We arrived at the airport with plenty of spare time thanks to the help – in the form of a chauffeur to Gatwick – of our good friends.
We needed that extra time to get my massive bike box (large as it’s also containing the Extrawheel trailer) through the security checks since it would be too big for even their oversized luggage scanner. While waiting to have the box checked we saw a woman with two huge and beautifully-packed boxes of artwork have them dismantled for security checks – we felt for her!
The Lufthansa Gatwick to Frankfurt leg was easy, but when we arrived in Frankfurt it was very unclear where we should go to pick up our connecting flight. Arriving at the right gate the expected ordnung failed and chaos ensued. Our row numbers were called, and then people with children were invited to queue first. One person checked the boarding cards and we were then ushered through electronic gates with barcode scanners that most people didn’t have a clue how to use. They also closed and opened parts of this wonderful system at random. There was also the chaos that arose when they told people that the plane was fully booked and there wasn’t space for more than one bag per person. We quietly kept out of the boarding ruckus, and yet still managed to be two of the first onto the plane.
The Lufthansa flight, service and food were brilliant, even the vegetarian options. And there was even room for the 6’4″ of me – I was a bit cramped but much better that other airline cattle class I have been on. Peli was lucky to have one of the only free seats on the plane to her right, so was able to spread out a bit (lot).
I still wonder how some people manage to make themselves comfortable and sleep solid for 15 hours on these journeys. Even with the help of “drugs and alcohol” you would still be well knackered and stiff upon arrival. We tend to fidget about, stretching our legs at the back of the plane while observing a sea of dopy, dozing heads in front of us.
I can fall asleep very easily on a plane and am generally out cold before most take offs, though Peli tends to keep me awake by squeezing my hand in her vice-like grip (she’s not a great flyer).
You should see my ankles when we got off the plane. Unless you’re of a sensitive disposition, in which case you’d rather not see them, as they were comically swollen to double the size.
Our bike boxes arrived somewhat bashed and bruised, rather like we felt after 15 hours cooped up in a small space. But, arrive they did, and we silently applauded ourselves on having avoided paying any excess luggage fees. Getting the forty kilometers from Buenos Aires International airport to our town centre hostel was always going to be tough with such a large bike box; we eventually forked out the equivalent of 60GBP to get there by large minibus taxi, or “la combi”, which had to be summoned especially for us, and was driven somewhat erratically by a large chap who had limited regard for lane etiquette or familiarity with his indicators.
We saw a couple of serious looking cyclists tackling the many-laned, hectically busy road into town, but we wouldn’ t recommend it. If you’re planning to do this trip with standard-sized bike boxes, you’ll probably get away with picking up a taxi outside the airport. We used one of the special taxi booths just before the airport entrance (next to the Argentina Tourist Information Office) to order our large van.
Our arrival at El Circus hostel in Buenos Aires was marred somewhat as we witnessed the aftermath of a theft. At the airport we’d spotted a couple of cycle tourists with identical bags to ours (Ortliebs). They’d arrived at the hostel just before us, left their camera in its bag for a split second in the entrance while they carried in their bike boxes, during which time it was pinched. As they headed off to the police station to report the crime, we commiserated with them about their simply rotten luck (their trip had been planned for the sole purpose of taking photos). This taught us an early lesson in keeping our valuables close.
We’re now in a nearby cafe digesting delicious empanadas (the Napolitana and Roquefort ones are particularly good for veggies) and discovering that cerveza “grande” comes in one-litre bottles, about which Woolly is not displeased. It is hot and humid and we’re in need of sleep and showers.