The day arrived to head home. I can’t wait to see family and friends, plus give Benji my dog a big hug. I will be travelling for close to 30 hours, 20 of it flying, to arrive 8am Christmas day.
I was a bit concerned that I had not had a message confirming my pick up time from the hotel. Rachel, my awesome travel agent, had already re-confirmed with them the day I arrived that I needed the pick up, but I had not heard from the company itself. I had tried ringing the number for Gateway Travel in Ushuaia a number of times and got an answer phone in Spanish. This morning a man answered the phone twice, but also only spoke Spanish.
I decided not to risk not being picked up so I asked the man at the hotel reception if he could book me transport to the airport that would take a bike box. We had the following conversation:
“It will not fit in a taxi” he said
“So who can we get instead?” I asked
“I do not know” he said
“So who could you ask?” I asked
“I do not know” he said
“There must be someone, you have had over 30 cyclists here, and a number have gone to the airport already” I said
*unhelpful shrug* was all I got in return.
At this point I realized he could speak Spanish, so asked him to ring Gateway Travel for me which he did. He told they have already confirmed, and I replied that I have not had a message. “It is on the guest notice board” he said, which he points to in a corner of the lobby. I had walked past this numerous times, but as it was back against a wall I had not seen it. But that’s ok, I was just relieved to have the message now, and it says “10 am pick up from the hotel”.
At 9:50 am I was outside the hotel with my box and bag, and just after 10 a lady came up to me, she was the pick up person. She informed me she was just waiting for the car to arrive.
“Will it fit my bike box?” I ask.
“No” she said!
“I have to take it with me” I say. She says they did not know about the box. I say I am sure when the transport was booked over 6 months ago this would have been made clear by my travel agent. “So what do we do now? I have a plane to catch?”. She said she would ring her boss.
Then two big taxi trucks arrived, having been booked that morning by one of the TDA staff for the riders who had not booked anything. Their bikes and bags were all loaded. At this stage the “boss” has yet to answer his phone, and the taxi trucks are about to go. By now I am agitated and in tears, as I have lost any confidence with this agency and don’t want to miss my plane. I could imagine the next step would be the agency person saying: “I can not get hold of my boss”, me replying: “So what do we do now?” and then the agency person saying “I do not know”!!! So I decided to go with the bird in the hand and threw my bike box and bag onto the taxi truck, before it left me with possibly no options.
I got to the airport in good time and there was basically no queue to check in.
The plane boarded on time and I started to relax! Yay on my way home 😀😀.
Sadly we just sat on the tarmac, and after an hour disembarked. Then another 49 minutes we were told the plane was now cancelled due to mechanical issue 😬😬 So we had to get our luggage and go back to the check in counter. Of course bike boxes were the last thing to unload, and while I waited in the queue for nearly two hours I was thinking all the flights will be gone until the new year by the time I get to the counter 😂😂😂😂😂.
Thankfully the Lan staff were excellent and had someone rebooking long distance travellers from the moment the plane was cancelled. When I got to the counter my flights were booked, I just needed to confirm them, and I would now arrive home 24 hours later than planned.
My new flights were 9pm to Buenos Aires, stay overnight (what remained of it) and then fly to Santiago at 6pm, then Santiago to Auckland leaving at Mid night. An 11 hour flight getting into Auckland at 5:15am Boxing Day, and then into Wellington at 8:05am. I did have the option of staying tonight in Ushuaia and then flying to Buenos Aires tomorrow and getting a better sleep, but I did not want to risk the chance of getting stuck in Ushuaia due to bad weather tomorrow.
The next step was Lan sent me to a hotel to wait, which was nice as the airport was pretty small. Lunch was provided at the hotel, and wifi but it took forever to connect. It was pretty sad telling my children I was not going to be home for Christmas 😞 but better to have a plane with problems stay on the ground! I like to think that there were people who could not get flights home on standby who would now be able to.
We were given a taxi transfer chit and I asked when I got to the hotel for a return trip to be organized. The man at reception said come back at 6:30 and we will arrange then. Of course this man was not there at 6:30, and the young receptionist informed me I had no booking!
“I know that” I said “please can you arrange it for me?”
Off she went and came back 10 minutes later and confirmed “I had no booking”!!! Trying not to weep with frustration I said “please just ring me a taxi to the airport”. Luckily at this point Mark, (Chef from TDA) who also delayed on the same flight as me, intervened and spoke directly to the transfer people and arranged for us to be picked up.
Back to the airport, huge check in line, we were late boarding onto the plane but we finally took off! While I was waiting to board my cell phone died! It had got wet nearly a week ago, and has been threatening to die ever since. So of course why not now !!! 😬😬😬.
I arrived in Buenos Aires at 12:30 am, then had to get the bag and bike box, find the counter that deals with stranded Lan customers, get transport, and then to the hotel. It was 2:30 am by the time I got to my room.