Time in Australia: Approx 40 hours
Number of spiders seen: 1
Amount of anti-bacterial hand gel used: At least 25ml
Number of stalking accusations: 1
I know everyone is aware that Australia is far away, but having just done the journey I can confirm it's further than that. If there was ever an incentive for me not to come back for a long time, it's the idea of not wanting to do the journey ever again.
It's my first blog entry so it'll be about getting there. I don't want to ruin the ending but for anyone who can't be bothered to read the below - the short version is I got to Australia…
Flight 1: 06/12/14 London Gatwick to Dubai
Armed with a spider catching tool thanks to my brother I felt invincible. I crammed it into my suitcase and was ready to go. It was all going well until we tried to check-in.
My travelling companion - Erica - had a problem with her ticket that they couldn't sort until Monday. In the meantime they couldn't get her on the flight. So it looked as though I would be going on the journey alone. I'll be honest and admit I panicked a bit, but that's what this adventure is about. Being brave and independent! So I decided the way forward was to get drunk.
I went through security and the airport was deserted, which only heightened the overwhelming loneliness. Panicking from the prospect of 30 hours of travelling on my own I decided I needed to make a friend. Immediately. I turned around and spoke to the first person I saw, an older chap standing behind me. He was Australian and on my flight so we had a nice chat before he went off to do some shopping. I admit I was tempted to follow him then because he was my only friend. But then I saw the Weatherspoon's.
Before I could get a drink Erica text me. She had managed to get on the flight due to the sheer brilliance of Emirates and was coming through now. It was amazing. I went back and met her at security and the panic was over.
Because of the drama we didn't have much time to go before our flight. We sat down in Garfunkel's briefly to decide what to do. Looking up I saw my friend from earlier sitting at the table opposite. He smiled at me and said "Are you following me?" Which is a harmless comment for most but I was so pleased. Only five minutes in and during distressing circumstances I still managed to maintain my stalker status. Maybe everything was going to be fine.
The flight was seven hours long and went really quickly because the legend at Emirates had also got Erica sitting next to me. We watched some films and tried to sleep but there was a baby crying non-stop. I stayed in my seat the entire time and avoided the toilet (plane toilets are just the worst) although I wiggled my toes frequently to fend off DVT. We touched down in Dubai at about 7am local time (about 3am my time). One down!
Flight 2: 07/12/13 Dubai to Perth
Dubai airport was big, busy and a bit smelly. There were hundreds of people. Everyone going in our direction was walking painfully slowly and everyone walking against us was going stupidly fast and determined to crash into us.
My mum had treated us to the lounge in Dubai as we had four hours to wait for our next flight. I was so glad to get out of the main airport and away from the millions of people. The toilets here were sufficiently clean and we didn't have to queue. We had some breakfast and took advantage of the Wi-Fi then set off again.
We had to get a train to the terminal for our next flight. Getting off the train you see a massive water feature (like the wall of water off of Sheffield train station) and a huge glass lift to take you up to the departure gate. It went very high so it was equally cool/scary.
On this flight I wasn't sitting next to Erica but she was only in the row in front. The flight wasn't full so there was an empty seat next to me and then a man in the window seat. Although I was sleepy I did try to make friends - he wasn't interested.
The flight was 10 hours and although I was exhausted I couldn't get to sleep. I watched five films, listened to music and read my book. I dozed for a bit but I couldn't get comfortable. About four hours into the flight I decided I wanted to go home. I sat there, so tired and really needing a wee, and wondered if I could convince the pilot to turn around.
The phrase "man up Princess" can be applied here. Everyone was asleep except for this one baby who kept screaming (a different one than from the first flight, there seem to be a lot of them about) so I went for a walk. People asleep on planes are funny, I tried not to stare but I didn't have the energy to try very hard. There were a lot of different techniques being used to help them snooze but they all looked horrifically uncomfortable.
Deciding to be brave I went to the toilet. I hate plane toilets. The turbulence made it more difficult than it needed to be but I felt a small sense of accomplishment. The seat belt signs had been switched on so I panicked and ran back to my seat. Wide awake now I fished out the cards the cabin crew had handed to us to fill in for arrival in Australia. The first one was to make sure I didn't have any pineapples or frogs in my suitcase, the second one was asking if I had been to Africa recently. Oh. Ebola. I'd forgotten all about that.
Freaking out because I'd just used a plane toilet, and you can't get more germy than that, I got out the anti-bacterial hand gel. I glanced around at the sleeping passengers but none of them looked poorly. I read the card about Ebola trying not to focus on the hundreds of people I brushed past in Dubai airport. It was good they were taking these precautions but shouldn't they be checking if anyone has Ebola before letting them on the stifling, sealed plane with hundreds of people breathing the same air?
Unable to sleep and with nobody to talk me down about my Ebola panic, I went back to watching the film. Eventually my neighbour woke up and I stood up to let him out. When he came back he climbed into his seat and sneezed. Two loud wet sneezes. I glared at him and covered my face with my blanket. I didn't even try to be subtle about applying more hand gel.
By the time we touched down in Perth I was completely over this whole idea. I was exhausted, grumpy, in desperate need of a shower and probably had Ebola. The local time in Perth was around 1am Monday morning (5pm Sunday night my time). Two down…
Flight 3: 08/12/14 Perth to Sydney
This is the bit I was worried about, I was entering Australia. I've seen enough episodes of border control to know how scary they are. I hadn't done anything wrong, I wasn't bringing in anything I shouldn't (like pineapples or frogs) and I had a valid visa. But I still felt like they might interrogate me and throw me out. Which would have been bad enough anyway but I was feeling so sick of planes. I couldn't face another long flight. If they'd made me get on one to send me home I would have flipped out and probably been arrested just to avoid it.
As I waited for my turn to be deported I realised how hot it was. It was the middle of the night and still 22 degrees. Somewhere in the exhausted fog of my mind I was so happy to be here.
I stepped forward and smiled at the immigration lady in a "nothing to declare you're actually lucky to have me" type way and was waved straight through. Success!
As the last flight was domestic we had to collect our bags and take them to the domestic terminal. It was nearly 2am and the terminal didn't open until 3:30am. All the bars and shops were closed…
I asked Erica if we could just stay in Perth. She said no.
We freshened up in the airport toilets (they were moderately grim) and got changed. It did make me feel better and I reminded myself that I was now in Australia. That's what's important. That's the point of this whole ordeal.
As soon as the terminal opened we were in and at the front of the queue for check-in. We didn't have seats together on this flight but it was only four hours so it wasn't too bad. On the plane I left Erica in row 26 and headed on to row 57. I was in a window seat and nobody turned up to sit next to me. I didn't take offence. As soon as the seatbelt signs were off I legged it down the plane to retrieve my friend.
Happily sitting next to Erica I watched some Modern Family episodes. But I had reached the "narcoleptic" stage of exhaustion where I just kept falling asleep with no warning. For about five minutes. Then I'd wake up suddenly feeling a bit better. Then about five minutes later I would repeat the whole process.
We did some word-search and cross word puzzles to try and keep us awake and it did help pass the time. There was (of course) a baby two rows in front who was crying for most of the time. I was envious, it's what I felt like doing but it's not socially acceptable at my age.
Soon the pilot announced we were arriving in Sydney and the seatbelt signs came on. I couldn't take my eyes from the window, it was sunny and I could see loads of beaches. It looked beautiful. I was being such a tourist already but it counteracted my bad mood. I was so excited.
Suddenly the plane dipped and the pilot asked the cabin crew to put their seatbelts on. This was a concern, I hoped they were just an unruly team and it was a gentle reminder to them like a parent would do in a car. But it seemed we'd hit some turbulence as the plane dropped a few feet. It's like those rides at the theme park when suddenly your stomach is in your throat.
It was probably only two or three minutes of really bad turbulence where the plane was shaking all over the place and dropping lower and lower in bursts. But it felt like ages and my overwhelming thought was "Oh brilliant, if I'm going to perish in a plane crash it would be in the last few minutes of the final flight after travelling for 30 hours!"
I'd stopped looking at the view, I covered my eyes until it was over. And soon it was over. I styled it out and pretended I hadn't been worried at all. A few minutes later we had a nice smooth landing. Luckily nobody panicked.
It was over, I'd made it. I was euphoric as we went through to get our bags. I'd arrived at last! It was midday in Sydney. And it was raining.
Disclaimer: To the best of my knowledge all the above actually happened but I was so tired in parts I may have been hallucinating.