The Long Road back to Calgary
Apr 22, 2005
|At the end of a trip, most people get on a plane and usually, somewhere between 1-12 hours later, arrive at their final destination. Not me. Nosiree. I like to take my time. Or, more accurately, for the sake of traveling on free bonus points, I had to sell my soul to the airline devils and let them route me through a good part of Central and North America for the next 2 days before finally touching down in my final destination.
I arrived in Santiago after my 12 hours overnight bus trip from Osorno. I then had a full day in Santiago airport before catching my first (of many) flights which didn't leave Santiago until 3:53AM. So I read, I slept, I ate, I walked around, I slept some more, I played laptop games until I ran out of battery, I read some more, I drew pictures ... I had waaaaaay too much time to kill in the airport.
But finally the long journey home began. Goodbye South America ... wwaaahhh, I'm not ready to leave yet!!!!
We sat on the runway in Santiago for almost an hour. Who knows why. Missed my connecting flight in Panama City. Not a good start of the trip! Thankfully the airline put me on another flight.
There was some mix up with my luggage, so instead of being "in transit" through San Jose, Costa Rica, I had to clear in through customs, claim my luggage, fix my plane ticket and then clear out again. But at least I knew my backpack was still with me. We were delayed again, this time in our departure from San Jose. And now apparently US Customs has a new procedure whereby you need to clear in through US Customs even though you're "in transit" and don't intend on remaining in the country. So, once again, I had to clear through customs, claim my luggage, and clear out again ... uurrgghh! A major hassle.
I would've missed my connecting flight in Chicago except a major storm had hit the eastern coast and my flight (originating in New York) was delayed getting into Chicago. I finally crossed the border into Canada ... hello Toronto!
We were 1.5 hours late arriving in Toronto and, being first point of entry into Canada, I had to clear through Customs one more time. Woohoo, my backpack is STILL travelling with me ... something worth celebrating since it didn't travel with me last year when I left Europe!
Now I have a little story to tell ...
Knowing I had an overnight stop in Toronto, my sister Marge had given me a gift certificate for accommodation at the lovely 5-star Fairmont Royal York Hotel in downtown Toronto. Sounded like a hell of a deal to me especially since my usual accommodation was around the "negative 5-star" category. Besides, I was hugely curious to see what the swanky Royal York would say when a smelly old backpacker walked through their doors!
Anyway, while I was in transit, the airline called Marge when it appeared that I was going to miss my connecting flight in Chicago. They told her I would now be staying the night in Chicago. So, being the efficient person she is, she called the Fairmont in Toronto and canceled my hotel reservation and requested that they return the gift certificate.
The airline failed to contact her again to let her know that I actually DID make my connection in Chicago and would, in fact, be overnighting in Toronto.
So, I arrived in Toronto, cleared customs and arrived at the Fairmont Hotel somewhere around 2 o'clock in the morning. I'm exhausted, have been traveling for days, am still in shock over having to pay an outrageous amount for my Toronto taxi, and luckily am oblivious to the fact that my dear sister HAS CANCELLED MY HOTEL RESERVATION!!
Anyway, the hotel staff didn't bat an eye, didn't say anything about a backpacker walking through their front doors, or about the fact that I no longer had a hotel reservation. They showed me to my lovely deluxe room (hey, I could've lived in SA for A MONTH on the price of the nightly room rate!), and I'm sure I was asleep before my head hit the pillow. It was a shame to only sleep and shower in my decadent hotel room but I couldn't linger as I had one last plane to catch the next morning.
You should've seen the look on Marge's face the next day when I told her that I had in fact stayed the night in Toronto ... and it was only then that I heard the whole story.
FINALLY, 2 days and 5 flights later, I arrived in good ol' Calgary. It's been great to see family and friends again, and there's even a new baby in the family. But I also miss the heat and humidity, and the sights, smells and sounds of South America. I will return ... soon ...
So, in the past 7 months I traveled by riverboat up the Brazilian Amazon, swatted mosquitos in the Colombian jungle, followed in the footsteps of the Incas in Peru, paraded in the world's highest Miners Carnaval in Bolivia, climbed a volcanic mountain in Chile, and journeyed to the ends of the Earth in Argentina.
And for this I gave up my day job.
Hope you enjoyed hearing about my trip adventures. The travels will continue ... stay tuned for more ...