This is a text post. The picture post comes in a couple of days and it’ll be worth it, I promise.

Who has heard of Medellin?

I’ve since learned that Medellin is where drug lord kingpin Pablo Escobar operated in and founded his infamous cartel. He was also eventually killed there too. Notoriety aside, the city has grown in popularity over the years and has established itself as one of the main got-to-go-to cities in all of Colombia.

With several days already spent in Cartagena, we booked our flight to Medellin but I can tell you it wasn’t to locate Pablo Escobar’s former stomping ground, it was for a very different reason.

Dave Reilly, a Clevedonian, took an ambitious career break from the MET Police many years back to do some travelling. Who knows, perhaps it would open up other doors, he thought. 

And it really did. Fortune favours the brave, right? He would never return to the Police and instead uprooted everything and travelled plenty of South and Central American and has lived predominantly in Colombia and in Spain. He’s been doing this for an entire decade having now achieved ‘remote working’.

I made contact with Dave to surprise him that we’re a) in Colombia and b) scheduled to arrive in Medellin on the weekend. Except he is currently elsewhere in Colombia and proceeds to say that Medellin will be on 24 lockdown for the entire weekend – the main reason he hasn’t returned.

You have to be joking!?

He wasn’t.

With our flights already paid, we were now facing yet another major conundrum. Proceed with the flight, miss out seeing an old friend and also endure a strict three day lockdown as a foreigner in a hotel room OR consider booking new flights to visit Dave elsewhere in the country where there was not a lockdown.

Well, it was a no-brainer, right?

But all did not go smoothly…


We arrive at Cartagena airport 1.75 hours before departure. Before Dad tells us off for not getting there earlier, it’s a domestic flight so normally one hour is recommended, even by some airlines.

We joined a queue to actually enter the airport. As in, it was closed and was only just opening. We and the many other passengers bordering ours and other flights were the very first flights of the day so that explains that. We weren’t annoyed, just amusingly surprised, but surprise did switch to annoyance when they didn’t open the airport doors for a further 20 minutes meaning it was now only 1.5 hours until departure. Still, plenty of time.

We next join the queue to “check in”. We couldn’t check in online the night before or this morning due to technical issues with the airline! We queue for a short while before Viv remembers we have express check-in with this ticket. She goes to enquire and yes, we do. Wonderful. So we bypass the 15/20 persons previously in front of us. Not since mid Brazil travelling have we been able to relax at an airport, even for a short while, before boarding a flight. That’s a long time ago and many flights since.

But you guys know that there’s more drama to come…. 🙁

“Onward flight details please”, the check-in lady asks.

Phew. Finally we’re on top of this one as we have our flight out of Colombia booked (as per our last airport nightmare coming into the country leaving Panama).

“No, the return for this flight”, she asks.

We look at her slightly confused. “But this is an internal flight”.

“It is still required I’m afraid”.

I’ll leave you guys to think what that was like for us, again, this time around. Airport episode 5, I think.

Somehow I remain composed and proceed to get working on the challenge facing us again. Viv on the other hand, needs a few more minutes to process what is happening and unwind.

“It’s ok, you have until 10am to book the flight. Then just come and show me and we can continue”, she casually advises.

I look at my phone. It’s 09.35am.

Shit, that’s really not a lot of time. But still, at least we don’t have to think up where we’re going. This is just a simple extra flight to take us to Bogota, the country’s capital and where we will leave Colombia from.

We stand aside to begin what has been a difficult process in the past and do the booking.

Except there’s no airport Wifi. In those rare times in the past, it’s not been a problem as the check in staff have access to the airline Wifi and we can use that or tether their phones.

But no, not here. It’s a no to both. We can’t believe what we are hearing. I’m calm but I’m also in shock a little, I think.

“But the café over there. Go and buy something and they will have WIFI”.

Yeeessss!!!! Thank God. A glimmer of hope.

After having to wait for what felt like eternity for just one person in front of her, Viv manages to purchase something random and therefore obtain WIFI.

To my disbelief, this system requires a full sign up and whatever else and it’s all in Spanish. Just when we complete the first form, another appears, it seems to want a mobile number and it’s always 50 / 50 when receiving an SMS out here.

Honestly five crucial minutes go by and I’m still not connected. I’ve signed up multiple times and still no success. Needless to say I’m no longer calm. In fact, I genuinely recall thinking it’s over. Finally beaten and by something as trivial as “No Wifi”. This would mean we will have lost flights for both Medellin and now, our new destination. This is the point where words fail me having to describe these short five minutes.

Viv, in the meantime, has run down to the other end of the airport to try and find some Wifi from somewhere that enable us to “just connect” and returns shortly after to no avail.

Then, after playing around, I get connected and without a SMS message. I truthfully don’t know how or what happened to explain it. I didn’t even have time to thank the Lord. I just let out a massive “Yes!” with raw emotion only to then see it was 09.50. FFS.

I remember noticing that Viv doesn’t look as anxious and as desperate as I am. ( I would later find out that she did not hear the check in lady say come back before 10am). We’ve since laughed at that because Viv being anxious on top of what I was going through would have set us back even further.

By 10am, I’m massively frantic with stress having not yet been able to make our booking. However, I still in that moment am able to apply common sense – or my interpretation of.

I look up and see that there is still a long queue of people looking to check in. That brings me instant comfort.

In hindsight what I deduced was that under normal conditions the check-in desk would close-up an hour prior to departure, hence the specific time she gave to me. In reality, and as a result of their systems being down meant that normal conditions were thankfully out of the window.

By 10.15 we’re at the final stage of the booking process and about to confirm the booking of our return flight. We enter our payment details, anxiously await those seconds of confirmation and then……………..

DECLINED.

We’ve come to know this feeling so many times, believe me. It’s crushing. Security restrictions somewhere most likely.

This time we tried a credit card, the previous was a debit card.

DECLINED.

Apparently I let out some kind of wounded-animal noise; I’ve reached my limit. The thoughts of two paid for and soon to be failed flights is now all I can see happening. Let alone the logistical challenges as to where and what to do we right now after here!?

We don’t have much sanity or strength left but we there’s one last card to try.

Guys, it worked.

Actually, I’m more emotional now writing this than at the time as that’s all really a bit of a blur. All I remember is us looking at each other in disbelief, grabbing our bags and running over to the desk, pushing past all others.

Some ten/fifteen minutes due to the IT glitch and everything taking longer, we’re nearing completion and only then does the lady point out to us, casually, we need to join a new queue 5 meters away to get our tourist card required for where we were headed.

Now, we knew of this card just never for a second did we think we would have to go elsewhere to a new queue to buy it. Viv sends me over and at that point I seek satisfaction and comfort from seeing that I am not alone as other people were queueing. This is the first time in an hour I was able to relax a little thinking others were now in the same situation. We were no longer unique, thankfully! Except, it’s now 10.25 and there’s been no movement at the front of the queue for at least five minutes and it’s mildly amusing seeing everyone else getting agitated for once.

It would be 10.50am (flight was for 11.02am) before I got to the front to pay more money just to receive our approved “tourist cards”. At least this was required by everyone, not just foreigners. All persons have to pay for this.

And that’s it. We were done guys! Can you believe it!? We could now approach security and immigration etc… We were slightly numb, mentally exhausted, emotional etc… but we were on our way.

We’re so mentally fried that even after a couple more issues, which would be notable in normal situations, well, we just took them on the chin. Such as…

You know that very last desk before you get the go-ahead to walk down the tunnel thing to board the plane? Well, we had reached this end-point only to notice that my main luggage bag was there, on display. Nobody else’s, just mine. What on earth!?

Apparently they were waiting for me to confirm “bateria” and require my permission to go through the bag. I find “bateria” and remove them. Some 12 flights later and apparently having batteries in my hold luggage is an issue.

I’m now completely acceptant that it’s genuinely 50 / 50 if my bag makes it on the plane at all. I’m chilled as I don’t have the capacity to think of much else. Thankfully it does make it to the other end but not before we encountered a couple of sniffer dogs first on our way to the plane!

We board the plane and it proceeds to take off (and with us actually on it can you believe!?) some 30 minutes after original departure time. Other than a kid behind us playing his movies from his Dad’s phone out loud with no headphones, it was a smooth flight. The kid thing was the final nail in the coffin for Viv. Except she didn’t kick off, clearly too exhausted lol, instead she laughs out loud hysterically for between 5 and 10 seconds. It was a beautiful, natural moment and I just love those. She concludes with…

“It just goes from bad to worse”, she says.

Thanks for reading, y’all. I hope I was able to convey just some of those emotions on text. I tell you, I wouldn’t wish that experience on anybody.

See you all in ‘Paradise’ in the next post in the days ahead. We’re in a place so small that it has immigration check and baggage belts in the same space lol.

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2 Responses

  1. Oh no ! I really feel for you both and that was sheer hell!
    Try and relax now until the next airport drama.
    Take care xxc

  2. Thanks Teresa x

    Sami did a really good job of explaining our experience.

    We will have some good content coming out this next week before we hopefully move on again towards the end of the week xx

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