QuickPeek: Cooking, Good times. Shit Airline experience. Planning.

So it is that I found out that Brazil has the cheapest flights from S America to Asia. Given I haven’t met family and friends back in SG for nearly 2 years, I decided to make a trip and spend a few months in Asia before getting back. So part of the reason of being in Manaus was to make sure we planned the bits and pieces of flights that we have to take to get back home.

It was awesome that we had lovely hosts in Fernando and Larisse and they were super helpful with information and let us stay a few additional days to deal with the logistics. While in Tabatinga, I had booked tickets on Qatar out of Sao Paulo, which was the cheapest I could find and then got tickets from Manaus to Sao paulo on an airline called TAM. The big bottleneck being luggage. International flights had a very generous luggage allowance and I figured I could get my bike and all my gear without trouble. However getting from Manaus to Sao paulo, I had to purchase excess baggage and it was, according to the website 0.5% of ticket price per kilo. Sell, fine and dandy eh.

Well, We had the tickets and were advised by the website to purchase excess baggage in advance. So We looked up the TAM airline office and found one near where we were staying. Sweet. We walked up to a posh shopping center and after looping for an hour, found out that the office had been closed a week earlier and we had to go to the airport office. Dang.

Anyhow, we found a nice bike shop who was happy to give us bike boxes and we ferried it awkwardly back home. Th next day, we went to the airport and after an hour long bus ride, we came up to a pretty nice looking airport and found the TAM ticketing office. When we asked them for pre-purchase of the baggage, they told us it wasn’t possible. Say what? I figured I wasn’t communicating properly in Portuguese and after a long discussion and talking with a pilot who spoke english, we figured that we are going to get royally fucked in this leg. Stay with me on this one…

Turns out TAM was being purchased by another airline called LAN. My tickets were issued by LAN and the flight was operated by TAM and the new company was called, really I am not kidding, LATAM. Anyhow, my ticket was purchased before the merger and that meant that no one was sure what policy applied for us. If the ticket was issued by TAM then I might be able to purchase excess baggage at 0.5% of the ticket price (about 0.60 USD / Kg). If the flight was operated by LAN, the same condition applies. Now, however We were allowed to purchase excess baggage in advance and the only option was to pay excess baggage at the time of check in. Which will be, 32 Reals per kilo (about 9 USD / Kg). We might have atleast 20 Kg excess per person and the meant a 700 reals baggage fee which was twice the price of a ticket. Son of a bitch.

Anyhow, we started to look at alternate solutions, and I stayed on the phone with customer service of LATAM for nearly 4 hours. Every time, I’d be given the run around and be put thro to a TAM expert or a LAN expert or some feller who had no idea what to do. The best solution seemed to be that we cancel the current booking and buy another ticket what allowed for 20 Kg excess baggage, and the whole thing might work out cheaper. But the website was pretty fucked up too, every time I’d try to load the page, randomly I’d be taken to LAN or TAM or LATAM site and when I eventually managed to get to the end of the booking, their payment system would crash. Fuck all that.

We finally decided enough was enough and we might have to bite the bullet on the cost and probably negotiate with the check in clerk. Let’s see how that goes. Anyway, if anyone is in the region looking for cheap tickets, be warned about the LAN / TAM / LATAM fiasco. We spent a day relaxing, and trying to sort other stuff out. We culled pretty much every non essential stuff from the bags and I even had to give up my lovely Ortlieb Backpack which had been a faithful companion for the past 3 years of touring. Ah well, such is life, sometimes we just have to be ruthless and cull excess baggage.

We decided to spend a few days exploring the region of Amazonias and head north towards Venezuela. There was this one road that seemed interesting as it went thro some nice rivers with cascades and a Indigenous reserve where no one is allowed to stop for a stretch of 120 kms. And on top, it cut across the heart of the Amazon forest. No reason not to explore eh.

Our host, Fernando was super sweet and was willing to hold our bags in his house for a few days and we decided we could go minimal and carry bare essentials and make a light weight tour. So tomorrow we say good bye to Manaus for a few days and head North into the forest.

Track Notes

Expenses: SG$ 48.17
Comments: Aw shucks, Bureaucracy is an absolute bitch.