A Trip Down Under to Aussie Land

September 7th:  In making my reservation from Medford to LA, I thought I was taking the simplest avenue to getting myself to LA for the flight to Brisbane Australia: a direct flight and no plane changes through Portland or Seattle, which of course are in the opposite direction I am headed. . And even though it wasn’t a horrific decision I was not one of my finest in retrospect. Air Alaska had the only direct flight from Medford to LA, leaving at the 6:54 AM, which put me in LA at 9:15 am. This was an overly generous window of safety of 14.5 hours before my 11:55 pm Brisbane flight. Somehow I had imagined myself spending time in LA without thinking about the 40 pound suitcase, my “beast of burden,” that I would be hauling around and the cost of a taxi (or Uber) to where I was not sure I even wanted to go.

It was a bit cumbersome but i managed to transport my “beast of burden” on rollers to the International terminal, a half mile zig-zag between the hoards of other travelers hauling bags, hailing taxi’s, desperately smoking, or just downright waiting and rudely blocking the walkway. The bag issue is tied to the policy of most airlines not allowing check-in of bags more than 4 hours prior to the flight. Last year when traveling to Brisbane, Quanta did not even open a check-in desk until 7:00pm. This time I was flying Virgin Australia and there was no reason to think otherwise.

I have visited LA numerous times and have never developed any fondness for it whatsoever. So I not-so-brightly made the decision to settle in at the international terminal at LAX and entertain my self with reading, phone calls, my computer, Candy Crush on my tablet and eating. Now I prepared quite a large bag of emergency rations for the trip and I was tempted to chow down on everything out of sheer tedium. I had forgotten how insane and noxious I find the the international terminal at LAX. First there is very limited areas to comfortably “hang out” and that also have the capacity to keep one “plugged in.” It does not feel like the modern airport that accommodates the great need of so many of us to make sure all our tech gadgets are fully charged. Secondly, it is a mass of travelers who are pushing carts full of many suitcases, boxes, and all manor of things to be transported overseas. Each cart takes up the space of 2-3 people depending on how much overhang there is to the baggage. Between all the carts, the enormous queue’s (rivaling those of any popular Disney ride) at the multitude of airline counters (most of which I had never heard of) and the vast number of people, I was now berating myself for itinerary I had chosen. I settled in at the one counter designed for the “plugged in “ traveler. It had 10 seats and I soon began to worry about loosing “my spot” should I have the need to use the ladies room which of course necessitating unplugging everything and hauling the “beast of burned” with me. So, I began to ration my sips of water. Needless to say the inevitable happened about three hours later and I bid farewell to the outlet counter for the ladies room.. By now it was time for a latte . Waiting in line there killed considerable time and with latte in hand i checked to see if the flight information for my Virgin Australia  flight was posted yet on the flight information board. Voila! It was but the check-in was assigned to T2. Since there was no such counter here I made and inquiry at information only to find that I would need to go to Terminal 2. So I commandeered a luggage cart left by someone near my old and now occupied spot. I then wove my way about 1/4 mile to Terminal 2 and there were the OPEN Virgin Australia counters, no lines,  and I could check-in and check my bag NOW!

 

I celebrated by taking a 2 mile zigzagging brisk walk, pushing my luggage cart with my backpack on it from end to end of the drive between terminal. Back to International and with boarding pass in hand and the beast checked in, i could go through security and head to the international departure lounges, stores and gates to hopefully find a more comfortable spot to wait out the remaining 9 hours before the flight. The food court it was with plugs abounding!

The time passed tediously and uneventfully and about an hour before my flight I headed to the gate only to discover that the flight coming in had been delayed and our departure would be delayed an hour. Finally around 1:00 am the plane departed.

A few days before I left I decided to upgrade for $119.00 to “premium economy.” I rarely consider that but given a 14 hour flight I chanced it might be worth it for tad more room. I wasn’t too impressed with the offer of noise cancelling headphones but they were the best part of the whole package. I could not only hear the movie clearly but I could NOT hear the fussing and crying children in the row ahead and all of the engine noise. I managed to sleep about 5 hours and they served me well.

Quite often through the 15 + 14 hours of WAITING I kept thinking of the Dr. Suess Book “Oh, the Places You’ll Go” … and the section addressing the “Waiting Place” … for people just waiting…
Waiting for a train to go
or a bus to come, or a plane to go
or the mail to come, or the rain to go
or the phone to ring, or the snow to snow
or the waiting around for a Yes or No
or waiting for their hair to grow.
Everyone is just waiting…
…and it’s very fitting ending:

“You’re off to Great Places! Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting, So… get on your way!”

September 9th: And so I am … on my way…with an early morning arrival at Brisbane, almost breezing through customs until the luggage carousel jammed and I could see my bag just out of reach ( it would have been the next to drop.) So fifteen minutes later I ended up in a long queue of hundreds of slowly moving folks with their piled high luggage carts who had now not so cleverly got through the first phase. But finally after almost an hour since landing I was hugging son Nick and grandson Luke and begging for coffee!

A missed turn back to Wynnum, a Brisbane suburb let us through the Port of Brisbane on Moreton Bay, with its cruise terminal, many births and many tons of cargo containers and coal cars (main export). I doubt that there are many people who get the this excellent grand tour of the Port, especially on the first day of their visit.

 

Wynnum is a suburb of Brisbane, where my son and his family live. The first week would be spent in Wynnum before the next two weeks of holiday. Nick and Miriam were still working and Luke in school. Since I opted not to borrow their car and set in motion a potential hazard of me driving on the left side of the road and having a “some-timers” moment, I am out-and-about walking many many miles. This is a very walkable community so after a 3-12 mile walk for health (and preparing for a half-marathon in Portland Oregon in three weeks), I walk to the store, to get a latte, walk Luke to of from school and generally enjoy the awesome weather. Brisbane is segueing into spring and it is in the 70’s, dry and sunny with the 50”s at night. We overlook Moreton Bay and there is a walking and bike friendly path for miles along the bayshore. I am practicing being an “Aussie” but but all I have to do is open my mouth and my American accent is a dead give-a-way. I can’t even say “good-day” without being spotted. I am practicing looking to the right and then the left so I don’t get run over. I am trying to figure out the light switches which you turn down to turn on. I love the sound of taking a “bush walk” or trekking.

September 9-15: Events of the week: Saturday, arrival day, was beautiful so a bush walk was in order. Nick, Luke and I headed to the Karawatha Forest, one of the largest areas of remanent Bushland in Brisbane area. It is the dry season and extremely dry and the eucalyptus forest appeared parched. Having hiked extensively in the Myakka Forest and Prairie in Florida, and though the climates are quite similar, the vegetation is very divergent. Instead of palms, palmettos and pine trees we trecked amidst eucalyptus and melaleuca. As hard as I looked I was not able to spot any koala bears which inhabit the area. Sunday was family day and I was able to pick up a few swim stroke tips when I watched Luke’s swim lesson. We wound down the day with a picnic by the Bayfront and a very cautious walk out on to the mud flats as the tide was out.

 

Monday night was a rousing game of Trivia at the Wynnum RSI with friends. My 8 (Monday) and 12(Friday) mile walks took me from Wynnum, through Manly and on through Lota and the Ransome Reserve. The walk is primarily along the bay front and the flora encountered is both wetlands of mangrove and eucalyptus forest. The Lota boardwalk winds through the mangroves and on my Friday was I just about put my hand on the head of a 8 foot long python (i think) that was crawling along the railing of the boardwalk.. Since Australia is know for its critters I took it in stride, snapped a picture and moved on. A 9 mile walk took me in the opposite direction though Wynnum North and another 1.5K boardwalk though the mangroves and a birdhide overlooking the salt marshes.

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