Trip Start Jan 29, 2008
Trip End Feb 27, 2008

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Flag of Canada  , Ontario,
Thursday, February 28, 2008

Wow, wow, wow... What an adventure!

I am so pleased that I can finally add this final entry to my blog from my parent's home with my girlfriend by my side... It feels so good and surreal that I was afraid of waking up this morning in my hotel room in Colombia!!!

So, here are the last few details about the endless number of challenges my dad, sister and I faced even while just trying to leave the country:

We all got up at the regular time on Tuesday morning, had breakfast and then proceeded to pack. We had lunch and then popped into town to grab a few souvenirs before we left (limited edition strain of beans of 100% pure Colombian Juan Valdez coffee for all!). Later on, Richi kindly came by to pick us up in his truck two hours before our flight as promised. It turned out that the main bridge on the way to the airport was in construction and that the traffic on the highway was at a standstill, so Richi proposed an alternative route which would circumvent the bridge by driving through the historical colonial town of Giron. So we did and, about 5 minutes before crossing a smaller bridge and getting onto the highway to the airport, we ran into a brand new roadblock! The locals were literally stacking giant stones across the road to block traffic! We really didn't want to miss our flights since they had been so hard to come by and coordinate. Anyway, Richi kept his cool and asked a local Gironite down the road if there was an alternative route close by with a bridge to cross the river... Luckily, there was! About 5 blocks down, we turned into this EXTREMELY narrow europeen-like street (the kind made wide enough for a single horse carriage) and drove down VERY slowly... There was about a foot of space to spare on either side of the truck! As promised, it tight cobble-stone road eventually gave onto a tiny cobble-stone bridge which we crossed and finally merged onto the highway to the airport with plenty of time to spare... Incredible! We were all impressed.

BUT, the adventure didn't stop there, oh no... That would be too easy. Once we said our goodbyes to Richi and eventually got to the Avianca Airlines counter, the clerk there informed us that he couldn't find my sister's ticket! She was the only one who actually had a ticket for this date even before leaving Canada and we had been added to the flight last week. A half hour, lots of Spanish, waving around my X-rays and some tears later, the guy finally apparently found her ticket and we were on our way to sit for two hours in the mosquito filled, non-air conditioned airport waiting room because our flight was an hour late! No matter... I bought everyone a cappucino and we tolerated the insanely uncomfortable chairs angled back at 120 degrees (seriously, uncomfortable chair making is an art in this country: hospitals, restaurants and hotels are no exception to the rule!). So, we finally did get on the plane and flew to Bogota.

In Bogota, we found a real live Air Canada counter and checked in, stressing that we were flying business class and that I needed some extra time to get on the plane because of my back. That allowed us to bypass a huge line-up. Then we discovered that we needed to get some special airport tax form stamped before paying the airport tax at the counter. We finally did pay it (114$ USD for 3 people) and, miraculously, after browsing through 3 different computer terminals, all 3 tickets were identified and handed to us (even though, like the Avianca tickets, they didn't show up on their website when we checked the same morning). Interestingly, they were normal computer ticket forms which were filled in by hand and pen. No matter, obviously, there are compatibility issues in the super duper "Star Alliance" Air Canada and Avianca Airlines are part of... Crazy. More waiting and lots of X-rays and security checks later, we got onto the plane and then waited a whole hour more for a couple of passengers which apparently checked in their luggage but failed to find their way to the plane. We eventually took off without them. FINALLY! We were on our way back to Canada in business class and the flight attendants spoke French AND English (and a bit of Spanish just to remind us where we came from)! Wow... Doctor Vasquez prescribed some Codeine for my flight and I took it. It made things bearable, but wearing my corset for so long was really uncomfortable since it presses against part of my back scar. Regardless, I did manage to squeeze in an hour or two of sleep during the 6 hour flight to Toronto. Boy was I pleased to see the snow down below as we landed!!! No more Colombia, no more Spanish, no more private health care, no more useless insurance company, no more flight issues (so we thought!), reuniting with my girlfriend, friends and family...

In Toronto, we were informed that there was a screw-up with Air Canada in Bogota, so that connecting flight to Ottawa's luggage would not be automatically transferred. We were already late for our connection, so by the time we found our luggage, they had already cut off boarding for our flight. More waving X-rays, friendly Air Canada staff and 15 minutes later, we were booked on an identical flight and hour later. We took the time to have a full american breakfast with eggs, sausage, hash browns and toast. It was really good (for 25$ a plate) and by the time we were done, it was boarding time for our last leg of our journey. This time, the seats were very comfy and the service excellent. We also left and hour later, but the pilot managed to make up for it somehow.

In Ottawa, we were greeted by my girlfriend's beautiful smile and warm embrace... The journey was FINALLY at an end and we could FINALLY relax (or so my sister thought: we dropped her off at the bus station for her return to Montreal and her bus broke down about half way, so we got one more 4 hour delay home by the time a mechanic was sent and fixed it)!

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