Being desperately tired seems to be a theme for this trip. I don’t recall it being an issue during previous adventures, but then this one is on an epic scale like no other – 37hrs to travel 1000 miles, from Barquisimeto, Vnz to Palmares, CR.
I’d hoped that the night bus from Barquisimeto to Caracas would afford me a few hours sleep, but a three pronged assault on the senses put a halt to that.
Looney tunes #1
First off was the middle aged lady sat next to me, who I’m sure is a delightful woman when you get to know her…. But not so delightful when she stares at your face for 6 hours! Having checked my delightful features shortly before boarding the bus I was happy there were no abnormal growths nor obscenities scrawled across it (thankfully those parties are a thing of the past).
I turned and flashed a level-B smile (Level-B: enough to weaken the knees, but not enough to induce a Thelma and Louise moment), but she was unphased! She maintained her cold, unblinking gaze for 6 hours!
My conclusion: She digs Fray, she’s just unsure how to show it in a non-cadaver like state.
Being no stranger to longing gazes I just pulled my cap over my eyes and tried to sleep…
… No, no, no Fray!!!
Enter looney tunes #2
This ‘lady’ sat across the aisle from me, and within seconds had introduced herself to all around, with the extra nugget of information being that she had really bad flu. Nobody asked her to substantiate this claim, yet she proceeded to do so for the next 6 hours by coughing, sneezing and sniffing… much to the delight of the surrounding passengers.
I would surmise that she was some form of eco-warrior, with a tremendous love of trees as she was careful not to waste any paper… in fact she didn’t use any tissue paper at all! She had a completely selfless attitude with her germs… offering them freely for all to take.
And the guttural sound of someone clearing their phlegmy throat for hours on end… that shall haunt my dreams for many years to come.
My conclusion: A thoroughly unpleasant woman.
And then came the piece de resistance… the bain of my life… that which seems to haunt my every adventure on public transport……… The Screaming Child.
I’m a patient man. I’m a tolerant man. I consider myself thick skinned… but if there is one sound that instantly throws open the hate crime floodgates and releases the rage it’s being trapped in a confined space with that sound!
“SLEEP FOUL BEAST!!!”
Yet again the gods ignored my plea. This child was A.N.G.R.Y! At this point you would expect the loving mother to try and sooth her troubled urchin… no, no, no!!!
I’m not a parent, nor have I ever attended parenting classes, nor do I willingly enter discussions about parenting… but I’d bet a pound to a pinch of sh*t that ‘Raise your voice to talk over the screaming bleeder’ doesn’t feature highly on any parenting strategies….. not for the first minute, nor the following 6 hours.
What she was prattling about or who to, I have no idea. Maybe it was the girl with the cadaver stare sat next to me. That could help explain her soulless, unblinking eyes. Whoever it was to, and whatever she was waffling about… It got my imagination flowing with novel, creative and fiendish new uses for a seatbelt!!!
Being met at the bus station by the infinitely awesome Nirida was enough to crush my rage… the fact that she was carrying homemade arepa and a frosty can of beer sent me into joygasmic overload. Her energy and contagious joy soon recharged the batteries… preparing me for the 10 hour wait to come.
The first hour was the hardest as I desperately tried to stay awake. Sleeping was not an option (although I really wanted to check Vnz off on my list of slept in airports). I found a cafe that served bone chilling, brain freezing Iced Tea… instant refreshment! After that the writing started flowing (interrupted by my head occasionally bouncing off the table until I topped up the tea supplies).
Check-in at 2pm was uneventful, as was the x-ray scan, then on to Immigration Control… and then the fun started!
Compared to western airports, Venezuela (CCS) is a lunatic asylum. Aside from the random shootings, muggings, theft etc, queues form at random, with everyone long forgetting what they were queuing for… but that’s not important anyway, because as soon as they realize they’re in the wrong line they just push their way to the front of the correct one, under some shoddy pretence, and when they get there… well they might as well check-in now they’re there.
After analyzing my passport I was sent to the Venezuelans only line, a fact I only discovered after 20 minutes of waiting (apparently being an honorary Venezuelan doesn’t count). I relocated myself to another ‘queue’ (in rugby terms it’s known as a ruck). My new ‘queue’ was much more exciting! They were incredibly slow – I queued for 1hr30mins in total, which narked the feisty bunch no end. It started with random shouts of abuse (I presume), then erupted into clapping when someone made it through the gates (marico hand gesture raised), followed by chants (again, presumably offensive judging by the counter abuse barked by staff and people in the ‘Diplomatico’ queue. Abuse by passengers was greeted by abuse from staff/security, was greeted by roars of applause……. and repeat.
I didn’t understand most of it, but it was WAY more exciting than European airports! It certainly helped pass the time too (fear of getting trampled by a crowd of sweaty, bloodlusting Venezuelans will do that)
I made my way straight to gate 24 (via the bar – purely for refreshment mind!). I plugged my phone into a wall socket, tangled myself in a jumble of wire and bag strap to prevent any light fingers, and settle down for the last few hours wait.
I couldn’t sleep.
No, definitely not!
Just 2 minutes… It’d be fine! I was at the right gate anyway.
I closed my eyes for 2 secon……
“BING BONG!!! Could TheFrayTrain please report to gate 13!!!”
I almost lost an ear as I fought to free myself from my protective constraints. Apparently they’d changed the gates 30 minutes earlier but turned the tannoy down to Whisper Setting… Just for giggles!
So I go hurtling through the terminal (par for the course) and reach gate 13 just in time… to be told it’s been delayed for an hour, as the plane was still somewhere over near 24!
The remaining 10+ hours passed with ease, tranquility and without incident.
I will end with high praise indeed for Bogota Airport! Awesome place, really well laid out. I was only in transit, but 8 hours is enough time to get a good feel for a place. Immaculately clean, awesome facilities (free phone recharge/WiFi at dedicated booths without the fear of being electrocuted as in Vnz), and an all pervading air of calm and safety. I’ve slept in many airports, but I can honestly say it was a pleasure sleeping there (albeit for only about 2 hours). I look forward to returning there and the rest of Colombia in a few months