I enjoy travelling on United flights - at the captain's discretion they let you listen to ATC on the entertainment system. Who knew you can enjoy the same from the comfort of your own home.I reckon there's a great market for low-volume ATC recordings as lullabies.
When visiting a city center for the first time, there's always some mild trepidation - how will I know when I get there, where do I park, what if I go down a wrong way street, will I ever find my way back again and so on. Everyone around seems to know where they're going and what's what, creating a void of anonymity admist the business. In truth, it should be that way to begin with - it's that feeling that helps in part to make travel an exciting experience.I only have one vivid memory of my first trip to downtown Seattle. The journey over the bridge from Redmond, a drive that seemed like an adventure at the time and is now all too familiar as a commute, was interesting, if not least because I had just three days driving-on-the-right experience. I probably saw a lot of things but particularly remember a big department store (and we're talking massive, apparently influenced by my new city awe). The Bon Marche, a local institution of sorts, is going to be renamed this summer to The Bon-Macy's. Somehow it's just not got the same ring to it.
Dr GUI recalls the tale of Alice in Blibbetland. The best parodies are only a hair's breadth from the truth.
"I'm not sure we can accept that," the manager declared. "We need a date." "But, " Alice began, remembering what the rabbit told her about dates, "a date is impossible." "The least we can ask it that you give us a date when you will be able to give us the date for the date." stated the person in the corner.
I'm still cheating the jetlag with a fairly busy week so far. Vacations are great for putting a spring in the stride, even with the knowledge you've just used up two thirds of a vacation allowance. But imagine my delight at the discovery of Skydive Snohomish; hopefully I'll be jumping solo by the end of the summer.Looks like there's going to be a remake of The Italian Job too. Whether or not such a venture can meet with success without Michael Caine remains to be seen and with the setting of Los Angeles, I'm wondering if they're remaking the right movie. Still, the new Mini is bound to go a long way to help.Finally, I am beginning to regret not importing more Mars Bars back from Australia. How can a world superpower can survive on Hersheys chocolate is beyond me.
And so, after 20062 miles by air, 1646 miles by bus, 30 miles by boat, 14000 feet by gravity and 34 timezones, my little tour of Australia has come to a close. I'm still living the same Sunday it was in Cairns this morning, some 30 hours ago and there's plenty of it left. A few closing thoughts:Power tourism worksWhile Lonely Planet suggests 17 to 26 weeks for this trip, the eager traveller will reap the rewards within just two. A little bit of planning, a tight itinerary and a bit of enthusiasm leaves few stones unturned.Airport shuttles are one of the saddest places in the worldA 4am shuttle ride doesn't help anyone's mental wellbeing, but with a carefully selected CD soundtrack, a driver can reduce half of the passengers to tears. Hangovers on boats are badGoes without saying. Don't try this one. Especially if you're sleeping in the bow.Hangovers on buses are badAlthough not as obvious as the boat scenario, the effect of dehydration is perfectly timed to coincide with that point where the seat becomes so uncomfortable it's no longer possible to sit in it. Misery ensues.Long distance buses are a necessary evilWhile the Grayhound attracts some of the most colorful elements of society, it's pretty good so far as budget transport (and free accomodation) go. You get to watch the scenery go by too.Road-side food can killAfter the worst breakfast of my life in the 'Big Prawn' diner in Ballina (the only tripworthy landmark for miles around), I resovled to never eat in a road-side diner again. From that point on, the excitement at seeing the golden arches was like being a child again. Some people really love their jobsMany people say they like what they do and for the most part it's true, until you see people that live for what they do. My experience with skydiving instructors and sailors has completely rewritten the job satisfaction scale.If you're touring (backpack or not), you're a touristI'm no fan of the tour bus approach ('5 minute photo stop here guys'), but to refuse to do things simply because they might be touristy or not quite in the backpacking spirit is a mistake. Never skip on the details - a performance in the Opera House is not to be missed, scuba diving with some of the best coral and fish in the world is well worth it.Worth doing? Absolutely. Worth doing again? After Tokyo, Moscow, Kilimanjaro, Antarctica and NZ, perhaps.
The crew/passenger dinner at Beaches in Airlie Beach on the night of our return came to pass in good form. Keeping the marine theme alive, the Captain was out in force and much merriment followed. On returning to the hostel at the 4.30am, catching the 6.55 bus seemed unlikely, at 6am unreasonable and at 7am impossible. Fortunately everything came good and the 10.15am delivered a similar 10 hour scenic ride, through the delightful towns of Hicktonville, Hicklington, Hickley, Hickham, Hickstead, Hickford, Hickworth, finally arriving in Hicks late last night. North Queensland is rather rural.The film from the disposable underwater camera actually came out surprisingly well, but sadly no photos of Elvis.We're in Cairns now taking my last day easy. There's a showing of the Matrix Reloaded tonight before I catch the 4.25am ride to the airport tomorrow morning before the longest day of my life.
We made landfall at 13.30 this afternoon, after a three day trip on the 80ft world-class racing yacht, Siska.The privilege of spotting Elvis, the resident Maori Wrasse at Blue Pearl Bay set things off in the right spirit. Then on Whitehaven Beach, one of the greatest beaches in the world. With great conditions for sailing and only a bit rain (just last night, but it was real rain), we moved on to Stonehaven Bay this morning to snorkel with the sting rays and coral.The crew was great, the food awesome and the vessel impressive. I have the utmost respect for the crews that race those yachts for a living; harsh conditions, damp cabins and tough competition, but I can certainly see the thrill.Pictures:(moved to the gallery)
Finally arrived in Airlie Beach after another long bus ride. It's much warmer up here and although it was overcast when we arrived, the weather seems to have cleared up pretty well this afternoon in preparation for our departure on Siska tomorrow.Some pictures:(moved to the gallery)
The trip to Fraser Island was good, couldn't have asked for better conditions than we're getting at the moment. Our highly informed driver, Glen, gave ongoing commentary while hauling the massive 4WD bus through the sand. Standing on the so called 75-mile beach (which also doubles as a 100kph highway), the horizon seems to stretch out forever towards the east, no rocks, no land, no ships, just water and sky. The night bus awaits.