"You're crazy." Is what Dolores told me when I mentioned visiting Brazil.
Which is exactly what she told me before me last long trip. To Thailand in March 2020. "You're crazy." She said. But I got back OK. It was mostly fine.
Nonetheless, I was more anxious before flying. Did I have all the right pieces of fucking paper indicating I was fit to fly? Would the lounge be serving whisky? Stressful shit.
After more than 18 months, I'm out of pratice with the whole airport palaver. Especially all the walking. So much of it.
Not knowing what to expect, I turn up at Schiphol more than two hours before departure. Just to be on the safe side. And to make sure I've time for as few drinks before boarding. Even if it is only 9 AM.
I while away the 12 hours cooped up in a tin can wearing a mask by watching films. Anything light and not too vomit-inducing. I have some success. Even the bad ones eat away at the hours.
Almost four hours I have to connect in Sao Paolo. A couple of bad experiences have taught me to err on the side of caution for the sake of my heart. I'm not going to have to rush around an airport if I don't need to.
Immigration is quite a walk from the aircraft. And none of the moving walkways are working. Just what I need after half a day aching my arse off.
They aren't interested in seeing anything but my passport. A disappointment, after all the fucking around getting hold of all the documents had entailed. (They were all thoroughly checked in Schiphol.)
It's all pretty quick. I leave terminal 3, with all my luggage 45 minutes after touching down. Still loads of time.
LATAM check in is a bit of a walk. It looks pretty chaotic. Which queue should I join.
I'm not sure I pick the right one. I think it's for people with special needs. Not sure I'm quite enough of an old bastard to qualify for that yet. Each customer is taking for ever. And only one agent is helping.
The general queue seems to be rattling along at a decent rate. With three or four agents working it. I switch to that, even though it's longer.
After a few minutes, I realise my new queue has stopped moving. There's just one agent left. Where the hell did all the others go? Either all the cases are really difficult, or he's dead slow. What the fuck is he doing now? Why has he gone to the self checkin machines?
The blokes in front of me are getting very jumpy. I think their gates are getting ready to close. This is exactly why I left so much time between flights.
After complaining to a wandering member of the airline staff, the anxious blokes in front of me have be hurried off somewhere. Hopefully not to a firing squad. But my turn next. Looking back at my old queue, I see several people who were behind me have been served.
The couple being processed have a pile of bags. And two Yorkshire terriers. Fuck and double fuck. I saw earlier how long it took to check in just one dog.
A huge discussion ensues which seems to concern the type of bag being used to house the dogs. It takes forever.
Finally, I'm being done. Except the agent is struggling a bit withe the label printer.After some fiddling, he prints a bag label and attaches it weirdly. Then has a think and rips it off again. Another couple of labels are printed, looked at and discarded. A fourth is somewhat insecure looking manner and my bag dispatched to the bowels of the airport. I don't feel confident about seeing it again anytime soon.
That's taken me over 90 minutes. My legs are numb from all the standing. I suppose a long walk to the gate will at least get my blood moving.
Security painlessly passed, I search for directions to my gate. It's to the left. Second gate listed. Will I miss a long walk for once?
Will I hell. It may be one of the first gates. But it's a long trek just to get to the first. When I plonk my sorry arse down it's 15 minutes until boarding. I planned on a couple of hours watching stuff on my laptop. Out of principle, I open it up and fire up an episode of Al Murray's new TV thing.
About minutes worth is what I have time for. In the boarding group 6 and get on pretty late. Still room in the overhead for my rucksack, luckily.
It's fully and the seats are pretty close together. When the twat in the seat in front of me the moment the wheels leave the tarmac, there's my chance of using my laptop gone. I squint at Private Eye, instead.
No onboard service of any sort.Though we're only in the air 40-45 minutes. Just as well, given how much my arse is aching due to the restricted legroom.
Florianopolis airport is nice and compact. No long walks here. I wait anxiously at the luggage carousel. I'm not feeling very confident. Bags trickle out and are whisked away. But not mine. I'm not very confident it was labelled correctly.
The crowd is thinning out. How much of a disaster will it be if it doesn't turn up?All it contains are clothes. And my whisky. I can do without my clothes tonight but not that so much.
Just when I'm thinking about how much hassle it will be to get my bag if it's gone missing, it pops out. Thank fuck for that. I've been travelling for the best part of a day. Now I just need to find a taxi.
There's an office where you can buy a taxi voucher. It's closed. Not because it's late. Oh, no. Because they're working from home. You have to ring them up and get something sent to your phone. I do have a phone with me. Not sure how the fuck I'd use it.
Instead I walk to the rank. I point at the hotel address I have printed out and ask "How much" He doesn't speak any English but says what I take to mean 100 to 120 reals in Portuguese. About 20 euros. It is a long, way, right at the other end of the island.
The best part of an hour has passed when we trundle up to the hotel. It's been a long day and I'm relieved to get here.
Of course my fucking key card doesn't work. I get the bloke on the desk to reset it. Still doesn't work and I get a new one. That was extra fuss I could have done without.
I reckon it's 20 hours since I walked out of my house this morning. Was it this morning? Or yesterday? I'm too knacked to know for sure.
Time for a quick hotel whisky to knock me out. I picked up a bottle of Bowmoer in Schiphol duty free. Now where's a glass?
There are none. I have to swig straight from the bottle like a savage.
I hope tomorrow is less stressful.
The organisers of the Brasil Beer Cup paid for my accommodation and food during the period of judging (four nights and three days) Beer, too, which was provided by one of the sponsors. I had to pay for my own cocktails. And all other expenses, such as flights and extra hotel nights.