02.04.2008 - 04.04.2008
View Channelling the Cane Spirits in South America on Jeremy T's travel map.
Bogota's airport was stuffed tighter than a rocker's jeans, and it appeared the star attraction was the Iberia desk servicing the two A-340 flights to Spain. More or less ninety minutes and two passport checks passed before I finally reached the weigh-in and passport/ticket desk. On route to the gate, I breezed through another passport check, a screening point and metal detector patdown, a 2-point bag search partial frisk into a bag screen plus patdown ticket check, onto the final double tear-off ticket validation and I was aboard; I may have forgotten to mention three hours behind schedule. It was about this point, with just moments left in Latin America that my timing belt re-adjusted to fire all systems randomly and leave me completely in the lurch for the next couple of days. I'm blaming the radiation.
Madrid's Terminal 4 is huge, beautiful and a very long way from everything else. The Iberia section is not only a train ride away, but right at the end, making it the airport equivalent of the outer part of Outer Mongolia. Let's keep that in mind for later. I hauled my belongings (now a rucksack, suitcase, backpack and laptop) down to Madrid's metro system. I surfaced in the dead-centre of the city at Plaza del Sol feeling like a B-Double of the backpacker world and spent two hours trying to find a hostel bed that was both vacant and wouldn't require me to pawn off half my stuff; though I doubt anyone would be too keen on Peruvian handicrafts or year-old Explorer socks. When I finally checked into a hostel I realised a day had slipped between the cogs and my early flight to Switzerland was leaving the next morning. I had time to visit one tourist site – the Picasso exhibition at the Reina Sofia, but embarrassingly began passing out while trying figure out the cubist ones.
So as you may guess, come Friday my five-Euro deposit alarm clock failed to fire and I was instead woken by the superior timing of my German-manufactured roommates at 8am. With just forty-five minutes before my aircraft took to flight, I surmised I wouldn't probably make it. €11 and three anxious phone calls later, I transferred to a later flight, and by early afternoon I was on the metro back to Terminal 4. To get to the Iberia gates from the second floor weigh-in and screening point, it was a quadruple escalator descent and then a five minute subway ride to passport control. But where was my passport? The final words of the screening point guard ring through my ears: "Are you sure you have everything?" Well, now that you're re-mentioning it, no.
Suddenly the airport's expert people-funnelling system began to work against me. How could I get back there? Everything so far had been completely one way. With only a quarter hour before the boarding call, I got moving. Up two escalators and down two and I was on the other side of the tracks. Into the train and out of the train. Through the baggage pick 'n' mix; running now, nothing to declare. Past the huggers and sign holders to the elevator. Second floor. Toe tapping. A power-walk to security; a conversation in Spanish: "Ticket please."
"Er....I lost it there," pointing toward the guard on the other side of the glass, "That man has it."
"You can't go through without a ticket." An anxious and somewhat frantic re-iteration. A security guard is called over and motions me to step forward; another fretful repeat of the same thing. I pass through and approach the screening guard. "Señor, I left my passport here ten minutes ago, have you seen it?"
"Hmmm, so far in that time I've picked up four phones, two wallets...." my mind is racing so much I miss the rest. "That way please," he gestures to yet another security guard, this one armed, who disappears into a tiny booth shaped like an Art Deco snail. He emerges with the passport. I decide not to kiss him, instead saying thank-you's in as many directions as I could face. No one notices.
I quickstep down the first two escalators, consider sliding down the next two and leap aboard the waiting train seconds before the doors shut. A five minute break. Out and up two escalators, I triumphantly present my passport and make a break for the gates. Mine is the third-last but I have the moving walkways on my side and make double time in straight lines, reaching the gate fifteen minutes late, but incredibly with time to spare.