Tuesday, 1 March 2016

Buenos Aires

After stupidly leaving my camera in a taxi, I was a touch depressed. Unfortunately, I have form in this area. Many years ago, in Bangkok, I lost a Nikon on the way to photograph preserved steam locomotives. My trip to St. Helena was threatened when I found I’d omitted to take a battery charger. The purser was very sure that a spare charger could be found in his stock of things acquired, but he was wrong, so I finished the trip using the camera in my mobile phone which was much better than nothing but I did miss the optical zoom my camera provided. Near the end of a recent cruise, another pocket camera suddenly died with the lens turret hanging at a crazy angle. These are motor driven to retract when you switch off – I assumed I’d not waited for the motor to finish its work after taking a shot and that I’d managed to thump the exposed lens whilst energetically climbing stairs.

A possibility was to use the camera in my mobile phone (a different one to that in use on the St. Helena trip) but again I was worried about the lack of optical zoom so, after enquiring locally about camera shops, I decided to explore on foot and see what was available. The answer, it appeared, was very little within my walking limit. Prices were also high, compared with the U.K. but I eventually purchased a Canon from a sort of ‘Argentinian Currys’ called Garbarino.The store was very modern, brightly lit and fully computerised. Language was more of a problem than I anticipated, considering the store was on the main tourist shopping street, Florida, which is pedestrianised. The assistants were, however, used to using their smart phones to capture a phrase using speech-to-text software or typing and then using the internet to translate into the appropriate language. I assumed that, having made a decision, the actual purchase would be quick. I was wrong. As a new customer, the salesman had to set up an account. Although I was asked to supply very little information, the confident keyboard entry seemed interminable. Then, a computer stock enquiry was necessary (I think the stock was held in a room at the back of the store). Next, my credit card had to be checked. A sales voucher was then printed and I was led to an accounts counter staffed by three ladies. Here, payment was taken from my card by both ‘chip and pin’ and ‘signature’. I then discovered that the purchase price was split into two (I wasn’t quite sure why, but the total was what I expected) so a second payment was taken in the same way. The sales voucher was then solemnly receipted by the accounts lady but we were not done yet. I was directed to a Despatch desk, where I waited for a previous customer to complete the exchange of a mobile phone. Then, the despatcher disappeared into stores to locate my purchase which he unpacked in front of me so that we agreed that the kit was complete. After re-packing, the box was placed in a plastic carrier bag and handed to me with a smile. Everybody in the store had been helpful and friendly but a transaction I expected to take five or ten minutes had taken over three quarters of an hour. I realised that I still had much to learn about the ‘South American Way’.

Back at the hotel, I was delighted to find that the broadband really was fast so I decided that, although I was very tired, I ought to try to do a bit of blogging and photograph management, as I didn’t know what I’d find later in the trip. It was very late when I finally reached the large, comfortable bed and I slept well, if not for very long, since my taxi from the Plaza Hotel had been booked for six. I was to travel to Ushuaia on a Silversea charter flight operated by LAN which would take all the cruise passengers. from Buenos Aires Domestic Airport. Flight LA 4962 was intended to board at 07:50 for an 08:25 departure but arrival at the airport was required to be 2 hours before departure, hence the 6.0 a.m. taxi.

Part of the lobby at the Plaza Hotel, Buenos Aires.

The taxi was a few minutes early but I was waiting after a brief well-presented continental breakfast in my room provided by Room Service. It was still dark when I left the hotel and it had been raining quite heavily during the night. With light traffic it only took around 20 minutes to reach the domestic airport. I identified my flight on the depatures screen and made my way towards the check-in. Suddenly, a porter brandished a printed sign saying ‘SILVERSEA’ in front of me and, when I confirmed that I was a passenger, he moved a tape barrier to allow me to join a small group of passengers who, like me, were joining the tour at the airport. Most of our fellow travellers, I learned, would be arriving in two coaches shortly, having used one of Silversea’s ‘Pre-cruise options’. Presently, a local Silversea lady representative came up, identified the waiting group on her list of passengers and allowed the porter to take our heavy luggage, saying that the bags would magically re-appear in our cabins on the ship. She distributed boarding passes to us, so all we had to do was run the gauntlet of security to enable us to enter the departure hall, overlooking the apron, and wait for our flight to be boarded.

Buenos Aires Domestic Airport, with the city in the background.

Before half past seven, there were more than 100 people waiting near gate 11. It was after eight o’clock when we started to board but everybody seemed quite cheerful and only slightly less pleased as we had to descend stairs to ground level and board a transfer bus. My bus was very, very full but after we’d driven across the apron to a rather tired-looking LAN A320, we discovered at least one bus had already dropped-off a load of passengers, so there were some delays in reaching our allocated seats. I didn’t note our take-off time but we must have been at least 75 minutes late leaving but the weather was good, we were pretty sure our ship would wait for us and the mood remained cheerful.

Next post in this series.

My pictures

When I can, I'll post pictures of the trip to the album South Atlantic Voyage.

You can find all my pictures on the trip in the Collection Cape to Cape (still being added to, at the time of writing).

['Cape to Cape' collection added 2-Apr-2016]