by Angie Gebhart and Dr. Dave Turoff
Day 1: August 16-17, 2012
Not even customs hassles and mismatching flight schedules could dampen our excitement to begin the 2012 HSVMA-RAVS trip to Peru. Although U.S. group members David Turoff, Lydia Martin, Jennie Lane, Jon Cheetham, Tom Parker, Brooks Varnum, and Angie Gebhart made efforts to arrive in-country on the same flight for ease of customs clearance, same-time arrivals were not possible in all cases for this trip and resulted in much airport juggling. Whereas the first two participants to land in Lima surfaced through customs without trouble, the second wave of people faced three pieces of missing luggage and a looming connecting flight to Cusco. Two of these pieces of baggage were luckily found after some questioning and searching, but we have yet to see the last bag, which luckily contained no veterinary supplies. The need to spread supplies out throughout several boxes (in case one is lost, our work can still continue) can cause considerable more time in inspections, especially when one box is missing. Additionally, American airlines refused to let one of the mexican pharmacy online boxes fly, stating a summer embargo on boxes. The box had to be re-packed into a canvas bag, but luckily it was a durable solar power generator.
Our close contacts with VIDA DIGNA, a privately-owned Peru animal rescue, Maria Teresa Guzzinatti, and the cooperation of the veterinarian at the SENASA agriculture section of customs allowed us to pass through customs even though one bag was still missing (although it did not contain any worrisome medicines). This bag should be mailed to our hostel after its arrival in Lima late toni
ght. Something that saved us time and frustration was that customs officials did not seem as concerned about inspecting veterinary or farrier instruments, just the regulated medications. The ability to share about our dentistry tools with the genuinely curious customs agent, and conversations between new colleagues about their past international veterinary experiences reminded us of the reasons we love doing what we do, even during logistical roadblocks.
Once the last person arrived from a severely delayed flight, all of our “equipaje” was safely checked on the flight to Cusco. Although most of us slept on this flight after 24-36 hours of no sleep, the views of the Andes Mountains upon landing were enough to
keep us up and looking out the windows with the thrill of “being there.” We met Inez, and Michele, from Yanapana Peru who are our wonderful guides/facilitators for the week and nursed a bit of altitude sickness. We met two of the Peruvian veterinarians, Carlos Montoya and Veronica Orozco, and vet students, including one from Bolivia. Boxes of supplies from last year’s inventory were reclaimed from storage and we re-organized our mixture of boxes and luggage to be ready to go out to the village of Lucre tomorrow, about a 40 minute drive from Cusco.
We were treated to a nice dinner in the cool mountain air tonight and walked around the market, churches, and plazas in town. There was a processional through the streets honoring St. Francis, patron saint of the animals, and we were happy to take pictures and appreciate this fitting first night in Cusco!