Thursday, 13 May 2010

Travelling with Rachel and Zack…

We got the late plane from Melbourne to Hong Kong the other night, leaving the city at 10:50pm. We had a rather lovely time in Melbourne for our last day in Australia, trying to enjoy the time as much as possible, without reflecting too much on the fact that this was the final hours of the expedition. After driving the 90 or so miles up from Phillip Island that morning, we spent a good part of the day on the city's excellent free tram service which circulates around the city centre. With no specific objective in mind we nosed around the city's market (from which, it boasts, you can buy anything - which is true if by "anything" you mean a wide selection of fruit and veg) and from there to the central shopping centre which houses an oversized fob watch that plays an insipid and barely audible version of "Waltzing Matilda" (accompanied by a dozen or so nodding cockatoos and rosellas, of course). With no plan and Melbourne offering not much in the way of eye-catching iconic views or must-see destinations, we just mooched around pleasantly, trying to ignore the forthcoming night flight.

It's true to say that we expect quite a bit from Rachel and Zack when we're travelling (I can hear you nodding from here, Grandma) but it's probably never more true than when we have a night flight. We expect them to press on gamely past their normal bedtime and deal with all the many and varied eventualities that international airline travel can spring on you with equanimity. But last night proved almost a step too far. Between arriving at the airport and boarding our flight nearly three hours later, we had seven (count them) mini-catastrophes. None of these problems ever seriously threatened our chances of getting the flight, but together, they hit poor Rachel pretty hard.

I won't enumerate all our woes, but they involved a mixture of getting lost on the way to the airport, forgetting to fill up the hire car with petrol (turns out that the nearest petrol station to Melbourne Airport is on the way out of the airport, not the way in. Nice one Melbourne), walking rather too far with enough bags to sink a ship and having various credit cards declined for various critical last minute payments. It was during my eventually futile attempt to purchase Hong Kong dollars at a Bureau de Change that Rachel ran up to me and said she was about to throw up.

The poor thing had not only had to endure the stress of the various misfortunes that had beset us, but had also been expected to carry her overstuffed hand luggage up hill and down dale as we struggled to find a way out of Australia. And all this many hours past her normal bedtime on a day when she had marched around a good part of Melbourne. Call it child abuse if you will, but we were just trying to show her a good time. Sort of.

Thankfully, Rachel recovered herself without leaving behind any calling cards in any of the rubbish bins of the airport (which looked imminent at one point) and her heaving guts settled down in time for us to rush through security and on to the plane for a nine hour night flight to the strange new place that is Hong Kong.