14 April 2011
'Overbooked'Sao Paulo. Departure.
Our travel co-ordinator had warned us that the escape from Brazil might be tricky so we were up early this morning to allow plenty of time. Sadly his hunch was well founded, as pretty much every part of the journey proved torturous in extremis. The internet was down at the hotel so we couldn’t check in online (funny how, in such a short space of time, on-line check-in has become so much the norm that I now feel quite nervous showing up at an airport without boarding pass in hand.) There was hell traffic all the way to the airport and on arrival it transpired that the London flight was severely overbooked. There were about 40 of us booked onto this one flight and some of our party were being told that either they’d been down-graded or bumped off the flight altogether. Not great.
I dodged the bullet, so after some time queuing at the check-in counter found myself in possession of a boarding pass. This queue, it turns out, was merely the appetizer for first the security screening line and then, most spectacularly, passport control. Despite it being a busy time there were just three clerks processing out-going foreigners, which made for a queue of epic proportions, winding back and forth on itself seven times. Many of our crew were in this line so at least there were moments of comic relief as we passed each other time and time again as the queue shuffled on. An hour later I finally made it to the front, from where I could see a couple of our video lads just joining the very back, having sloped off for a post check-in smoke. That might turn out to be a very costly cigarette.
We made it through with 15 minutes to spare so gathered in the closest bar to our gate where we helped each other get rid of any remaining local currency. This was the moment when I realised I hadn’t even seen any Brazilian currency since we arrived six days ago. It’s been so full-on that I have seen nothing apart from the inside of the hotel, the inside of the stadium and of course the inside of a CT scanner at the Albert Einstein hospital.
The flight was fine, if long. I watched “Fair Game” the Sean Penn film about the Valerie Plame affair, which was very good, despite the pain of being reminded of the wiles of the Bush administration. I finished The Geography of Bliss by Eric Weiner, which is a great read and finally passed out. We’ve three weeks now until the final furlong of the 360 tour. This last leg (Mexico / North America) is a long one but even so it's strange to really take on board that the end is in sight for our five-year mission. This may necessitate an amount of adjustment.