June 19, 2006

World Cup Logistics

(click for photo album)

The burning issue is whether I can make it back to Buenos Aires in time for classes at the UBA by 6:00PM Friday? Things are still looking good, take off was on-time but what a week? In the back of my airline magazine is an advertisement for DHL citing logistics, they have nothing on this...

It was Friday the 9th of June by the time I confirmed that I would be traveling alone. I sprung into action hoping I hadn't left it too late. I love to travel alone but as it turned out I had only 50 minutes to plan my week. There were many options but some fixed constraints apart from a 250 dollar budget:

a) On the 15th. of March I had entered Argentina. My visa was for 3 months so I had until the 14th to get out so that I could come back in again. OK Wednesday it is!

b) This is World Cup season which has it's own logistics. Can't be watching Brazil matches in Argentina or vice versa or I might get shot.

c) I had to be back for class on Friday evening.

I had better get a move on! But where to go? Since I can't afford to go to Germany so it will have to be a Latin Odyssey. Who down here was still in the Cup? Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, Costa Rica, Ecuador and Paraguay but I only have a week so: Brazil, Paraguay and Argentina it is.

Brazil played on the 13th., Paraguay the 15th. and Argentina the 16th. There was only one place I could go on my budget to see all three matches with a home crowd, the Triple Frontera: Foz d'Iguaçu, Brasil!

I hit the Internet. I had no choice but to go low cost to keep to budget. I tried Gol but they flew through Paraguay, I would never make it back for class on Friday. I then tried my old Chilean friends LAN. LAN Peru had got me to Dublin and back for less than 1000 bucks when my mother crashed into a motorcyclist for Christmas 2004. Maybe LAN Argentina could do something? Sure enough they had a return ticket for the 3000Km. trip for $115 dollars. I booked the flight but couldn't find my credit card. Puta Madre!

There was one other way to pay for an online ticket called pago facíl -- a local cash bill pay service. I hit the button downloading the invoice with it's ridiculously complex barcodes. Now all I needed was a hard copy. I had to print it to pay it, I had till midday, it was 11:45AM. Impossible? Maybe not! I mailed myself the PDF and ran for the elevator fumbling for my keys and some change.

Smile, wave to porter -- he already thinks I'm mad. Rain, damn it! Round the corner to the shitty internet cafe. Which machine? Any of them, I try number 1, It doesn't work. A forlorn look, the assistant recognizes the urgency. Try two! OK! Printer got ink? Yes? It is taking longer to print than a 1980's fax machine. Finally grinding almost silently the box crunches to completion. Grab the sheets of paper and pay! Toner is low, looks like a bad photocopy. However if the laser can read the bar code I should be fine! Dash from there to the pago facíl terminals at post office but the line was too long, everyone is anxious and bored (Argentines hate to queue). I run straight to the desk. She has no pago facíl terminal. She suggest I ask the others if I can skip ahead of them! I look around and everyone avoids my desperate stare. Is it rain or sweat on my bald head, either way I look a bit mad. I bail, cut my losses!

With seconds to spare I arrived at my local grocers with their single pago facíl terminal. Skipping the line I pleaded with her to let me pay this one bill before 12:00, I mention international tickets (not strictly true but close enough). She acquiesces, requesting payment and handing me the printed receipt: the time is 12:04. With a weekend's effort and a little intervention LAN finally give in and mail me my discount e-ticket. I was off to Puerto Iguazu airport: the cheaper, Argentine side of the border.

Tuesday morning I board the plane at 11:30AM, with my receipt and printouts of my boarding card -- the toner refilled. I had a few hours to make the first world cup Brazil match, a one and a half hour flight followed by two buses to cross the border and find somewhere to watch it.

This proved relatively painless the bus driver slowed to show me a fluttering mat of orange copulating butterflies. It felt good to be back in the jungle. I recognized the place to get off in Foz d'Iguaçu and wander to the hostel with the pool. A quick dip and some lighter clothes, a spot on the couch and a cold beer. All is well!

First victory to Brazil and much more important a lot of partying with the anatomically incredible Brazilians, it is mini-carnival in Foz and 8 hours of drinking and dancing ensues.

Next day I go to the Paraguayan border with Ed. Deciding not to cross we go to a bar on the river on the Brazil side with a bunch of heavy smuggling types. Paraguay loses to Sweden and is put out of the cup but it was lots of fun and we are accepted as football fans and not beaten and robbed as dumb tourists.

Finally it is Argentina's second game, a chance for them to qualify. I had bought a shirt but had to wear it across the border. Ed and I walked across the bridge from Brazil to Argentina and got our passports stamped as the second goal is scored. Huge lines had built up on both sides of the border but these were cars. We were pedestrians and as such could not be ignored as easily hovering expectantly our passports in hand right beside the TV set.

Outside more cheers as Argentina score again 3:0 and the crown doesn't seem to mind the fact that their cars aren't going anywhere till half-time. They sat open and empty deserted for the TV screens at the customs post.

By the time I saw the last two goals I was watching the game with happy park workers in the famous Iguazu Falls National Park. A blistering 6:0 victory not only qualified Argentina but put them at the top of the league. Be afraid, be very afraid.

Off to the plane which takes off on time and is Buenos Aires by mid afternoon, onto the local bus, grab a late lunch at the bus stop, back to the flat tgo eat and wash and off to the school for my class relatively on time.

Of course the class was cancelled!

Posted by Tony Phillips at 11:18 PM | Comments (4)