Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Of Mice and Men...a long tail

Every vacation is actually three: the one planned, the one taken, the one remembered.   Few trips I've taken have diverged quite so much from the plan as this last one.  We had to think to count our previous trips to Australia.  This is our fourth and I suspect the most memorable.

Going There

On the way out we struggled to get to the hotel at Dubai airport for the few hours’ rest between the 12 and 7 hour flights that comprise the journey to Sydney.  We could see the hotel, but to get across the concrete jungle of car park and highways, one needs the hotel mini-bus, which arrives…eventually.  We got to bed three hours after landing.

After checking in the next morning, we learned that our connecting flight from Dubai at 10am was broken.  We spent the day shuffling from queue to queue for food, food vouchers, immigration (in and out several times, who knows why), immigration stamps to be cancelled, hotel vouchers, another mini-bus…

We walked the length, breadth and height of the terminal.  My backpack weighed 20 pounds and I regretted every ounce.  Twelve hours on, after a couple hours of sleep, we boarded a flight at 10pm.   I was promising myself never again.

On the positive side, I watched about 20 hours worth of movies, which I reckon is worth about £200.

In Australia

Chris and Jane had already booked a holiday when Bill proposed we would visit. Their plans included a Rotary Conference, a Murray River cruise and a flight to Kangaroo Island.  We were to spend a night at their house, drive to their house at Avoca Beach for a week or so to recover from jet lag, take a train and see Melbourne for a week and then join them back at home in Sydney.   There was talk of Tasmania or Hunter Valley, but nothing definite other than Bill was going to run the 10K race in Sydney that Chris was involved in organising.  It was late summer / early autumn in Australia and we were looking forward to warmth and sunshine.

Instead, Chris ended up in hospital with encephalitis (or meningitis, they never decided which).    Their home phone and Jane’s mobile never stopped ringing.  Family and friends all wanted the latest word on Chris and when could they visit; also help with race organisation questions.  Jane visited the hospital daily, came home and talked herself hoarse.  We came straight back after one night at Avoca Beach to chauffeur Jane to hospital, make dinners, supply tea / gin & tonic, help interpret confusing statements made by doctors.   Chris and Jane never did get to take their holiday and lost the full cost of the bookings. 

During this time the weather also went awry:  it rained for days and days, but fortunately not for the fore casted 28 days.  Parts of New South Wales were flooded and the State Emergency Service was busy.  Jane's basement flooded beyond what newspapers or cardboard could absorb.  The new (from the last flood) carpet was doomed.   So were my lungs, with damp and mould irritating my asthma.  By the time we came home instead of lungs I had damp mouldy leaves studded with spiky pine needles plus a few wafting cobwebs, or at least that’s how it felt.  Jane's asthma was brought on by stress and with Bill's cold (later gifted to Chris), the house echoed all night with the four of us barking.

On the positive side, Chris recovered to his usual wacky, eccentric self, Bill and I were really pleased to have been there to support Jane, the carpet was removed almost immediately by the insurance company and a replacement promised.  Our trip to Melbourne lived up to most of our expectations.  The 10K race was a smashing success and Bill did run it.  We did eventually had a week at Avoca Beach, including a couple of days on our own during which the weather was perfect.  Jane got a few days alone as well, much needed to re-cooperate.  After finally relaxing, I felt almost human and started talking about 'next time' instead of ‘never, ever’.

See the upside-down bird?

Going Home

I really hoped for a quiet, efficient journey home to Britain, as painless as possible.   There were a few hiccups, two of which were my fault entirely.  I somehow walked off and left my backpack (with the computer in it) outside the toilets at Sydney airport.  Standing in the queue (for another minibus…) I suddenly realised how light I felt and was able to run and retrieve it.  I coughed so much on the plane, a fellow passenger offered me his cough drops. 

Dubai immigration officers wear long white robes and white head scarves (keffiyeh) held in place with black cord (agal).  Our officer did not like the collection of green and red stamps we acquired on the way to Australia, in spite of two fellow officers’ assurance.  He spent twenty minutes examining our passports.  We will not go to Dubai again, at least not with these current passports.   Our Holiday Inn Not-Express transport was such that the Premier Inn driver offered us a lift (they are next door) on his second trip, just as our ride arrived.   I had a restless night, worrying about facing Dubai immigration again.  We went early to allow for grilling so naturally we breezed through.   I also worried about facing British immigration, having forgotten to bring my old passport containing my proof of leave to remain. 

On the positive side, I watched another £200 worth of films (I recommend The Artist).  Putting on headphones, I didn’t have to hear myself cough.  Avoiding Dubai means we can explore other areas of Asia instead.  With Bill at my side, the British immigration officer accepted my explanation and amazingly just stamped me through.  Everything at home was as we left it, the neighbour had collected our post and even cut the grass, which was above and beyond.   

So, all in all, you might now understand why I was kissing my house!


Beryl said...

Wow! What a journey - and I think it's wonderful to be back in my own bed after a weekend in Dallas!

Pamela Terry and Edward said...

Oh Nooooo!
It's what we all fear might happen on holiday!!
So happy you're home now!

Rick Stone said...

Regardless of the fun or the turmoil we encountered in our travels Joanne was usually ready to get back to her house. Me on the other hand would have rather stayed out on the road. Now that it is just me I feel more comfortable here at home and more understand her attachment to "home". BTW, have I mentioned lately how much I miss that woman?

Anonymous said...

Oh my goodness, what a journey. So glad your friend recovered...and that you could be there in their time of need. Basement flooding is the worst--I have lived through it many times and each time was totally paranoid about black mold (thankfully this has not happened in our current home). And I LOVED "The Artist"--great movie!! xo Bliss

LR @ Magnificent or Egregious said...

Being stranded at the airport is the worst....what a vacation you had! Definitely memorable for sure, and I'm glad everything worked out in the end and your friend recovered. It is nice to come home, isn't it?

Anonymous said...

Quite an exciting trip, though not in the sense I suppose you had anticipated!

Glad that your friend recovered, and that you are now back safe and sound of body and mind (the latter, a miracle I would think from the worrying about customs!).

Anonymous said...

Did you ever get out of the airport area in Dubai? I keep hearing fabulous things about that city. It sounds like there were some positive moments in Australia...after all. Jane had a bad spell though.

Shelley said...

Beryl - It is a lot of work to get to Australia, no doubt about it. If Bill's sister didn't live there, I'd be ready to be done with it. As it is, we'll probably be making quite a few more trips unless we work out how to meet up elsewhere. They have much greater resources than we do, so it would be a challenging compromise, but I think it's worth working on.

PT&E - Dorothy was right, "There's no place like home."

Rick - I've no doubt you do miss 'that woman'. I wondered if your feelings about the stick house might change now that she's gone.

Bliss - I vaguely remember reading about 'black mold'; really surprised we didn't get it as everything else extreme happens in AU. The Artist was unexpectedly clever, I thought.

LR - Yes, it is good that Chris recovered, not just for him - for Jane as well.

Ilegirl - Australian customs are pretty strick, them being an island without rabies, etc. What the Dubai official thought we were trying to pull is beyond me. He struck me as a newbie still enjoying his new found 'power'.

Terri - Dubai is a very striking place, even from just what we saw in the taxi. I'm not sure I would choose to go on holiday there though. It is a significantly different culture and there is a language barrier.