Sunday, February 19, 2017

on aussie soil...

Saturday, February 18, 2017
We arrived! I survived the journey! An Aussie man on the plane said to me, 'no one prepares you for this flight - I've done it many times and it doesn't get any better!' Then he added, 'the way home is the same.' And I said, 'yes but I have a month to put this behind me!' I'm hoping it's like childbirth - the result is so awesome that you forget the pain and are willing to go it again! Last weekend I had chatted with my sister-in-law, Dixie, who had recently returned from visiting her daughter Lauren in Chile. That's about a ten hour flight and she was lamenting the fact but I  thought, oh well, I've been to UK and Europe probably 12 times in the past 25 years and it's not that bad. What's another few hours? Jan booked our flights and told me we were on a direct flight to Sydney with a stop-off in Singapore but we didn't need to leave the plane and it was the quickest way - ok, I'm sure she knows. We get to the airport in Toronto at 5 pm for our 8:30 departure - she doesn't want to chance any delay issues and whatever, I'd rather be early than worry and sweat over being a bit late. It turns out we are going through Vancouver, yes, it's the same plane we will be going to Sydney on...oh well. So, four and a half hours later we are in YVR (Vancouver) and I'm cold and my knees are sort of killing me. We have the two centre seats of the four middle and can't change - tried, didn't work. Everything costs - even those 'blankets' which I've never used in my life when they were free, now cost eight dollars - didn't get one. Anything to eat or drink other than a glass of water costs. And I'm wondering how in the hell am I going to survive another eighteen, yes, 18 hours! We are told we have to deplane with all our stuff but we are coming back to the same'll be about an hour. So I'm going to buy some food and maybe a sweatshirt or something! We are off-loaded to a gate with nothing except bathroom! I walk around a bit and shake the kinks out of my knees and when we have to go up for a document check, I convince Jan to ask about the food situation - she wears hearing aids for her hearing impairment and makes a better 'poor old lady' than me (in my mind anyway) and the airline employee assures her that we are getting well fed and even recites times and menus. We get back on the plane. Things have changed a bit, each seat has a baby pillow and a blanket, joy! This won't be so bad! My right-side seat mate, fortunately, is a smallish Asian man who, after losing our silent wrestle for possession of the common arm rest, falls asleep off to his right and remains that way for almost the entire time. After talking with Dixie, I had  optimistically put a change of shoes, socks and long shorts in my backpack, thinking to change in the washroom at some point. Ha! Note to self - Do not plan on using the bathroom for anything other than the absolutely necessary! When I did finally manage to get up, taking only my purse - my sleeper woke and I figured I'd better take the opportunity to go - there was the start of a line-up, two people ahead of me and at my turn there were another ten after me. I went in - two empty rolls and an empty tissue box - it was dismal and I didn't want to spend any longer than required!  Fortunately, I had learned long ago never to leave home without your own personal supply of t.p. so was ok. Upon exiting, I warned the line of the conditions and made my way back to my seat for the remaining seven hours.
I am reading 'they left us everything' by Plum Johnson, a book Jan had, thought was entertaining and could be left behind. I forgot to mention that part of my repacking was to have space for a few books - neither Jan nor I like to read on an e-reader and she is a voracious reader. Three years ago she came to Thunder Bay and stayed with me while we 'trained' for her hiking trip to Cuba in the fall of that year. She informed me that 'we' would need to hike fifteen to twenty km per day. Well, much to my surprise, we did, averaging the fifteen km for the full two weeks. When she got to my place, I had just finished reading 'as the crow flies' by Ann Marie McDonald - it's a huge book, one of my absolute best reads, that took me about a month. I gave it to her and said you can send it back to me if you don't finish. She gave me an odd look but said ok. I'm sure it wasn't five days and she was finished, asking for something else! Anyway, I know that toting books is something that's part of my job. When we went to Europe in 2015, I had to carry a  four inch thick tome of the 'lonely planet Europe' in my backpack, everyday, which had at least ten pages on Vienna (she said sarcastically and resentfully). Sure enough, this time, Jan had three lonely planets, one for Australia and two for NZ but lucky for me they are quite a bit smaller. I left the 'hiking and trekking NZ' behind, telling her that Backroads, our tour company, has already figured out all we need to know.

We got a cab at the airport to bring us to our first stay - a studio apartment in a nice location - the website shows a view of the harbour bridge and opera house supposedly from the balcony of our place. I think the photo was taken from the rooftop of the adjacent building, but oh well, we're here! First impressions - lush, tropical (it is about 27C) and a bit humid even though we'd been told, oh, it's a dry heat...whatever that means!

We have a four digit code to get into the gate and another four digit code to get into the lock box to get the keys to our suite. Jan calls them out to me and asks if I will remember - no, keep the paper out - one I can handle and it's easy, 1958 - that's manfriend's (or Marnie's - other sister) birth year but the other one is just random digits that mean nothing to me. Reminds me - last year when I was hanging out with son Derek a lot, he would hand me his cellphone for safeguarding while he was going off for tests or whatever and he told me the passcode in case I needed to use it. I smiled, heart-warmed and said oh, you used my birth year and age! He gave me an odd look and said, no, it's the top corner of the keypad, non sequential and easy to enter one-handed.

Back in Sydney, at our apartment, it's mid afternoon Saturday, the 18 hour time difference is beginning to tell on us. Jan has a brief nap and then we venture out, walking a kilometre to some shops and restaurants. We find Woolworths, a food store and pick up a few things for breakfast  - I am in seventh heaven at finding a yogurt that is non-dairy, gluten-free and vegan-friendly! On the way home, we stop off at a little cafe and enjoy a couple of local, fresh salads, very yummy and healthy! Head back and we are both in bed sleeping by 7pm!

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