Struggle to Escape, part three.

I settled easily into my AeroSur seat. There was a delay as airport security tried to find a passenger, some male, who needed to be Removed From the Plane for Questioning. Eventually they found the guy, and we were cleared for takeoff. I knew better than to eat their possibly-Amoeba-poisoned fool, so at 11:something at night I had my day’s first meal – the Starbucks sandwich I’d wisely purchased earlier. That swiftly done away with, and my brain satisfied by having seen Cuba down below… and I fell asleep. I awoke the next morning somewhere over Ecuador, maybe Colombia. It was impossible to tell. We landed safely in Santa Cruz.

Outside Santa Cruz from Plane An Aerial View of Bolivia Bolivia from Above

A couple of scary things about landing in Santa Cruz.

First, the AeroSur would only take me so far. In Santa Cruz I was to get back onto a LAB flight. I had no interest in flying with LAB.

Second, by landing in Santa Cruz I had to go through customs twice. Every time you go through customs you run the risk of outrageous charges and confiscated goods – anything someone wants to take home to his wife.

I was blessed. Santa Cruz was easy. They took my immigration papers and they stamped my passport – in the wrong spot, naturally. They waved me through customs without a single problem. They were all intrigued by Captain Pausert whose bright green eyes stared out of his Prison. They were particularly impressed with the embossed and brightly inked seal of the Bolivian Consulate in Houston on Pausert’s health papers. I was in Santa Cruz, standing in Bolivia, and I was free. I went straight for the LAB counter. Another half hour in line, then I walked up to the counter and pointed at my nearby stacks of luggage. They stared blankly. Then came the conversation in Spanish.

“Only one bag.”

“No, you have to take all of my bags.”

“Only one bag.”

“No, I paid for all of this luggage in Miami. This is my receipt.”

“Only one bag! And no pets.”

“NO! You take ALL of my bags AND my cat.” (The Bolivian travel agent had been very indignant that I be as loud and as mean as possible, as that’s what was necessary and normal to get through unscathed.)

“$750.”

“NO, I PAID in MIAMI.”

LAB Jerkface #2 turned and asked something of someone else. That someone asked someone. Then a woman appeared, looked at LAB Jerkface #2, and said: “It’s okay.”

LAB Jerkface #2 suddenly turned smiling and pleasant, “Thank you! Please hand me your luggage.”

and all was well.

After being cleared, I went upstairs and waited. This was a new experience, too. Well, two new experiences.

First, a Bolivian bathroom. One on the clean side of things, but buttons were in odd places.

My First Bolivian Bano - A nice one Bolivian Sinks: Press the button!

Second, the security experience. You can’t go through security and wait at your gate. No, you wait with all of the other flights and try to find a couch which isn’t packed with sleeping people. When your plane is ready to board, then you go through security and go to your gate.

I made it. I made it through security, through my gate, onto the LAB plane. The LAB plane was this old, smokey, rickety machine. It flew, though!

Inside the Ancient LAB Plane

We landed in Cochabamba. My luggage was retrieved, and again Pausert and his Official Bolivian Consulate Seal was such a distraction that customs ignored my luggage and passed me through the gate… and into my parents’ arms.

I am in Cochabamba, Bolivia.

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3 Responses to “Struggle to Escape, part three.”

  1. John I. Carney June 24, 2007 at 6:02 pm #

    I don’t know when or if you’ll see this message — I am leaving this Thursday, June 28, for a two-week mission trip in a rural area near Cochabamba. We are flying American from Nashville to Miami to La Paz but then Aerosur from La Paz to Cochabamba. I have gotten conflicting reports about how much luggage we’re allowed to take on Aerosur. A fragment of the under-construction Aerosur web site seems to say 20kg (44 pounds) of checked baggage, total, per passenger, but the travel agent who booked our trips told my travel companion that as long as we had only two bags we would be fine. Can you shed any light on this?

  2. Lorien June 24, 2007 at 8:05 pm #

    My father spoke to our Bolivian travel agent earlier this week on the subject. The current limit is approximately 70 pounds per bag for Aerosur. I will double check with him and let you know ASAP.

    My experience was unique, but not unusual. LAB is no longer active, and therefore Aerosur is much more lax. However, domestic travel is supposedly much easier when it comes to paperwork, luggage, and hassles. Flashing your luggage receipts for the American flight may well help (go figure). Also, our travel agent here in Cochabamba was adamant that if ever presented with a problem at the airport, make as grand as a fuss as you can (until they pull in the police)… it’s so common that it’s quite expected.

    We live just on the border of the city of Cochabamba and the much smaller village Tiquipaya. Please feel free to ask any other questions that you might have… if I don’t have the answer, I’ll find out whom I can ask!

    Best of wishes for your missions trip.

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