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  • The flight from Lima was uneventful. As far as diving through an Andean valley to line up for the runway could be considered so. I've had wilder rides flying into Calgary in Chinook season, so I really couldn't complain. Lisa had just flown out of the Amazon to meet me in Lima, so had become accustomed to small aircraft and the acrobatics required to land on short runways. She yawned.

    Once we collected our backpacks and passed through the obligatory drug-dog-sniffing station, we were free to find a taxi. There must have been hundreds of taxi drivers at the airport exit, all yelling names of hotels, gesturing wildly to take our bags. I just kept repeating "Hostal Santo Domingo?" until someone repeated it back. A few repetitions and "Si-si!"s later we decided on a price then tossed our backpacks in the trunk.

    It was immediately apparent that Peruvian drivers; a) don't have pollution controls on their cars and b) use their horns as turn signals. The reek of exhaust was overpowering; even more so in the thin Andean air. The cacophony of horns was something you immediately learned to appreciate, realizing that the alternative would be collision and delay.

    I'd taken a few precautions before we'd left. The Consular reports were pretty scary, but It made us vigilant and prepared for trouble, which we apparently had just found.

    I had my trusty GPS tracking us as we headed into Cuzco proper and a map of the city for reference. I was pleased to see that we were heading up the very road our hotel was on at first. Until the driver drove right by it, turning up the hill by Quorikancha, which our hotel faced. We started yelling "Alto! Alto!" from the back seat but the driver just kept on going, oblivious. We were starting to panic as our hotel faded in the rear-view mirrors, but soon traffic slowed and we drove nearby a Police car. In a panic, I stuck my torso out the window and started yelling "Policia! Policia!" while waving my arms frantically. That finally got the driver to stop, which was a good thing because I was planning to unsheathe my knife when I saw the Police car. I hate to think what trouble that might have caused us.

    We finally got the driver to understand that we wanted out NOW. Holding onto the door in case they took off with our backpacks, I waited until Lisa unloaded them from the trunk then paid the driver what we had agreed on. The Policia never did come over and we would soon discover why the driver would not have wanted that to happen. When we walked back down the hill to our Hostal, the clerk told us that most taxis get kickbacks from the hotels that they dump their passengers at. Our driver was probably taking us to his patron hotel, which was more than likely on the road named Santa Domingo. In the coming days in Cuzco I would come to believe that it was an honest mistake. Despite the consular reports and warnings of pick-pockets, thieves and beggars, we would find no trouble at all in this wonderful city.

    It was certainly a dramatic way to begin our trip though, and the first of many stories.
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