One Crazy Travel Adventure Remembered ….. And How I Eventually Discovered Bhutan! (Episode 2)

One Crazy Travel Adventure Remembered ….. And How I Eventually Discovered Bhutan! (Episode 2)

John Bougen & James Irving waiting to commence the ‘All Nations Quest’
Two badly dressed dudes taking on the world

So John & I arrived at Auckland airport on 28AUG 2002 to commence the ‘All Nations Quest’ on Aerolineas Argentinas. For those who remember, there were no e-tickets for international services back then. Flight Centre Auckland were our air travel sponsor, giving us a net deal, and issued all our 4 stage paper tickets that measured over 2 metres long (and many stages deep) when laid out on the floor of their office. Just carrying them alone used up valuable space in our single, small, back packs.

“Going On A Wee Trup Are We!”

That was the rather nauseating first line the Air NZ check-in staffer quoted when we pulled out our round world M25 mileage paper tickets (travel industry jargon) for our first flight sector Auckland-Santiago (Chile). So we were off.

And already the differences in our personalities came to the fore. In those days John liked to smoke (a lot) so he headed to the smoking area in the business class lounge. I prefer to drink, so headed to the bar. These traits led to a little discomfort and confrontation, as we handled the next 6 months together. We now have a good laugh about it all these days.

This is what $400,000 worth of air tickets looked like back in 2002!

Santiago, Chile …. and our first child interview

This was my second visit to Chile (probably my favourite Sth American nation) and this time I had my visa in hand. My previous visit to Chile, circa 1994, started as a disaster. I had asked a junior staffer in our travel agency to check if I needed a visa to enter Chile. She said no. Turns out I did! My travelling companion was a well-known identity in the Hunter Valley wine & restaurant scene. Coincidentally he had hosted a delegation of Chilean wine-makers a few weeks earlier. One call to his Chilean contact, from the check-in counter at Sydney airport, resulted in Aerolineas Argentinas agreeing to carry me to Santiago, via Buenos Aires, without a Chilean visa. Knowledge learned from that incident stood us in good stead as the ‘Quest’ evolved!

Catalina Caruso, aged 3, was our first child interview

Now, the hard part, or was it? Finding a child at random to ask the question ‘If any dream could come true, what would it be?’ I bet two middle-aged white fellas, wearing funny shirts, couldn’t make it round the world asking children that, or anything else, these days. Sadly, Catalina’s answer largely set the scene for so many responses from the children we encountered. “Tener una casa” she replied. Translated “To have a house” (to live in). Catalina, and her 2 siblings, lived with their mother in a shack in a gully at the end of a Santiago street.

The Andes as seen from Santiago city

Buenos Aires, Argentina

Crossing the Andes by daylight offered incredible views and was one of our flying highlights. We stayed in the Ibis in central Buenos Aires. Many of you may feel the Ibis are less than palatial however this was the start of a 6 month love-affair with a hotel brand. Basically all Ibis rooms are the same wherever you go. So, when spending every night in a different hotel (when we weren’t travelling) one greatly appreciates knowing where the light switches are, where the bathroom door is, and how to avoid your travelling companion in the dark etc etc. Thank you Ibis.

Later that evening, a din from outside saw a major street protest against poverty and government austerity in full swing. What else to do but join in. The cops kept a respectable distance from the throng who waved flags, chanted, sang, banged drums and were well organized and led.

Not quite the mardis gras but certainly entertaining
And the coppers signed our log book!

To be continued.

James Irving Bhutan Travel Expert

Bhutan Travel Expert – James Irving.

James has worked in the travel industry for over 40 years & has been involved in the leisure, corporate, group, sport, incentive & wholesale travel genres.

James loves rugby union, and keenly supports the Queensland Reds and the Australian Wallabies.