1:00 pm, NZ Time: Lytteltonwitch and her son picked me up to go to the airport. We got there nice and early for check-in, so were able to get good seats, and also ask the person at the check-in desk whether the books would cause a problem with security (we’d heard that books can look suspicious on the x-ray machines), but she didn’t think it would be a problem. So, with 2 hours to wait, we went off to find an internet kiosk to let the Australians know we were on our way.
It turns out there is only one internet kiosk (when I say “kiosk”, I mean “very old looking computer on a small desk hidden in an obscure corner”) in the whole of the international departures lounge of Christchurch airport – or at least, if there’s another one, we couldn’t find it! It was coin-operated, so Lytteltonwitch put in $2, and clicked on the button that looked like it should take us to the internet. Instead, it took us to some sort of registration page, and wouldn’t let us out again. There were no browser controls that we could see, so we tried registering with some fake details, which it seemed to accept… and took us back to the page with the internet button. After a few more loops between these two pages, we gave up in disgust, and decided the machine was just a scam to get an extra $2 in airport tax out of travellers.
With no internet to distract us, the lure of the duty free shops became very strong, but we managed to resist (well, apart from Lytteltonwitch buying a book!), and settled down to wait for our boarding call… and wait… and wait… Finally, just when we were starting to think that maybe security had got upset about our bags and were off somewhere calling the bomb squad to unpack them, they let us board the plane. And then we waited for it to take off… and waited… and waited… eventually a voice came over the intercom: “This is flight NZ184 to Sydney. If you are not going to Sydney, please alert a member of the cabin crew.” I joked that it seemed a bit silly to need that message when we’d been through so many checkpoints already – surely it would be impossible to get on the wrong plane? However, a few minutes later, the voice was back “Sorry for the delay, but we seem to have more passengers on the plane than are on our boarding list. If you do not have a boarding pass, please raise your hand.” Of course, no hands went up, and we continued to wait, while one of the crew walked back up and down counting one more time, and the others clustered around a clipboard at the front of the plane, consulting. Eventually they must have resolved the discrepancy, because the plane did take off, without anyone being dragged kicking and screaming off it, but they never explained what had gone wrong. Gives you great confidence in an airline when they can’t even count their passengers correctly!
The flight was pretty uneventful. I avoided the movie (I, Robot – I had enjoyed the book, so I was too scared to watch the movie and see how they’d destroyed a good story – I don’t remember Will Smith fighting off hordes of killer robots in the Isaac Asimov version…) and spent most of the flight reading my book (My Life As Me, the autobiography of Barry Humphries. I was hoping to finish it before the end of the weekend so that I could leave it in Sydney, but as it turned out I was kept so busy in Sydney that I didn’t have time to read, so it came back home with me.) We did manage to release a book, though – one of the cabin crew came round handing out arrival cards for Australia, and, making conversation, asked us if we were going to Sydney for the shopping. So we said “No, we’re going to leave books all over the city!”. Of course, we then had to explain the concept of Bookcrossing, and as she seemed interested, Lytteltonwitch handed her the book she’d just finished reading (Thursday’s Child by Noel Streatfeild). It’ll be interesting to see where that book pops up next!
We’d flown over cloud most of the way, but just off the coast of Australia the cloud finally thinned, and we flew into a glorious day in Sydney. We had a wonderful view of the Opera House and Harbour Bridge as we flew over (and didn’t think to get my camera out, of course!). Landed safely (obviously, or I wouldn’t be writing this!), waited again in interminable queues (picking up a few bottles of duty free for Littlemave on the way past – she’d given us a shopping list) through passport control (the customs officer wasn’t impressed that we didn’t know Littlemave’s address or phone number, but agreed to accept my email address as a contact address, providing I promised to check it regularly – apparently they have to have a way of contacting everyone in case another passenger on the plane comes down with SARS or something), customs, another security check, and finally out into the terminal, where we’d arranged to meet Hawkette.
We had no idea what she looked like, but were working on the assumption that, just like at meetups, Bookcrossers usually manage to find each other. And we were right – no sooner had we stopped to look around for a likely suspect when a woman clutching a book came up to us – she’d spotted the Bookcrossing logo on Lytteltonwitch’s t-shirt!
Now, let’s see if this thumbnail thing works:
Lytteltonwitch (left) and Hawkette waiting in the taxi queue.
Outside the airport, the heat hit us. I knew Sydney would be hotter than Christchurch, but I didn’t know it was going to be that hot! I commented on the heat, and Hawkette (who’s from Melbourne) said “Yes, the weather’s finally improved today”. We waited in another queue to get a taxi, and headed straight into town to the conference registration (which, of course, was at a pub the taxi driver had never heard of – luckily, Lytteltonwitch had printed off the directions and map from the conference website).
To be continued…