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Travels with Mango the Chihuahua

The Quest

I have always felt relaxed about travelling, the good experiences outweighing by far any difficult times. The thrill of being on the move was never daunting, even after a high-speed head-on collision suffered in Guatemala and being placed against a wall with an automatic assault rifle pointing at me in the Golden Triangle between Thailand and Burma.   Despite such experiences, I have always looked forward to the starting day when I would head out once again to explore new unknown places. That was indeed up until now……. for in my latest journey, the first since the COVID pandemic, I would be travelling to Europe accompanied by Mango the Chihuahua.

The Deal

Mango, affectionately known as Manguito is my daughter’s little “doggie” who had been left in my generous care when she moved from Peru back to England some months past.  She was unable to take Manguito with her, as his travelling papers were not ready in time. In a moment of extreme weakness, I promised to accompany Manguito to his new home  in London. It is debateable whether this offer stemmed from me being a dedicated father or was in fact, the effect of a loose tongue after a few glasses of Mezcal. Whatever the reason, my word was given and to my dismay, there was no turning back.

Following an act of doggie terrorism in my home office.

The Preparation

Jorge, the vet had experience with preparing such precious little creatures for intercontinental expeditions, but would all go well? Had all the regulations been followed? Had they been changed? Or would we end up in some international limbo, an innocent citizen with a refugee Chihuahua. An added complication was that existing regulations state that “doggies” cannot enter directly into the UK, meaning we would have to fly into Amsterdam and then proceed by ferry from Hook of Holland to Harwich to reach our destination. Mango, as a senior citizen of 11 years, would have to travel with me in the KLM passenger cabin…..agghhhhhhh.  This indeed would be a journey of hell, far worse than any previous travel experience.

Me-COVID certificate, Mango- Rabies certificate.

The Departure

The day of travel approached.  I prepared my luggage… a carry-on for my few things, a 23-kilo case full of my daughter’s things,  Manguito’s carry bag and a small knapsack including all of Mango’s personal items…. bowls for water and food, medicine, treats, doggie cologne, blanket, stuffed toy dog and multi-coloured cloth bone, absorbent sheets, doggie nappies, paper towels, plastic bags and so, felt adequately prepared for any disaster. I was ready to go……  ready for the poo, ready for the pee, ready for aeroplane dog haters, ready for tired air hostesses and grumpy customs and immigration officials from Peru, Holland or United Kingdom  who might stand in our way during this epic quest. I called for the taxi, put Mango’s carry bag around my neck and stepped out into the world to meet my doom.

Manguito at Jorge Chavez Airport, Lima.

Survival

My heart beat at double speed at the check-in counter as the documents were scrutinised. “And here are Mango’s papers!” I stuttered, giving over the documents. The counter lady read them slowly, turned them over, and then  saying “Un momento Senor” walked off. I took a deep breath as she discussed the papers with her supervisor. She returned, but now wanted to inspect Mango’s carry bag.  “There has to be room for him to turn around.” she explained.  I opened the zip top. I had every confidence Mango could do this, if he wanted do. However, in an act of defiance he remained standing up, refused to lay down or even sit down, preferring to glare at the check-in lady instead. I tried to push him down and gave him some ‘encouraging’ words but he would not budge. The check-in lady, unimpressed, went back to the supervisor who came to assess the situation.   “Which breed? he asked. “Chihuahua” I replied, and thankfully…… that was enough. Mango’s chihuahua-ness had saved the day despite his total lack of cooperation.  Mango continued standing with his head poking out of the carry bag, but I now had the boarding pass, and we were on our way.

In The Air

We had overcome the first hurdle. Now to board the plane! Luckily the very gentle lady who was to sit next to me liked dogs, so another problem vanished into thin air. However, the hostess did insist the carry bag had to be placed below the seat in front. I am 1m 83 high, and even without doggies, find it difficult finding space for my legs in aeroplanes. However, a swap from the window seat to the aisle seat enabled me to stand up and stretch my legs with greater ease. The hours passed slowly, and I decided that it was at last time for a nappy change (for Manguito, not me). I took him into the toilet and put down the changing shelf for babies. Babies, have no problem with this as they just lay there on their back. For Mango however, with his fragile legs and little stick-out claws, the surface was just like an ice-rink. I needed two hands to change the nappy and another two hands to stop Mango flipping upside down, which he did various times. Finally, the objective was achieved, and we silently passed the sleeping passengers to take our seat. A little water and a little food, not enough to warrant a massive future bowel movement, and Manguito settled down (unlike his carer) for a peaceful night’s sleep.

 

On route Lima-Amsterdam…… dog tired!

Making Friends

We passed from the plane to the Schiphol Immigration queue. As we Brits are no longer EU members, I suffered for the first time, thanks to Boris, the long, tiresome non-EU line. There were about two hundred of us and only two Immigration agents serving our needs. The line snaked around to and froUsually, the members of such queues remain in silence, passport in hand, during the wait. However, with Mango’s little head sticking out of his carry bag, he became the personality of the whole line. All two hundred passengers knew of Manguito, the Peruvian Chihuahua who was travelling to England to join his adult “Mummy”. As the queue snaked backwards and forwards, passengers would say “Hi Mango!” or “Are you feeling hot Mango?’ Nobody seemed to take the same interest in me, but they were right about the heat. And as a result, with the weight of Mango around my neck, I was sweating profusely. Sweat was dripping down my face and I had to get one of Mango’s paper towels to wipe the moisture away. This is something one really doesn’t need when approaching European Immigration and coming from a cocaine producing country such as Peru.  I approached the immigration officer with trepidation, awaiting his cross examination. I handed him my passport as well as Mango’s papers. “Hello”, he said cheerfully, looking at Mango, not me. He took a fifteen second glance at the doggie papers, and then with a “Welcome to Holland, Mango!”  stamped my passport…….. and we were on our way.

Helping Hands

Now I had to figure out how to get to the Hook of Holland. By theory I knew, but in practice, such things can be challenging when arriving in a new country. However, first I would sit down and give Mango some food and drink. On a neighbouring bench, I could see a lady, a worker from the airport watching the now super-star dog. She asked a few questions about where we had come from and where we were going. As I got ready to walk in the vague direction of the railway station, she asked me if she could help with the luggage. My instinct from Lima life told me to be wary of such a kind offer. Politely I told her that I could manage, but she was very pleasantly persuasive in her offer to help. She took hold of my carry-on and led me to the station. There, she manoeuvred me through the virtual purchase of the train ticket and then helped me buy a Metro pass from a Kiosk for the connecting Metro train we needed to catch.

Dutch Metro travel card….. thanks for all the help!

She led us to the platform, waited for a few minutes for the train to arrive and bade us farewell. I will never know if it was my addictive charm, or Mango’s sweet face that was responsible for this invaluable assistance. Or was it just that there are amazing people around in this world who are always willing to lend a hand.

Crossing the North Sea

The Harwich ferry was enormous, and after checking in we passed through immigration and headed to the reception on the 9th floor of the ship.

My cabin was to be on the 10th floor. I had just paid extra for a cabin where Mango could stay with me during the night rather than being all alone in one of the kennels provided. Mango had endured a gruelling trip and I owed this treat for him in appreciation of his good vibes, his bravery and the fact he hadn’t bitten anyone.

I left Manguito in the cabin and set off to explore. The ninth floor was like a mini shopping mall full of restaurants, coffee places, bars and shops. I preferred the open deck to enjoy the view. The ship sailed at 10.00 pm and as we sailed out of Hook of Holland, I observed the most perfect sunset.

Leaving Hook of Holland

At 4.30 am, I woke up from my light sleep and decided to take Mango to the small deck area reserved for doggies and their bodily instincts. To my surprise it was already getting light and at 5.00 I witnessed a perfect sunrise, the first time in my life I have seen the sun disappear into the sea only to rise again for a new exiting day.  

Approaching Harwich

England at Last

The forty-five foot passengers disembarked at 6.30 pm. I had been fearful of the wrath of Immigration officials looking for errors in the doggie paperwork. However, the immigration lady was like the friendly auntie who might well offer you a cup of tea. She wished us well with a big smile and we walked off towards the train station, I realized that all was well, and that my fears had been unfounded. We had done it! We were in England! We took a short train ride to the nearest mainline station, a sleepy little station that has hardly changed at all over many, many years. What nostalgia! The architecture, the brickwork,the fancy woodwork around the roofing area, the window engraved with the words “Ladies Waiting Room”. England, we are here again!

The illusion of the past ended abruptly when the super, modern train arrived and whisked us all off to London’s Liverpool Street Station. And when we arrived, there at the entrance to the platform …… was Natalie, my daughter. It was one of those slow-motion moments …. they see each other and Manguito falls into Natalie’s loving arms. The two are now united and my work is done!

Arriving at Liverpool Street Station. (Photo – Natalie)
The reunion of kindred spirits.
On the tube….soon be home, Manguito!

And so, they lived happily ever after! 😁

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5 responses to “Travels with Mango the Chihuahua”

  1. This little is so sweet . He looks happy. Our doggy was not permitted to to board the plane.. So so for her.

    Like

    1. Mango has gone backwards and forwards between Peru and England various times. He is used to it. It was me who was freaking out.. haha

      Like

  2. Enjoyed your story, Geoff. Have a good stay

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Good to hear from you, Lyn. Mango and Natalie send their regards!

      Like

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