I left Glasgow at 7am with the red eye down to London.
From getting on the bus in Lochgilphead to Glasgow I could feel mycellf getting excited.
With the stuff that I teach, that excitement means you are following the right path. So bring it!
Brekkie in Gatwich at 9.30am then straight to Barcelona where the fun began.
American entry visa ESTA
Do you have an ESTA the nice lady at the check in asked?
Hmmm my heart starts to sink, nope. But I do have at ETA which is the Canadian equivalent, so I knew roughly what she was talking about. You need to get one online she told me and luckily I had plenty of time, 5 hours, famous last words.
My passport was issued in France when I was living in Malta and I am a UK citizen. So it kept rejecting my details. Another super helpful girl phoned the boss in Madrid, sent pics of what was happening, while I just stood thinking, not for the first time in my life, what an idiot I was. I had booked with a company called Kiwi travel, paid £368 for the 4 flights and it said it looked like no visa was required. Small print issue maybe.
So I stood for 4 hours, then another uber friendly woman said, just lie basically, and put it all through as the UK. Hey presto it went through great relief, but then said pending......godammit....
Now the gate was closing, so they decided to try and put it in their system to see what it said, and PING it came through.
Literally on that last minute. I grabbed the girl and hugged her, they were all laughing and delighted that plan B, which I had not made yet, was not necessary.
I am uber tired by this point and starving. So get mycellf to the gate and as I approached I thought I heard them saying my name in a very strong Spanish accent. WTF I thought. So went over and the guy apologetically told me my name along with 6 others had been randomly chosed for another luggage check and that they would hold the plane up while this happened (American law, Donald fecking Trump) . Just before a 10 hour flight... great.
Not even a second to grab a sandwich so I internally raged about Donald Trump and the US as I was not ever going there, just passing through.
Its not terrorists these eejits will stop its tourists.
This took another hour. Unbelievable. The new American laws are reaching out and affecting people who dont even work there or even want to go there, but have to land on their soil to get where they want to go.
US Borders have just got bigger
AND!!! You must have an exit flight. Fair enough, BUT they include Cuba, the Caribean islands, Mexico and Canada in their exit flight catchment. That means if you are going to any of these Countries via the US, you must have an exit flight.
They have extended their area right out, the staff at the airport have to follow the laws but you could tell how pissed off they were too as another couple going to Mexico with no exit flight were not allowed on either. I mean seriously. Assholes.
I made way wearily back to the gate and here are the 3 women that helped me, they all shouted at the same time "Lilia, what has happened" and I explained I was randomly chosen, they all hugged me and apologised and wished me a great trip. And that made up for all the hassle.
I flew Norweigan airways. You never quite know what you will get when you dont read the small print, just book the cheapest price. So I was pleasantly surprised. Had a small screen in front, but the shittest pile of movies and docs I have ever seen, totally unwatchable, and I tried but got bored half way through. But I smiled when I realised you could go on and order some snacks, remember I was starving, run a tab on your tablet, order whatever you wanted and they brought it to you. That was handy. Not the kind of food I wanted, but got some salad and cashew along with my cheese toasty. I missed the meal thing, I could have pre ordered, but again the small print. A 10 hour flight has to be broken up with good movies and food in my opinion.
But it was comfy enough and I slept a good 6 hours, so happy days. Buenos dias.
I practised my spanish on my new babbel app, that is a lot of fun.
I was so looking forward to getting into Fort Lauderdale and getting and good meal and a glass of wine. Oh oh, what a disappointment that airport is. One tiny wee coffee shop that did not even have any sit in. A fairly basic chicken caesar and I bedded down for the night on a bench, which was actually fine.
I woke around 4am and got through security, towards what I had hoped would be a good brekkers, not to be but eventually I got on my flight to Bogota.
I arrived in airport and looked round for a taxi or shuttle, to be met with a wee guy offering me a cab. I knew what this meant, rip off, but Im tired and hot now, so I thought fuck it.
We negotiate in the most ludicrous way, and came to some agreement I think. I only had 50 million pound notes, so you can imagine. He drives like a real loony, kind of like Malta, busy roads, tooting the horn with nothing to be gained. I mentally think about my insurance. The bus lanes have an actual small concrete division, which it could be easy to hit, anyway Im here to tell the tale..
Hostel Botanica was a welcome site, and it was one of my great decisions. I am not sure what tactic I used to pick it, but it worked.
I sat down with a beer and viewed the incredible mountains on one side, and the city stretched on on the other, boy did it feel good.
The adventure has begun.