Today we were able to cross off the final items on our check list. Water, power, gas and diesel have all been turned off. Our private chauffeur arrived in plenty of time to take us to Queenstown Airport, the start of what was a long journey. We try to travel light knowing we have to carry our bags into some interesting accommodation places. We did not consult each other when packing but it was interesting to note that when the bags were checked in they weighed exactly the same, 17.4kg. With a maximum allowance of 30kg each we have room for shopping in Paris.
Farewells can be hard but the anticipation of meeting again in three months to tell and re-tell the stories of our travels makes it all easier. We really appreciate Marilyn’s sister driving us to the airport. After a chat over coffee, farewells over, we were soon through security, Immigration and into the departure lounge. Our connecting flight to Sydney departed fifteen minutes early. We must have been in business class because we had second row seats with a standard meal plan on a budget airline. We couldn’t wait for lunch. What arrived was a packed egg and lettuce sandwich and tea or coffee. Probably more than the passengers down the back received.
Our flight into Sydney arrived ahead of schedule, and nearly six hours before our next flight we decided to put the Australian Immigration and Customs Service to the test. The e-gate worked for one happy traveller but not the other. Maintaining an air of elegance traveller No.2 confronted an official and all was well. We could now catch up with two good friends from Sydney. After a three hour talkfest, drinks and food it was time to go back through Immigration and Security. With the world under renewed security threats it was the full body scanner. The scanner picked up objects that baffled us as to how they got there.
Our flight to Dubai included a brief stop in Bangkok. The plane was not full so we shared three seats between us. Long haul flights on the Airbus A380 brings together a vast collection of people traveling for a variety of reasons. Each one has a story to tell. The man in seat 78H told his story to his neighbour for the entire journey. The man in 81H grumbled about his oversized bag going into on overhead locker further down the plane, then he complained about the air conditioning, to be told if it was turned off he would die, oh the patience of the cabin crew. The poor man in seat 83D losing his reading glasses. Generally everyone just accepts their lot and look forward to arriving at destination on time.
The Bangkok stop over gave us a chance to stretch our legs. This involved taking our cabin baggage, walk to the Transit security, walk back to the departure lounge, and board the plane. Was it worth it? The legs got a workout, the grumpy man in seat 81H got grumpier 78H had more to talk about, and 83D still didn’t find his glasses.
Our six hour flight to Dubai was uneventful. What an amazing place Terminal 3 is. Wall to wall shopping outlets. We discussed Rolex, Gucci, and all the other brands but the card stayed safely in the wallet. For our flight to Rome we were further forward on the plane. This time we shared our four seats with a possible Italian film star, or he thought he was. There is always someone who doesn’t follow instruction. He doesn’t wear seat belts, he wants a quick exit. We are not sure if it was his traveling companion across the aisle but she joined him for brief moments of happiness in the spare seat beside us.
At last we arrive into Rome. A sunny warm day. The passengers from our flight are joined by passengers from other flights. Italians do chaos well. Immigration is a fine example of this. Up to eight casual lines need to be merged into one to zigzag through to an Immigration officer. After an hour of shuffling, zigzagging, supping water, we were handing over the passports to be stamped by a friendly young man who wished us well. The relief was enormous when we caught sight of our bags. Following the green line you never see a Customs officer and soon we reached the meet and greet area. What a happy place it is. For us there is no one.
We use the express train into the city centre. From there we catch the Metro out to the suburbs and find our apartment. As arranged we ring our host with a plan to meet at the apartment. Oh how things can go wrong. Our mental plan of where the apartment is didn’t allow for the fact we emerged from the underground in a different place. After several attempts to get directions, or even find a street name, our host rings wondering where we are. Lost! So he who couldn’t remember the Google map heads off on a search and find mission. Two young women must have had quite a laugh at this pensioner dodging mad traffic with cell phone to his ear trying to find out where he was. Just as the apartment had been found these two young women approach with the key to the apartment. What an oasis amidst bedlam. We’ll be happy here for a while. Now to find the bag minder.
After a brief snack sleep came very quickly. We had been traveling for about 40 hours.
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