My journey begins right where we left off at the end of Book II: My arrival at Tokyo Haneda Kuukou (東京羽田空港 "Eastern Capital Feather Field Sky Haven").
Part 1: The Tearful Tokyo Terminus
My first impression of Haneda Kuukou is that it is relatively small. It has this one big hall with all the check-in counters that is overlooked by several tiers of balconies with stores and restaurants, and that's already it. Or maybe it's because it's all in one nice big open space that it seems smaller than other airports.
Or it might be because Haneda Kuukou is highly fragmented. What I am in is only the international terminal, which is over one kilometre away from the two domestic terminals.
An interesting result of this is that Haneda Kuukou has a total of six(!) train stations: Two stations for the Keikyu-Line – one for the international terminal and one for the two domestic terminals – and four stations for the Tokyo Monorail – one at each terminal, and one for the airport infrastructure.
Either way, the international terminal is the smallest of the three terminals, with most international air traffic coming through the somewhat more remote (but also significantly bigger) Tokyo Narita Kuukou (東京成田空港 "Eastern Capital Becoming Rice Field Sky Haven") these days. That is not to say that this particular terminal is without its allures. For example, there is a radiant japanesque art installation high up in the hall…
…as well as a traditional wood bridge that you can cross by going straight ahead.
In one of the few back corridors this otherwise open place has, there's a section dedicated to all the planes taking off from Haneda Kuukou…
…and from the observation deck, you can see all the way over to the domestic terminals. Regrettably the weather today is not exactly encouraging an extended stay up here.
The upper corridors feature, among other things, typical Japanese shops centred around Hello Kitty and other characters…
…plus a star road of sorts, that piques my vulpine curiosity and eventually leads me to a very interesting place.
Since I still have… uhh… several hours until check-in even begins, I figure that this might be a nice enough place to have lunch, and I am not disappointed. The name is perfectly accurate, for it really does turn out to be a café/restaurant situated inside a fully functional planetarium dome.
And so it happens that I eat my last meal here in Japan – a plate of Koku Uma Meat Sauce Set (Spaghetti Bolognese, for all practical purposes, since they didn't have any more Japanese-Style dishes on the menu) and an alcohol-free Starry Baby Breeze cocktail – here in this blissfully dark place…
…while simultaneously watching several short shows about the starry sky, which my humble camera regrettably fails to capture properly.
It's not all stars however. The café also shows plenty of other features, such as 360° pictures of cultural cities…
…as well as an amazing heart-touching animated short movie by the name of Travelling Daru, which ends up making me cry right there and then. I guess that was what it took to push me over the edge and drive home the sweet sorrow of parting from this land that I've learned to love so much over this last year. I know that these are the best kind of tears, for they tell me that I've really enjoyed my time here in the land of foxes.
Yet even after taking my time in the Planetarium Starry Café, and after this highly emotional experience that I feel was the proper way for me to mentally say my goodbyes to this wonderful country, I still have plenty of time to kill while waiting for check-in to open up…
…during which I not only learn some basic Portuguese vocabulary, but also I discover some typical Japanese prohibition signs. Interestingly, most of them are about drones.
Eventually, the time for check-in arrives. This time around, I'm flying with Air Canada, and as usual I have some trouble checking in with my officially registered artist's name (which, for the record, I have because you can't legally change your name in Germany except under very extreme circumstances, so I still have my former name to lug around and chain me down in situations like these).
Fortunately, after already having issues with this once before, I am incredibly well prepared this time around. Not only do I have my national ID and my passport, both of which bear both my old and my artist's name (both of which for the sake of Dragon ought to be sufficient), but also brought an official registration certificate, as well as a Japanese translation of it. Nonetheless, there is a lot of back and forth, the airport manager has to be summoned, but in the end (which is about an hour later) they fortunately agree that I am eligible to fly with the tickets that I purchased, and I finally get my boarding passes.
Another notable complication, however, is that due to Brazilian airline restrictions, individual pieces of luggage are only allowed to have a maximum of 23kg as opposed to the more usual 30kg limitation for long-distance flights like these. Unfortunately, it turns out that my Trekking-Backpack of Flames exceeds this rather tight limitation. Fortunately, however, I am able to bypass it by separating the Daypack of Flames from the Trekking-Backpack and checking it as separate luggage. Dragon only knows why I would theoretically be allowed to check two pieces of 23kg luggage, but not one piece of 26kg.
Next up is the security check and emigration. Here, Haneda Kuukou has a very modern system that displays the waiting times for the separate security checkpoints, so you can go to the least crowded one. By the time I get to go through, the initial throng is already over, so either way is fine with me, but during my earlier waiting time I also observed situations where one checkpoint was significantly less busy than the other.
Neither security nor emigration do give me any particular trouble. At security, I am asked to open my backpack so they can have a look inside, but I am very positively impressed by the politeness of how they are doing this. They ask nicely and with a smile, and afterwards apologize for the inconvenience, which in turn makes me happy to go along with it. In the end, I'd call it a win-win situation, and as I proceed to my gate, I also notice that it would be virtually impossible to die of thirst at this particular airport.
And speaking of convenient modern systems, how many of you wish that more buildings had one of these?
Not much later, I arrive at my gate, the waiting area of which among other things also features a really nice kids korner.
Now, even despite the obligatory check-in delay, I still have about an hour to wait until the first of the three flights I will be taking on this particular segment of my journey begins.
Part 2: Dateline Determination
I suppose I should now finally mention where it is that I am going now. My next goal lies in Brazil, the city of Foz do Iguaçu, which is almost, but not exactly on the opposite side of the world from Japan. As such, there were many options for flight routes to choose from. I, however, am determined to finally make a full round-trip around the world this time around and cross the date line. As such, my route leads me first to Toronto, and then down to São Paulo, from where I'll catch a national flight to Foz do Iguaçu.
Eventually, boarding time arrives, and as I stand in line, I notice a very unexpected advertisement here at the airport, encouraging people to invest in Baierun (バイエルン "Bavaria").
Moving on from there, even the boarding bridge is very modern. In fact, for some reason it doesn't feel like I'm at an airport at all.
Fortunately there is still an aircraft waiting at the end, and to my delight it's not a Boeing 737 MAX 8, but rather a good, old-fashioned Boeing 777-300ER Kyokouchou (距鋼鳥 "Long-Distance Steel Bird" (okay, so I made that up, but I have to say I really admire the lingu-artistic potential of the Japanese language to turn even complex concepts into short words through the use of Kanji, even if it's a royal pain in the tail to learn =^,~'= )).
By now, the weather has changed from Ame (雨 "Rain") to Yoru (夜 "Night"), and as such the runway has turned into a field of shining colourful stars arranged in neat rows…
…and with that, the time of farewell has finally come, as the Kyokouchou lets its engines howl up, and we disappear into the night sky while below us the radiant metropolis stretches out as far as the eye can see in all directions like an endless sea of terrestrial stars. Three things that I can pick out from this star ocean are the Tokyo Tower and Rainbow Bridge, both very close to one another, and shortly afterwards the Tokyo Disney Resort.
You might already have noticed, but my route immediately following takeoff is just a bit topsy-turvy, but there's a logical explanation for that other than the pilot having a glass of Saké too many. For one, I imagine the planes have to avoid flying across the Radiant Metropolis at low altitudes to the best of their abilities, and for another they have to avoid the airspace of Narita Kuukou to the east as well, thus resulting in this interesting S-curve.
Following that, the 10,500km-long flight takes a total of 12 hours, after which we land in Toronto two hours before we started on the same day due to us crossing the dateline. Our route takes us northeast parallel to the coast of Japan and the Kuril islands, across the Bering sea, and around the halfway point of the journey, we enter Alaskan airspace roughly above a tiny village by the name of "Eek", which still has its own airport. From there, we cross the Canadian shield, fly over lake Winnipeg, and eventually arrive at the Great Lakes, specifically Toronto-Pearson airport, which is located a few kilometres northwest of Lake Ontario.
Shortly after takeoff, I am served dinner in the form of Fish with Rice, Spinach, and Scallop plus Salad and Bread. Not my favourite, but it's edible. Also, once again it's served in relative darkness. I could get used to that.
Since our route takes us more or less parallel to the coast of Japan at a considerable distance and it's already night, there's not really much to see or do (other than go "I like jetlag" and stay up watching movies on a flight that crosses more time zones than most people have fingers, which nonetheless an aproximate 90% of the passengers choose to do)...
...so I proceed to sleep from there right up until breakfast is served still in the dead of night and roughly at the height of Anchorage, which at 61°N is also the closest approach to one of the poles I've ever made. Incidentally, said, breakfast - in a homage to the land we've left behind - are cup noodles, sandwiches and crackers.
Daybreak occurs approximately as we pass above Whitehorse…
…allowing me to take in the breathtaking expanse of the snowy Canadian taiga spreading out to the horizon without as much as a hint of human civilization to be seen.
As we approach Lake Superior, it is already time for lunch in the form of an omelette with vegetables, as well as bread with a harmonious combination of New Zealand butter and German strawberry jam…
…accompanied by sights of breathtaking beauty as we cross lake Superior, part of which is frozen, and fly past the unorganized Thunder Bay district of Michipicoten Island.
Our subsequent approach to Toronto-Pearson airport, however, is complicated by something which when seen from on high actually looks quit idyllic…
…but at ground level translates into a dreadful snowstorm, which is giving the airport staff quite some trouble. As a result, we enter a holding pattern for some time…
…before finally making our descent through the low-hanging cloud layer into the white aftermath of the earlier blizzard.
The snow situation seems to be quite a challenge even for the hardened Canadian ground staff, whom I can observe working hard at getting the situation under control even as the plane taxis across the runway and towards the terminal. Unbeknownst to me at this point, further vexations should arise as a result of these adverse circumstances.
As such, I should later on have some excessive fun as a result of these…
Part 3: Cold Canadian Complications
My first impression is that the boarding bridges here are once again of the more functional design that I'm used to, although I have to point out how they are decorated with nice and colourful mosaics.
The second thing I notice with delight that after one year of living almost like an analphabetic, I can finally read all the signs again, and even those written in foreign languages at least use the Roman alphabet again, allowing me to guess at the meaning. One thing that worries me at this point, however, is the large number of entries reading either "Cancelled" or "Delayed". Fortunately, my connecting flight to São Paulo is not among those… yet.
Now, here's one thing that you have to know when travelling through Canada. For reasons of dubious nature at best, you can't simply transit through Canada anymore without applying for an Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA), which is basically a forced registration with the Canadian government that even incurs a small fee of a few Canada Dollars. Fortunately, my travel agency notified me of this literally at the last second, and so I was able to complete it just in time for my departure, otherwise I wouldn't even have been allowed to board at Tokyo Haneda Kuukou. As it is, I narrowly manage to clear the hurdle, and manage to make it through Canadian totally-not-immigration before proceeding to look for my connecting gate.
Afterwards I get to take in the entirety of Toronto Pearson Airport, which is quite impressive and lofty.
And with "lofty" I mean such stuff as free iPad usage for all passengers…
…as well as comfortable working stations which I gladly use to make myself comfortable during my scheduled 7-hour waiting time and get some blogging done.
Theoretically, boarding for my next flight – which is scheduled to depart shortly before midnight – should begin around 23:15. That time, however, comes and goes, and eventually even the originally scheduled departure time passes as it becomes apparent that due to the consequences of the blizzard, our flight is going to join the popular kids, which today happens to be the Delayed-Clique. In the meantime, many people choose to engage in the popular airport sport of "Standing in line in front of a still closed gate", which I have been able to observe all around the world. I for my part remain seated until the gate actually opens up shortly after midnight at last.
However, while this delay should have consequences which would make the remainder of the trip more exciting, even while I'm waiting gears are grinding in the background, which should soon enough make my journey to Brazil truly unforgettable. At this moment, however I am yet blissfully ignorant of that and looking forward to…
Part 4: The Equatorial Escapade
Once again, my mighty steed for this leg is a good, old-fashioned Boeing 777-300ER Kyokouchou, which I might add at this point is powered by a pair of the world's most powerful jet engines, the GE90-115B turbofan as of date, serving exclusively on a number of different Boeing 777 models.
Yet before we finally are ready for takeoff, some more time should yet pass. The pilot apologizes for the inconveniences as we are kept waiting for another hour or so inside the plane, and when we finally get moving, our destination is the de-icing facility where the aircraft's wings are blasted free of all accumulated frost with anti-freeze, and although I know that this will result in further delays, I take interest in this procedure, which is definitely not one I remember experiencing before.
Following that, and over one hour behind schedule, it's finally time for the takeoff from Toronto. Once again, we ascend over a sea of stars. This time, however, the experience is rather short-lived, as the still low-hanging cloud layer quickly swallows up all light.
Some time after takeoff, Schrödinger's dinner is served. I call it that way because for me there is no way to know whether dinner was being served or not since apparently I dozed off soon after the start, and neither my seat neighbours nor the flight attendants saw fit to wake me up for a meal that I've been looking forward to having for about three hours now, my last meals lying already well over eight hours in the past. As a result, I should eventually wake up quite hungry indeed and learn the hard way that I get really, really grumpy if I have to go hungry for too long. A decent dinner can apparently satiate me for up to 16 hours. However, the more modest meals made for airplanes apparently have a satiation factor closer to 10 or 12 hours, especially considering that all the physical activity from my travels reduced my personal weight to a compact 68kg, which I'm reasonably sure qualifies as "slightly underweight" for a fox my size. And what makes it even worse is that despite my asking, the flight attendants don't even deign to bring me some snacks to alleviate the worst of my hunger (there go 15PP of my dwindling budget that I might have made a difference later on).
Grumpy or not, I can still appreciate the celestial majesty of the Caribbean sunrise shortly after we cross the Tropic of Cancer and fly above Puerto Rico.
Anyway, our route along this roughly 9-hour and 8,800km long flight should take us off the North American mainland around the Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge of Virginia, make a little swerve around what I guess must be the critical part of the Bermuda Triangle, cross the Caribbean island chain at Puerto Rico, and once again at about the halfway point of the trip, we enter continental airspace, this time South American and above the somewhat vague and flexible border between Venezuela and Guyana. Following that, it's a long and straightforward journey mostly across Brazilian airspace, that is only shaken up a bit south of Brasilia when we have to navigate around some tropical supercells.
Before we reach the mainland, however, we fly past Cocos Bay of Trinidad, which makes for stark contrast to Michipicoten Island…
…and afterwards… well, let's just say there's a reason that this biome is called Rainforest. Thanks to the Inter Tropic Convergence Cycle, there is humid air aplenty in this latitudes, resulting in an almost continuous cloud cover which allows for only occasional brief glimpses of the land below.
Incidentally, it should not be until shortly before Brasilia that I'd finally get something to eat in the form of brunch. Technically, it's a Florentine omelette with beef, mushroom potato and spinach plus fruit and bread with strawberry jam, but being the famished fox that I am by now, I simply categorize it as "food" and unceremoniously wolf it down. In fact, after finishing mine I proceed to vanquish the leftovers of my seat neighbour, who is still satiated from the dinner that was served to her but not me. This fills me with mixed feelings. On one hand I'm grateful to her for offering me her leftovers, but on the other hand I'm upset because she did not wake me up for dinner. I guess in the end it averages out on "even".
As we fly further south, more and more breaks in the clouds appear, opening the view on diverse stretches of farmland with organic shapes that comply with the surrounding landscape, mottled with plenty of forests. No boring straight lines, but rather the testimony to a culture that has grown and was not planned. I personally prefer those to straight-grid-line layouts since it seems more natural that way.
However, by far the coolest sight of this aerial journey comes when we cross over the Represa do Jaguari ("Jaguar Dam") on our way to São Paolo. This is one of many, many, many reservoirs around Brazil, which generates a large part of its power using hydroelectric dams, and the relatively shallow incline of the rivers in this part of the country consequently generates such amazing, rounded "Inland Fjords" that at first glance look like they can't possibly be real.
Not much later, we begin our final descent to São Paulo, which turns out to be a mega-freaking HUGE red-and-white island of civilization surrounded by an ocean of green sub tropical rainforest. The dichromatic contrast could not possibly be more striking.
In the end, the flight, which was scheduled to arrive at 12:55, only made it to São Paulo by 14:15 – over an hour late. Naturally, that should cause complications, especially considering I have only 2 hours and 35 minutes to transfer to my next flight, which also includes reclaiming my luggage, getting it through the security check, and checking it back in again. My seat neighbour and I speculate over the consequences of this, with me being optimistic that flight companies will have some sort of routine to handle such situations. I should only be partly correct, however, about what in the end awaits me on this particular stopover:
Part 5: São Paulo ~ Problems Supreme
My first impression of São Paulo-Guarulhos airport is that it's a lot more modest than either Tokyo Haneda or Toronto-Pearson, and a lot closer to Munich Airport than either of those. The design is very functional, clean, with lots of right-angled corridors and not a lot of open spaces.
My second impression is that I'm screwed. Prior to leaving the plane there was a barely intelligible announcement that passengers with connecting flights should go to a sort of airline counter somewhere in the luggage claim area. However, there is no Air Canada counter to be found in that area, and the announcements are all in Brazilian, which is almost but not quite like Portuguese (of which I only had time to learn the three dozen most essential words or so) – sort of how like British and American English are different from one another, but more about that later. For now, this means that I can hear my name coming up in an announcement some time after recovering my Daypack of Flames from the crowded conveyor…
…and then spend some more PP to overcome my natural vulpine shyness and ask an attendant at the Bagagem Extraviada ("Lost Luggage") counter about it, not even knowing if I'll be able to understand her. Fortunately, however, she does speak English, and even better, I apparently managed to hit the correct counter out of the blue (which naturally did not have an Air Canada sign or any other clue displayed anywhere). She informs me that I was re-booked to a later flight to Foz do Iguaçu, and am even given a 48 $R ("Reals", the Brazilian currency, "Real" for singular, pronounced "Re-I"/"Re_ice") voucher for a meal at the airport. So far, so good.
It is only after that, however, that it is my turn to experience one of the worst non-critical nightmares of any air traveller: Returning to the luggage claim conveyor, I wait and wait and wait for my Trekking Backpack of Flames to come up… but it never does. Instead, I notice someone hastily grabbing a black bag that looks a lot like the cover into which I put my Trekking Backpack of Flames and make off through customs with it. I don't think much of it at that time – after all, black is not exactly a rare colour these days – but as I keep on waiting and the conveyor gradually empties out, it comes back, nagging at me. What if I've just become the victim of a robbery, and half my luggage is gone for good? It's not only a matter of convenience. Apart from clothes and my zipper binder, there are a lot of things in there with which I have formed emotional bonds, and their loss pains me greatly. Levi, the plush fox who has accompanied me all through Japan and given me solace during some of the harder times, Ran the white Inari fox whom I bought in Fushimi Inari in Kyoto, as well as the two Kami from Toyokawa Inari and Anamori Inari Jinja respectively, Shinto spirits whom I wanted to give a new home in a house Shrine back home which I was planning to build… to think they should be all gone forever… it breaks my heart.
I've run out of PP a few times on my journey and suffered the resulting breakdown, but this is worse. This is critical. This is driving hard on the road to freak out. It's been some time since I've been this close to the thin RED line that I do not want to cross, because I know what happens when I lose it, and I know that this would probably not a good time for that to happen. Fortunately, I do have a last line of defence that I can use to pull myself back. It has been some time since I last had to use it, and I don't like using it either, mostly because most humans don't understand that I'm doing it only because I want to avoid something even worse.
And this point, however, I have to scratch myself up to bring me back from the brink and avoid going over the edge. The wounds I can inflict upon myself with these sorry excuse for claws are light enough that they will heal, even if they sometimes leave little scars. Even so, they are enough to hold me back. Not enough to get me back into a stable psychological condition, but enough that I can handle standing in line in front of the Bagagem Extraviada counter – which by now has a significantly longer line – and pray that my Trekking Daypack of Flames really was just lost or misdirected, and can be found again. Logically, the odds speak in favour of it since quite a few other people seem to have the same problem. And I try to keep telling myself as much.
And yet, in my Inner Space I am facing off a monstrosity from Deep Darkness, trying to pull me into despair. "You're never going to see them again", it hisses. "You had the chance to stop the guy who took your luggage, but you were to cowardly to do so", it gloats. "You were too stupid to do the true vulpine thing and split up your most precious belongings into multiple caches", it whispers. And so this battle is not decided by means of reason, but rather than sheer willpower, as well as desperate and slightly self-destructive measures.
Eventually, it is my turn, and I file my lost luggage report, pointing out that I think I saw someone who took a bag that looked like mine. The attendant sympathizes with my loss and I give her all the details I can about my luggage, including the fact that it has my name on a custom tag, as well as the picture which I've taken prior to checking it in. I don't have any doubts that they'll be able to find it if it really was just lost… but by this point, I am almost certain that it was stolen, and by someone who doesn't even appreciate the true value of its contents and will likely simply throw the things that mean so much to me and me alone away. In the end, I am given a printout with a case number and contact address, and a first promise for up to 200$ reimbursement should they not be able to find recover my luggage. I don't care about the money though. And I know it probably sounds childish, but all I really want is to have Levi, Ran, Toyokawa and Anamori back.
Afterwards, I leave the luggage claim area coated in a cloak of negativity and despair. What I want to do at this point is just to lie down on my bed and cry my heart out until I feel better.
However, this is exactly what I can't do at this point. I still have one leg of my trip ahead of me, and so I force myself to keep on moving forward, and try my best to navigate this sort of labyrinthine airport in the sorry state that I am in.
I don't really take much notice of my surroundings at this point. I don't really care. I just walk and wander, trying not to lose my way on top of what I've already lost. I think it's a somewhat big airport, but my memories from this time should become a blur.
Among other things, I exchange some, but not all, of my remaining Yen into Reals, albeit at a rather hefty fee: For 18,000¥ I only get 346R$, which is not only somewhat but worryingly short of the 640R$ which I estimated I should have gotten. However, ignorant of the current exchange rates, conscious of the fact that it's always more expensive to exchange money at the airport, and not really caring much about anything in my current state, I go with it anyway. In retrospective, it was the first major rip-off I should experience in Brazil. Not the last one, not the worst one, but it's definitely not a good start into my time here.
Eventually, I reach the somewhat remote and small check-in counter for GOL airlines, to which my flight has been re-booked…
…and after some more hardship about my name, which this time around takes about half an hour to resolve, I am given the crappiest little boarding pass I've ever seen.
After checking in my luggage, I still have some time to my re-booked flight, which only departs at 20:40. Motivated by rationality rather than hunger, I set out to find a place to check in my voucher, and briefly stop in front of a Pizza Hut before realizing that my voucher is only valid at certain restaurants, which I first have to find in this big airport. Not exactly something that fills me with blissful delight in my current state of mind.
So I just keep on walking, passing by all sorts of different food places, none of which are listed on the voucher…
…before finally arriving at a TGI Friday's, which is in the list of restaurants on the voucher. It's not what I'd call a typical Mexican restaurant, but right now, I don't really care.
Before taking a seat I double-check with the waitress (who fortunately speaks a bit of English) about whether my voucher really is accepted here, and she has to check in with the manager, but in the end it is okay, so I sit down and order a burger which, while certainly tasty, does nothing to fill the emptiness within my heart.
Incidentally, I do have to pay a little bit extra since the 48$R from the voucher were apparently not enough to account for even a single meal here at the airport. Afterwards, I continue on to find my gate and sit down while learning some more Portuguese and playing some meaningless games while waiting for my final flight to depart.
I also reach out to my next Airbnb Host in Foz do Iguaçu – making good use of my blissfully functional World Sim and the fact that I set up a Link to him via messenger in advance – to inform him of my delay and my predicament. Part of me is proud that I made those safety preparations in advance, but even so, the loss of my companions weighs heavier on me than any pride about me mastering something so trivial as a flight delay. As it is, this should be…
Part 6: A Lamentful Last Leg
Night falls before the plane starts, and this time around we have to board the plane on the runway, taking a bus from the terminal to get there. It must have been over a decade since I last boarded a plane in such a manner.
The plane for this last leg is a Boeing 737-800, a more lightweight steel bird with only 6 seats abreast.
More out of habit than desire, I take a video of this takeoff as well… not that one can see much of the landscape at this delayed hour. Even the lights of the sprawling city below are swallowed up into the all-encompassing darkness as we soon delve into a low-hanging cloud layer. On the other hand, I suppose it does make for a nice streak that I ended up having three late-night takeoffs in a row.
This time around, the airplane doesn't feature any fancy seat displays, and unable to spot any landmarks at this time of day, I have to guess that our route would be something like this, taking us across the eastern Brazilian mountains and into the valley of the Parana river. It might seem like a straightforward short trip on the map due to the fact that Brazil is one HUGE piece of land with little coastline for reference, but just remember that the distance I cover on this trip alone is roughly equal to the north-south length of Germany, or the length of New Zealand's South Island.
In accordance with age-old airline traditions, we get served a bag of snacks even on this relatively short hour-and-a-half flight…
…and apart from that, there's not much to tell of this last journey. A few times, the clouds let up and I get a nice short look on some Brazilian city below, but for the most part the sky is either closed, or we're flying across a dark landscape with nothing much to see. My thoughts are as dark as the night outside as I look outside, feeling listless and defeated, mourning the loss of my faithful - if inanimate - companions. At the very least, I still have Liete, my trusty laptop, but it's still a massive bummer on my first day in the country, and I can already feel that it is going to take me days to mentally recover from this particular breakdown.
It is a short time after 22:00 that we begin making our descent to Foz do Iguaçu, and although the night hides the details of the terrain, the clouds have receded by now, so I can clearly see the lights of civilization sparkling below like a sea of stars as we land. The Parana River that separates Foz do Iguaçu from its Paraguayan neighbour of Ciudad del Este is also clearly visible as a negative band of darkness against the lights of the cities. The Iguazu River that divides Foz do Iguaçu from its Argentinian counterpart of Puerto Iguazú, meanwhile, is harder to make out, but still visible as a dark band in the distance parallel to the horizon after crossing the Parana River.
And that is the conclusion of my third and last flight on this particular part of my travels. Now, it's time to…
Part 7: Brace for Brazil
One interesting thing here is that this flight is a multi-stop flight, similar to a bus or train service, so when we land the passengers for Foz do Iguaçu, such as me, are called to leave the plane. Afterwards, I find myself unceremoniously dumped on the runway in front of the one and only terminal here…
…and without any clear pointers about where to go, I try following the few people who get off together with me, hoping that they know the way.
In the end, I manage to find the very modest little luggage claim, where I spend more time than strictly necessary after reclaiming my Daypack of Flames, hoping against all odds that somehow, miraculously, the remainder of my luggage should still show up.
After that, I'm screwed. Here I am, in a completely foreign airport in a country where only very few people speak a language that I understand, in the middle of the night, with barely any PP left, and have no idea where to go. My host said that there should be a bus going from the airport to the city, but I have no idea from where, and even after searching the entire generally accessible airport building (which admittedly is only about a hundred meters long), I can't find either a staffed information desk or a bus station.
The only buses that are find are those from hotels, and one of the bus drivers eventually manages to refer me to a taxi driver, to whom I manage to somehow convey where I want to go through the crude but effective technique of "I marked the place where I want to go on my offline maps on my phone". Thus, even though my ways of communication are greatly limited, I manage to get a ride from the airport to the city, hoping that I won't get ripped off too badly this time around. But then again, given what already happened today, I don't really care much about that anymore. It's not like all the money in the world could bring back what I've lost.
Unable to properly pronounce the name of the place I'm headed to – much less explain to the taxi driver that I'm not headed for a hotel but rather an Airbnb place – I settle for him dropping me off somewhere in the general vicinity and end up paying 65R$ for the ride, which actually strikes me as a pretty good price, roughly the same as what I paid for the burger and fries at the airport. The one good thing about this whole mess is that I don't have a lot to carry around for the remainder of the way, and soon enough I arrive at my Airbnb place, the looks of which I familiarized myself with in advance through the miracle of Google Maps. Seriously, if it hadn't been for this blessing of the modern times, I would easily have spent another half an hour or so before eventually calling my host, but as it is, I know exactly what the place looks like, and even know the colour of the door at which I have to ring.
There, my host turns out to be a really nice, kind and helpful guy who sympathizes with my loss and even offers to call the flight agency about my lost luggage and see if he can do something about it – an offer that I gratefully accept, seeing as how I would probably not be very effective in doing that due to my lack of Portuguese skills. Afterwards, he quickly shows me around what should be my home for the next weeks, and then wishes me a restful night. I for my part mournfully take in the sad remains of my once so massive luggage…
And then am quickly to turn in for the night in a room that is so much bigger than what I've gotten used to from Japan, and actually looks quite nice and stylish, with a bit of a Japanese touch to it, not that I am in any mood to appreciate any of that right now.
As I go to bed, sad and exhausted, my thoughts are with Levi and Ran, as well as Toyokawa and Anamori, who are still out there somewhere. By now, my inner demons have withdrawn into the Deep Darkness again, allowing me to see the glimmer of hope more clearly, praying that my luggage really was only lost and not stolen, and that I will hopefully see it again in due time. As I drift to sleep, I start making plans to recover from my immediate predicament. Tomorrow, I will need to shop for fresh clothes and bathroom articles to remedy the most pressing concerns, but that is a tale for another time, and will be told in the next chapter of the Travelling Fox Blog.