So I was leaving Colombia today. Actually I was supposed to but didn’t. I’ll come to that in a bit. Colombia is often touted as South America’s best-kept secret but I’m not sure if that is necessarily true nowadays. While a lot of it is reasonably untouched by tourism, I found quite a bit of tourist infrastructure with plenty lots of hostels and trip companies on the backpackers circuit. I’d also hasten to call Colombia an underrated destination as everyone I know who’s been there seems to have had a good time. Another not so positive reputation that the country has concerns crime. From what I saw and heard, a lot of the horror stories are from the past and the security situation has greatly improved in recent years. I was sightly surprised that we were being driven around in an orange truck by European guides who had never been to the country before. However we took precautions such as sticking to a planned route and travelling during daylight hours. I suppose companies wouldn’t be running tours in countries where their customers would be at risk. During the three weeks spent in Colombia I never felt particularly unsafe of threatened. It certainly felt no worse than other countries with high-crime reputation such as Brazil or Bolivia. You just needed to use common sense and keep your wits about you to minimise any risks so that you could then concentrate on enjoying this terrific country.
I didn’t think there would be much to write about today so much so that I was taking photos of the botanical garden at Cartagena Airport next to the boarding gates to use as the blog cover image. I had a few hours layover at Bogota Airport before embarking on the 23.10 departure to Santiago de Chile. Everything seemed to be going fine with the plane boarded in a timely manner. Half an hour later the captain came over the speaker to apologise for the delay. We were just awaiting a slot and it shouldn’t be too long before take-off. Another hour later and we were informed about runway issues. Some time around then I nodded off only to be awoken after 02.00 with news that Bogota Airport was shut and the flight was delayed until the afternoon. Due to being in the furthest away from the door and requiring a bus back into the terminal, it was another hour before I was back inside the terminal. The bus passed a plane seemingly stuck on the runway, surrounded by all sorts of vehicles.I don’t think there was any serious issue as I couldn’t find anything on any new websites the next day.
I had no clue what was happening. While I understand that I’m in Colombia it would have been nice to have at least one announcement in English, as usually happens in airports around the world. Instead there were lots of people shouting at the three remaining members of staff, two of whom I spoke to and said they didn’t understand Ingleisa. I followed the crowd onto a bus which took us somewhere else in the airport. The immigration officer spoke English and I was able to understand that having left the country a few hours earlier according to my passport, I required a new stamp, using up valuable passport space. It was 4am and I was back in the land side part of the airport. LATAM don’t seem to have a help desk at the airport, only a sales booth and the check-in desks. Before going to sleep I wanted to confirm that I’d have a flight later this afternoon and a connection to Easter Island. There’s only one flight a day to Easter Island so obviously having missed Wednesday’s plane I wanted to know that I was on Thursday’s. Sorting this out was easier said than done. The sales directed me to do to the international check-in desk. This was closed. After waiting in a long queue at domestic check-in I was told that there was space on the flights I needed to change to but they didn’t have the access there to swap me on the system. Instead they said to go to Door 5 where the supervisor would arrange for a hotel room and then come back to the airport at lunchtime to change the reservations. I went to Door 5 to find no LATAM staff around. When I tried to go back to the check-in desk, they had put someone behind one of those tacky nightclub entrance ropes who was not letting anyone into the queue who wasn’t checking in for a domestic flight. All his advice was for me was to go to the closed international check-in desk. I couldn’t be bothered to argue. It was after 5am and I was shattered. I joined the numerous other stranded patrons sleeping on the floor.