10:30 p.m., Toronto Pearson International Airport.
It’s late and shops are closing but Gate E is still packed with tired passengers waiting for their flight. We will hopefully board soon. It’s been a long day—it’s still a long day, it’s far from being over.
Like last year, we wondered if our Ottawa-Toronto flight would be delayed or even cancelled altogether because of the weather. We’ve had so many “special weather statement in effect” throughout December that chances were, it would snow the day we will leave. And it did. Big fluffy snowflakes fell all day with a total accumulation of several centimetres of snow and made roads dangerously slippery.
“Is the flight still scheduled?”
I checked the status of departing flights from Ottawa Airport several times online as the hours ticked by at home. Many flights were cancelled, many more were delayed but our 7:00 Air Canada flight to Toronto was officially “on time.” Of course, it’d be delayed. No domestic flight from Ottawa has ever been on time, especially to Toronto. I was okay with the inconvenience as long as the flight wasn’t cancelled. This would mean missing our second long-haul flight and driving back home where the fridge was empty and everything had been put away.
At 6:00 p.m., we checked our bags and our flight was still scheduled and on time.
At 7:30 p.m., we finally boarded the aircraft. At 8:00 p.m., it was sent to the de-icing station where both wings and all the windows were profusely sprayed. Then we took off, long after the scheduled time but apparently schedule was just a suggestion because no delay was ever mentioned by Air Canada staff.
Once in Toronto, the guys ate a burger and we walked to Gate E, the only gate we know since absolutely every single flight from Toronto seems to leave from it—China, France, Argentina, Brazil … and yes, Chile.
Oh, yes. We are going to Chile, by the way.
London Heathrow boarded, Dublin boarded, passengers were dispatched to many destinations all over the world and finally, we were allowed to board as well. Row 61, the last ones at the very back of the plane. No, Mark, that’s 1–6, not 6-1, move along, yes, right there.
“Okay, okay…! Now, I’m going to watch a movie. But promise, I sleep as soon as the plane leaves.”
It was close to midnight by then and Mark had been up since 8 a.m. without taking a nap, of course. But what the hell, of course, you can watch a movie buddy… No, NOT Suicide Squad, Pets we said!
The problem with Mark’s deal is that we didn’t exactly leave right away. You guessed it, the flight was late. And we were sent to the de-icing station once again.
The ten-hour flight was long but smooth. Oh, wait—maybe not smooth, we hit turbulence many times, the aircraft was packed and there was a crying baby who didn’t seem to enjoy the experience. But Mark and Feng slept and I must have to.
We woke up above Ecuador. We flew over the Andes, spotted the Aconcagua (highest mountain outside Asia, at 6,961 metres) and eventually landed in Santiago, temperature 29ºC.
Customs and immigration went smoothly and we boarded a bus to the city centre because we are cheap backpackers who don’t want to splurge on taxis.
Mark was happy. “Is it the plane with coconuts and palm trees?” “Yes, Mark.” “Mountains!” “Yes, Mark, the Andes.”
As usual, we had booked an “appart-hotel,” a room in one of Santiago’s many apartment buildings. The crowd is a mix of travellers, students, teachers and young families. The problem with these apartments is that you typically have to check out a few to get the “best” one. The first one had a broken window, the second had no air con. We settled for the third one.
I took a shower with Mark, then we switched to summer clothes—just like that.
Okay, Santiago, we know our way around … but our brains still have to adjust. Intellectually, I know we are in the Southern hemisphere, that summer just started, that in Chile the weather is hot and dry but I’m dazed and confused, more than I expected so.
Oh, shit. I’m tired. I need to sleep.