Well, that's it. After six long and incredible months, I'm done with South America. Today was my final (half of a) day on this continent, and I spent it most unspectacularly, performing a convoluted three-legged flight that got me out of here: São Paulo to Lima; Lima to San Salvador; and San Salvador to New York. After sleeping in São Paulo airport last night (got in about an hour or two of shut-eye — wasn't that bad), my first flight took off at 6:30am. My third flight didn't get in to New York until 11:30pm — over 16 hours later. Wasn't the quickest or the most convenient way to fly north: but the airline — TACA Int'l, the same guys that I flew from Quito to Santiago with, about 6 weeks ago — was quite good; and the ticket (which I bought before I left Sydney) was pretty cheap.
I must say, I was pretty lucky with the flights. All of them were a solid 4½ hours: long enough for them to serve a proper meal every time (so yes, they gave me breakfast, lunch and dinner!), and to play a movie, and for you to get a bit of shut-eye; but not so long that you go insane, and your legs develop a chronic inertia disorder. All of them were on time (and the gaps between flights weren't too big). And miraculously, my luggage made it all the way through to New York, without any hassles whatsoever!
I had a bit of a large gap between flights 1 and 2, which meant that I had about 3 hours to kill in Lima's Jorge Chavez Int'l airport. Ahh, lovely Lima: my least favourite city in South America (I'm not alone in saying this) — despite Peru being my most favourite country; my first and last stop on this continent; and a city that I've now ended up going through, no less than four times on this trip! What is it with Lima, anyway? You just can't get away from the damn place. If only all international via-Peru flights went through Cusco instead, that would be so much better :P.
There weren't any terribly good movies on during the flights, and I wasn't sitting next to any terrible memorable people. I slept a fair bit on each flight — I was pretty buggered, after my night in the airport — and otherwise, I just did a lot of reading.
I can't say that I saw much of San Salvador, the one and only place in Central America that I've visited on this trip. I spent all of 20 minutes in the city's tiny int'l airport, which is basically just a transit point for virtually all TACA flights (since TACA was founded, and is still based, in El Salvador). I don't think any other airlines fly in here much — TACA pretty much has the place to itself. It's quite a nice airport: clearly they get a lot of Americans transiting through here, and I guess that gives the airport (and the teeny country) a fair bit of income — which is a good thing, if you ask me.
When we were landing and taking off at San Salvador airport, I got a very nice aerial view of El Salvador, which is a truly miniscule country, and which is about as authentic, old-fashioned Banana Republic as a place can get. It's naught but a pinprick on the world map; it's dirt poor; and I can only assume that it's corrupt as all hell. And when I looked out the window onto its countryside, I saw an incredibly dense, incredibly lush green patchwork of little farms, forests, plantations, rivers, and dirt roads. All of which resides under the hot, humid, overcast Caribbean sky that graces this slim but gorgeous part of the world. It's not the most expansive place, but it does look quite beautiful: I'll have to return some day, and check it out properly.
When I finally landed in New York, I was buggered as all hell, and I can't honestly say that I was happy to be back in the USA, either. Seriously — these days, who is? What with the security paranoia, the crazy rednecks, and the same lack-of-culture American culture as ever, I don't see what the attraction is. If I didn't have a reason to be here, then let me assure you, I'd be someplace else. Anyway, getting through customs and immigration wasn't too bad — there was a long queue, but once I reached the front of it, all went smoothly. Just the usual. Good evening, sir. Can I ask what the purpose of your visit is, sir. How long will you be staying in the United States, sir. Left index finger here, please. Right index finger, please. Look at the camera please, sir. Thankyou sir, enjoy your stay. For once, I didn't even have to take my shoes off! Maybe it's a bit easier when you're entering at 12:30am on a Saturday night — not exactly a time when anyone wants things to drag on for too long.