The Road to Madrid – Part 2

The news was not good. Without the credit card used to purchase my airline ticket online, I would not be able to get on the plane.

But there was a workaround. I could buy a new ticket for $1000+. This was not really good news but I tried to stay calm. It didn’t work. There seemed to be a choice between two bad alternatives. If I didn’t get on the plane, the value of my original ticket was lost. That’s $900+ out the window. If I got on the plane, it would cost me $1000 on top of my original $900. Hmmm.

The agent offered a glimmer of hope. He would accept the $1000 as a deposit. If I could somehow get my credit card to the Qatar Airways office in Bali, there might be away to get my money back for the second flight. I looked at my watch which now indicated 15 minutes to takeoff and decided to buy a new ticket.

The agents sprang into action to run my credit card, get me the seats I wanted, pay my departure tax, and check my hiking poles. I asked if they were holding the plane for me and they said it wasn’t even boarding yet. Hmmm.

I grabbed my boarding pass, said a few half-hearted thank you’s (why??) and bolted through the terminal. To my surprise, the boarding area was full and no one had boarded. I looked at my watch. 15 minutes after takeoff time. Then I looked at the airport clock. 45 minutes until takeoff. It was then I realized my second bone-headed move. My watch was set on Bali time, which is one hour later than Jakarta time. I had an hour more than I thought. I don’t think it made any difference in the outcome, it only cost me a few more anxious moments. I got on the plane and we took off a little after midnight. The day was already eighteen hours long.

Since then things have gone pretty smoothly. I arrived in beautiful downtown Doha at 4 am local time. About 90 degrees and HUMID. Isn’t this supposed to be a desert? World’s longest bus ride between the plane and the terminal. I swear it was at least 30 minutes long. It was like a tour of all the wonderful airport facilities. And on your left is the toilet servicing area. Right next to the catering kitchens. Here’s the cargo area and here’s where my cousin works in airport security. I think I’ll stop and say hello. Finally we reach the transfer terminal and get blasted by the a/c.

Did you you can buy a Bentley GT at the duty free shop in Doha? I wonder if they still have the guy hand it to you as you get on the plane. Mr. Schlesinger, here’s your carton of cigarettes, fifth of Seagram’s and Bentley GT. Wait till the guys in economy see this!

But I digress. Oh, one more thing. I know airport food is expensive but should a double latte really cost $6+? I should have priced the Bentley.

So now it’s 6:30 am local time and back to the tour bus. Since it was dark when we landed, let’s drive by all the wonderful airport facilities in the daylight to appreciate all their magnificence. My cousin has finished his shift but I think my brother-in-law just punched in at baggage handling. Actually, it was cool to see downtown Doha which looks exactly like you would expect a UAE capital to look like. LOTS of high-rises in white undulating shapes.

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The flight left about an hour late because we were waiting for a few late transfers. Or maybe they had trouble loading the Bentley in the overhead.

The Road to Madrid – Part 1

Yesterday was supposed to be a big day on my round the world adventure. It certainly started that way and it ain’t over yet.

As is our custom at Gaia Oasis, we wake up before dawn, grab some coffee and head out to the beach to watch the sunrise over the Bali Sea. Every sunrise is different and every one is spectacular. There’s usually some clouds over the ocean to the east, so the first thing you see is a warm glow behind them. As the sky brightens, you notice that the clouds appear to meet the sea seamlessly, and you assume that the first glimpse of the sun over the horizon will be obscured. At 0630 or so, the sun suddenly appears as a fiery sliver and you can enjoy a few minutes of pure unfiltered sunrise until the sun is masked by the clouds. The show continues, however, now with the full intensity of the sun providing a backlight to the clouds.

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After packing and breakfast, our friend Wayan picked us up and we drove south past the volcano for lunch in Ubud. Kathryn and the kids got to do some last minute shopping and then we were off to the airport for the start of my long journey to Spain and the Camino de Santiago. It was hard to say goodbye to the Furious Five, as we called ourselves (I am the monkey). It had really been a wonderfully mellow end to my stay in Bali.

After a non eventful flight to Jakarta, I had over four hours to chill before my long flight to Doha. I spent the time enjoying America’s finest export – fast food.

20130808-110139.jpgI got in line early to check in because I wanted to get exit row seating all the way to Madrid if possible. The line was really long but eventually I got to the counter and presented the usual check-in papers. All was going smoothly until the agent asked me for the credit card I used to purchase my ticket online. I thought to my self, “Wasn’t that the one I decide to leave with my wife so I wouldn’t worry about losing it?”

I never really read the fine print that talks about that requirement but I figured it was no big deal. The agent went to speak with someone higher up and returned with a question: Is there any way you could call someone who could bring you the credit card you used? Now, I’m thinking to myself, “Hmmm. Kathryn is over an hour away by plane. I don’t think the calvary is going to arrive this time.”

I was still hopeful however, and the agent escorted me and my paperwork over to the manger’s desk. By this time over an hour has passed since I got in line and I checked my watch. One hour to takeoff. Still time to work this out and make the flight. The manager’s desk was a beehive of activity as agents came and went with piles of paper and requests for help with special cases they couldn’t solve themselves. Was my case special? Apparently not. I watched the time tick away as the manager waited on other people. Behind me, the checkin line withered to nothing. I looked at my watch. 30 minutes to takeoff. If something was going to happen, it better happen soon.

Finally I get the answer to my problem and it wasn’t pretty. Since I didn’t have the credit card used to purchase the ticket, I could not get on the plane.

To be continued…

The Backpack Club – June 23, 2013

Yesterday was my second day of training for the Camino in August. Our goal was to complete 10+ miles around Upper Newport Bay near our house. My wife Kathryn and I left the house around 9 am and started walking under typical June overcast skies. Here’s a photo of me at the start.

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A few blocks into our walk, we said hello to a man walking his dog and he asked if we were in training for something. When we answered yes, he immediately guessed “that Camino thing.” His name was Jack and he said his wife Joy was talking about it and encouraging him to go. He suggested that we poke our heads into their house a few doors down and introduce ourselves. Joy was very surprised to see us but was excited to hear about our trip. She said she was planning to walk the Camino someday whether Jack went along or not.

A few blocks later we were stopped once again by a jogger named Mike who asked about our gear. He had heard about the Camino but he was talking to his family earlier that day about their trip hiking in the Pyrenees next summer. They’re not planning to hike the Camino, but it sounds like a great trip nonetheless.

So now we’ve been on our hike less than 30 minutes and we’ve already spent half the time talking to interested people who are excited to hear about our adventures. Wearing backpacks must send out a secret message of fraternity. I know that works on the Camino but I didn’t know it worked in Orange County, California.

Thinking back to my first training hike, I recall meeting another couple who were wearing backpacks. Of course I had to ask them what they were training for. Turns out they were heading up to Mt. Whitney in July. For those who are not familiar with it, Mt. Whitney is the tallest mountain in the continental US, roughly 14,500 feet tall (4,420 meters). It’s a bucket list adventure and worth every minute suffering in the thin air.

Back to sea level, which you’ll notice in the pictures below, Kathryn and I cruised around the upper bay in about 3-1/2 hours and we didn’t see any more people wearing backpacks.

In the next blog, I’ll share my effort to learn “real” Spanish.

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