The Great Flight from Sydney to Sydney

After 6 weeks of happily living and working on a farm, I realized I had some hostel vouchers I need to use up so I’m on the road for a few weeks to discover the coast.

But let me pick up where I left off last – the long, dirty, painful flight from Sydney, Canada to Sydney, Australia.

Flight1

Sydney to Toronto

The day started early at 2:30 am. I hadn’t been sleeping well the past few days (apparently the stresses of last minute pre-trip stuff and of sharing a room with a boyfriend when you’re used to having your own sleeping bubble were getting to me) so I had probably only gotten about an hour’s nap in.

Whatever.

You don’t need to be well rested to sit on a plane for two days.

Since Ed and I were flying out the same day, me to Australia and him to New Jersey, we had arranged to be the same flight to Toronto. The same ungodly 5 am flight to Toronto.

So up at 2:30. Last minute baggage rearrangements. Force down a breakfast (doesn’t it feel like we just had supper?). Pile into the car. Panic that we’re running late. Go over packing list in head. Check for passport, phone, wallet. All ok. Check for credit card, bank card, hostel card. Shit. Forgot hostel card. We’re about 15 minutes away from home. No time to turn back.

Where is your hostel card? Maybe I can mail it to you?” My mom offers.

I try to remember the last place I put it. I thought it was in my wallet. Guess not. Ed reminds me I took a picture of it so I’d have the number. I leaf through the card pictures I took. It’s not among them. Dammit. Ed insists that he remembers me taking the picture. I scroll through my emails to the scanned documents I send to myself. Ah! There it is, on the last page, after my passport. Which explains why I can’t find the card. Like all last pages of scanned documents, it’s still sitting in the scanner. Looks like I’ll be using that scanned image from now on.

We get to the airport much earlier than expected. I guess even in places where there is no traffic, it’s still faster to drive at night. And, unlike its Australia namesake, Sydney, NS airport is very small. Only two gates. After goodbyes to my parents, we went throught the security queue and squeezed into the tiny waiting room. I tried to fill up our water bottles, but no drinking fountains and the facets seemed specifically designed to not fit a bottle under them. I refuse to pay 3$ for water so going thirsty it is.

When boarding time came along, Ed nudged me onto the plane, where I promptly sat down and passed out.

When I opened my eyes, we were sitting on a runway, not moving. Did I miss take off and landing? Are we in Toronto?

Ed shook his head. “There’s something wrong with the fuel tanks, they can’t get fuel in.

So much for sleeping through my first flight, but for once I’m glad that both of us have really long layovers at Pearsons. We could sit on the runway all morning and still make our connections. I go back to sleep.

From then on, the flight was uneventful. Despite our delays, we were barely an hour late into Toronto. We roamed the airport looking for food we could agree on. Ed hates breakfast food while I could dine on bacon and eggs all day. We found some place that looked like it could serve both our needs and sat down. Unfortunatly for Ed, though, they refused to feed him lunch yet, he was forced to trade his meaty sandwich for an eggy one. At least the food was pretty good. I got eggs and steak and was quite impressed with the quality of the steak.

Ed’s layover ended before mine, plus he had to go through customs, so after eating, we walked to the airport border and I watched him go through the door towards the customs agents. I gave myself a few seconds and wandered back to my terminal.

All By Myself – Toronto to Vancouver

Not sure why, but the 9 hours I had left to wait went by fast. I don’t remember what I did, probably a combination of reading, playing phone games and staring at the wall, but before I knew it, I was getting on the plane.

Despite the airline completely ignoring my seat selections when I had booked the ticket (why did they even ask me to choose a seat when I booked if they totally ignored it?), I was still sitting somewhere decent and the flight to Vancouver was pretty smooth.

Vancouver was to be a quick stop to trade passengers, but they asked us to get off the plane with all our belongings anyway, to “clean” the plane. Oh well. Would be nice to stretch my legs. Plus Vancouver airport is pretty interesting.

Reboarding, however, didn’t happen when it was supposed to. Accustomed to delays, I didn’t look up from my book. I had no one waiting for me on the other end and my 9 am predicted arrival time gave me lots of time to make it to my hostel before night!

Finally, after about a 20 minute delay, the airline agent picked up the mic.

“Thank you for your patience. On the way to Vancouver, there was an incident.”

The waiting room went dead quiet. Except for one girl on the phone who clearely didn’t catch the word “incident”. She looked startled when everyone turned to stare at her.

“We hit a bird.”

There was a communal sigh of relief and the agent let us know that we’d be kept updated on our flight status.

In the end, though, it was decided that they couldn’t confirm the safety of the plane until morning and that we’d all be sent to hotels. It was getting pretty late at night and I’d been travelling for well over 24 hours already so the prospect of a free shower and a few hours in a cosy bed didn’t bother me as much as it bothered the other passengers.

The process was surprisingly smooth. The airline gave priority to families, which is fair considering travel and delays are a million times harder on kids and parents than on the rest of us. Eventually, after a few other queues, I queued up for the shuttle to the Delta.

Now, while reception at the hotel was totally ready for us, the shuttle didn’t change its schedule to accommodate 200 sudden patrons. Being a backpacker, I got kinda lucky. I’m so used to carrying my luggage that it didn’t even occur to me to queue up to stow it. I just walked up to my seat and crammed all my belongings into my lap. Those queueing to give their luggage to the driver had to wait up to 2 hours to get on their hotel shuttle.
Just in case you were wondering, it was pretty glorious to have a hotel shower and have a big soft bed ALL TO MYSELF. I made sure I took up as much room as possible.

It was a short night and by 8 am, along with the rest of the “bird plane” as we had been named by the airport staff, I was standing at the gate with a family and an airline agent.

“We were wondering if you would mind changing seats. See, this family with small kids is split up. If you would agree to move to this seat here, they could sit together and you would be next to an empty seat.”

We’re all going to the same place and I definitely feel for parents travelling with small kids, so I shrugged and told them no problem. The family must have been pretty stressed about the situation because they were the most grateful people I’ve seen in a long time.

Vancouver to Sydney

My new seat ended up being pretty amazing. I was moved from a window seat (nice views once in awhile but having to climb over two people every time I want to pee) to an aisle seat in the middle sections with an empty seat next to me (so no views but total bathroom freedom and no one next to me bugging me when they have to go). The woman two seats over was quite awesome as well – a former world traveller from Newfoundland who was moving to Australia with her Australian husband and their two young children. We shared long distance dating stories, comiserated about Newfoundland weather and compared travel logs. I expressed my admiration of her bringing two young kids litterly around the world from St. John’s to Australia, with all their worldly belongings. I had enough trouble going by myself with a backpack. I can’t imagine the strength this woman had to manage it with her entire family as a permanant move. She didn’t even look tired. Her kids, as well, were probably the most well behaved kids in the history of flying. I want to know her secret.

Finally, FINALLY, we touched down in Sydney, Australia.

Flight2

The flight crew distributed immigration cards. My heart sank a bit as I read them.

Are you carrying medications, firearms or explosives? Not sure why they’re all in the same question, but yes, no, no.

Are you carrying any items that have been used in freshwater? Sandals from the New Jersey canoeing trip. Shit.

Have you been to a farm or a national park within the last 30 days? Dammit dammit!

There’s no way they’re going to let me in their country!

I though about doing this trip in reverse and panicked a little.

Immigration, however, proved to be totally different than Canada-US immigration. When travelling between Canada and the US, they question you a bit as they stare at your squirming, deciding whether your squirming is suspicious or not. In Australia, they used an invisible stamp on my passport and wordlessly waved me along. I swear the guy didn’t even look at me.

The next stop was a lady who asked me if I was carrying medications. I said yes. She asked me if they were for myself. I said yes. She let me proceed to quarantine. (Wait! I thought, aren’t you going to ask me about firearms and explosives?)

At quarantine, they asked me about my freshwater use and farm experiences. She seemed uninterested and waved me along. I have heard of people having to get sprayed at quarantine, but I suppose it depends what country you’re arriving from. Apparently, no one cares if you pet a sheep in Canada.

At last, exhausted and loaded up with bags, I stumbled out of customs into arrivals, completing the journey from Sydney to Sydney. I tweeted and Facebooked a quick picture, then went to search for the train into town.

They put a McDonalds at International Arrivals so us North Americans don't have too much of a culture shock.

They put a McDonalds at International Arrivals so us North Americans don’t have too much of a culture shock.

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