Monday, September 29, 2008

Off to Belo Horizonte

Today I have to fly to Brazil to carry on with the project there. Dawn flight from Nice to Lisbon, then connect to Belo Horizonte.

Coming in over Lisbon I could see the Torre de Belem and the Monument to the Navigators that I once tramped around many years ago with Marcia. The wait in Lisbon Airport was the usual stagger from over-priced boutique to over-priced cafe to over-priced bookstore. All in a setting that, if I didn't know better, was deliberately retro 1970s. It wasn't retro, it was the original.

Total confusion at the gate for embarking; hardly surprising given general style of the place. The second attempt to get on board the transfer bus (the first attempt having failed for confusion over destination and a 'technical' problem with the plane - the crew hadn't turned up) and we did a total tour of the airport perimeter before deciding that, yes, this was our plane.

We're on, nothing happens untoward, I land in Brazil. This airport is woefully equipped to handle international traffic. Two people to check passports (one for Brazilians, one for everyone else). The baggage retrieval system was a farce. Too small to carry anything but the baggage of passengers from a Cessna, this was attempting to disgorge an avalanche of accumulated essentials and souvenirs from an Airbus 320. That there was no-one from the airport even aware of the fact that the bags were jammed up like the elephants in Walt Disney's Jungle Book, well you can imagine the scene. Passengers were scrambling over bags, conveyor belts and each other in a scramble to grab their bags before they disappeared into a tunnel or were crushed by the en suite of others' bags. Women screamed 'that one! that one!' then elbowed their way to one side of the belt so their men could to do the heavy lifting. Children twirled, men leapt to the challenge, officials determined this wasn't part of their duties. And so on for a good hour. Don't fly to Belo Horizonte direct unless you have hand baggage only. Unless, of course, you like a good show.

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