Friday, 3 December 2010

... Patagonia: Could It Be That It's Just An Illusion?

Believe it or not, the world's southernmost international airport is fit to receive planes as large as a 747. That statement however is more for my reassurance after I experienced a departure from Aeropuerto Internacional de Ushuaia - Malvinas Argentinas.

The airport is very tiny but modern looking with lots of wood decor and it is very clean. Food options for myself were extremely limited and I knew that wasn't likely to improve on the airplane either. One might say a diet of ham & cheese in between some kind of flour-based carbohydrate has been the bane of my existence during this itchy feet experience. Seeing as I never travel thinking about food options above more than a "Meh. I'll make it work" this really wasn't that big of a deal to me if any. Check-in was a breeze although there is a departure tax to pay even for domestic flights. There is a duty free shop which is always handy for pre-travel depongification and last minute shopping. Customs was even easier than check-in and quite possibly my fastest for getting through to date! There are a considerable number of airports on my hit list that could learn from this! See! Bigger seldom means better.

The Aerolineas Argentinas Captain didn't waste any time in pushing back once everyone was seated. The plane had arrived a little late but they unloaded and reloaded that bird like someone had lit a fire under the airport personnel. May be someone had purely for warmth?? The engines roared to life and the plane began picking up speed along the runway... yet a few seconds after this fact I nervously exclaimed "I hope this plane is going to start moving a damn sight faster than it currently is!" Something definitely wasn't quite right. And then, as if the Captain handbrake-turned it, the plane slowed and did a 180 degree turn. I just happened to be looking out of the window at that time to see the end of the runway and its drop off into the sea. I guess someone decided I needed one final Ushuaia-borne adrenaline rush or perhaps my oblivion-falling waterfall was at the end of it?

Take off for real then followed and we were up in the air quickly. The air version of the Beagle Channel certainly appeared to exist for the first few minutes whilst we made a couple of tight banked turns and our way through the clouds over the mountains. I am not used to sitting so far forward in a plane i.e row 3, I'm usually a back-of-the-bus rider and so things really sound quite different. Really. Different.

You know those moments you have where you can hear youself speak just as your brain realises it hadn't yet given you permission to do so? What do you mean "no?" Someone really should tell me that I should stop watching Mayday and then I perhaps won't blurt out such utter crap as "why is that engine making a funny noise?" in a mad moment of nerve-induced insanity because I'm convinced for a picosecond that it has stopped. If I'm looking to shift blame in a bid to reduce embaressment, boy-racer pilot's antics earlier hadn't really helped either. I quickly came to my senses though being a lover of all things aviation and enjoyed the view of  Argentina's coastline during the 3 hour flight to Buenos Aires, whilst I picked off the ham & cheese on my sandwich. Thanks for the bread and water AR1892 but I'm LEAVING the former penal colony!

We were making our descent into Ezeiza International when I heard "¿Hay un doctor a bordo?" over the PA system. If I were to list the top 5 things learned on this trip, this statement has to be one of them. I looked to my left and simply stated "I believe they're looking for you". I'm sure my travel companion appreciated being volun-told her medical services so soon after the last incident, even more so when I decided not to go with my gut and asked the bloke behind for confirmation. Thankfully it turned out to be just the pasty clammy looking bloke I'd seen at the back of the plane not long earlier when I'd quickly ran to the washroom. He was probably suffering from what I was likely now in the latter stages of after suffering through the worst of it the previous night with hot n' cold sweats & fever- ridden sleep. Some 48 hour flu-type thing certainly seemed to have been doing the rounds.

Twenty-three minutes after landing a Religious text-whilst-driving cab driver was speeding and weaving towards the city centre fasting than the speed of light. He just happened to have me as one of his passengers for the ride. More than once I looked over at my fellow traveller to see a matching pair of widened eyes and a hand trying to appear like it didn't have a death grip on the door. Comic relief came in a variety of forms during that cab ride that's for sure. Topping the list has to be at the toll booth as you leave the airport. As we pulled up the occupant was totally rocking out to Imagination's "Just An Illusion". Of course I was able to join right in... lyrically that is. I didn't want to steal his thunder after all. This was closely followed by the driver complaining about the way other people drove and finally, when he did the sign of the cross as we drove past a place of worship I sat there thinking "that's rich mate!"

I'm not quite sure how I made downtown Buenos Aires in one piece but I did and it is my belief I left my aura dancing along to Sad FM at that toll booth, not through choice but sheer G-force.

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