I thought that the adventure in this trip was all over, Red Rover, and that on this final day of my year overseas, the time for surprises was long behind. Well, I thought wrong. Although I was originally meant to fly my final leg home (Bangkok to Sydney) with Qantas — as I have a Qantas / BA round-the-world ticket — I ended up conceding to a ticket with the budget carrier Jetstar. This was because, when I finalised my ticket bookings back in October, they were already sold out of seats on Qantas flights. Anyway, when I rocked up at Bangkok's new Suvarnabhumi Int'l Airport last night, the check-in staff informed me that I was flying via Melbourne. WTF?!
This evening I said farewell to Europe at the same place where I first greeted it: London's Heathrow International Airport. A bit different to Luton airport; and flying Qantas again is also totally different to (and a welcome relief from) flying with Ryanair. So long Europe; Thailand, here we come.
It was a long evening, getting out of Barcelona and back to London tonight. A long bus ride to yet another dodgy Ryanair airport. A long wait once at the airport. And an extremely long delay once we'd arrived back in dear old Inglaterra. Exciting, ridiculous, and heated at times. But most of the way, just long and extremely tedious. Travelling in Europe during the Christmas-break rush, and getting stuck right in the thick of that rush, simply ain't fun at all.
This morning was my first-ever experience with Ryanair, Europe's favourite and most dodgy discount airline. I thought the easyJet flight was basic; but it was nothing compared to this. Flying with Ryanair is a joke, end of story. They're cheap, they're no-frills, and they get you there. It's best not to think about the rest.
That's it for England: this evening, I flew out of the country, and now I'm in Rome! As with the US, England has been nice and easy: no language barrier; everything home-like and familiar; and really, nothing that took me radically by surprise. But then again, England's also boring, it's expensive, and the weather is foul. It's quite funny: although this is the first time I've been to England, I feel like I may as well have been here a thousand times before, as it's so socially and culturally similar to Australia, and as I've learned and heard so much about it for my entire life. Anyway, now I'm in Italy, and that should be far from boring: new language; new cuisine; and new craziness.
Last night was a very short night. I took off from Boston's Logan Intl at about 6pm, and I landed in London's Heathrow Intl by 5am. And it was only a 6-hour flight. First time I've ever been across the Atlantic ocean, and also the first time I've flown with British Airways. All went well: no delays, no customs dramas, and no turbulence worth mentioning. Not much sleep — but good movies made up for that anyway.
Today was an incredibly bereft-of-fun day. Most of my day was spent on the phone, with either Qantas or British Airways, trying to get the rest of my round-the-world flights sorted out. Since my travel agent back in Sydney was unable to book all my flights when I left — as they can only be booked so far in advance — I have to book London-to-Bangkok and Bangkok-to-Sydney now. Wasn't easy: although I've paid for the round-the-world package, that doesn't guarantee me to seats on specific flights; and all the flights on those routes in Jan and Feb '08 are utterly booked out. The fact that I can only get specific super-dodgy seats on a given flight, and that my ticket is non-upgradeable, doesn't help at all. Anyway, managed to get it all sorted out — and managed to buy a Eurail ticket as well!
Well, that's it. After six long and incredible months, I'm done with South America. Today was my final (half of a) day on this continent, and I spent it most unspectacularly, performing a convoluted three-legged flight that got me out of here: São Paulo to Lima; Lima to San Salvador; and San Salvador to New York. After sleeping in São Paulo airport last night (got in about an hour or two of shut-eye — wasn't that bad), my first flight took off at 6:30am. My third flight didn't get in to New York until 11:30pm — over 16 hours later. Wasn't the quickest or the most convenient way to fly north: but the airline — TACA Int'l, the same guys that I flew from Quito to Santiago with, about 6 weeks ago — was quite good; and the ticket (which I bought before I left Sydney) was pretty cheap.
After three weeks in this country, this evening I left Ecuador, from Quito's Mariscal Sucre Intl Airport. I flew with TACA from Quito to Lima, and then connected straight on from Lima to Santiago, in Chile. All went well, and the flights were comfortable and uneventful. Unfortunately, after today's incident, I wasn't in the best of moods, and I didn't fly out with the happiest memories of Ecuador floating in my head. Paying the $40.80 departure tax at Quito Intl was an unwelcome surprise, as well (I thought all taxes were included in my ticket price?). Anyway, now I'm outta here.
This morning, we arrived in Nazca from Arequipa, and went straight to the little airfield just outside of the city, to do a flight over the famous "Nazca Lines". This is one of the biggest tourist attractions in Peru: enormous lines that an ancient civilisation dug into the desert ground, and that are in the shapes of animals and of geometric figures, when seen from the air. As with many other tourists, my verdict for the Nazca Lines was not amazing: too expensive; hard to see the lines; and a really nauseating flight, in a teeny old plane with a crazy pilot. Something to tick off the list, but definitely not the highlight of my trip.