There was no rush to leave the hotel since our flight from Mendoza to Buenos Aires was not until 2pm. This game us the chance to have a good sleep and a relaxed breakfast before spending a short time squeezing the last of our clothes into our bags.
Carmel and I decided to postpone most of our packing until the morning and this ensured a fairly stressful time following breakfast. We had rammed in our perfectly folded clothes and equipment into our bags back in the UK and were not overly surprised that the now dirty and unpackaged items would not all fit back inside. In the end, some dirty clothes and some toiletries had to be left behind.
Most of our clothes were really quite smelly after 3 weeks on the mountain, so we hoped that we didn’t have to open our main bags at the airport.
At the same time as packing I was finishing off copying everyone’s photos onto my memory stick – an activity that had taken me many hours over the last few days. The shared computers in reception were slow things that had seen better days. Files took an age to copy via a cheap little USB memory card reader I had bought.
At 11am we met in reception and piled our belongings into our minibus and set off for the airport. We had paid extra for the hotel as we had spent longer in the hotel than the trip had forecast. The trip had planned for a few contingency days on the mountain and we had only needed to use one of these days. For the summiting group there were two extra days to pay for. However for the group that descended prematurely and had not camped at Camp 3 there were a few more days to pay for. The hotel was not expensive in British Sterling so this wasn’t really a problem for anyone.
At the airport we found out our flight was delayed. The delay was about 6 hours so we found a very standard airport cafe (that could have been at home in any airport in the world) and made ourselves comfortable. The delay gave us time to buy various mementos of our trip,including books and maps of Aconcagua. Carmel bought a large poster describing in Spanish the many recognised aromas of wine to help us remember our wineries tour.
During this time we said goodbye to Simon and his wife Josephine who were on a flight one hour before ours, also to Buenos Aires.
After being bored silly in the bland cafe, our flight was eventually called and we made our way to Buenos Aires.
However, in Buenos Aires we found our transatlantic flight to Madrid was also delayed. We found another cafe and ate more junk food. The flight was only delayed by a few hours but this concerned us as we did not have too much leeway time in Madrid before our UK flight was due to leave.
During the transatlantic leg I don’t believe any of us watched the films. We had learnt our lesson on the way over and the terrible sequence of two or three B-movies being shown on the little TVs overhanging the aisles did not appeal.
Arriving in Madrid our UK flight was not delayed, which almost was a shame as we now had to rush to get our plane. The airport was expecting us and we were asked to disembark the jumbo before other passengers so that we could make our London connections. This meant squeezing past the frowning 350 people standing in the aisles on the jumbo.
There were about 15 of us trying to make the Gatwick connection and we were met by an airport official as soon as we set foot in the terminal. The girl rushed us across half of the airport and forced us to go through security again, but in the end we did make our connection – but only with seconds to spare.
Of course, with us having run across the airport and the plane closing its doors as soon as we had got on, we had low expectations of seeing our hold baggage when we arrived in London. We were correct and none of our hold bags travelled with us on the final leg of the journey. At Gatwick we all filled out lost baggage forms.
And then after 3.5 weeks together it was time for us to part our ways and say goodbye. We were all travelling to different parts of the UK and after a few embraces we set off home and wondered how easy it would be to rejoin society again.
Our bags all arrived with us over the next 3 days.
My camera was never seen again.