A case of the hare and the tortoise

Trip Start Feb 26, 2010
Trip End Feb 26, 2011

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Where I stayed
Oldo Dorado (Hotel) no less

Flag of Argentina  , Capital Federal District,
Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The alarm went off at 6.30am, the sun was shining, the birds were singing, young children all around were engaging in playful banter and everything was well with the world.  Oh yes, it really was that good until we arrived at the airport. The first thing that struck us was the complete carnage, there were people all around and we joined an almost queue, I say almost because it was 3 people wide and had absolutely no seeming end or beginning.  Eventually we got to the desk and were given our boarding cards but were told that the flight was still not confirmed and that we should return in two hours to find out more details.  Bear in mind that this airport is 25kms from any known civilisation and is smaller than a supermarket - but with a jewellers - then you might get the picture.  We hung around on the very hard chairs which the supervisor had directed us to as "we might be more comfortable upstairs" um, more comfortable than a bullet in the foot but that was about it.  Still we waited of any news to come through.

After about an hour without any pre-warning someone started a stampede downstairs to the check in desk and things got a bit heated when we were told that there was a plane but there was only 40 places available on it - so the crush began.  It was a case of survival of the fittest.  We got a new boarding card and were told this time to wait for maybe another two hours as the plane was in Buenos Aires so we were given a meal voucher but we had to wait for an hour to use it.  We joined forces with a couple from Leeds who had (apparently) prevailed in the battle and a couple of girls from France.  The choice was good:  it was Milanese and chips with Coke take it or leave it, oh and chips for the vegetarians amongst us (not that there were any though).  It was very good, so good in fact that when the two French girls left leaving half a Milanese (a bit like a beef schnitzel) on her plate the boys convinced me to steal it for them which they promptly devoured. 

Time passed and still no information was coming through, it was getting very frustrating given the fact that we were due to have the new bank card delivered to our hostel in Salta the next day.  Somewhere along the line we were then told that this new plane from Buenos had been 'created' and thus we had a completely useless ticket.  This was getting ridiculous.  After a lot of messing about, queue jumping (sorry to all the English folks we have brought shame on our Country) and basic argybargy we were told that we would have to get on a flight to Buenos Aires that was due to arrive at 6pm then we could in turn get a connection on the 9pm flight to Salta.  With lack of any other option we had to go with it and drowned our sorrows with a couple of bottles of Vino Bianco between four in the cafe. We had even tried to bribe taxi drivers to bring cold beers back with them (1 litre of beer is about 1 but in the airport 1/3 of a litre was about 3.50).

Andrew then decided that enough was enough and that we needed another voucher (andrew edit - this was after two of our party of four having tried to get another voucher) and one that we could get a beer or another wine with - boredom you understand was driving us to this.  After about 5 minutes he emerged, voucher in hand (the staff were so worn down at this stage that I think they were willing to sell their souls) but only for more food and the staff would not swap the food for alcohol.  So we ended up with two ham and cheese toasties each with a Coke.  Finally our flight appeared on the screen and in no time we were boarding, cue crazy pushing and shoving and security was screaming at everyone from our flight to get back to allow people from another flight (also leaving through our gate at the same time - go figure) through.  I think quite a few people from that flight missed it because they couldn't get passed the barricade of people on our flight adamant that they were getting on it.  The plane arrived...LATE, we left at about 6.30pm and things were looking bleak for our connection.  The flight was a shambles, hands up if you have EVER been on a flight were you head off (at speed) down the run way and the pilot has to slam on with black smoke from the engines and liquid seemingly leaking out of the wing, although in retrospect the smoke might have been due to the burning rubber of the tyres when the plane locked up.  The plane then turned left on the runway and headed in a different direction up a different runway, even I was shaken but Andrew was ashen. Also we forgot to mention that our last shambolic journey had some kind of Argentine FBI guys onboard with automatic assault weapens as well as a back up handgun strapped to each thigh and another backup in a traditional holster... how odd.

We touched down at 8.20pm and Jo and I (the girl from Leeds) legged it to the departures area while the boys waited for the luggage.  En route we came to the Aerolineas Argentinas desk where there was already a queue of people looking irate who told us that we had missed it and that the Salta flight was now closed.  We spent 2 1/2 sorting things out with the very rude staff who between pointing fingers and slamming doors organised accommodation in Buenos Aires for everyone for the night and booked us on the 6.30am flight the next day - the next flight available.  The whole debarcle was a shambles from start to finish and we got to the hotel at midnight having had no food (we were allowed dinner in the hotel but the kitchen was closed) and having to be up in 4 hours for our 4.30am taxi back to the airport. 

One older couple in there 70's seemed to be very preoccupied in reception as their friends following in another taxi hadnt arrived and they had been there for over an hour (we find out the next morning that they had fallen victims to a kidnap and had been taken somewhere else and relieved of all their possessions). So there we were back in Buenos Aires for the second time in our trip - well I can think of worse places to be stuck for the night and the bed was comfy for the 4 hours of time we were in it. We hadnt managed to let the hostel know we were not turning up (again) we had people waiting for most of the day for us on skype, all in all it was a disaster perhaps from now on we dont try and be clever.
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Stevie T on

Don't you just love the travel industry. Brings a small tear of pride to my eye.

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