I sit at home typing this sad that I am not still on holidays. In some ways it is good to be back, good to be listening to music on my stereo with my dog sitting next to me. But I would rather still be travelling somewhere in the world.
Not that long after I finished my last blog post and it was time to wake up. Pack the last items into our bags, pay the hotel bill and catch the shuttle bus to Terminal 1, watching the sunrise over the airport.
There was no queue at the Qantas check-in counter and passing through immigration was quick as well. We wandered around the shops, B had a breakfast of kaya toast and egg, I just ate leftovers from the day before.
In Singapore you need to pass through security before you pass into the gate lounge area. I had to wait while B queued up for the women’s toilet. While waiting, I thought I saw Qantas’ chief pilot (as seen on their safety videos) walking out from the gate.
Through the gate lounge windows I could see our aircraft, the massive A380, being restocked and loaded. We would be returning on Qantas’ third member of their A380 fleet, the Paul McGinness (hopefully not a sign of another return). A Japan Airlines 747 passed by with what looked to be serious damage to its tail fin.
Due to Alex we were amongst the first to board the aircraft. We found ourselves back in the green section, in row 69 again. Fortunately, the aisle seat was free the entire flight.
Our flight was delayed leaving the gate due to some engineering issues. Apparently, some “things” needed to be “reset” from the inbound flight, then the paperwork completed. We were about half an hour late, but the captain announced that he hoped to make it up with the strong tailwinds in the jetstream over Australia. Great, I thought sarcastically, a bumpy ride.
I programmed the IFE with a selection of music and comedy – no Wiggles this flight – and then prepared for the take-off. Alex fell asleep as we were still taxiing to the runway, while I listened to Ravel’s Bolero.
We lifted into the air to Vaughn Williams’ Variations on a Theme by Thomas Tallis, the sedate music appropriate for the slow take-off of the WhaleJet. Over the coast of Singapore, then into the grey cloudy sky, a few shakes here and there.
My view was primarily of the A380’s enormous wing, so I decided to get in some movie watching while Alex was asleep. I selected Terminator: Salvation in full knowledge that it was not particularly good. Despite the flight being over 7 hours long, that movie took me almost six hours to watch due to interruptions by Alex. B got two and a half movies in.
The critics were right, Terminator: Salvation isn’t a patch on the original two. But what can you expect from a movie directed by McG (another sign?).
Once the seatbelt sign was switched off we were handed hot towels. Alex woke up somewhere over Indonesia. The sky had cleared by this stage and there were some great views on the Indonesian archipelago.
No printed menus were handed out this time or sitting in our seatback pockets. Instead they were available through the IFE. B got the last beef gulai (beef rendang) on the aircraft, while I had the fish with chilli and egg sauce. This flight was a good one for chocoholics. The lunch was accompanied by a Cadbury chocolate, then we were given Crunch ice creams with a chocolate coating and centre. Shortly afterwards it was the hot chocolate service. I had a sip of B’s peppermint tea and it was also nice. Finally, we were handed dark chocolate and cherry biscuits.
From the turbulence forecast maps I was expecting the flight between Singapore to be smooth and only once we entered the jetstream in Western Australia should it get bumpy. Instead we experienced moderate chop in the clear blue skies between Indonesia and inland WA, then the rest of the flight was pretty smooth.
The red iron ore lands of Western Australia were a fascinating sight after the featureless blue ocean. The first sign that we were approaching land were the ships waiting off the coast. Then a red and brown landscape of dry channels and the odd salt lake, starkly beautiful.
While Alex chewed on a rusk, I finally had a chance to listen to some music on my MP3 player, dreaming that this was an outbound flight enroute to Europe, that the holiday was just beginning.
Our flight path swung us across Western Australia, South Australia and into New South Wales. As evening approached the sky grew hazy and orange. We landed in darkness, the only signs of landing the whirs and clunks of flaps and landing gear as they deployed. My IFE had locked to the flight map, so I had to watch the approach on B’s tailcam screen.
We landed 35 minutes late with a bit of a thump, then it was a bumpy ride down the runway. As we waited for the jetbridge to connect to the aircraft the lights suddenly went out. The captain apologised that the Auxiliary Power Unit, the generator that supplies the aircraft with electric power, had failed and that we had to wait to be connected with a ground based generator.
Finally the lights switched back on. I watched the IFE screens reboot. From the bootup sequence I could see that the Panasonic units run RedHat linux on a Nehemiah chip. A quick flash of Richard Gooch’s atnf.csiro.au email address caught my eye (there is a story about that).
We were still stuck on the aircraft as we had to wait for Quarantine officials to check on an ill passenger before we could disembark.
One advantage of arriving in the late evening is that the queues in the airport are shorter. However, while our bags arrived quite quickly we had to wait a while for our stroller to appear at the oversize/fragile luggage counter.
The baggage and quarantine area is the first result that I have seen of Sydney Airport’s renovations. We showed the friendly Irish quarantine official the salted fish that B had brought in from Kuantan. The rules have changed and you can only bring it into Australia sans head. He kindly allowed us to use my pocketknife to slice off the fish heads in fron of him. Normally he wouldn’t permit this – but I guess that it was quiet enough at that time of night. Also, he had a cold and couldn’t smell the awful stench. Personally I wished they just banned the whole thing!
We shelled out for a taxi home rather than struggle with public transport. I didn’t miss much about home, but I did miss listening to my music through something other than my tiny MP3 speakers. It was nice to have to send Alex to sleep in my arms with music.
It’s been a joy watching Alex develop on this holiday. In less than two weeks there were so many changes. He moved around more, vocalised loudly with consonants, tried new foods, grew more teeth. That’s the joy of sharing a holiday with him, I don’t miss out on those moments.
Alex was really fantastic on this trip, and on the flights, though his toy attention span has shortened. We kept him amused with songs, books and used anything we could find for him to play with. Water bottles, the inflight magazine, sick bag, plastic spoons. He is teething, the top two teeth just popping out to join the bottom two, so likes to chew and chew. The inflight entertainment and mp3’s only kept him entertained for a short time on the flight home. Still, he slept at times and giggled at others, so it was quite fun.
But the best thing about Alex on the flight home was that I only changed him once on the plane and that was only a wet nappy. Contrast that with 7 pooey nappies on the flight up to Tokyo!
And unlike the flight back from Tokyo, I’m ready to hop on board right away for another trip. If only I could…