La Paz to Lima to New York to Kuwait to Mumbai
14.11.2007 - 23.11.2007 28 °C
Our planned American Airlines flight was set to leave La Paz for New York City, via Miami, early morning of the 14th of November. We reconfirmed the flight two days prior, just to be double sure. At 5 am we turned up ready to travel at El Alto airport. Unfortunately, there was now (another) strike on in Bolivia, and the flight was cancelled. Such things happen, but as we had a connection to catch in New York on the 16th, we expected American Airlines to get us out of Bolivia one way or another. They gave us the option of waiting three days for another flight, as all planes were fully booked till then, or to pay our own way to Lima in Peru ($300 each!), and then they could get us a flight to New York from there. No offer to put you up in a hotel or anything. This is the most appaling service I have ever heard of from an airline - they were basically leaving lots of people stranded for days in La Paz, and not doing anything to ease this wait - nothing. In the end we argued and pleaded our way into having them pay for the flight to Lima, as we had a connection and could not afford the extra $600 expense - but really, this was the least they could do!
So, we made it to Lima, and then sat down for a 13 hour wait. We got quite nervous we were never getting out of there, as we were hearing that there was also a strike in Peru, and the ground staff of certain airlines was apparently striking. In the end though, we made it onto our LAN Chile flight and headed for New York over night.
Landed in New York early in the morning of the 15th, half a day late, and then we waited for our luggage to turn up on the luggage carrier. And waited... And waited... It never did. Then we ran around the airport, spoke to the LAN rep, went to the baggage services office, spoke to the TACA rep. The two airlines were both blaming the other, and no one had a clue were our luggage was. Shit. In the end, we filed a claim with LAN, gave them a forwarding adress in Mumbai, and several contact numbers, and then went on our way.
We checked into Hotel 31, which turned out to be in a really great location for the price. Then we went out walking around New York. Seems like a really great city - has a nice buzz to it, and all sorts of different people. We had to lauch when we saw what to us is such an American thing - a hotdog and pretzel seller, and he was yelling out "Pretzels - hotdogs, pretzels - hotdogs!" in a distinct Indian accent. Great.
Being that we had such a short time in New York, we decided not to try and cram too much stuff into the day and a half. Instead, we took it easy and just walked around the central area, and got a feel for the place. We saw some of the central sights, like Macy's, Empire State Building etc.
Also, we managed to do a bit of shopping - a necessity since we literally had no clothes, toiletries or anything. Macy’s was great for this - they had a sale on in most departments, and for visitors there was an additional 11% discount off these sale prices. It was a huge store - Alan actually got blisters on his feet from the amount of walking we did in Macy’s alone.
Also in New York, we had some great pizza slices, and we had bagels for breakfast in a diner. So all in all we had a great New York experience, although very brief.
The next day, we went to the airport about five hours before our flight, to try and retrieve our bags, as we had had no word from the LAN Chile rep. We were told by a helpful girl in baggage services that American Airlines had our bags on hand in the airport. We were ecstatic, and ran over there. They did indeed have the bags listed as on hand - but only two of them were in the storage room. They seemed quite perplexed as to where the other two might be - which made us quite worried. In the end, we had to literally sprint to the other terminal, and we very nearly missed our flight. American Airlines promised to deal with the issue from here on forward, and to ship the missing bags to us in Mumbai - the girl promised to send an email to us with a reference number for the case, which she never did.
With a rather long stop in Kuwait, we eventually made it to Mumbai (Kuwait Airways was not the greatest airline - they must be undefended, because the planes were run down, the seats dirty, and the entertainment system did not work). In Mumbai, we went to the house of a friend of Alan’s dad - which was the address we had given to the airlines. They did not have space to put us up, but they send us to the house of his sister in law, who said she had space to put us up for a few days. This was a great help, as it meant we could stay much closer to the airport, and as they had internet, we could also call around on skype, rather than using phones. We stayed with Lena and her son Glenn for about five days, all the while calling all the airlines we had flown with, trying to track down our bags. Disturbingly, we were informed that the case had been closed and the bags were listed as delivered. In the end, we found a helpful guy at Mumbai airport, who works for Indian Airlines, and he managed to track down one bag.
In the meantime, we did have a good time in Mumbai - a very busy, slightly overwhelming city. It is a city that really shows the current Indian development, and there was a lot of affluence, but also still a lot of poverty, all next to each other.
After retrieving one bag, we decided to head off to Goa, and just continue to call the airlines from there, hoping to track down the last, and most important bag, containing the underwater housing for Alan’s camera.
We caught an early morning train to Goa, which took around 8 hours.
The train was a bit delayed, but by the afternoon we made it to Margao, and then caught a taxi to the village of Maina, where Alan’s auntie Philo lives.