Australia - Round The World Tour 3 2004 Day 332 (142)
Thursday 3rd February (2005)
We liked Perth but the bad experience we had with that bitch that threw us out into the street has sort of taken the edge off of the overall experience for us. We liked Fremantle a lot more and I now wish that we could have stayed for another day or two. Unfortunately, we had a plane to catch and so were packed and on the road before the traffic wardens were able to find our car parked overnight in the two-hour parking slot just in front of the hostel.
I wanted to drop the car off and get checked-in as quickly as possible, just in case the have-not-paid-the-hostel-bill police were waiting to cart me away. I was hoping nobody was going to want to inspect the car either, just in case they found and made an issue of the stone chip in the windscreen. I could have just handed in the keys but I thought it best to get a receipt that shows the final bill having been paid. That way I’d at least have a shot at disputing any subsequent charges they might want to add to my credit card in the event they found the chipped windscreen. ‘Oh, you need a receipt sir?’ said the clerk at the rental car desk. ‘Just one moment then.’ At that point, the clerk gave what I thought was my car key to another staff member who walked out of the building with it. Bugger! It looked like an inspection might be on the cards after all. They’ll spot the crack and I just know they are going to charge me AU$250 (€150) or some other outrageous figure for a windscreen repair. She then continued to tap various things into her computer. Any moment now, I thought, that shifty sideways glance would come and I would be asked to ‘wait just a moment please sir’ whilst the SWAT team with attack dogs and machine guns were summoned. I was starting to wonder whether or not it was a good idea after all to ask for a receipt when I had the chance to just drop on the keys and make a quick getaway. She then handed me a copy of my receipt (all that tapping was apparently nothing more than her printing it out) and bid me farewell with a pleasant smile (those keys she’d handed off weren’t mine after all). Phew! Made it. I can now blissfully bury my head in the sand on the whole windscreen chip thing and pretend like it never happened. It will be another month or more before I see my next credit card statement so I’ll be able to relax at least until then.
We next went to check-in and it was at this moment that the first of several bad omens of the day was to hit us. After queuing for fifteen minutes in the cattle-class queue, we arrived at one of the many counters and handed over our passports. Unfortunately, however, the check-in clerk could not seem to find any reference to us in the computer for today’s flight. She asked us for our tickets. No good, they are paperless E-tickets. Any confirmation numbers or resource locators? Nope, just the time and date of this next flight along with the flight number. This is the last in a series of legs around the country on what’s called a Boomerang Pass. We’ve had no problems with any of the previous flights so I was at a loss to understand what today’s problem was. As much as I persisted that we were definitely on this flight, she could not check us in and suggested I go over to the ticket desk to get it all sorted out, which I reluctantly did, leaving Sandy there at the desk with all the bags. The woman at the main ticket desk found us straight away and gave me a bemused look as if to ask what on earth was up with the check-in staff. At that point, her phone went and it was the check-in clerk now telling her that she had found us in the system after all. Apparently, she had picked up Sandy’s passport first and was looking under Sandy’s maiden name instead of our family name. Okay, a bit of inconvenience but at least we would be checked in and onto the flight. Surely there wouldn’t be any more problems today? Ha!
Next up were the security checks and metal detectors. No problems there, I thought, since we’ve already been through several of these over the past couple of weeks with no problems at all. Sure, I would have to whip out the laptop, since they like to put that through on it own, but that’s no big deal. We made it through the metal detectors and I was in the process of collecting my small backpack to replace the laptop when one of the security staff noticed my wooden boomerang that I’ve had in there since Cairns. ‘Sorry sir, you’ll have to check that in as it’s considered a weapon!’ Clearly they are concerned about people throwing boomerangs around the cabin of a Boeing 737 and I must not be allowed to proceed any further for fear of me hijacking the plane armed with a piece of soft plywood. Great! Our backpacks have already been sent through to the plane and I’m now being sent back out to the check-in desks to somehow check in a foot long and flat boomerang made out of soft and fragile plywood. I was sent straight to the next available check-in desk, which rather upset the next in line customer who was apparently very late for her flight already, but was swiftly told that all they could do was to put a tag on it and send it through in the hope that it arrives in one piece on the luggage belt in Adelaide. Now, it’s just a plywood boomerang at the end of the day but this one has particular sentimental value to me. It was awarded to me in Cairns for taking part in an Aborigine fire-lighting ceremony in Tjapukai and was signed by all the performing Aborigines. I didn’t want to risk it getting broken so I asked, nee begged, if they could put it into a box or some temporary packing just for the trip. The check-in clerk was initially at a loss as to how to pack it but she could see my pain and somehow managed to find a couple of small empty boxes, a plastic bag and a roll of tape for me to fashion a makeshift container from, which I did and we sent it merrily on its way into the great black hole at the end of the conveyor belt behind the counters. Hopefully I would see it again. Another problem solved. What else could go wrong now? Ha!
Now nearly lunchtime, we went to see about something to eat. We hit a snag here too. The departure lounge in Perth is quite a small one and the food pickings are limited and expensive. In the hope of finding more options back out in the check-in area, we went back out there but found that the options there were completely non-existent. We asked at the information desk about where we could get a bite to eat but her best suggestion was a taxi into town and back. Bugger! ‘What about over at the International terminal?’ I asked. ‘Sure,’ she said ‘the one-way transfer between terminal buildings is AU$10 (€6,10) each.’ What!? Bugger! Oh well, manky sausage rolls from the snack shop it was, then. But at least we had something to eat. Nothing else could possible happen now? Ha!
The boarding call came and we were all shuffled onto the plane. We sat and made ourselves comfortable whist several engineer type people wearing those high visibility, fluorescent jackets were up the front of the plane talking to the captain in the cockpit. After about thirty minutes, they were still there and this couldn’t be a good thing, I thought to myself. An announcement was made that we would soon be underway, once they figured out what the strange error codes were that the flight computers were indicating. Oh, very comforting! Another fifteen minutes go past and another announcement is made. They hadn’t resolved the problem with the error codes but were working on it with engineers in both Melbourne and Sydney. The options were to either fix the problem with this plane or find another one to take us to Adelaide. I’m sure they have planes just lying around on the tarmac for just this sort of problem, I thought to myself somewhat stupidly optimistically. In the meantime, the captain wanted us all to disembark the plane – for our own comfort. Bugger! As we disembarked, we were told that we would be able to get some free refreshments from the snack shop simply by waving our boarding passes at them. We tried this to get something to eat and drink but ‘free refreshments’ apparently only means tea or coffee and a biscuit. All the stresses of the day so far were interacting with Sandy’s hormones and she was not having a good time of things. No amount of pleading to the ‘caring’ snack shop or Qantas staff did me any good in trying to secure something decent for my pregnant wife. Bastards! Today surely couldn’t get any worse? Ha!
With a little extra time now on our hands (we had no idea how long it would be before, or indeed if, we were to be availed of a functional airplane to whisk us off to Adelaide, I whipped out the guidebook and tried to look up some budget accommodation options. I have to say that I’ve been quite disappointed with the lack of options as far as budget places to stay provided to us by this guidebook. Lonely Planet is an Australian company and you’d think they would go all out to cover their own country in greater detail but we’ve found the Australian version to be wanting several times now. Once again, the options it listed for our next destination, Adelaide, were few and far between. To make matters worse, pretty much every place I called was either fully booked or too expensive for our budget. I had to keep looking progressively farther afield before I finally found a place that was still a bit more expensive that we would normally pay but at least still had a room available, even if it was an hour outside of town. I explained our situation about being late on arrival in Adelaide and the nice man was good enough to wait up for us to arrive.
Well, they apparently fixed the problem with the plane, shortly before Sandy was getting ready for a nervous breakdown I might add, and we all got back on board. Fortunately, the flight was an otherwise uneventful one. The steward did make a rather interesting announcement during our final night time approach into Adelaide: ‘For your added comfort, the captain has lowered the landing gear in preparation for landing.’ Ho, how nice of him!
With the time difference, we now had very little time to collect the new rental car and somehow find our way to a small town, an hour outside of Adelaide, in the dark and before the proprietors of this our one and only place to stay for miles around closed up shop and went to bed. Oh, and I had to somehow feed a now very grumpy and hormonal Sandy as well. What a shit day I’m having! I called the hotel and spoke to the owner about directions to the pub/hotel. Sandy and I did our best to navigate using his vague directions and a rather out of date looking city map given to us by the rental car clerk. We had to call back several times during the trip but at least we stumbled into a Hungry Jack fast food joint along the way (Hungry Jack is basically a Burger King – they are one and the same company). Just the sort of nutritional goodness a pregnant woman needs at the end of an exhausting day, I thought to myself!
The owner had told me on at least one occasion that we needed to get there before eleven, as that was his bedtime. Now, I wasn't entirely sure if this was just a bit of jocularity on his part or not, so we arrived half expecting to be gruffly greeted and sent straight to our room with a look of disdain for having inconvenienced them enough already. That experience with the bitch back in Perth really has left its mark on me, hasn’t it? What we found, however, could not have been a warmer or friendlier welcome from the husband and wife owners of this charming little pub in the middle of a very old and quaint little village. They showed us around the place and to our room on the first floor. I was quoted AU$60 (€36,60) per night for the room and the woman told us not to expect anything other than a very basic room before she opened the door to show it to us. She seemed almost embarrassed and ashamed to even show us a room that was surely to be beneath our standards. In fact, it’s a very comfortable room and quite roomy too with a large enough sized double bed. The showers and toilets are just down the hall and we will be very comfortable here. I spoke briefly with John, the owner, about our plans and he assured me that we would probably want to spend an extra day exploring this area some more before moving onto the Great Ocean Road, after he’s done telling us all about it all tomorrow morning. They both seem very enthusiastic and I’m already thinking about making it two nights here to give us time to explore a bit before moving on. We’ll see tomorrow morning. All in all, it was a good end to a really shitty day. Let’s hope tomorrow will start as good as today ended.