Monday, March 23, 2009

Antarctica Journal 3.1-3.09

The Preamble

On Sunday, March 1st, I received an automated phone call from American, telling me that my direct flight on Monday had been cancelled and that I was booked on a connecting flight on Tuesday instead. In a panic, I called American and spoke to one agent who told me that the Monday flight to BA from Miami was full and that she couldn’t guarantee a seat for me, but that she could get me on a flight to Miami. I insisted on speaking with a supervisor and I’d either misunderstood or the first agent hadn’t been clear. I had a seat, but no assignment. I lost about an hour of my last minute packing time and ended up staying up until about 12:30 trying to get everything done. I absolutely did not pack everything I needed and absolutely did pack things I did not need!

On My Way

Freak-out day – everything was delayed, moving slowly, bugging me. Up at 5, got my cat ready for my absence, threw some last minute items in the bags (though not all that I’d meant to bring) and went to work. B&H opened at 9, so I hit the post office at 9, then B&H. When my sock dampened, then got soaked through, I realized that my right shoe had a hole straight through to my foot and I added buying a new pair of shoes to my morning errands ($10 at K-Mart). I guess the heavy snow that had cancelled my flight did me some good, after all. I couldn’t get out of work on time, because of problems with voice-mail, but my boss agreed to fix it for me so I could leave. The LIRR train stopped outside of Jamaica for over 10 minutes. The AirTrain waited at Jamiaca for over 10 minutes. The priority line at the airport was held up by stupid passengers, including someone paying cash for a first class ticket, who found out that he didn’t have enough, so he ran off to get some more money. The agent just waited, while we stood there seething.

I got through security with just enough time to get to my gate after general boarding had been called, but, luckily, American has priority boarding, so I was settled in my seat pretty quickly. For no reason. We were delayed waiting for baggage to be loaded (why wait until after departure time to start loading the luggage?) and for 10 passengers to connect from a Milan flight. I asked if my connecting flight would be held for me and was told there was no guarantee. When we were finally ready to take off, we were held again for deicing (not that I minded that delay, but it wouldn’t have been necessary if we’d taken off on time).

Once in the air, we learned that there was no in-flight entertainment. So, not only was I stuck on a connecting flight, but I wasn’t going to get the food and movies that I would have had on my original flight. Grrr About an hour out of Miami, the flight attendant I’d spoken with earlier came by to tell me he’d checked on my flight and it wasn’t until 8:30 and I’d definitely make it. (In my journal, I wrote that I was going to send a commendation to American for him. I did.)

We got to Miami late and then got stuck on the tarmac waiting for a plane to get out of the way. I had a pass for the Admiral’s Club, so I hurried through the very long concourses. I was able to send an e-mail to my friend, Daniel, to tell him not to pick me up at the airport. I filled a water bottle with lemon water and got 2 bottles of water with my drink vouchers, so I was set for the hotel in BA. I hurried to the plane and got settled again. My seatmate guessed that I was 22, which made my day! Unfortunately for him, he was on my flight and, carrying through with the theme for my day, the first mate found a problem and the mechanics had to be called out, delaying the flight for over half an hour for a 5-minute repair.

I Have Arrived!

I slept okay on the plane. Lots of tossing and turning, but no insomnia. Over breakfast, my seatmate gave me tips about where to go and not to go in BA. After clearing passport control and collecting my bag, I found the Marathon Tours group and boarded the bus to town. Thom Gilligan, the tour company owner and founder of the Antarctica Marathon, greeted us with a tale of taxi-cab counterfeit-pesos-for-change-of-American-dollars scams and then Laura, the local guide, talked about various other pickpocket and taxi scams. Not an encouraging welcome to BA, especially because it concluded with the news that we would not be checking in immediately, but would have to leave our bags at the hotel and amuse ourselves until 3 pm when our rooms would be ready. I had been looking forward to a nice, hot shower and getting out of my NY-appropriate sweater. It’s over 60 degrees warmer here.

The drive into town was interesting. We moved through suburbs, then tall Soviet-like apartment buildings. As we got closer to the center of town, little gems started appearing among the gray blocks - beautiful mansions with gorgeous architectural details – worn and not particularly well-cared for. Even closer to the center, the ratio inverted and the ugly block buildings gradually disappeared and were replaced by big modern buildings. Big is a relative term, here. Most of the buildings are less than 20 stories tall.

When I checked in, I was happy to learn that my room was ready and that Heather, with whom I’d been communicating on Facebook about the race, was my roommate. There was also a lovely bag of chocolates from Daniel and a SIM card, which, unfortunately, I couldn’t use because my phone isn’t unlocked. After showering and getting settled in the room, I wandered out for a walk. I found a little shop with sandwiches and headed back to the hotel to eat. I called Daniel from a pay phone and he told me he’d pick me up in half an hour. Heather was in the room so we chatted while I ate.

Daniel was right on time and he took me on a driving tour of BA, highlighting areas where he’d trained to run Cruce de los Andes (100km trail run across the Andes). On our way back into town, we passed the big polo field and there was a free match on, so we stopped and watched for a bit. Daniel even asked for a polo ball for me. After the match, we headed to his shop, where he gave me an extensive tour of his laboratorie and I was able to taste lots of ingredients and chocolate. He showed me the pictures from his Andes ultra and then it was time to head back for the afternoon training run.

I scrambled to get ready and was able to catch up to the group for the 6 pm training run. It was really hot and humid. We ran from the hotel to the park (which I found out later was an ecological reserve), then plotted a course through the park. I ended up running with different groups of people as I warmed up and got up to speed. It was very hot and humid. We ended up missing a turn, exiting the park before we were supposed to, and had to run back along the streets, including Puerto Madero, the old port of BA, for awhile. We passed Luna Park, where a long line of (mostly) giggly teenage girls waited to the Back Street Boys. When we got to Florida Street, a pedestrian road leading back to our hotel, it was too crowded, so we had to stop and walk. Heather and I had dinner together at a local café.

Pictures from these days are available here:

1 comment:

Brenn said...

Sounds like a harried trip. The chocolate in those pictures looks delicious.