Thirty Six Hours from Salta

WRITTEN ON BOARD FLIGHT FROM TORONTO TO CALGARY, CANANDA – Sunday 5 and Monday 6 November, 2000

We departed Salta at 1.00pm Sunday afternoon. It is now 5.30pm Monday Edmonton time (equivalent to 9.30pm in Argentina), and we are still in transit. The two hour flight from Salta to BA, the nine hours from BA to Miami, 3 hours to Toronto went smoothly enough, but a missed connection direct to Edmonton has meant that we are taking a later flight of four hours to Calgary, which will be followed by a 45 minute connection to Edmonton. We have currently been in transit for around 32 hours and still have some way to go. Ah, the romance of travel!

On arrival in Miami we had to pass through customs, filling in numerous landing and immigration forms. This was made doubly difficult by the fact that neither Aerolineas nor it seemed US Immigration had copies of the necessary forms in English. Perhaps due to the newfound fluency in Spanish of many of the party, we seem to get through.

Having collected our baggage, we pick up the instrumental road cases, only to discover the wheels of several of them have been damaged in transit and will no longer roll. This is unfortunate as the Air Canada check n area is approximately a mile and a half from the arrivals hall. I can say this with some certainty, as Lloyd Hudson and myself personally manhandled the worst of the damaged cases the entire distance. We came across spare luggage trolleys and cans at several points and asked to be able to use them, but were without exception denied any assistance whatsoever. By the time we finally made it to Air Canada, I was saturated with sweat (and I include this episode for the benefit of friends and colleagues who may be under the impression that I’m just along on this tour for the ride!)

Whilst waiting for Air Canada to sort out our embarkation, the Michaels and I between us managed fix the damaged wheels, just in time for a flock of baggage porters to come and take them away for the flight. When they ask Peter Kilpatrick for a tip for their services, I almost wish we hadn’t bothered and made them earn their money.

The in flight service on Air Canada is s revelation after Aerolineas is a joy, it must be said. Aerolineas felt safe, but one suspects that the Argentine foreign debt levels mean that non-essential expenditure on cosmetic aspects of service and maintenance is kept to a minimum, and the catering on the BA-Miami flight left much to be desired (although it had been fine out of Sydney). Unfortunately the Air Canada flight is late leaving Miami, meaning that we miss our connection to Edmonton. On arrival in Toronto, we have to gather our bags and boxes, clear Canadian immigration and Customs and board another flight that will go via the city of Calgary, necessitating another change of boarding cards and being guided through the departure lounge.

Just when we think we are nearly home and dry. a Canadian Airlines official tells us that ‘due to Canadian regulations’, no more than two cellos may on seats in the cabin, and that the remaining three cellos will have to travel on later flights. After so long in transit, this (needless to say) does not come as welcome news, and David Porcelijn makes something of a fuss. The official is unmoved, however, and Michael Johnston, John O’Carroll and myself volunteer to travel with the cellos on later flights.

Just as we resign ourselves to our fate and with the fully-booked flight due to depart, Canada Air has a change of heart, stating that the cellos may travel provided the airline can find luggage webbing with which to ‘restrain’ them in the seats. Webbing is found and ground staff secure cellos to seats so firmly that they may never move again and finally the flight is ready to leave, over an hour late, and the ground staff receive a round of applause for their efforts. Nor has the time been wasted by other TSO personnel – Julie Warn has been chatting to another passenger on the flight who is interested in touring the Orchestra to an arts venue in Calgary, and David Porcelijn has been charting to a local journalist from the National Post (Toronto) who happens to be on the flight, about the restrained-cello affair and our tour generally.

As we approach Calgary, it is reported by airline staff that the cellos won’t be permitted on the next flight sector to Edmonton, as it will be operated by a very small jet. and there is talk of them being sent on by road. Someone will most probably have to accompany them.

WRITTEN THE NEXT MORNING IN EDMONTON

We finally arrived in Edmonton around 8.30pm. meaning that we’d been traveling for more than 36 hours since leaving Salta. John O’Carroll accompanied the cellos to Edmonton via road from Calgary and arrived around 10pm. The party sank gratefully into the luxury of the Sheraton Grande Edmonton Hotel, which was just what we needed after such a grueling trip.
On the last leg, a 30-rmnute flight from Calgary, we remembered that the Melbourne Cup was about to be run so Cherelle and Doreen organised an impromptu sweep on the plane. I’ve just found out that ‘Brew’ was the winner, but not which number it was. In Edmonton it is minus 10 degrees Celsius, with plenty of ice and snow around.

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