What I Did On My Holidays


Chapter 36

Heading Home

3/12/99
Day 27

Today we started the long journey home. We also found out that Vancouver is alleged by some to be the world's most liveable city. And it is a nice place, but who ever claims it is the most liveable hasn't been to Melbourne. The two cities are very similar, but Vancouver has two main drawbacks: it's cold and wet and next to the U.S. of A. Melbourne is roughly ten degrees (Celsius) warmer and 10,000 kms further away from the US. Clearly Melbourne is the world's most liveable city. But who's counting...

So back to the journey. Travelling is often long periods of dullness interspersed with events of interest. For the sake of brevity I'll skip the dull bits. (Just be glad you're not reading the beta version of this tale where I skipped the interesting bits!)

The first challenge was getting to the airport. Unlike Melbourne, the Vancouver taxi lobby wasn't powerful enough to have the airport built out in the middle of nowhere with no public transport to get there. So we caught a bus to the airport. Sadly, your average public transport bus is not designed to fit large backpacks. There were only three casualties in the process of getting on the bus and sitting down. Happily I wasn't one of them.

So we're on the bus when the driver pulls up at a bus stop and calls out "You'll all have to get off this bus and get on the bus in front because I'm not happy with this one". Can't argue with that. We got off the bus and got on the one in front. Another three casualties.  Fortunately, there were no casualties in exiting the bus at the airport since no one was going to argue with us after what happened last time.

Airport... plane... take off... these are some of the dull uneventful bits.

There is an in-flight movie. (This is a noteworthy item, not necessarily an interesting film though) It was an adaptation of Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" and the actors were dogs. Not that they were bad actors, they belonged to the species canis familiaris. Yes, imagine a German shepherd in a dog sized suit with a pipe in it mouth. It's jaw is moving up and down in sync with some Japanese lines and there are English subtitles. Amazing.

... more dull bits...

Notionally, if not physically, it was Saturday when we landed in Tokyo. We had a four hour stop over which involved sitting around in a transit lounge wishing there was a non-smoking area that was actually smoke free. I really valued the ten minutes of sleep I achieved stretched out across three seats.

The boarding time for the flight to Sydney provided an insightful demonstration of either random fluctuations or distinct cultural differences. Roughly ten minutes before the boarding time, approximately half the passengers stand and form an orderly queue. The rest continue to rest, sitting, standing, slouching, lying where ever they happen to be. Now a Japan Airlines flight  from Tokyo to Sydney is predominately composed of two groups of people. Those going overseas and those going home. There might have been some correlation between those going overseas and the early queuers. Or it could all be co-incidence.

We board. Plane takes off. Linda falls asleep. They serve drinks. Linda wakes up. We drink. I fall asleep. They serve dinner. I wake up. That concludes the sleep I had on this journey. They could have had an announcement over the PA system "We hope you enjoyed your sleep and hope you will sleep with us on future journeys." Good thing they didn't because that could be taken the wrong way.

... more flying...

It's now technically Sunday. Sleep would be good. No sleep. The up side to being awake all night is that you get to see the sunrise. That was worthwhile.

... more flying...

We see the smoking remains of Queensland's bush. Worst natural disaster ever in Queensland. No, not a bushfire, a government decision. (Background: The Queensland government told farmers it was going to make getting land clearing permits more difficult at some point in the future, so all the farmers are clearing land as fast a their bulldozers can bulldoze. Australia now ranks fifth in the world in land clearing countries.)

... we land...

Terrible stories have been told of three hour delays in getting through customs in Sydney and hence missing connecting flights. So when we had landed and retrieved our bags, we viewed the customs scene with some trepidation. We had one hour until our flight left. With or without us.

There are two queues, one for one for people with nothing to declare, one for declarers. There were around sixty people who had decided to declare nothing and three people declaring things. We decided we ought to declare the food we carried (Lindt chocolate: food of the gods). We joined the declaration queue and were soon confessing to the customs guy that we had chocolate. He said that's ok and told us to join the no-declaration queue. No, not the distant end, he opened an gate and forced us to jump to the head of the queue. We said "Thanks" and entered the country, trying to avoid the glares of everyone still stuck behind the fence.

Welcome to Sydney, Australia. Well, more like welcome to yet another airport. We are once more in a land where people speak our language. We are home, or at least within spitting distance of home (for those who have mastered the one thousand kilometre spit (Don't try this at home kids!)). And we're sitting in an airport because our flight is delayed? Why? Because the pilot is on a flight coming in to Sydney and his plane is delayed and we're not leaving without him. Wonderful.

... more flying...

We land in Melbourne, get our bags and go home. Via a shower, lunch and a three year old's birthday party of course. But eventually we are home. In bed by 9:30pm and after one hour of sleep in the last forty hours, apparently I fell asleep mid sen...


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