Monday, June 20, 2011

Away Argentina

South America, "Deep" South America, is a long-ass way away. There's just no other way to say it. When you say "South of the Border" around most Americans that usually does not extend any further in their minds than the Caribbean or Mexico. Many Americans, again, think of a ten-hour flight or longer as traveling east to Europe or west to Asia but aside from those marathon flights to Australia few know that major destinations in Brazil, Argentina and Chile take nearly as long to get to. Add in to the fact that none of these countries are more than two or three time zones ahead of much of the United States and the distance just doesn't compute.

I'm a huge geography buff, having been enamored of maps and different parts of the world from a very young age. I knew from earliest childhood that Argentina, for example, was a ten hour flight just from Miami but being that young, of course, I had yet to experience the journey for myself. I would be in my late 20s before finally making the voyage to the international city that is the capital of the country, Buenos Aires.

The flight from Dallas was two and a half hours in itself, including some healthy turbulence over the middle of the Gulf of Mexico before landing around nine o'clock in the evening for our connection to Argentina. I and the group of friends who came along with decided on Argentina not only because none of us had ever been there before but also because there were no visa requirements to add to the expense of our short first venture to the "Other America." The nightlife in "B.A." can hold its own against any of the delights to be found up north in Brazil so we didn't feel short-changed at all for the experience. Blasting "Shout" by Tears for Fears in my headphones as we backed away from the gate at Miami, this trip was starting out full of excitement and anticipation as any good vacation should.

We stayed awake for the perennial thrill of the takeoff and the chance to catch any glimpse of Cube as we made our way due south. A late dinner was served and then pretty much lights out for the duration of the trip until daybreak the next morning. When I awoke there was a carpet of green below me as the expansive forests of central Brazil spread out below me. This was only seven hours in to the flight and as everyone knows, daylight comes early at 39,000 feet, especially in the Southern Hemisphere Summer of mid-February. Ugh, that moon's bright!

I thought of the early aviation pioneers who might actually recognize the forest canopy below me. Undeveloped when air travel was in its infancy, the backwoods of Brazil have changed little but for the logging that is rapidly taking it away. And then any bare strip of land would save many a pilot until nonstop travel became possible as I was enjoying that very moment. Pan Am, who did much to open South America to adventurous Americans is gone now. So is Varig, once the proud flag carrier of Brazil. Even the second generation trailblazers in Eastern and Braniff have been dismissed from the skies but the links they forged remain strong today. Argentina may not have the cache of Spain, say, but the language is the same and the allure should be. It was for me.

Gotta go.

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