Our itinerary had us traveling back to Buenos Aires (the airline hub) and then to El Calafate in Patagonia. After a breakfast in our wonderful Mendoza hotel, we packed the bus and the trailer with our luggage and headed to the Mendoza airport.
OOPS! No domestic flight are operating. The air traffic controllers are on a work slowdown (like maybe allowing one flight per hour). Our plane had not even arrived in Mendoza from Buenos Aires and it did not look very good for any kind of connection to El Calafate today. We were told that the slowdown is due to an insult lodged at a worked by a government official!
Plan B was a downtown Mendoza hotel, a hike in the lower mountains and who knows what? We are lucky to get rooms in the hotel since everybody trying to fly out was stranded. Classic Journeys must have clout!
We met with a local guide, Liam, who leads us over relatively flat terrain at an elevation of 6,000 feet where cows and horses graze in the sparse countryside. Anne thinks outside the box and avoids the thorny bushes and cow dung by taking the country dirt road that the bus will follow to pick up up at the end of the hike. While the rest of the group made a wide circle from the road and across the low rolling hills, Anne marched along the road and the bus followed her at a distance for well over an hour. (She could have gone even longer and farther, but thought that the rest of the group might be nearly done and she needed to stop). This actually put the bus far from the meeting spot and our guide, Daniel had to jog down the road to find the bus since there was no cell phone service in the "middle of nowhere." Anne had a marvelous time by herself and was bubbling over with excitement when we at last joined the bus that had to turn around to back and pick us up.
We drove back to town and now plan C began to unfold. The Patagonia segment of the trip was fading fast. We learned that the mechanics had joined the work slowdown and NO domestic flights were in the air. Tom suggested chartering a plane directly to El Calafate much like what he and Anne had done when we were in Africa, but there were no planes to be had. SO, after a fast shower and a repacking of our luggage we all piled into a 64 passenger double decker bus and set out for a 13-hour sojourn back to Buenos Aires! Many of the other stranded passengers who saw our bus wanted to pay anything to ride with us - but we couldn't oblige them (and make a lot of money!) because of insurance considerations. The bus was actually comfortable with reclining seats and leg supports. We slept as best we could and it seemed like a party with snack food and drink provided by our guides.
Early in the morning, we arrived at the Buenos Aires International airport where we thought we might get a flight to El Calafate in Patagonia. Now nothing domestic was flying. We got another smaller bus and after lunch, went to the Pan Americano Hotel, a glitzy big hotel in downtown Buenos Aires with some quality problems, got showered, did laundry, and Tom and Anne had a date for dinner by themselves. A good night's sleep in a real bed was very welcome. However, Patagonia and the glaciers were not an option any more. We went to bed very disappointed.