On Landing at the Chavez Airport in Lima, Peru

I have just returned from three weeks in Peru and Ecuador.  I thought I might blog a bit about that trip.  It took me to Machu Picchu, Lake Titicaca, and finally to Ecuador and the Galapagoes Islands.  As usual, I kept a journal of the trip.  Here are some bits and pieces.

October 18, 2011

I am getting too old for this, getting up at 6:30am and flying 4,000 miles to some place that Nancy says I must see before I die, even if it kills me. So I've flown the 4,000 miles and I've drunk the equivalent of a bottle of wine en route to make it seem like fun and now it is 11pm and Nancy and I, along with several of our companions, are driving out of the Jorge Chavez International Airport in the Callao District of Lima, Peru to our hotel.

I don't know. Maybe it's because I'm dead tired and find it easier to be sour than sweet but when Augusto, the man who picked us up at the airport, tells us that the airport was named for a Peruvian pilot named Jorge Chavez who flew across the Alps in 51 minutes starting in Ried-Brig, Switzerland and crash landing in Domodossola, Italy only to suffer major injuries that caused him to die from loss of blood four days later, I wonder why the Peruvians think of him as a Peruvian. He was born in Paris, France of Peruvian parents. He never set foot in Peru.

Every country needs its heroes, I suppose, even if they have to manufacture them.  Hell, Virgil manufactured Aeneas for Rome.

The Peruvians have taken Chavez to their collective bosoms. Not only is the airport named after him, but there is a statue of him in downtown Lima. The Peruvian Air Force repatriated his ashes where they are now at rest at the Las Palmas Flight School. His last words, according to a friend, were "Higher. Always higher." Well, I suppose those are pretty good last words, but they are not as good as William Barton Rogers' last words. Rogers died giving a commencement speech at MIT in 1882. (This was five years before Chavez was born.) He collapsed on stage in the middle of his speech. Just before he expired, he said, "Bituminous coal." 

While we are on the subject of last words, I have to recall my favorite. They were supposed to have been uttered by Oscar Wilde just before he died. He was in a cheap hotel room in Paris where he went after his release from Reading Gaol in 1897. He probably didn’t say them but I’m sure that, had he been able, he would have endorsed them. Just before he died he gestured toward the wallpaper and whispered to his friend Ross, “One of us has to go.”