Day 1 – Ah, the ineffable glamour of intercontinental travel!

Saturday 17 February 2024  – It all started so well, too.

We are travelling to Antarctica via Argentina, and in Argentina, we arrive in Buenos Aires before a transfer down to the bowels of Tierra del Fuego – Ushuaia, whence our cruise departs on Tuesday. Our outbound flight, a mere 16 hours of it, including popping in to Rio de Janeiro en route, was due to depart at 2210, leaving us the whole of the day to make final preparations before allowing us slightly too long to spend staring at each other with scarcely-concealed tension as we awaited the taxi.

Arrive it did, and whisked us off to Heathrow Terminal 5 with the recommended three hours still to elapse before the flight was due to leave.  The good thing about departing at this time on a Saturday evening is the lack of queues – we cleared security in a trice and headed for the lounge, an indulgence we’d granted ourselves to ease the rigours of such a long journey.

During the afternoon, we’d had a minor attack of the vapours when Tripcase, the website I use to store our itineraries, reported that our flight was delayed, first by 30 minutes and then by an hour. The BA app would hear nothing of this, and in the end even Tripcase shuffled its electronic feet and muttered that actually the flight wasn’t delayed after all.  So, having rescheduled our taxi, I unrescheduled it and so we found ourselves in the BA lounge with some two and a half hours to go.

After about an hour, Tripcase piped up again to tell us that our flight was now delayed by 80 minutes. I decided to ignore this, but then it was BA who had to shuffle its feet and admit that the departure time really was now 2330. So we settled down with a glass of something to await developments.

After about another hour, a member of staff came over, shuffled his feet and admitted that they were about to close the lounge, so we would have to leave. However, consolation was offered in the shape of access to the first class lounge downstairs. Off we trooped, where the Magic Access Code of “249” (our flight number) got us in.

The lounge is vast. And it was pretty much empty,

and underserved in one crucial area,

not that it mattered, since it was by now a bit too late to start in on the gin and also because before very long at all they called our flight anyway, so off we trooped again, through a very spookily empty departure hall.

Our gate involved a train ride. And a Sliding Doors moment. Jane was speedier than I was down the escalator, and headed towards the shuttle just as they announced that the doors were closing. So she made it through, and I, being not about to test whether the door mechanism had a “do not crush travellers” safety override, didn’t. This left me as the single person awaiting the return of the shuttle, another spooky and lonely experience.

When you are in an airport departure hall separated from your passport and boarding pass and you’re waiting for the shuttle that will reconnect you, time passes, I can tell you, slowly. But Jane and I reconnected at the gate, where they were just calling our group for boarding.

It was immediately apparent that this boarding process was not going to be straightforward. Instead of heading towards the aircraft, we were shuffled into one of those zig-zag queue arrangements.  This is the situation, then, at 22.32.

Here it is again at 22.53.

20 minutes of standing with a 13kg backpack whilst not knowing why the actual fuck we weren’t  being allowed on the aircraft was very frustrating, particularly since it looked like the odd individual was drifting past the queue and moving on. There were also a lot of people in BA suits doing the “walk fast and look worried whilst talking into a mobile phone” thing, which is rarely a comforting sight.

Eventually, some moments after they had vouchsafed that they were doing “final security checks”, we were allowed on to the plane, which pushed back at 23.25, so decently on the rescheduled time.  The nice captain came on the blower to apologise for the delay, which was caused by a technical problem with the original aircraft (an Airbus, so, whatever the problem was, all its doors were still attached), and we were all jolly glad that BA could rustle up a spare.

From that point on, things proceeded as expected, except that I declined a drink or dinner; it didn’t seem a good idea to have Fillet of Hampshire Pork Loin or a Butter Chicken Curry at midnight if I then wanted to get some sleep.  So I just got my head down. I think this is the first time ever on an intercontinental flight that I haven’t had a drink or watched a film. They even had Oppenheimer available, but I spurned this offer in favour of some shut-eye.

The rest of the journey passed off entirely uneventfully. We stopped for an hour or so in Rio de Janeiro whilst all of the crew and a good number of the passengers were exchanged for new versions, and eventually arrived in Buenos Aires at around midday. The formalities at the border were swiftly dispatched, and our bags duly arrived on the carousel about three minutes after I started getting worried.

We were met by the impressively well-organised Mariana, who whistled up a driver to take us into the city. On the 40-minute journey she told us about all the great things we could do: antique market! wine tasting!! shopping!!!  Since we’re (a) only here overnight and (b) only one of cares about only one of those things, we let them pass, but worked out the bare bones of a plan that suited us for when we get back to Buenos Aires, on 13 March.  In the interim, we got a couple of recommendations for places to eat.

At the hotel our room was ready for us (praise be!) and so we relaxed a bit before going out for a walk. Obviously.

My original plan was to include some pictures from the walk, but actually it was a very engaging experience, one that is well suited for its own blog post.  So, this post is merely a self-indulgent ramble about the vagaries of intercontinental travel. The next one (a) takes the story on a little further and (b) has some more interesting photos in it.  I will now start writing it whilst you skim through this one.  See you soon, I hope!


2 thoughts on “Day 1 – Ah, the ineffable glamour of intercontinental travel!

  1. Karin Wennås

    I got tired and frustrated on your behalf just reading about all the delays. And I laughed about the situation being alone on the shuttle platform

  2. Katharine C Burridge

    Lots of shuffling of feet by all, especially you on a dark lonely platform! And you missed Oppenheimer! I heard it is not worth the hype. (lol). That was exciting!


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