Return to 2006 Australia Trip


 Sydney – Thursday, October 5, 2006.


Well, it is 3 AM here, and I have only had about four hours of sleep, but my body thinks it is 10 AM (as it is in Seattle now, only it is still Wednesday there), and it doesn’t know how to sleep at 10 AM.  So, I’ll sit here in my semi-dump of a hotel room and write about the trip over the water.


“Yesterday” (that is, Tuesday), I was up at 5 o’clock, to get to the airport for my 8 AM departure to Los Angeles.  We were 40 minutes late leaving Seattle and an hour late arriving in LA, but I had plenty of time for my connection to Sydney, so it didn’t really matter, although it meant that I had less time in LA to cool down and get ready for the long, long trip.  Because I was traveling business class (Alaska Airlines Award miles again, mostly accumulated from the use of my Visa credit card), I was able to use the Qantas Club lounge in LA, and I would have rather spent that hour there, than on the Seattle plane and waiting in Seattle.


LA to Sydney is 7500 miles and takes 14 hours of flying.  My business class seat was quite comfortable, actually, but 14 hours is way too long to spend in such a confined space.  I had a seatmate, but after we took off, he found a couple of empty seats where he could spread out and do some work, so I had a nice large (relatively speaking!) space around myself, too.  I figured that 7500 miles was about 12 or 13 days of hard driving on Interstates (600 miles a day), so it made the 14 hour plane trip seem more reasonable.  Australia is a long distance from the good old USA.


Technology has finally caught up with inflight entertainment.  They have a central computer with about 60 movies on it, and several hundred music CD’s, as well as 8 or 10 games and a number of TV shows.  You can browse the selection, choose what you want to watch or listen to, download it to a computer in your seat, then watch or listen to it.  This means that you no longer have to wait until a particular movie is playing – you can watch it any time, you can pause it, rewind it, or fast forward it.   Plus you have a much larger selection.


I listened to 24 tracks of Slim Dusty music, just to get into the mood, and then settled down to watch some movies and TV shows.  I watched a Jenifer Aniston movie called  Friends With Money that I thought was terrible, but then I watched an Aussie movie called Kenny, about a guy who works for a porta-potty company in Melbourne, and it was great.  Later I watched a TV show documentary about an Australian guy (Peter Andrews) who has struggled for 40 years to try to get people to listen to his theories about how to rejuvenate much of Australia’s farmland that has been eroded and largely ruined in many places by the methods of farming and using the land and available water that the European settlers used.  He has proven it several times, by actually rejuvenating land, within just a very few years, but his methods go against all the conventional wisdom, and not many people will listen to him.  He gets obstruction all the time from various government agencies that are set up to “protect” the land.  The show was really excellent.  It is called Droughts and Flooding Plains, done by an Aussie TV show called Australian Story.  It showed the effect that his single-minded crusade has had on his personal life, which made it all the more interesting.


There was light turbulence for the first half of the flight, and eventually it got to me, and I was feeling airsick.  I stopped watching the movie I was watching and actually managed to doze for 30 or 40 minutes (I can’t sleep on planes), and after that I felt pretty much ok again.  For a little while there, I was wondering if I was going to get physically sick, and that was not a happy thought.  If you have ever been airsick or seasick, you know what I mean, and if you haven’t, then you can’t imagine how awful it is.  We had four or five pretty smooth hours in the middle of the flight, fortunately, and I survived.  Even though my seat was comfortable, I was pretty uncomfortable for most of the trip.  The temperature kept fluctuating, too, and I would periodically be too hot, which I don’t like.


The food was really excellent.  I refrained from drinking, which was difficult, but I know from experience that I do much better with the long trip is I don’t drink any alcohol.  It was too long between the two meals, so I had the flight attendant make me a hot roast beef and cheese sandwich on a crusty roll, and it was excellent.  I was actually not hungry for the second meal, and only ate a couple of bites, which is an experience that is pretty rare for me.


Upon arrival in Sydney, it was the usual airport hassle and lines – duty free (TWO bottles of booze are allowed now – probably a mistake, because now I will have to carry them around with me, and I have a flight to Perth in less than a week.  I got two bottles of my old favorite, Bundaberg rum, called Bundy by the locals.), immigration, baggage claim, quarantine (to check for food and plant items), and finally freedom.  By the time I got to the street, it was after 9 PM here, Wednesday night.  Sydney is 7 hours “behind” Seattle, except it is one day later here, because we crossed the International Date Line.  I guess that makes it 17 hours “ahead” actually, but it is easier for me to use seven hours earlier and add a day.


My hotel offers airport pickup, but I wasn’t about to wait around the airport for them to get there, let alone struggle with the Aussie phone system after getting off the plane, so I caught a taxi to the hotel.  Thirty Aussie dollars, which is about $23 American.


I don’t know when I am going to be able to get internet access to put this up on the website.  I plan to buy prepaid dial up internet access from one of the three phone companies.  Unlimited access from anywhere in Australia, for the cost of a local phone call each time (about 15 or 20 cents US, I think, but most places don’t charge you for it), for 45 days, for Au$40 (about US$30).  On my last two trips, I could charge things to my credit cards and get an excellent exchange rate,  but now all the credit card companies are adding a 3% international exchange fee to your statement.  I’ll use my ATM to get Aussie cash and use that as much as I can, but the bank charges me $6 for each ATM use over here, so even if I get the US$500 a day maximum at a time, that will still cost me a percent extra, over the actual exchange rate of 75 cents American per one dollar Australian.  On my first trip, in 2002, the rate was 55 cents American to one dollar Australian, and things really seemed cheap for me here.  In 2004 it was just about the same as now.


Ok, there is a long, very boring entry.  They will get better, I hope, when I start to actually do anything.  One of my reasons for writing this drivel is to record things for my own use, as a memory aid, so if you read this, you will have to suffer through a lot of day to day housekeeping kinds of things.  In a couple of days we will get to birds and people and places, and I hope things get a bit more interesting.  Don’t give up on me yet.


It is now after 4 AM.  Maybe I’ll try to see if I can get some more sleep, although I am not optimistic.  There isn’t anything else to do here at 4 in the morning, so I might as well try.  I have to pick up a rental car about 10, and drive eastward, over the Blue Mountains, for about 3 hours.  On the wrong side of the road.  I am already wishing I had scheduled two or three nights in Sydney, instead of only one.


Barry Downunder