After another round of packing and weighing, I finally gave up trying to get my rucksack down to 8 kgs.
This did mean that two of my camera lenses would be travelling in my coat pocket. Our taxi came at 13:30 and for once the journey to Gatwick was remarkably easy as the M25/M23 were both clear.
On the 22nd February the first part of the journey were flights from London Gatwick to Madrid and then onto Buenos Aires.
Check-in at Gatwick
Other Hurtigruten passengers were in the queue for check-in. They all had special labels on their suitcases. If these were the only missing items from the non-delivery of our travel documents that all should be OK!
The suitcases were checked through to Buenos Aires and our boarding passes were good for both our flights. This was the first time that I had used in anger my my Peak Design 30 litre backpack. But I had forgotten where my plastic bag of liquids actually was in it. I was mildly embarrassed to have the security lady tell where it was from the X-ray machine screen!
After this I did take the opportunity to add the two lenses from my pockets to the backpack. So the opening up of everything wasn’t wasted. A late lunch air-side was a sandwich with a smoothie at the Pret a Manger.
Once on-board the Air Europa Airbus A320 we had a few minutes of hectic Spanish announcements. This was followed by even more hectic unintelligible announcements in English. By now rain was falling quite heavily as the aircraft was pushed back from its stand.
The safety video was in Spanish and English so I guess the missed announcements didn’t matter.
More importantly, once airborne, the beer was only 3 Euros a can.
The aircraft landed at 20:35 local time and were met by two coaches to take us to the terminal. We had a 10 minute wait to be cleared to leave the coaches . After climbing multiple staircases we followed the signs for connecting passengers.
Madrid airport maybe an international airport but having to queue for 45 minutes to be security screened really is a joke. Just one X-ray machine with four surly security guys. Plus there was lots of confusion over what were their requirements for screening making the queue even slower.
Even signage in Spanish would have helped. The good news is that we had plenty of time to chat with fellow Hurtigruten passengers also in the queue. We even managed to strike up a conversation with a guy on his way to see his partner who was working at the penguin post office in Port Lockroy.
Finally at 22:00 it was time for another sandwich and a drink at the air-side Starbucks. This was next to an information screen which told us that the gate hadn’t been selected yet for our flight to Buenos Aires.
Once the gate was announced the queue to board started forming at 22:25 despite boarding being scheduled for 23:00. Clearly the other passengers knew more about procedures (or lack of them) at Madrid then we did. Boarding did start at 23:00 but with no seat numbers being called, just the queue stretching right around the terminal by then. By observation we were some of the few passengers with only one carry-on bag each.
Now for the good news, we were on a Dreamliner (Boeing 787-8). The bad news was that the centre seats (G, F and D) in rows 48 to 51 had no overhead locker space. To compound the lack of storage space the lockers over the window seats were jammed with the cabin crews’ bags! We were in Row 50 in the middle…
Our inflatable WOOLLIPS easily filled the space over the seat back table and it looked like they would help us both to get some sleep. However, once the guys in front reclined their seats this generous space was reduced. This meant that any time I moved my head in the WOOLLIP I shook his seat back. Not great for international relations.