A huge hangover greeted me the morning after the final night in Auckland. Quay had luckily turned up in Auckland for his final evening, so it was another perfect opportunity to check out a bit of nightlife. It was probably the worst way to prepare myself for what was to be an epic 36-hour journey to Quito in Ecuador to start my tour around South America with stop-offs in Buenos Aires, Santiago de Chile and Lima.
It took a while for me to pick myself up in the hostel, but after a decent breakfast the excitement started to hit me. I was finally off to South America. With the first leg of my journey being an overnight flight, a mixture of feelings flooded through me as the day passed by – excitement, uncertainty and fear. Although I was sat in New Zealand, probably the furthest away I could get from the UK, I felt that I was about to drift even more. This could also be related to the cultural change that I was about to experience and the unknown dangers of South America. Asia and Australasia was a breeze – South America is a different story.
The first eleven hour flight from Auckland to Buenos Aires passed without any real issues. The flight landed an hour or so later than planned and the baggage claim was a little longer than expected, so there was some added pressure to get from the Buenos Aires Eze Airport where I’d landed, to Aeroparque on the other side of the city for my connecting flight to Chile. This started the huge jet lag head fuck as I had arrived in Buenos Aires at 16:50 on the very same day I took off at 18:30 from Auckland! Nevertheless, I had to click straight into Spanish and get myself in a cab and over to Aeroparque without immediately being ripped off by the driver. Twenty quid later, the driver put his foot down knowing there was some time to be made up, veering his way precariously through Buenos Aires’ thick traffic. Before I knew it, I was through customs again and off to Santiago de Chile – a shorter two hours flight away.
As the flight landed at 21:15, I then had to sleep in the airport to await the next flight scheduled for 6:30. I hadn’t yet started feeling the full effects from the flights, so I managed to keep down a burger and fries in the airport restaurant before finding a corner in the airport terminal to take a sleep.
Although I managed to intermittently fall in and out of sleep whilst I kept some kind of consciousness to ensure I wasn’t robbed, I woke up at around 4am in quite a daze. It didn’t really compute with me where I was as I dropped off my bags for boarding. I then don’t really recall getting on or even being on the flight to Lima which was only a short 3-hour journey away. I must have passed out en route completely erasing anything that occurred between waking up in Santiago airport and being kicked off the plane in Lima.
Upon arrival on May 3rd at 9am, I had another twelve hour stop over before the final flight to Quito. I was completely all over the place in my head and for some reason decided to check out of customs to try and head into Lima for the day. Witnessing my complete functional obsolesce, every cabby standing outside the airport tried charging me extortionate fares to head into the city which meant I decided to quit whilst I was ahead and spend the day in the terminal. That cost me $20 immediately (which is a day’s life) – just to have my passport stamped on re-entry!
After a McDonald’s breakfast, I then started one of the most excruciating days of my life. The Jet-lag had well and truly kicked in. I sat in the airport listening to my music staring out into thin air without an inch of life in me. I couldn’t get comfortable anywhere, feeling restless all day. The nausea kicked in meaning I didn’t feel like eating. My mind then sent itself into turmoil, watching the clock tick-by slowly as flight after flight departed to their destinations. I watched the cleaners do the rounds over and over again. I was ushered out of one chair to the next as passengers for flights eased me out of their departure areas. I sat in the toilets sweating as I couldn’t cope with my nerves. After a few hours, I finally managed to fall asleep in a corner only to be woken up again by the same cleaner whom I’d met in the morning. The good news at this point was that the sun had set so I was getting closer to my flight at 9pm. One Spaghetti Bolognese later (which luckily sat nicely in my stomach) and I was ready for Quito. The nausea seemed to have left me for a short period with the ensuing adrenaline taking over.
At 12.20am, I landed in Quito, Ecuador. After stamping through customs, it was time to get myself to the hostel down town without any trouble. As it was now beyond 1am, the airport was deserted and the fear of the unknown hit me. Quito, being notoriously dangerous after dark, was to greet me in open arms. Outside, torrential rain beat down on me as I hailed down a cab. I told the driver I needed a cash point before I got in and he said he’d take me to it – I asked politely to take me to one around the airport to maintain confidence in not being jumped. He did what I asked – but he basically took me round the block before pointing at the cash point hiding round the corner from the exit to the airport terminal from where he picked me up. A nice $5 for nothing. And a lesson straight off the bat to trust no-one.
A few bangs on the hostel door later in New Town Quito, I passed out within seconds in my much needed bed…