Wednesday, 30 November 2011

And so we travel back again

After a night at a camp site adjacent to the airport (and dinner with our Australian family), we drop the van off at the airport and check-in for the long flight home.

Hobart is such a small airport that check-in is easy and quick and it has ample seating, cafes and everything to make travel simple.

Hobart Sydney plane

All planes park very close to the terminal and ours stops just outside of the terminal gate.

We are not coming back exactly the same route as we came out because for reasons only known to Qantas we have to come back via Sydney where we have a five hour layover – should we spend it at the airport getting bored or doing something more useful? The last time I had a five hour layover in Sydney I was travelling on my own and managed to fit in the Sydney Harbour Bridge climb. However a more sedate programme is planned for this layover.

Getting to and from the airport to the city is easy because there are trains every 10 minutes and the journey takes only 18 minutes. So we invest $30 each on a return ticket and go into the city to Circular Quay Station which is the closest station to the Opera House and The Bridge.

Sydney Ferries 

As the train pulls into Circular Quay Station, we are greeted by a good view of the Bridge.

Harbour View 

The Sydney Harbour skyline is one of the great views of the City. The Jacaranda

Jakaranda Tree Sydney 

Trees around the harbour are in bloom, and we have time to grab a quick lunch

P&P and the Bridge

and two photographs just to prove

P&P and the Opera House 

we were there before we take the train back to the airport where our A380 is loading.

A380 with two meal lorries

This time when we transit Singapore, we have sufficient time for a shower at The Rain Forest Lounge. It really is a most efficient system and you can just turn up without booking. Qantas park around Gate C23/C25 at Singapore Terminal 1 and the showers are about 5 minutes away near Gate 1 (not as far away as the impression the gate numbering might give). You pay around $9 Singapore dollars return for a towel and access to the unisex shower area.

Singapore Shower-1 Singapore Shower

The showers are not the height of luxury but

Singapore Shower-2

the water is hot and soap / shampoo / combs are provided and they note your flight number and monitor its gate to ensure you get back on time.  We managed to speed through the whole thing in about 25 minutes only to find our flight was delayed by 45 minutes due to congestion over Afghanistan.

The UK on a dark cold December morning is not over welcoming but it is nice to be back, even if we do come back on a day when most of the public sector is on strike over changes to their pension scheme (a scheme which as a grateful public sector pensioner I can say is extremely good but unaffordable). As we left Sydney, we were given a letter by Qantas warning us of the possibility of long delays going through Immigration at Heathrow and the press were talking about 12 hour waits. In the event it took only 34 minutes from landing to leaving Terminal 3.

And so, about 10½ days after we left our house and 34 hours after we left Hobart, we are back again having travelled almost to the other side of the world just to go to a concert – something which would have been impossible not too many years ago and probably still is quite a ridiculous idea! It was however, absolutely worth it.

The temperature and climate change takes some getting used to however. In Sydney the calendar was heading toward the longest day, the temperature was 27c and there was 15 hours of daylight, in the UK the calendar is heading towards the shortest day, it is 7c and there are only 8 hours of daylight.

Comparisons of Maui with others

We have now hired vans from three different companies and can make a limited comparison of the companies and their vans. The best company we have hired from is Wilderness in New Zealand. They were very good to deal with before the trip and internally the van seemed to be designed by someone who had actually been on the road and knew what would make life easier when living in a van. In addition, neither the mechanical nor the camping sides of the van had anything wrong with them when we picked the van up.

The van we hired from Apollo in Australia was a bit old but worked perfectly well mechanically provided you let it wake up gently in the morning (i.e. did not drive hard until the engine had got warm). Its fault as a campervan was that the roof leaked (and they obviously had known about it because attempts had been made to fix it) and the air conditioner dripped water into one of the cupboards.

The Maui van worked very well as a van and internally, whilst perfectly functional, it was not as well designed or equipped as that of Wilderness (essentially the same product). The big problem with our Maui was that it had been poorly maintained from a camping perspective – we found too many faults when we were out on the road. Whilst we developed a work around for most of them, one of them was problematic (the grey dump tank valve was broken). These faults should not have been present in a van sent out on the road and because we only had a short rental, it was impossible to get them repaired without sacrificing a significant amount of our holiday time. Would I hire from Maui again? – maybe if the price was right but not from Hobart.

A Postscript

There will be a slight pause now before the next set of blog entries. Unfortunately we have had to cancel plans for going to India sometime in February and probably also a long camping trip to the USA next summer because I am about to commence treatment for Early Stage Localised Prostate Cancer. It was detected simply because (due to my age) I asked for a PSA test even though I had no symptoms of Prostate Cancer. My chances of a near 100% cure are pretty good and I am hoping for an operation in January.

We are planning to get back to travelling sometime around mid 2012 with an easy and restful  trip to the Greek Islands perhaps, then maybe some autumnal diving and in the winter, perhaps a longer trip up the coast of Norway to above the Arctic Circle to see the Northern Lights again and then also perhaps India. Normal service will be resumed as soon as possible.

Men - Go and get your PSA checked - it may save your life. It saved mine”.


  1. Have a nice trip!

    Best Regards
    Paulo Kenzo Uemura

  2. I enjoy reading your blog

  3. Thanks for the comment, we are pleased you enjoy reading it. We went to Macau about 35 years ago and enjoyed our time there.