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Thursday, November 10, 2016

Trip to Spain - Bogota, Columbia to Mallorca, Spain

EEEEESH!!!   I thought I could crank out a story a day (about the prior day) but that hasn't been happening.  Between shore excursions, onboard 'entertainment' (cough cough), and eating (all the time), and sleeping...there hasn't been much time leftover to write.

So, I need to catch up.

Ok, when we last left off, I was getting on a big-ass plane with nearly 299 others.


Normaly I like to get a window seat so I can enjoy the view and take photos.  But, this was an all night flight and it was going to be dark anyway.  I got an aisle seat so I'd at least have one arm free and not be sardined between two others.

We were set to depart at 9:30pm and to arrive in Barcelona around 2pm the next day.  That's somewhere around 9 1/2 hours flight time.........................advancing 6 hours due to time difference.

To take off, I think we taxied to Cleveland.  It seemed to go on forever.  Then we had to wait in line.  About a half hour later we were flung skyward.  Remember, it took 36 seconds to take off from Quito in a smaller plane.  In this plane, fully loaded, it took ONE FULL MINUTE of rolling (if you can call reaching 180 mph "rolling") before we lifted our heavy asses off the tarmac....and stayed up.   
Let's visualize this ok?  300 people times an average weight of 160 lbs (some MUCH more, some less) = 48,000 pounds (or 24 tons) of flesh.  Add to that all the baggage, the physical plane itself, fuel, etc.   The plane is about 200 feet long and the wingspan is almost the same as the length of the plane. Two engines (Briggs and Stratton 50cc lawn mower models......just kidding!)  It's AMAZING it can be airborne at all.

5,400 miles to go.

Dinner was served along with free cocktails.

Movie time.  I watched "The Secret Life of Pets", a very funny animated film that made me laugh several times as they seemed to have the personalities and traits of cats and dogs nailed down.  Anyone who has or is a pet owner should watch it.

We climbed to 40,000 feet, the highest I've ever been, (so to speak) and cruised at nearly 580 mph.  It was MINUS 60 degrees outside.  No, I didn't stick my finger out the window to test it.

Sleep time.  ZZZZZZZ   Wake up.  ZZZZZZ  Wake up.  ZZZZZ   Wake up.

Then breakfast.  BLECH.  By this time, I was feeling pretty icky as I'd been up since yesterday morning, sitting in one seat for many hours, the air inside the plane, and my body being pressurized.

We landed in Barcelona (some Spanish people pronouce it BAR THUH LOH NUH), and not because they have a lispth.

I had a smidge over 1 hour layover in Barcelona before my next flight to Mallorca.

The Barcelona airport is a huge monstrosity with very large open spaces.  But, it is HORRIBLY UN-INTUITIVE.  Signage was the worst I've ever experienced and I've been through a LOT of airports around the globe!!   As I was instructed by the Avianca personnel in Quito, I needed to go retrieve my bag, go thru Customs/Migration, then re-check my bag.  So, with only an hour before my next plane departed I had to move quickly and efficiently.  (what a joke!)



The zig-zag queue for getting through Customs/Migration was realllllly full and I knew I'd never make it in time.  I read somewhere if you have a quick turnaround flight, you can ask a security guard to assist you and get priority over others.  So, that's what I did.  He sent me on a bypass path to an agent who waived me through so I could go down and get my bag.

I went down to baggage claim, conveyor #11.  And waited.   Many bags were already sitting on the carousel before it fired up and started spitting our bags onto it.   Very soon, the conveyor was full because very few people were there to get their bags because they were upstairs in the long queue waiting to pass through Customs/Migration.   Problem is:  The belt system was designed not to keep putting more bags onto the carousel if there was no space.  So, bags coming off the plane came to a screaching halt.  If a space opened up, then ONE bag would eject onto the carousel and all bags behind it had to wait for another space to open up.  Sort of like a traffic jam.  

Well, a few others got the idea to reposition bags on the conveyor to create open spaces.  One more bag would come thru.....then another...wait....wait....then one more....wait....wait....wait....wait...then one more.  ARRRRGHHHHH!!!!!   

There was not ONE airport employee around.  Usually there's always someone who's responsibility is to manage the baggage activity.   NADA.

Well, I got fed up with this real quick.   I started taking bags OFF the conveyor and sitting them to the side.  Others joined in the effort.  We all worked together so we could get our freakin bags!!!

Anyone who knows me, knows that I break into a sweat at the mere mention of the word.  I can sweat in a snowsstorm.   All this hefting of bags turned me into a dripping mess.   

I must've removed 50 bags.  Then the conveyor belt stopped....and never moved again.  All the bags had come through....except MINE!!!!

It gets worse.

Alongs comes Miss Avianca, some sort of baggage supervisor, and she SCOLDS me for handling the bags!!!   I said (in horrible Spanish I'm sure).....'look lady, there's not one single employee around to manage this stuff and the bags weren't coming through and everyone is waiting so we all pitched in to HELP (emphasis on HELP) and we don't want to miss our connections!!!!!'.   Well, she was pissed I/we did what I/we did and continued to scold me (only).   I was PISSED (and sweaty).  I think she managed to scold me 4-5 times.  

Meanwhile, where's my bag?   Others were in the same quandry so they were all gathering around her like vultures to file their complaint on her little forms.   I had to wait my turn.  Finally, when I was able to get her attention, she looked at my ticket and informed me (with a smile) my bag was checked all the way to Mallorca!!!   (breeeeeeeeath.....breeeeeeeeath!!!).    I informed HER what Avianca told me back in Quito and that, based on my past experience, you always have to get your bags and you and your bags have to go thru Customs/Migration in the first country you land in (that's not your own country) and then check them back in if you are continuing on.  She said 'No, not in Spain!!'    ARRRRGGGGHHHHH!!!!!!!     

Ok, so my bag went on.  Now, I needed to get to my gate and get on my plane!!!   I needed to know WHICH gate and I needed to get there NOW or I would miss it.

I dashed back upstairs to check the screens of all the flights to see where I needed to go.  This is what I saw:



I can feel my blood pressure rising as I re-live and write this!!!    I would like to add some expletives here but my Mom reads this.  Take a look at this screen and YOU tell me what ORDER it is in???

Every screen in every airport I've ever been around this world is usually sorted by either flight # or flight time or destination city.   This screen did not help matters AT ALL.

The area I was in was 'organized' in the shape of consecutive E's...if you laid it down like M's.  MMMMMMMM.   Airlines counters ran up and down the inside of each leg of the E, which made it very difficult to see their signs identifying who they are.

DAMMIT.   I dashed over to an information desk and asked where Avianca was located.  He kinda sorta told me to go down there and and over there to the right.

I ran over there.  No one at Avianca.

I went somewhere else and nabbed an airport employee.  I asked where Avianca is.  He said over there.  But, I said, no one is there.  He told me to go back.  I went back.   There was a lady in the back of Avianca's office and I got her attention.  Sweat was pouring down my face as if I was crying 360 degrees horizontally and vertically.   Shirt....soaking wet.

I told her the whole story.  She looked at my ticket and said because I booked through a travel agency that I would have to call them to get them to change the ticket.  And, she said, I was not with Avianca, I was with Air Eurpoa.   Well, I informed her, my original ticket said Air Europa but when I checked in, it said Avianca and a different flight #.  I didn't know which end was up.

GRRRRRR...the first of finger-pointing to someone else.

My cell phone doesn't have international calling.  So, she said for me to use the pay phone (oh, great....haven't used one of those in 17 years and not international on top of it!!!).   I ran to the pay phone and tried to figure out how to use it.  It appeared to take credit cards.  I tried several times. Didn't work.

Dashed back to the information desk and he said the phones only use coins.  GREAT.  I didn't have any!!!   I only had Euro bills.

Off to the currency exchange booth.  Line of 5 in front of me.  5 people working in the booth but only 1 seems to be taking customers from the queue and the customer they were with was taking a lonnnnnng time.

I'm puddling on the floor.

After a lonnnng wait, I finally got to a 'teller'.   I exchanged $10 for $7.50 in Euro coins.  I dashed back to the pay phones.  By this time, I'm about to collapse from exhaustion.

I called the Travel agency 800 number.  I didn't know if the call would be free from that point on (being an 800 number) or if I would need to keep adding more money.

I quickly told the agent what had happened.  He said they could not do anything because it was an 'active ticket' and I needed to contact Avianca (now I have the other half of the finger-pointing equation...each party pointing to the other as the one responsible).  

I noticed the balance on the readout on the phone dwindling very fast.  He said he could call Avianca for me but I responded I was running of money very fast, and.....click.   $7.50 was drained, I was out of time, and the call disconnected.

I went back to Avianca to beg for mercy.   Clearly, I had missed my flight scheduled to leave at 3pm.  She offered to look for another flight, but I would have to pay for it and seek a refund from Avianca afterwards.  FINE!!!!

"That would be $200 sir".   FINE!!!   Anything to get there and not miss my cruise which leaves in the morning.  $200 for a 29 minute flight.  GADS!!!!   So, I paid it.

But, wait...one more thing.   She told me she needed to check to see where my bag was...whether it went on to Mallorca or if it was there in Barcelona.   I wondered why since I was told it went all the way to Mallorca without visiting me.   She said, when a passenger doesn't check in and show up for a flight, they pull the bag off the plane.   Interesting...never heard of that.   She made a call or two and informed me my bag was downstairs on carousel #6.   (EXPLETIVE!!!!)

BACK downstairs I went and there was my bag, lonely, sitting on a carousel all by itself.  I grabbed it and headed back upstairs to find where my next gate was.   Not for Avianca, for Air Europa.

Back to that DAMN screen.   I learned something new and unique about this airport.  They have screens that tell you what section your airline check-in counter is located.   Remember the laying flat E's design?   Well, you look up your airline and it tells you, let's say, Air Europa is # 501 - #507.  So, you look at each leg of that laying flat E to see what # range it is.  One leg may be counters 300 - 350, then 351 - 400, etc.  Once you find 500 - 550, you run down that leg until you find 'your guy' occupying 501 - 507 and that's where you check your bags in, get your boarding pass, etc.

Off I go through security and to my gate.  Gate B, following corridors and signs pointing to this gate go that way and that gate go this way.   I see Gate A...go there.  I see Gate B...go there.   I found it odd it was only A and B but thought maybe since this is a short flight, it was a small gate area.

Nope.   I turned down 'B' and saw before me a lonnnnnnnnnnnng terminal housing 69 gates.   I could barely see the end of the terminal!!!

I checked the info board again.  Yep, my flight leaves from Gate B.   BUT, WHERRRRRRRRE in Gate B?????

Again, I nabbed an airline agent and asked what the....????   He said they don't publish the gate # until about 20 minutes before the boarding time.   My flight was scheduled to leave at 6:25pm and it was now 5pm.  So, I had to kinda sorta hover around a terminal of 69 gates to wait until around 5:30pm to get my actual gate #.

Finally, it was posted and I went to the gate, boarded the plane (a 737) and got the hell out of Barcelona airport.

The flight was only half full.  As such, we were lighter, and we were taking off from a sea level airport.   Keep in mind the takeoff times from the 2 previous airports at high altitude.  This time, we became airborne in only 25 seconds....compared to catapulting down the runway in Bogota for a full minute before we lifted off.


29 minutes later, we landed in Mallorca in the dark.  I was shocked at the size (XL) of their airport because, after all, Mallorca is a relatively small island and all major international travel is handled by nearby Barcelona and Madrid.  In baggage claim, I saw at least 16 carousels!!  It was cavernous but dang near empty of people.  My bag was already waiting for me.  I grabbed it and I was....



SOOOOOO OUTA THERE!!!!

I started at 7am Friday morning in Cuenca and now it was 7:30pm Saturday.  I was in Mallorca, Spain.

....to be continued.

Dano






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About Me

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Cuenca, Azuay, Ecuador
This is all about my transition from an American lifestyle and culture to my newest adventure, life in Cuenca and greater Ecuador. I'll be recapping some of my day-to-day experiences (and mishaps) to highlight what it's like to live here.

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