Wednesday, 17 June 2009

We finally get to set off

The actual arrival of the day you actually go on a long trip seems to take for ever and the time until you leave the house usually seems to drag on and on. Today was no different. Packing had been completed the day before with a final juggling of the weights of each bag, both of which were very close to 23kgs (or so the bathroom scales said).

Sam having a goodbye cuddle

So after a goodbye cuddle from Sam, it was time to shut the house down – fridge emptied, freezer defrosted, electrical equipment turned off, contact details distributed etc and then as we awaited the taxi, the most enormous thunderstorm arrived (apparently England now has a monsoon season or so the weather forecasters tell us).

Getting to Heathrow went exactly as planned and to schedule. We had

Self Portrait on the train

checked in on-line the previous night in an attempt to get decent seats – away from the toilets and galleys, not near children, an aisle for me etc but no alternative seat choices were offered – we were in a large section of the plane, close to the rear of the plane, the toilets, the galley etc. However as we were checking our bags in, we were told that we had been upgraded to the next cabin.

This was a first in over 30 years of travelling – I have been downgraded before but never upgraded. Whilst the upgrade from World Traveller to World Traveller Plus is not one of the most dramatic ones possible when travelling, in this case it did mean a move to a smaller cabin with much more leg space, all of which would be extremely welcome on a 13 hour flight.

Three films. a reasonable meal, lots of attentive service and 13 hours later we arrived at Singapore. Whilst our luggage was checked through to Cairns, we were not, so we had to get boarding passes to Cairns before we could go to the airport shower facility (very welcoming after a long flight) which also offered Internet access, soft drinks and snacks all included in the price of about £4.50 each. A definite must on the way back if we get time.

Our flight time from Singapore to Cairns was changed twice before we left and when we got to the departure gate, the flight was detailed on the screen for yet another time. In the event, that time was fictitious and we actually left Singapore at yet another time.

After a 90 minute stop at Darwin we got back onto the same plane with the same crew and headed off for Cairns with the most wonderful sunrise appearing during the journey. This flight takes about two hours and covers a distance which we intend will take us about three weeks to drive.

One characteristic of the journey since we started crossing the Bay of Bengal many many hours ago has been a lot of turbulence (still continuing very significantly on the last leg of the journey as I type this with all passengers and the cabin crew tightly tied down) and we have been subjected to hours of shaking and bumping. It will be nice when we arrive and it stops.

One of the side effects of long distance travel by jet is that as the time zone difference builds up, you begin to get confused as to what time it really is and what time your body thinks it is and you also get that “been up all night at a party” feeling of mental vagueness. It is not helped by meals arriving at strange times – as we approached Singapore (morning body time but evening local time,) we were served breakfast. We have just had another breakfast on this plane (to Cairns) when our bodies think it should be dinner. We are definitely in that state at the moment. It is Wednesday morning here but Tuesday evening in our bodies and we have had our cat napping interrupted far too often for us to feel rested. I always wear “noise reducing headphones” when I try sleep on a plane because they cut the noise down far better than earplugs or any other method I have heard of and I can usually then get some sleep – I recommend this method to blog readers.

Even though we arrived at the hotel at 9 am, they checked us into a vacant

Holiday Inn Room

room and so 31 hours are leaving home, we are in Cairns – with all luggage complete, feeling tired but slightly amazed that we are actually here.

Cairns is quite a nice town(established in 1876), apparently large by Australian standards, with a number of original buildings (now being

Old Building 1

Old Building 2

Old Building 3

used for different purposes) giving an idea of what it looked like in the early days. Of course there are some examples of modern architecture at its best!

Modern Building 1

Modern Building 2

but one hopes that the old buildings will always survive.

Sam - here is Nana Pat posting a card to you for your next sticker –

Posting a card to Sam

there is an animal on the postcard, which Australian animal do you think it will be?

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