Hello dearest fellow travelers! I have arrived in Australia, and the adventure has truly begun. I had a fantastic time with Heather in Hawaii, but that was more of a really good vacation. Now I’m on my own (I miss her already!) and feeling out what it means to travel more slowly.
My trip to Sydney was not the best. I paid extra to get an exit row so I’d have more legroom, but it turns out that Jetstar’s exit rows have physical barriers as armrests, rather than the armrest and space below as in other planes I’ve been on (and in the regular rows on this plane). That meant my hips were introduced to a whole new meaning of the word “squished.” But happily I did fit, and didn’t have to arrange a new seat while everyone watched and I squirmed in embarrassment.
The extra legroom was nice–when I was able to use it. The exit row was right by the bathroom, of course, and despite all the flight crew warnings to not congregate, people grouped up waiting to use the loo and I had to pull my legs in to keep from being stepped on. The movie screens in the exit row were the kind that fold under the seat, so you pull them up to watch the latest summer blockbuster/flop (The Avengers/Snow White and the Huntsman, in this case). Fine, except for the several times the same woman walked by me to the bathroom and tried to use my movie screen as a handhold, which sent the screen crashing down onto my shin. She finally realized after the third time and apologized, but by then I was already bruised.
But these are annoyances that come with flying coach, not really a big deal. The big deal was the four hours of stench on my ten-hour flight. Six hours in, one of the guys waiting for the bathroom suddenly fainted. He hit his head on the bathroom door on his way down, which made everyone look up, and then he was on the ground. His fiancee came running, we got some flight attendants, and they quickly revived him and determined that he was fine, thank goodness. He went back to his seat with an oxygen pump and a worried fiancee, and we all breathed a sigh of relief.
And then we tried to stop breathing. Because when he hit the ground, the poor guy vomited. The flight attendants cleaned it all up in yellow bags marked “biohazard,” but they apparently didn’t have any air freshener, so I inhaled vomit fumes for the rest of the flight.
It was gross, it was uncomfortable, it was long, but at last the flight was over. The captain dipped the wings over the city so we got a nice view, and we landed almost on time. I breezed through immigration, got my bag in a few minutes, and flew through customs. Were things looking up?
Yes, almost. People were not joking when they said Australia is expensive. I got cash from the ATM and broke my $50 with a chocolate bar–a $4 chocolate bar! It was cold and wet outside. Cold, wet, expensive–had I landed in London?
After an interminable shuttle bus ride, I arrived at Blue Parrot Backpackers. It’s been ten years since I last stayed at a hostel, but it all came flooding back as soon as I got inside. TV blaring, people running from common room to kitchen with beers in hand, animated discussions taking place in every nook and cranny. The guy at reception, Mark, was nice, if a bit distracted. He showed me to my room and went downstairs to argue over pizza toppings with a guest.
I looked around and realized the fears I’d had when booking the bunk bed had come true; all the bottom bunks were taken. Well, ok, I’ll try the top. I put a foot on the first rung to pull myself up to make the bed, and the bed literally started falling over. I do not remember that happening ten years ago. Shit. I was definitely too fat for a top bunk. I went downstairs and asked Mark for help. He went into the kitchen and made an announcement, asking if anyone would swap with me. Meanwhile, I sat on a couch and hid my face in embarrassment. No one volunteered.
I went back upstairs to turn on my laptop to search for a new place to stay, trying to stay practical and focused, trying not to cry or panic. Another guest came into the room and chatted with me while she put things on her bed–a bottom bunk. She’d just arrived and hadn’t heard Mark’s plea, so I asked her if she’d mind switching bunks. Right away she agreed, and was super nice about it. What a relief! I’m trying not to dwell too much on how that whole situation felt, but suffice it to say, it did not feel good.
After that, finally, at long last, things improved. The women in my women-only dorm room are friendly. I got some food and chatted a bit and went to sleep. I woke up when someone’s alarm went off at 5am and didn’t really get back to sleep after that. But that’s ok; I’m here, I made it, I’m in Sydney. It’s looking good from here.
And today I did this: