The worst nightmare a Ryanair passenger may have is not printing your own boarding pass before getting to the airport. The overweight charges are common all across the industry, but if you happen to forget the printout, don’t bother showing that exact same information on your mobile device, no mater how big the screen is, the no-frills airline will hit you with €70 for the printing service. I was familiar with this information as I was advised by many friends and went through a very extensive case about them at a Business Strategy lecture.
Less than €70 is what I paid for my flight, €80 was salsa’s and three of my panniers fee. I wasn’t ready to open my modest coffer to Ryanair for any other service, so in anticipation of their charges I printed my boarding pass about a week ago and had it ready this morning with my belongings next to my bed.
Richard, the taxi driver whom I never met nor spoke to before, was supposed to pick up my two boxes with salsa and three panniers from the bicycle shop yesterday afternoon -while I was having a massage-, and pick me up at 8am at the albergue. At 8:02 I was with one hand in my carry-on pannier and the other with my phone trying to find a way to reach the person who was now having a big impact on how the next months of my life would go. At 8:03 I heard a car engine coming and shutting down close to the door, a spotless white minivan shows up and opens the side door welcoming me to hop in as he apologized for the delay. The smell inside was of someone who just took a shower and started his shift -not the classic strong vanilla taxi smell-, the car was like new on the inside too and I felt relieved as I looked at a small and large cartoon boxes in the back.
He was a taxi driver but also someone who perfectly knew what the clients requirements were, at Santiago no mater how long your camino was, NO ONE wanted to take care about any gear whatsoever any longer. Richard would pick up your just adjusted, greased, and packaged self-propelled vehicle from the shop, store it at his house, and bring it with him when he picked you up and drove to the airport. Besides that, he was a cyclist himself who knew the camino very well. In comparison to most business owners I talked to, he had a different view of the crisis, “we are on high season and I’m having a hard time to stop working and cycle on my afternoons, I could be busy with clients all day long if I wanted”.
He picked up a cart at the airport and placed my boxes ready for me to walk in. I paid, shook hands with him and walked into Ryanair’s counter as I pulled out the boarding pass from my cycling jacket front pocket. Surprisingly this wasn’t there. I opened my pannier and searched in the last possible place where this could be found. Nothing. There was no one waiting and a smiley Ryanair representative asked me to go forward. As I walked in I looked around in the hope of finding a place who could share a printer at the rather small Santiago airport, I had no success. I started with a small casual chat-I’m a nice person intro and then confessed my sin: I did do the homework long ago, had it ready next to my lunch box this morning, and forgot it at home. She looked at me as in, you should have known this better, used my fault to play the €70 fee card and continued with what seemed to be an often given lecture. She stopped talking for a moment but looked like wanted to say more. I waited for her to finish, she paused, and rollercoasted back to “ok, I won’t print it this time, I’ll write by hand a ‘manual boarding pass’ so that you don’t have to pay, just don’t do it again, show me your passport”. I was a saint citizen again, dropped my boxes and walked into the gate.
I don’t pretend to be a flying expert, but the way I see the spectrum of airlines, from the better side of the customer care and overall experience: Singapore airlines, followed closely by Swiss, then by Virgin Australia. A stretch later are all US, and the rest of the world airlines. Some camino downhills afterward you’ll find Ryanair, easyjet, vueling, etc. I agree, I can’t expect a Ryanair price for a Swiss service, but if the Irish could get away with safety, they would surely double the cabin capacity by removing all seats and attaching ropes to the ceiling for you to grab yourself from. That said, Ryanair was like the albergue of the airlines, my style of traveling, and I enjoyed the staff and everyone else’s informality on the flight. By the way, I opened my book on the flight and a nicely folded boarding pass fell on my lap.
I had three options to get to London from Stansted: a) riding, but I wasn’t sure about the weather, according to the forecast it would be raining all day. b) train, this would be a good option if salsa was assembled, but I had two large boxes plus a pannier to carry all over. c) bus, I would have plenty of time to load and unload the boxes and space would not be an issue. So I took c).
Half way through the way to London I realized the weather was great and could have ridden to the hotel. But the bus was going all the way down to Victoria station, not very far from the hotel. This was a big station, except that the bus stopped on the street and gave the passengers a minute or so to unload luggage. An instant later I was at a busy Buckingham Palace road on everyone’s lunch time anchored to my two boxes. I had to think, there was no way I could carry both boxes on my own. If I left one on its own while and moved the other one elsewhere, a second later would have disappeared. I approached a guy not far from me but I didn’t even know what to ask, after some words I actually asked if a taxi would stop there… He had no intention to help and didn’t answer my question. I kept thinking what to do. I looked on my phone and although I had no wifi, the maps on the area I was were loaded previously. I spotted a green triangle not far from where I was. Moments later a Latin guy passed by, he was from Brazil, I explained my situation and agreed in helping me taking one box to the park at the corner. I was now on a safe green area separated from the street by a small gate. People at their lunch looked at me in disbelief of what I was about to do. I took my time and pulled the tools out. The guy at the shop in Santiago did a fantastic job packing my bike, except that he took the handlebar (from the stem, not the stem itself from the frame) and front fender off from the rack, something I wasn’t familiar with. As I assembled the bike, an uniformed older guy came to me, I thought this is it, how would I move all this now. Evan was the gardner of the park and came to look at the bike. He knew about bikes and suggested not to leave it parked on the streets, and if I did so, to take the (English) saddle with me, otherwise would be gone in minutes. Great, I thought, I started to miss Spain where my bike did not raise much attention. Took me hours to build the front fender and rack, Evan stopped by every now and then and invited me to take my time and not to worry about using that space.
I finished assembling everything, placing the panniers on the racks and disposed the empty cartoon boxes at a garbage area in the park. The derailer was bent as it was found when arriving to Spain. I thought this is the price for taking the plane and not the ferry, but that would have involved skiping Finisterre, something I was happy to have done and did not regret. I found a Salsa bike distributor and crossed the city to get there. I started to get again used to ride on the left side of the road, the fact that the streets were packed with other riders helped immensely. The weather was great and got to see some nice buildings.
Having SRAM components as opposed to shimano was nice and I was getting used to them. Apart from been a finer product, according to some, the availability on parts is very limited. I tried to order a cassette with a wider range of gears and replace the broken selector. Climbing el camino was hard and my next stretch will involve some alps climbing so I wanted to be ready. I hope they get the parts before I leave this unbelievable pricey metropolis.
I spent the night around Piccadilly Circus area mentally planning my next stretch cycling. I will spend the next four days with my parents and very likely will not place any post until I depart from London again. This will be my blog holidays :)
See you soon!