Well, it seems that the coronavirus and its bureaucracy have won. My trip to Argentina to photograph the upcoming total solar eclipse on December 14th was interrupted and ultimately cancelled.
After over a year of:
- Planning with the airlines— Aerolineas Argentinas (both local and international), Avianca, Latam, and Delta
- Dealing with multiple flight schedule changes
- Hours on hold with customer service desks
- Many emails and forms communicating with third-party travel agencies
- Continual hotel changes
- Emails and permission forms to the Argentinian Consulate, regional Argentinian government offices, and the Department of Health
- A dozen Argentinian forms and affidavits in Spanish
- Research of a dozen Argentinian government websites for approval to travel during this pandemic
- Tracking exception conditions
- Multiple Covid-19 tests, including one 72 hours before the trip
- Approval papers containing a QR code from the Rio Negro province in Argentina (thank you so much)
- And multiple mishaps and mistakes by Miami Aerolineas Argentinas check-in and gate agents…
I was so very close to my destination for a quick trip to photograph the approaching total solar eclipse.
At JFK Airport in New York, my papers were in order, including a request for special permission to enter Argentina during Covid-19 as a foreign person staying less than fourteen days.
My luggage was even checked through to Buenos Aires, but the next leg of my trip was cut short by Aerolineas Argentinas check-in agents at Miami. I had all my papers in order but one. No kidding— according to the check-in agents I needed a signed letter from the president of Argentina.
My luggage was removed from the connecting international flight. I then had to return to New York without ever getting to my destination.
This whole ordeal now feels like a horrible nightmare. To plan an expedition for so long, to do all the work preparing tons of supporting papers, and then to get so close— it’s the ultimate frustration.
I am deeply saddened that I’ve been denied the opportunity to witness and photograph this solar event and to meet with other scientists and friends in the small eclipse-chasing community.
It seems that coronavirus and bureaucracy have won this round!
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