From my travel journal: Saturday, 24 March 2012, 10 am: Sydney

First (small) leg successfully accomplished. The 3 am start to be at the airport by 4.30 for a 7 am flight wasn’t fun (although the kittens approved greatly of their breakfast being served so early), but I had adrenaline to carry me through (and MrPloppy had the anticipation of going home and back to bed once he’d waved me off). I thought I’d get some sleep on the flight over, but of course I was wide awake by the time I got on the plane, and didn’t start feeling sleepy until we were only half an hour out of Sydney, by which time it was too late.

Anyway, an uneventful flight, and then the novelty of going through customs with only a day bag (my suitcase is checked through to Heathrow (which technically means I shouldn’t have left the airport, but nobody officially told me that, or asked any questions, so I’m playing dumb 🙂 )) – it definitely speeds the process up!

Caught a train into Circular Quay, where a giant cruise ship is doing its best to make the harbour bridge look small.

In half an hour or so I’ll be meeting up with the Sydney bookcrossers for brunch, but for now I’m just enjoying the sunshine and fresh air (well, fresh compared to aeroplane air, anyway).

2.50 pm, back at Sydney airport.

Managed to get into the city ok, and met up with awaywithfairies, goodthinkingmax, Littlemave and xoddam for a very chocolaty brunch at the Guylian cafe. It was wonderful to catch up with them all (and meet xoddam, who I don’t think I’ve ever run into at any conventions). Littlemave showed me photos of her children, who have all grown up way too much (anyone would think it’s 6 or 7 years since I last saw them! (lytteltonwitch, remember that tiny boy who served us “sausage cappuccinos”? He’s now a gigantic teenager!))

I released a book in the cafe (chocolate themed, of course), and passed on a couple more to awaywithfairies and goodthinkingmax, and released two more on Circular Quay as we walked back to the station, so my bag is a bit lighter now.

Back at the airport, I fell foul of security by having a tube of toothpaste a whole 10 g over the allowed size (which NZ security had let through, so either the limits are different here, or NZ is just more relaxed about enforcing them (or, now that I think about it, maybe NZ security people understand physics better, as the limits are expressed in millilitres, but the toothpaste was labelled in grams. And ml = g only for water, not for denser substances like toothpaste. So the volume of my toothpaste was probably well under the limit… Yeah, probably wouldn’t have done me much good to argue that point with a security goon though.)), and then I compounded my sin by having forgotten about the bottle of water I’d bought while wandering around the waterfront. So both went in the bin. I don’t know if it was because of that, or just the luck of the draw, but then I was pulled aside to be frisked for explosives (which took forever, because they had to wait for a female officer to turn up). Oh well, it’s all part of the adventure of travelling these days…

I think the one in the middle is my plane

Somewhere over Australia

Actually, I know exactly where over Australia – we just flew over Orange (where I saw the most enormous open-cast mine), heading right across the centre. Ethiad has much better in-flight screen things than Air New Zealand – you can actually pick which maps etc you want to look at, rather than have them automatically cycle through (which always seems to show exactly the wrong information and by the time you wait for it to cycle through to the one you want, you’ve passed whatever it was you were wanting to see anyway…)

I think this is the first time I’ve flown across the middle of Australia – every other time I’ve flown along the southern bit to Perth. And best of all, we’re flying across in daylight, so I get to see everything (yeah, I know it’s a desert, but there’s still stuff to see!)

This is the longest leg of the journey – just over 13 hours. I’m trying to work out when will be the best bit of it to sleep through, but the trouble is, I think the times that would be the best in terms of beating jet-lag will coincide with flying over the interesting bits of the map (i.e. the landy bits), and my curiosity (some might say nosiness) generally wins out over sleepiness – there’s no way I’ll sleep when I might be missing something interesting! (and there in a nutshell you have the explanation for my habitual insomnia!)

But if I’ve figured out the time zones correctly, at some point nightfall has got to catch up with us, so hopefully darkness (= nothing to see outside) will inspire me to sleep. None of the movies on offer are at all tempting, so that should help too.

Ooh, looks like they’re serving food soon. Good, because although I’ve changed my watch to Abu Dhabi time (I always change my watch as soon as I get on a flight – another little way to trick my brain into forgetting what time it is at home and therefore hopefully reducing the jet lag), my body clock is still telling me that somewhere in the world it’s time to eat. Right, I’ve got about 10 rows to decide: chicken or lamb?

Some time later

(I chose lamb, and it was good).

Australia is big. We’ve been in the air for nearly two hours, and we’re only about a quarter of the way across.

I think we passed over one of the flooded areas – it certainly looked like there was a lot more water around than I’d expect for a mostly dry country, and the rivers had that look of being outside their normal banks. We’re over the desert now according to the map, but it’s surprisingly green – sort of a red and green patchiness, really.

The countryside is striated, with long ridges running in parallel off into the distance, which confused me (because they look so much like the ripples left a beach by the retreating tide) until I clicked that a huge mostly flat country must have a lot of wind shaping it. (I would have photos to illustrate, but (a) my camera is in the overhead locker and I can’t be bothered clambering over my seat-mate to reach it, and (b) I’ve never mastered the art of taking photos out of plane windows – they always turn out disappointing. So you’ll just have to use your imagination.)

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