When the plane touched down on Cali soil at about 11am on that Saturday morning (was it Saturday? It was such a blur) my whole body heaved a sigh of relief. My friends and I had been in transit for around 40 grueling hours and after our long-haul flight from Sydney to Santiago, our 12 hour layover in Santiago (which turned into 15 hours after delays) and our last two legs to Bogota and finally Cali, the sight of Stephanie, our volunteer guide was one for sore eyes. She greeted us with a huge smile and we collected our luggage which all arrived safe and sound. My luggage felt about as heavy as the bags under my eyes as we lugged it out to our team manager and our minibus. The first thing we noticed when we hopped into the minibus was that there are apparently no road rules in Colombia. Or if there are, no one follows them. Despite the fact that the road seemed to appear fairly smooth, the half hour trip felt more like a rollercoaster than a bus and as Evie pointed out several times, it was quite beneficial to wear a sports bra.
All we wanted to do was sleep in a bed. In Santiago, we had managed to score a few hours worth of naps in between Cards Against Humanity matches, on the seats at the gate, but it didn’t really suffice. Of course we weren’t allowed to sleep. We had to get ourselves back into routine which meant staying awake until Cali bedtime, plus the opening ceremony was that night.
We arrived at the hotel, checked in and met with the rest of the team before heading down to the food court for lunch, which I ordered in a combination of non-existent Spanish and awkward pointing. Team Manager Nigel took us on a speed tour of the complex which consisted of the four of us incredibly jetlagged and achy girls scurrying weakly behind him. The complex was fantastic. It was an open air shopping complex with a gorgeous four and a half star hotel right in the middle which was where we stayed.
My roommates, Amy and Nicole and I found our room (we were upgraded to the top level so that was a bonus) and tried to organise our lives before getting ready for the opening ceremony.
The bus ride to the venue was just as, if not more, horrifying than the minibus ride. Amy had bought a burrito on the go to eat on the bus, and swiftly discovered that it was a terrible idea as she got more on the floor and on her face than in her mouth. Arriving at the venue was intimidating for one, it was absolutely crawling with armed security. We were moved from place to place until we finally found where we were supposed to be. Some people went to get photos with other skaters, but I was so tired I just hung out with some Aussies and waited for people to get photos with us.
The inside of the venue was crawling with media so I turned on the happy for the cameras despite wanting nothing more than to just curl up in a ball and sleep. I’ve never wanted to pass out more than during the opening ceremony and when we were finally released to either go home or stay for the salsa entertainment, we all opted to go home. It was unfortunate to miss the entertainment, but as we sat half asleep in the gutter waiting for some taxis we realised that going home was a pretty decent idea. Even though we thought it couldn’t get worse, the taxi ride was even more horrifying than both buses. The funny thing I noticed about the roads in Cali, was the fact that even though no one seemed to be following the road rules, and everyone seemed to be driving like crazy, all the traffic seemed to have a way of working itself out.
We found out that we had our first training session the next day at 10am, a fact that none of us were overly thrilled to hear in our state of crippling lethargy. We got our dinner, and headed to bed, we had two king single beds and a trundle, so I, being a martyr, took the trundle the first night and immediately regretted my decision. That thing was like a slab of concrete.
In spite of the incredibly uncomfortable bed, I crashed almost instantly and only randomly woke up once, resisting the urge to check my phone and ruin my sleeping plans with bright screen light.
We awoke the next day, bright and early, and feeling slightly better and headed downstairs for a 8:30 breakfast at the breakfast buffet. Just quietly, breakfast buffets are the only reason I do these trips to be honest. We dined like Queens on our freshly squeezed juices, omelets, granola and yogurts and other random South American things before grabbing taxis to the country practice rink.
The practice rink was a hockey rink, complete with blue plastic ice-court floor and blue white and yellow barriers. It was almost identical to the old Skate Worx rink I grew up in except for the fact that it was open air.
The first training session was rough. It felt like learning to skate again. The air was thick and hot and it felt like trying to skate through mud. We didn’t go overboard, but we did push ourselves a little bit and while it felt good to make progress, we were all the colour of beetroots once we were finished.
We headed back to the hotel to get some lunch with the team before heading off to the rink to watch Robert skate his short program. Robert did an awesome job and ended up coming tenth! That meant that he got to skate in the top groups which was such an amazing effort.
We headed back home at last and hit dinner at the the beds, ready for another long day.