“Hola, chica! Como estas?” I envelope Becca in a bear hug at the Aerolineas Argentinas ticket counter in the Newbery airport in Buenos Aires. Susan and Tommy register surprise to see me and we exchange tight hugs.
After Jay finishes stacking our four oversized duffels in a corner, he joins in the reunion. Tommy, Becca and Susan arrived in Buenos Aires this afternoon. Together, we will all fly to El Calafate in an hour. Susan has one small backpack, but the rest of us are packing climbing and camping gear totaling somewhere around 250 pounds.
With friendly smiles, we ask the Aerolineas agent to weigh our bags and tally our baggage overage fees. Between the four of us, our fees come in around $500. We excuse ourselves from the counter, head to a quiet corner of the airport and brainstorm ideas on how to get this fee down. In the end, we exchange sandals for hiking boots, tank tops for sweaters and stuff ropes, cams, crampons and other climbing gear into our carry-ons.
We head to security. I pass through. Tommy is instantly taken aside and spoken to in stern Spanish. Becca points to Jay and says “translator” because, at this point, Jay is the only one of us who has working knowledge of Spanish. Meanwhile, Jay is taken aside by other guards and the contents of his overstuffed bag are splayed onto the conveyor belt and floor of the security area. I quietly stand back, confused, and try to interpret the body language, intonations and cadence of the scene into a language I can understand.
In the end, the security guards are upset about the climbing gear in Jay’s and Tommy’s packs. Apparently, they are uninterested in the climbing gear in my pack, which mirrors theirs. They are sent back through the gate and join us 15 minutes later.
We rushed to get to our flight and then learn that it is delayed one hour, maybe two. Eventually, we arrive in El Calafate. Jay makes a hearty pasta dinner for us all. Later in the evening, Susan discovers she left her ATM card in a machine in Buenos Aires. Becca tells us how her purse was stolen off of the back of her chair in a cafe in the city while she was sitting in it. I relate how I left my empty backpack in a restaurant one evening after drinking a glass of beer, only to have it returned when I went back to the restaurant the next day. We laugh about the expressions on Jay’s and Tommy’s faces when they were detained by security.
Visita de la escalada en roca? (Do you visit for rock climbing?) Si, and mucho, mucho more…