Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Antarctica Journal 3.16.09

Antarctica Journal 3.16.09

I had set my alarm for 5:30 so I could watch the ship come into port in Ushuaia, but turned it off as soon as it started beeping. The next thing I knew, it was 6:30 and I’d missed the best part of the maneuvering; the ship had done a 180° turn and was slowly backing into its berth. I took a few pictures of Ushuaia in the dawning light, then went down to breakfast.

After breakfast, Kathy and I picked up our carry-ons (the checked bags had been picked up during breakfast) and went down to the lobby to wait for our disembarkation. There were hugs and goodbyes and let’s-keep-in-touches.

When we were finally allowed to disembark, we had to claim our checked baggage, which had been lowered to the pier in cargo netting. I’d planned to get pictures of that, too, but had forgotten all about it in the excitement of getting ready to go. My Badtz Maru duffle had been crushed under a much larger and heavier duffle bag (it took me several passes through the bags to even find it).

I got the bags loaded into my bus, then climbed aboard. Kathy and I sat together for the ride to the airport. I was very disappointed to have no time in Ushuaia. I expect travel agents to make arrangements in order that all of their clients receive similar experiences. Instead of arranging for travelers to have equal amounts of time in Ushuaia, the arrangements were based on whether or not you’d had a nonstop flight heading down. I’d had a nonstop heading down, so I was booked on the only flight with a stop, resulting in a total of about 45 minutes in Ushuaia, where other groups had several hours there on both legs. Very poor travel planning on the part of the travel agency, if you ask me and many of the other passengers on the short schedule!

The flight to BA was uneventful, but we received 2 meals: a cheese sandwich immediately after take-off and a full lunch after the scheduled stop (Colafate?). Instead of landing at the local airport, we were directed to Ezeizas. I called Daniel while I was waiting for my luggage, but he had a meeting and wasn’t able to come to the airport, after all. I was disappointed, but he had taken a lot of time for me before the cruise and, of course, he has a business to run. Hopefully, his planned chocolate classes in NY will come to pass and I’ll be able to extend the same hospitality he showed me.

We weren’t able to check in until 4:30 (yet another irritating result of the early flight), so I had to cool my heels for about an hour. I was a little annoyed when I had to show a second ID and answer questions about my identity, but wasn’t about to make a fuss on my way home. On my way to security, I found the Persicco booth on the second level and treated myself to one last Argentinean ice-cream. I had dark chocolate and chocolate with almonds, drizzled with chocolate sauce. Yum!

Past immigration and security, I navigated my way through the Duty Free shops so I could drop my bags in the Admiral’s club. I found Ruth there and told her I was going to go shopping, so she joined me. I didn’t find anything to buy – it was mostly a shopping mall charging higher prices than I would have paid if I’d bought them outside and paid tax.

We went back into the lounge and found Theresa and the three of us sat around talking about the trip, comparing experiences. Theresa’s flight left first, then it was my turn. At the gate, I checked on upgrade status and was told there wouldn’t be any upgrades on the flight.

After boarding, there were a couple of women who wanted to sit together and a flight attendant was asking people to switch, so they could. When one passenger refused, because he only wanted an aisle seat, the FA told him to calm down and then said “Let’s not deal with him” very dismissively to the passenger disrupting the seating arrangements. She asked me to switch out of the emergency row for a window seat much farther back in the plane and, when I refused, because I’d chosen the seat for the legroom, she just turned her back on me and went off to ask someone else. She succeeded, because someone else came and sat in the seat next to me.

The rest of the flight was uneventful and I cleared border control, baggage claim, and customs in about a half hour. I was at work by 9! Oddly, I kept expecting the cubicles to move around me, but they stayed solid. I guess I got my landlegs back pretty quickly.

Pictures from these days are available here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/7411850@N04/sets/72157616227216054/

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