40 Hour Trip

Finally, I’m on my way. It’s going to be a long trip. 35 hours more or less, airport to airport. Generally, my long flights have been Asia to North America or Europe. Those tend to be about 24 hours door to door. This is significantly longer.

It is an evening flight, which I don’t normally take, but it’s kind of nice. Gave me the whole day to finish getting ready to leave, running the last few errands, saying goodbye, and just in general a very stress-free way to embark on the trip.

I’m still exhausted from the run up to this point. And unfortunately, when I do think about the trip that I am embarking on, I tend to flip-flop between anxiety and excitement. I seem to be ending up more with anxiety than excitement. However, I cling to my vision of myself as a globe trotting digital nomad, and drive on. It’s cool, gray, and rainy as my driver and my ever-cheerful in-house associate, drop me off at the airport. For me, I’ve packed heavier than usual, almost 26 kg for checked bags. That’s only my regular suitcase slightly over packed plus an additional bag to hold my protein powder and other supplies. So not too much for going someplace for five weeks with the intention to find a place to live. Of course, I have my roll-on bag with my laptop but I don’t count that. I can’t emphasize how nice it is to be able to go to an airport that’s only five minutes away from one’s house.

However, it’s not the greatest of airports, it still needs a lot of work, especially what passes for the business class lounge. But I check in, the Qatar Airlines staff were quite efficient as always. But my first period of really relaxing comes when I get on the plane and settle into my business class cube. Qatar Airways still knows how to do business class better than anybody else I’ve ever seen. Everything is quite clean, I’m supplied with everything I might possibly need, and I find that for the longer trips (and this is nine hours), they have the eat on demand schedule. You look at the menu, you tell them what you want when you’re ready for it, and off you go. I decided to try to eat right away and then try to immediately get to sleep. But I know I’m going to be absolutely hammered by jet-lag regardless. There’s not really any way to get around on a trip like this.

I’m nervous, and anxious still. But I enjoy a glass or two of a nice Shiraz and some nuts. My 16:8 restricted eating regimen is going to go bye-bye for this trip I think.

0212 Manila time. 40,000 over the ocean south of Pakistan. Doha about 2.5 hours out. Business class on Qatar is even better than I remembered. I’m tired and dehydrated. Slept about 4 hours I think. With the constant available food, I’m finding that this 16:8 eating regimen has really had an effect on me. I don’t really like it when I can’t fast. My mind is too fuzzy to do much other than watch Poirot re-runs on my iPad.

Internet was there during the flight for $20 but it isn’t working now.

The feeling of dread has passed though. That’s a good thing. Looking forward to the lounge and taking a shower, maybe a few hours more sleep.

Noticed we are flying over Iranian airspace. This is a result of the ongoing unpleasantness with the GCC and Qatar. I have to admit, after listening to various reviews about what the GCC is doing, and why they’re doing it, especially flavored by the time I spent working in the Gulf, I think the GCC are composed of a bunch of arrogant, ignorant, self-serving idiots. They  are so full of (utterly without foundation) pride, that they can’t stand that a small country like Qatar is doing and saying what it wants to do when it wants to do it. I’m not going to go into the details here, anybody who wants to research the Qatar situation can do so on their own. And I’m not saying the Qatari are perfect, not by any means, but I certainly support their side on this. If the GCC is stupid enough to want to drive them into Iranian arms, well, they’re certainly going the right way about it.

We arrive at Hamad international Airport in Doha. This will be an 8 hour layover.

Half of the business class lounge (And it had 2 levels)

Half of the business class lounge (And it had 2 levels)

Huge airport. Incredible business class lounge. Took a shower. A little better but dragging. I was going to try staying in the airport hotel, but when I went up there, even with whatever outrageous prices they must have been charging, there must’ve been 30 people waiting to check in. I gave it up and went back to the lounge.

I did some shopping for chocolates for the immigration people I will see in Argentina. That always sounds like a good idea come bearing chocolates. Hopefully that will help smooth over any minor issues.

I couldn’t believe how crowded it was in this airport. Even at 130 in the morning there were throngs of people everywhere. It definitely did quiet down between about 230AM  and about 4:30 AM. But other than that it was jumping. Then I took another shower, just to get ready for the longest portion of the flight,  wandered around for a bit, had a cup of coffee and then slowly moved towards my gate. As I noticed on my trip to Finland when the passengers are primarily non-Asian, it’s much quieter. It seemed like the majority of the people on this flight are actually going to São Paulo, and only a few that are actually carrying on Buenos Aires.

It’s an older plane, not as nice as the one I came in on from the Philippines, but still hard to argue about being able to reconfigure your seat to a flatbed when you want to. And of course, the Qatar Airways service was just as nice as it always has been.

As you can see from the picture we had to take a jog south along the Arabian Peninsula before cutting over to Africa. Again the GCC morons crossed my mind.

It has been over a decade since I’ve taken a flight this long, and it really does seem to just drag on and on and on. It is relatively pleasant, the food is good, the service is good, it is quiet, I get an incredible amount of work done studying on my Spanish, and even some writing. But will it never end?

They start handing out forms for customs in Argentina even before we get into São Paulo. So, I look at this form from the Argentinian customs and I start to get nervous. They’re asking you to list all your cell phones. I happen to have 3 phones + 2 iPads, not for any particular reason, just because that’s my basic load if you will. And I’m carrying  quite a bit of cash. And they’re saying that you must declare it. Well I hadn’t seen anything about that on the research I did on the airport, and I’m a little bit nervous about it.

This anxiety sits with me through the on the ground stop in São Paulo. A very nice flight attendant, when I asked her for another form that is indicated for declaration of currency, said well I don’t think you really should bother, it will be is highly unlikely that you’ll be stopped.

She kind of stuttered to a halt because I think she realized that if I paid attention to what she said and something happened, she might be in trouble. But I understood what she was trying to say, so I decided to wait and see what it was like on the ground before I made my decision.

Only a couple hours more and we get to Buenos Aires. It’s cold. The airport, honestly, looks a little run down. But the immigration guy is quite pleasant, and after an extended wait for my bag, I decided at the last minute going towards customs not to bother declaring anything. The flight attendant was quite right. You go through and put your bags through an x-ray machine, I think they may be looking for people that are bringing in large quantities of things like mobile phones (When I was looking at a local mall the next day, I noticed that the Samsung phone that I paid about $900 for in Hong Kong cost $1500 here). However, all my worries were for naught. Nobody even asked me for the damn form.

I’m tired, almost shaking from fatigue, I find a taxi service right outside the customs gate and book one. I find, with some difficulty, an out of the way bank to change some $ for local currency.  I get in the taxi and all is well. I try out my fledgling Spanish and miracle of miracles, not only does he more or less understand what I’m saying, but I can to some extent understand what he is saying as well. So, 11 at night we zipped towards Buenos Aires and the trip just keeps going and going and going. Expressway is wide and smooth but seemingly deserted. Then we get off the expressway and drop into town and we keep going through all of these neighborhoods. Low rise 3 to 6 story buildings or less in most places.  One neighborhood after the other but almost nobody on the streets. I confirm that it was indeed Saturday night. Where are all these Argentinians who apparently don’t go out to eat until 10 or 11 at night I wondered.

He finally found my hotel deep in the heart of Buenos Aires in the Palermo district. 40 hours … Door to door …

Nice hotel. They were friendly enough. But no one even offered to take my bags to go upstairs. Very big change from Asia. The room was a pleasant surprise, very nicely outfitted. Great hot water. I took a shower and, even though it was midnight I went out just to walk around a little bit and see what there was to be seen. It was cold (around 12 degrees C) and rainy. I found a Burger King and was able to order without disgracing myself too much, saw where the closest shopping mall was, and then back to the hotel, ate, and I crashed. At last I was here, in Buenos Aires. One of my favorite genres of novel is the murder mysteries set in the 1920s and 30s of England or Europe. And one always reads about the criminal trying to flee to Argentina. And finally, here I was. I’m not saying I’m a criminal, but I remember that thought running through my head as I drifted off to sleep.

This article was written under conditions of sleep deprivation and jet lag so I reserve the right not to be responsible for errors. Oh... And I don't have an adapter for Argentinian outlets ... Way to prepare