“Life takes us by surprise and orders us to move toward the unknown -even when we don’t want to and when we think we don’t need to.” — Paolo Coelho
I was not happy to be leaving, that’s no surprise. I knew I loved Lima; Cusco was an unknown. My friends wouldn’t be there. The weather forecast predicted ten days of rain. After my experience traveling to Punta Sal a few weeks ago, I expected the act of traveling there to result in loss of limbs or, at best, years off my life. I was not a happy camper.
I arrived at the airport in Lima early on Sunday morning without having checked in online (because TACA’s website was conveniently under maintenance), groggy and bleary-eyed from crying in the taxi. The representative at the front desk spent five minutes turning his gaze from my face, to my passport, to my printed itinerary, to the computer screen in front of him. He consulted with several colleagues. Eventually he said in an embarrassed tone, “Ehh, miss… there are two Meghan Johnsons on this flight. Are you traveling together?”
“No. It’s a very popular name.” I wasn’t sure whether to act surprised or not. Did Expedia screw something up? Had some international espionage agent stolen my identity? Was I about to be tackled by security?
After a few more minutes of fiddling around, the agent handed me a boarding pass and my passport. “Here you are Miss Johnson, gate 13, boarding at 10:10 for First Class.”
I thanked him and walked away. As I passed Starbucks, the clouds in my mind parted and I looked down at my boarding pass. First Class?
At the waiting area in front of my gate, I sat for no more than five minutes before I heard the call I’d been expecting on the loudspeaker for Meghan Johnson to approach the counter. Another woman and I rose from our seats and walked forward to the desk. There I met a wide-eyed and confused Meghan Johnson from Tennessee on her way to see Macchu Picchu. We laughed about the coincidence. The airline agents asked us if we were sure we weren’t together once more, then printed new passes for each of us. I was still in First Class, and the other Meghan insisted that she had never purchased a First Class ticket and there was no mistake in the first place. I was just the beneficiary of some good luck and a kind TACA agent.
Extra leg room is not necessary for people who are five feet tall, so the flight felt more like lounging in my living room. I ate with actual silverware and got all the orange juice I could drink. I felt like Macaulay Culkin buying groceries and eating ice cream in his parents’ bed in Home Alone, pretending to be a grown up. I leaned over the man next to me, who looked a bit more accustomed to be in Clase Ejecutiva, and snapped pictures of the Andes mountains with a goofy grin on my face.
By the time I arrived in Cusco, I was content. Yes, I’ve been wheezing walking up short flights of stairs and dizzy when I stand up, but such is life at 11,200 feet above sea level. The sky feels low enough to touch; I’m convinced I could reach up and pluck a cotton ball cloud out of the sky if I tried. Cusco has a fairy tale quality I didn’t expect. The colors are unnaturally vivid and there are bug-eyed llamas on every corner.
I recently discussed with a friend how beauty is a good remedy for nostalgia, or at least a distraction from it. Cusco has provided me with heaps of beauty and brightness to explore, and for that I am thankful.
For now, here are my first glimpses of the city: