Back in 2015 when I was flying over to the US for hiking the Appalachian Trail I had some “problems” getting into the country. I was thinking about how much time I would need to be able to finish the trail without overstaying and came to the conclusion that 7 Months should be just fine. I didn’t know that my B1/B2 Tourist Visa had a maximum of 6 Months rule to stay in the Country. When the Officer asked me what I’m here for and how long I wanted to stay, I told him that I wanna thru-hike the AT and therefore I would need like 7 Months (just to make sure I can finish it in time). The next thing that happened was pretty confusing to me because no one told me whats wrong. The Officer sent me to another office where I had to go through a “deeper” inspection of my person. I honestly had no clue about what was wrong and why they didn’t let me leave the airport to catch my shuttle. After a while I found out about the maximum amount of time I could stay in the Country. 6 Months. I wanted to get 7. That’s it. I was kinda lucky that the Officer in charge was a very nice guy even though I spent way too much time with them to get everything done. Eventually they decided to let me stay for 1 Year which was a huge relief for me since I still didn’t know why exactly I was detained at the Airport. I thanked the Officer a lot for his efforts and decision so I could finally leave for my biggest adventure yet.
Fast Forward to March 1st, 2018.
I got to the airport pretty early. I had like 2 hours of time to kill before the planned departure of my flight to Amsterdam. The flight schedule was kinda tight. 1 hour layover to catch my onward flight to Atlanta. That’s not that much time taking into account that Amsterdam is a damn huge Airport.
My flight was delayed. First, just for half an hour. Then for another half an hour. The plane arrived a couple minutes later which kinda lifted my spirits. I may be able to catch my connecting flight. Lets hope for the best outcome. Another half an hour later the boarding had started. I can still get there in time… it may work out if there is no further delay. As we all were sitting in our designated seats, ready for take off, the Captain of the Plane told us that we have to wait another 45 minutes because of some “major outage” in Amsterdam. We weren’t allowed to start because AMS was too busy. Damn, that will be a very tight thing. If I’m lucky they will wait for me in Amsterdam and give me a speed transfer to the right terminal. I called the Support Hotline of KLM earlier to figure out what to do in case I won’t make it there in time. The lady on the phone told me that I can either go back home and try again the next day or fly over to Amsterdam and talk to the Staff to find a solution. I decided to take the plane and see what happens over there…
Long story short: I missed the flight by about 10-15 minutes.
Amsterdam was a mess. The day before when the outage occurred they had canceled about 200 flights which had led to the fact that people from all over the world were stranded at the airport. (God, damn it!)
I’ve never seen that many people at that airport, running from one terminal to the next, trying to find a way to get to their destinations.
Each Terminal had queues of people waiting to get to the counter. When I arrived, most of the queues had been closed due to too many people already waiting for their turn.
I tried to talk to the staff in order to get some information about what my options were right now. They handed me a letter from the customer service telling me that I should get a Hotel Room (they would pay for it) and to call the customer service or get in touch with them online. I wasn’t sure that I understood her right so I asked her again what’s going on.
She basically told me the same that I could read on the letter. I told her that I’ve already called the hotline and that they’ve told me to talk to the ground staff in AMS. I was pissed. Told her that “this is bullshit” and went away to make that call. Sorry about that, but this is NOT how to treat customers. Not even under such crazy circumstances. What about an “Emergency Plan” for such cases? (maybe there was one, but it didn’t feel like they knew what to do and how to handle the situation in a better way…)
It took me more than 1.5 hours on the phone, to get connected and a solution for my onward flight. They rebooked me on another flight departing next morning. Geez. But all I had to do now was to find a Hotel room. Better than nothing I guess.
I scored a room almost in walking distance (15 minutes by bus) and so I left the airport to get there.
When I left the Bus to walk over to the Hotel I experienced the coldest wind chill of my life. It was like -5 degrees Celsius outside but due to the wind chill it felt like -30. I couldn’t remember the last time I’ve been that cold. Within 10 Minutes I was shivering and frozen to the bones. That was NO fun. Of course, I missed the information that there are shuttles running straight to the Hotel. Sigh… keepin it classy 😉
After like 4 to 5 hours of sleep I got up around 4:30 am. I got breakfast and hurried up to get back to the airport. One should be there like 3 hours before boarding. Luckily it took me like 10 minutes to get through the security check. Then waiting for another 2 hours before we finally got on the plane. From there on everything went pretty smoothly.
But I can tell that this was definitely no fun at all.
What I find to be funny is, that no matter what I’ve tried to do to make that journey as smooth as possible, it just didn’t work out. Pretty ironic, isn’t it? 😉
After a (kinda) long flight of like 8.5 hours I finally arrived in Atlanta and got through the Airport and Security Check within 30 Minutes. My friend from the Trail, Clarity, was already waiting for me to show up.
We left the Airport and took off straight to the next REI (Outfitter, one of the best I ever came across!) to get the rest of the gear I will need on trail. I obviously forgot about how big the United States are. Driving for hours seems to be normal over here, as jam packed as highways are. It was fun catching up with Clarity and made for a good time while driving to Amicalola Falls State Park where we would take part in the annual Appalachian Trail Kickoff Event.
We got there just before sunset and started to pitch our tents at Tent City. But now I had to face some unexpected issues. As you may know, I bought most of my gear online and let them send it to Clarity’s place. Somehow I didn’t pay attention to the sizes for the ordered gear. I thought going with the “regular” size would just be fine. That was a huge mistake. My Sleeping Pad was a little too small for me like my quilt was. That led to another short night sleep for me. After like 4 hours I woke up freezing. And it was just around midnight. I tried my best to get back to sleep but it just didn’t work out. I put on all of my layers in order to try to stay warm. Didn’t work either. So I was wandering around trying to find a warmer place, preferably inside of a building. But there were none at all. I got into a house at the Campground where larger groups of people could sit inside for dinner and such stuff. The heating didn’t work but the AC did. I turned it off. It was still too cold inside and there was not much I could do but stay awake and try to keep warm. Luckily there was a kitchen with an oven which I turned on every once in a while to warm up a little bit.
Somehow I managed to stay somewhat warmer but I couldn’t find sleep at all. Being so tired and jet lagged didn’t do any better. I kinda had a major meltdown which left me desperately looking for a solution.
Eventually the sun was rising and people came out of their tents. They started a fire and gathered around the fire pit, making breakfast and drinking some coffee. I joined them for a while, waiting for Clarity to wake up. That was pretty nice, talking to some great folks who are planning to hike the AT. I shared some trail stories with them and gave some advice when asked. I needed some distraction from last night.
Being tired and exhausted beyond all measures I talked to Clarity after she woke up, telling her that I need to get a Room to finally get some quality sleep (which I couldn’t find in my tent) and to overcome my Jet lag. By the way, last time in 2015 I didn’t feel that tired at all. I couldn’t remember that I had to deal with a Jet lag back then. This was kinda surprising to me and came over me totally unexpected.
We decided to go up to the Lodge where all the Speakers and Vendors were set up and to listen to some speakers. It’s been interesting and I managed to warm up after my 4th cup of coffee. Around lunch we took off to Dahlonega where I would go to get a room for the night. We went to get lunch in town which was amazing since the food was very tasty. We kept on sharing stories from our hike and we still had a good time. Clarity dropped me off at the Hotel with all my gear. Since it was still kinda early in the day, I tried to figure out what I could do about it and the whole situation. I felt bad for all that and there is no one else to blame than myself…
So it happened that I played around with all my gear and started developing a game plan for my upcoming hike on the PCT. I would need to replace and exchange some of my gear. Luckily that’s not a problem with REI. Did I mentioned that I love them for their products and simply amazing customer support??? If you will ever plan on buying good gear over here, go to REI. They are the bomb! German/European Companies should definitely learn from them on how to treat customers! Its definitely worth the extra dime! That’s for sure! (and no, I don’t get paid by them for that;)
After I fell asleep around 8 pm (almost immediately) I woke up around 7:30am the next morning and was greeted by a sunny and slightly warm day. I still felt tired and not really awake but I went for breakfast almost right after I got up.
As I was done with shoveling food in my mouth and drinking like 3 cups of coffee my Soul and Mind slowly woke up.
Back at my hotel room I took a shower and put all my stuff together. Sorting out all the gear I needed to replace with REI so that I wouldn’t waste too much time when Clarity came to pick me up and at the store later on as well.
Initially we had planned on doing 2-3 days of hiking on the AT that weekend but this wasn’t about to happen.
I got all of the gear replaced and bought some new stuff. Check out the Video to learn more about that 😉
In addition to all the above mentioned changes I decided to buy a PLB (Personal Locator Beacon, a GPS Device) for safety reasons and of course the freedom of the mind – my very own and beloved ones back home.
I managed to set it up and test it the last two days. If you want to see where I am, feel free to follow the link below!
My Up-to-date Position can be found here
I also added a permanent link to the footer section below 🙂