I should have known at that point that I was in for an adventure. Thankfully Seamus , who I had talked into delivering me to the airport , bustled in bright and cheery fifteen minutes later. The beer I'd consumed the previous evening was a mistake and that's the great thing about hindsight - It's always too late to do anything about it. Still groggy from lack of sleep and the after-effects of too much alcohol I climbed out of bed.
"You're either mad or brave." The all too familiar phrase reared its head once again. I'd heard this statement from many people since I announced nearly five months ago that I planned to travel. Well that's not strictly true. When I announce that I was going to travel everyone said, 'That's nice', or, 'where are you planning to go'. I quickly mentioned Peru and that got a quizzical look, and that I was travelling alone. Then they said, "You're either mad or brave".
In the global scope of things I had not travelled. The problem with the ‘global scale' is that it is far too big I had travelled a little in Europe, with my last trip causing me to fracture my ankle. It still ached now, nearly nine-months after that fateful trip. I hoped that this journey would not end so dramatically.
As I shuffled half-heartedly to the bathroom (toothbrush in hand) I had to admit that the first category felt just fine. Bravery is not one of those attributes that even rate in my top ten. At any rate it took longer to get ready than I had anticipated. I gulped down a mug of hot tea that Seamus had made; a mistake. Tea should never be rushed. With dusk still thinking about arriving, I dashed about making sure that I had not forgotten anything.
Seamus was already waiting in the car, and I am sure he would have tooted the horn, except for the hour. Certain that I had forgotten something I joined him. I was already into the two-hour check-in period. My frantic requests for Seamus to drive faster where met with an assured calmness that I would arrive in plenty of time.
He was right. With less than an hour and a half remaining I arrived at Heathrow Terminal 4. Seamus saw me as far as the passport control. We said our farewells and I exclaimed in my best Arnie voice, "I'll be back!" It too was early for humour and it didn't get the response that I had hoped for. I hate goodbyes so I walked, without looking back, into the unknown.
The unknown lasted thirty-seconds as I discovered the shiny and laboratory clean expanse of the Duty Free shopping area. The neon strip lights reflected off the Black and White marble flooring. I wondered if I had taking a wrong turn. I glanced round expecting to be ushered from here. All was quiet, and so I stepped with a squeak onto the polished floor.
My first mission: to arm myself with enough film for the duration of my trip. Eighteen rolls later, I sought my next objective. Breakfast. Unfortunately I could only find a McDonalds. So breakfast was out. I was still hungry and loath as I was a McDonalds seemed strangely fitting. My final meal in the UK was a Sausage and Egg McMuffin. There is no justice in the World. As I handed over my money an unremarkable female voice calmly announced that flight 174 at gate 22 was boarding. This seemed strangely familiar, and I checked my boarding ticket.
"Oh, no" I muttered to myself. Well actually it was a lot more colourful than that, but there is only so much you can expect to get printed. I scooped up my purchases and lumbered towards the gate. Stuffing my McMuffin in the first available pocket; I waved my boarding pass at the stewardess at the desk, who politely suggested that I hurry.
From my window seat I glanced out at the Friday morning dawn. There was nothing to see. As the sky lightened it revealed grey overcast clouds. In great British tradition the weather was seeing me off in true style - it started to rain. Bloody typical. I sat back and waited. My first destination was Amsterdam.
Amsterdam is flat, really flat. This was more than evident as we approached the airport. We bumped down on the runway and I gave it a landing factor of 4. From previous flights I had created a scale of appreciation for landings with 1 indicating that the pilot was trying to leave tracks in the runway, through to 10 where you hardly noticed that the plane had landed.
It was well past nine in the morning when I stepped from the plane. Amsterdam is one hour away by plane, and an hour ahead of Greenwich-mean-time. In my planning for this trip I had discovered that you could not get a single flight from London to Lima, Peru. It was either via Amsterdam or Buenos Aires, Argentina. Strangely Amsterdam won. I found my flight and the half-full departure lounge.
One side of it was a glass wall, the view dominated by our plane. I was disappointed to see that it wasn't a 747, just it's little brother the 737. There was an hour to wait before they let us in the plane and it seemed the same again before we finally got airborne. I watched as the Dutch countryside dwindled to patches of green and brown as the plane sought its cruising altitude. Monitors dotted around the plane helpfully gave statistics on airspeed, altitude, time into the journey and the time to our destination, a mere eleven hours away. Eleven hours. I had a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach.
Eleven hours. What can your do for eleven hours when you are at 35,000 feet: talk, read, sleep, watch movies, and drink as much as possible. I did all of these, though not in any particular order. In the seat next to me sat Dianne who as it turned out was planning on travelling round Peru with her boyfriend Robert.
Unfortunately he was seated in the central column about two rows forward. She explained that the tour operator had got the seating arrangements wrong, and that the airline was not going to do anything about it. She was friendly and we chatted on and off for much of the flight. A third of the way through the flight they showed the movie Twister, it has got great special effects, later they showed Babe and at some point through this I slept.