 minutes before Airport Express), and confirmed their ticket to Miraflores indeed cost 15 Soles, which was 10 less than Airport Express.
I boarded their van and waited until it departed. There were only 3 more people in the van, so even though far from full, the van left when scheduled – precisely at 7:45.
We however did not arrive in Miraflores until 9:30am, because of Lima’s insane traffic. The jams on uncontrolled intersections were massive, and there are many uncontrolled intersections in the city. It was all about who can push themselves in the hardest. The larger the vehicle, the less crap it gave. The smaller the vehicle, the longer it took it to get anywhere.
Despite seemingly long lasting journey, the Quick Llama van got us all to Miraflores safely, and given the mad traffic situation, as fast as could be. I would use them again, and would not hesitate recommending their services to visitors arriving in Lima.
After the 32 hours on the road, of which 30 were spent on planes or airports, I finally arrived in my destination – the capital of Peru, Lima. The last leg of the journey was a grueling 12 hour non-stop flight from Madrid in Spain. The plane was full so the conditions were beyond squishy with little to find comfort in. 12 hour flights are never too joyful, but they carry you over long distances.
I arrived at the Jorge Chávez International Airport at 4:50am local time. It was still dark outside, so I decided to stick around the safety of the airport in the city I do not know until after sunrise.
My goal was to get to the Miraflores area of the city with one of the bus operators that cover the Airport-Miraflores route, and whereas I saw the most popular of them – Airport Express Lima – doesn’t begin to operate for the day until 7am, it only affirmed me in the resolution to stay put until said time.
The food court was open and stuffed full of people, but there was only one table in the entire airport with power plugs for charging batteries. I had to wait until someone was done charging their phone before I could plug in my laptop. The airport’s wifi is free only for 30 minutes, but luckily I had the means to mask my computer’s MAC address so I was able to cheat the limitation.
Either way, I was in Peru and ready for my next adventure.
One of the more disturbing villains in World War II spy movies is the image of the Nazi Gestapo agent. He moves through the train clad in a black leather trench coat demanding “papers, papers, you have papers?” Today’s air traveler passing through the terminal’s security checkpoint encounters the unsmiling TSA Agent who also asks: “papers, can I see your papers please?” Black clothed Customs and Border Patrol agents (CBP) are close by to take custody of fugitives, illegal aliens or potential terrorists. We know where airport and air travel security took us, but what will it become in the future?
I had a very interesting conversation with a man who works as a compliance officer for a company providing security services to international airlines at George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH) in Houston, Texas. Let me share with you what an expert in the field of private security thinks the future of airport security and air travel holds for us. Needless to say, much of the analysis provided focuses on the United States in particular, but this could very easily be the trend that the rest of the world will adopt:
Air Travel: A Synonym to Jail Bait
Ten years ago most airport security protocols were voluntary. If you didn’t want to submit to them you could choose not to fly. Refusing a security scan today can result in temporary arrest and serious fines. TSA Security Agents have replaced private security companies at the checkpoints. Metal detectors have been replaced by full body scanners. And as if that wasn’t enough – the requirements of airport security have now been extended to bus, rail and marine terminals.
Future travelers will simply walk through security portals hoping the unsmiling security officer doesn’t arrest them on the spot. It’s a dark world that awaits travelers based on increasing use of technology; a widening range of security threats; and a government more than willing to trade individual rights for national security. The trends are clear and the direction they are taking looks pretty bleak.
Airport Security of the Near Future
You can expect to see the transportation security net tighten in the next few years. New technology is constantly appearing as are new threats to national security. Transportation hubs are the choke points where these threats can be removed from the system. Two new advances in technology can be expected in the next four years (by 2015). Facial recognition software will be added to terminal security cameras. This will pull more fugitives and “no fly list” suspects out of the system before they reach the checkpoints. Manual operation of full body scanners will be taken over by computer algorithms due to privacy concerns. This means that most, if not all passengers will be subjected to full body scanners. You can also expect to see more use of psychological profiling. The TSA already has agents trained to spot potential problem travelers based on these profiles. Those techniques will be refined and their use expanded.
You can expect the TSA (Transportation Security Administration) to take an increased role as a sister agency to the CBP (Customs and Border Patrol) rather than the secondary role they now play. In effect, the TSA will become a sort of “internal border patrol.” Oddly enough, the Federal Government is now looking to push transportation security duties, and their costs, downward to state, local and private entities. An increasing share of the day to day workload will be performed by private contractors.
Airport Security of the Next Few Decades
By 2021, the security net will tighten even further. Standardized ID cards tied to more sophisticated government computers will permit better tracking, and clearance, of travelers. Links between government computers will make those checks much more detailed. You say you are flying from Pittsburgh to Houston? Those traffic tickets in LA will finally check up with you. Make sure your child support payments are up to date too! Automated check-in systems combined with less obtrusive scanning will also make the traveler feel less like a bug under a microscope. Improved scanner technology will finally allow airlines to meet the requirement of 100% inspection of baggage and air cargo.
By 2031, the security net will have spread wider. A national ID card as well as the scanners to read those cards at a distance will have been implemented. Fears of a worldwide pandemic will result in new scanners that screen for medical data as well as hidden weapons. Travelers will receive automated medical screening they most likely could not afford on their regular medical plans. This can lead to some interesting results and business possibilities:
“Good morning madam, just back from your honeymoon? Our scanners detected it was everything you hoped for. Congratulations, you’re pregnant! For a small fee we can give you a copy of the printout. Our premium service can even tell you the sex of your first child!”
The downside to the widening net will be increased arrest powers granted to private security contractors. This is a trend already well under way today. It should see its heights when private security officers are required to make “citizens arrests” of anyone violating Federal security rules.
The greatest challenge in 2031 will be integrating America’s new territories into the system. The problems of our porous southern border; combined with the collapse of the Mexican government to the drug cartels; will have lead to the Second Mexican American War. The CBP, TSA and private contractors will have to set up shops as the military pulls out. So many threats and so many challenges will await transportation security in our future 51st state.
Airport Security of the Future – Conclusion
I’m hoping for MagLev trains transportation to replace air travel soon. Unfortunately, this fast, environmentally friendly method of transportation would long have been used if it didn’t threaten the larger than life lifestyle of oil rig operators with pockets so full of cash, they can afford to lobby anyone into keeping us dependent on gasoline powered travel. Still, no matter what the future of transport holds for us, the next few decades will make it more and more frustrating as the security screening tightens and starts getting under everyone’s skin. The threat of risking a fine or jail time each time you decide to fly will be one of the main concerns. And as the airport security gets more sophisticated and starts collecting data about you without you even knowing, then perhaps the time will come when people turn to nature and give long distance travel a temporary pass.
The very first local I encountered upon my arrival in Cambodia stole my pen because it had a laser pointer on it and he decided he liked it. It was the only pen I had readily available on me so when he said something was missing on my arrival card, I pulled it out of my camera bag and filled the missing information in. He then took the pen out of my hand and took the card along with my passport to add his notes, signature, a stamp or whatever it is they are supposed to do with those cards on it. He then went to get something else done by standing up from his desk and walking up to the opposite counter and when he came back, the pen was nowhere to be seen. I asked if I could have my pen back yet he insisted he gave it to me previously. Needless to say, this was the last time I have seen my pen.
I had only been in Cambodia for two minutes, and this was the very first Cambodian I had to deal with and I already got my pen stolen and was lied to straight into my face. He was the perfect reflection of what awaits a visitor inside the country. From the moment you’re in until the moment you’re out, there will always be a plentitude of locals looking for the ways to scam you out of your money or possessions.
Because the Cambodian government took measures to prevent scamming by anyone other than their befriended individuals, immigration people at certain points of entry (such as the Siem Reap or Phnom Penh airports) can no longer directly request bribes from foreigners who’d just arrived. That doesn’t however mean that they will miss out on other opportunities to enrich themselves at your expense.
Similarly, many overland points of entry are still major bribery hubs so if you fly in to Cambodia and continue on with your travels overland like I did, then you will be subjected to scam from the very first person you encounter to the very last (and virtually everyone in between). Similar open requests for bribes at overland border crossing will await you when entering and exiting Laos (on both Cambodian and Lao sides), but from my experience, this is not practised by Thai or Vietnamese immigration officials.
When I went I went to Thailand, scamming ended with the very last Cambodian I had to deal with. It goes without saying that he DID insist on a bribe but it was a breath of fresh air to come to the Thai side and be processed without any scam attempt. It works similarly when entering Cambodia from Thailand whereas Thai officials would process you without requests for bribes, but as soon as you come over to the Cambodian booth and start dealing with Cambodians, it gets to be a whole new story.
Vietnam doesn’t offer visa on arrival (or visa free entry) when entering overland from Cambodia (October 2009) so you have to apply for it in advance with the Vietnamese Embassy in Phnom Penh (at least if you’re a bearer of a Canadian passport) but as is the case with Thailand, open requests for bribes will end with the last Cambodian you end up having to deal with.
Tuk Tuks represent the primary means of transportation for tourists visiting Cambodia. A Tuk Tuk is supposed to be a three wheeler, but the Cambodian version of it is a semi-enclosed trailer that’s rigged behind a motorcycle – often a moped. Tuk Tuk riding is inexpensive and widely available all over the place. It will likely be the most used, if not solely used means of transportation for vast majority of tourists visiting Cambodia.
I have made a reservation to stay at Two Dragons for a week after arrival to Cambodia and part of the deal was to provide free transport for me from the airport to the guesthouse. Most guesthouses and low to mid range hotels will offer free transport from the airport and this transport is basically always provided by Tuk Tuks. Unless you are staying in a high end hotel with rooms ranging in three digit numbers per night, in which case you will get a ride in a taxi (aka an actual car).
While Tuk Tuks are omnipresent, Taxis are virtually invisible in Cambodia. After a few weeks of living here I have not seen one, but I know they do exist. Upscale establishment offer taxi transportation for their patrons, but as average tourist, you will not see a single one.
My First Ride in Tuk Tuk
After I have gone through Cambodian immigration and got my Visa on Arrival I walked out of the Siem Reap International Airport and straight into the hands of vulture like locals. It was puring cats and dogs outside and it was dark so Tuk Tuk drivers were all over every tourist who stepped outside with offers to take care of their transport. I opened the door and got swarmed by money hungry Cambodians who are on an endless mission to squeeze as much out of every tourist as possible. People of Cambodia are impoverished so there are hardly any hard feelings, but as a savvy traveller who knows the drill, I respectfully ignored every single one of them. I did imagine ranks of unsavvy tourists walking out behind me – all vulnerable and lost in a new country. Many have surely fall victims to the schemes of these Tuk Tuk drivers who know every single trick which works on a tourist and utilize it without remorse.
I knew I had my ride arranged so for me it was only a question of ploughing through the crowds of money hungry locals and watching out for a paerson standing out there somewhere holding a sign with my name. He was all the way in the back and up to the last minute I had people breathing down my neck to get me take a ride with them. Not only would they want to overcharge a tourist for a ride to town, but they’d also want to take the tourist to a guesthouse or a hotel which pays them the highest commission (if you ask a Tuk Tuk driver to get you to the best place, they will only and solely take you to the place that pays them the most in commission fees for each paying customer. Never otherwise).
Riding Tuk Tuk in the Rain
Once I have tracked down the Tuk Tuk driver holding a sign with my name, I told him I was Mark and he ran to get his Tuk Tuk and park it by the side of the road where I was standing as it was still under the roof. Sky was truly pissing that rain down without any shame. My driver put on the helmet and a raincoat, hopped on his moped and pulled over by me. I sat inside the trailer which is not fully enclosed so the seat was partially wet and rain was pounding me from both sides, I sat my main bag on the wetter seat opposite of me and held my camera bag on my lap. We took off and rode through the dark. I was actually a lucky one being within that semi-enclosed trailed. Even though I still got rained on from the sides, I just thought of poor driver who was riding that Tuk Tuk unprotected, facing the rain form the seat of his motorcycle.
The ride from the airport to the guesthouse wasn’t long. About 10 minutes or so, suggesting that the airport is not far from Siem Reap at all. Tuk Tuks don’t ride too fast. It’s a bloody moped that can go at max maybe 40 or 50 km/h plus it has a trailer to haul so I doubt the speed was any higher than that.
By the time we made it to the Two Dragons Guesthouse, it was already past 11pm local time. The guesthouse was quiet, but I was expected. A girl who was waiting for me at the reception took me to my room and turned on the air-conditioning as it was hot. I must have looked tired as hell (and I was) because she said no more. She just looked at me and left to leave me alone so I can get some rest. There was always tomorrow to go through formalities.
Even though pick up from the airport was to be provided for free by Two Dragons guesthouse as I have made a reservation to stay at the establishment for a week, I gave my Tuk Tuk driver a mighty tip of $1. It may sound like a laughable amount to pay to someone for hassle of sitting on a motorcycle in heavy rain to drive my fat ass to a guesthouse, but it is not so in Cambodia. Mighty $1 bill can take care of one local family for a day.
My first Tuk Tuk ride and an initiation to Cambodia with proper down pour of rain was successfully concluded. Let the adventure begin.
So finally it’s here. I’m done all the prep work and I’m only one night away from departing on my dream trip. As little kid would say – only one more sleep before vacation. I felt really excited. I’ve been waiting for this moment and now it’s here. I called Lisa to make sure I could still catch a ride with her to the airport. In order to have plan B in case Lisa doesn’t work out, I’ve looked up the schedule of Sky Shuttle service to Edmonton International Airport. The closest stop one of the shuttles has to my place was at Ramada Hotel on Kingsway Avenue in Edmonton. It’s the beginning of their University Route – one of three different routes Sky Shuttle covers in Edmonton. The cost was only $20 and they run once every 45 minutes starting in very early hours (only once per hour on Saturdays). This was a solid back up as taking a taxi cab from where I live in NW Edmonton all the way down to YEG (Edmonton International Airport) would be way too costly. It’s about an hour long drive.
After a few phone calls (Lisa is ridiculously difficult to get a hold of – she doesn’t have a cell phone, just a home line), Lisa picked up and assured me she’d be at my place at 7.30am (I beat her to ensuring she’s here). It was her day off so it worked out perfect. She also said on the phone that a friend of her would come along, but her friend was 17!
I went for a walk to Westmount Mall to get myself a couple of organic peaches (I only buy organic) and a chocolate bar as that would be the last food I’d eat in Edmonton. I got back and went on a computer to do one of the most important pre-departure steps – send email to my supervisor at work. Despite countless connection problems with my wireless internet, I got that email sent eventually and made an attempt to sleep. It was already after midnight but my body felt wide awake.
I lay in bed for about an hour and seeing that sleep is nowhere near, I turned the laptop back on. After spending another hour messing around on the internet, I made one more desperate attempt at sleeping which failed again so I got back on the computer for the third time. It was already after 4am when I eventually felt a bit of tiredness and crashed.
I don’t think it was the excitement of upcoming travel that kept me awake. I don’t know what exactly it was. I have never been big sleeper and I think it was the fear of not getting enough sleep prior to departure that made my mind believe it was going to happen so it did happen.
When my phone rang at 7am, I could not get myself to get up. I assumed that Lisa would not show up exactly at 7.30 anyway, so I spent another 15 minutes in bed trying to struggle through my losing battle of getting up. I eventually did, but was too slow getting going and then bang – Lisa knocked on my window. She in fact did make it to my place precisely at 7.30. Damn.