10/5/99 – 10/07/99
I was well aware, that this long travel will be anything but easy, but I was surprised. Some things were more easy than I thought, others extremely annoying … I hope that this little experience report will help someone in the future to have it a little easier:
After an extremely busy day at work (of course, it is always like that the day you leave and you actually have to leave a little earlier) I made it in time to check my luggage a last time and catch my shuttle. The airport was surprisingly empty and check-in was a breeze .. but than the first security check: I expected a visual inspection, since I had my UW camera housing and my reg in my carry on. But I was surprised, after seeing the housing they said “ok” (hey, nice place to smuggle anything INSIDE there), they did not check my video camera or anything else electrical … but what we had a BIG discussion about was my LIGHTER !!! … they actually confiscated it, without any options that they would send it home, or that I can pick it up somewhere or that I can check it in. The security lady got overly bitchy when I told her that the very same lighter passed 3 security check points in London Heathrow merely 3 days ago (and there they REALLY check). Well now … what about that lighter ? ok .. it looks a little futuristic … but it is a gas filled as is any ordinary BIC lighter !!! .. WHAAAAAA … and I bought that one especially for being on a boat, since it is windproof.
Well, since I had no alternative I left it there …
ok. first leg JFK-LAX. Domestic (no-free-booze) flight on United: Snobby flight attendants with “you are low-life coach” attitude. Made me wanna pay because I watched the movie with my own headphones, although the announcement said “you can use your own headphone OR rent one for 4$” … well, I then concentrated on my book and the little gin bottles that I smuggled on board (all I ordered from the bar service was Tonic Water and Ice) … and so eventually I got some sleep.
Then I met my buddy Susan at the gate to our next flight, LAX – Sydney, and we had some beers and chatted. Finally we got the boarding call, and after first and business boarded, the mooooing cattle (coach) was admitted. It really takes quite some time to squeeze 400 people in one plane. Well, but everything was ok, and we set off in time. During the flight I was positively surprised that I had no big trouble sitting 14 hours on that chair. I expected it to be worse. Also the movie selection was kinda nice: The Matrix (again), 10 things I hate about you, Instinct (boring and stupid). The food was obviously from the cheaper selection and the same feeling I got about the drinks: It took very long until the cart finally came along, and instead from what I am used to when I order a Gin&Tonic (getting a whole can and a tiny gin bottle that keeps you occupied for an hour, fixing 2.5 cups of G&T) they poured the very weak G&T directly into that tiny cup .. THAT was all for the next hour … GRRRR …. I think I finally slept some 1.5 hours while I lost a Wednesday
We touched down in Sydney in time (Thursday morning) and got a stunning view of the Opera House and the Harbor Bridge. Then we were very surprised how SMALL Sydney Int’l airport was (and they host the Olympics next year ???). We had to collect our luggage, went through immigration and customs (very nice and polite people, complete opposite from what I encounter when I get into the States). And then had to re-check-in and catch a shuttle to the domestic airport. There I “bought” my first aussie money (funky colorful with plastic inlays) and then we were of on a 3 hour flight to Cairns.
Once in Cairns we picked up our bags again and looked around, but no one there to pick us up .. growl … so, I called the hotel, and they said someone should be there .. and finally there was .. shuttle to hotel (very nice one), we got both our own rooms (very nice too) and I hopped into the pool and then we were off to explore Cairns, trying to stay awake, fighting jetlag.
Cairns is kinda cool, very flat, only a few buildings over 10 stories, 2 huge malls and a bazillion of cheap internet cafes (2$ for one hour surfing). Back at the hotel we had dinner, Susan tried the aussie-platter (emu, kangoroo and crocodile). I could not taste anything, since the flight had worsened my blooming cold. After a last goodnight drink I finally called it a night (21:00 AU time, which is 7:00 NYC time).
on to Part One: On the SuperSport to Lizard Island