Monday, September 29, 2014

The Journey Home

To say I was not looking forward to the trip home would be an understatement. Not only was I having way too good a time to want to leave just yet, but I was facing a very long journey - or, technically, three journeys: Edinburgh to London, London to Dubai and Dubai to Adelaide; a short journey (about an hour and a half), a medium journey (seven hours) and a really goddamn long one (thirteen hours).

To add to the unpleasantness, the day would be starting very early: I had to get up at 5.30am in order to catch the tram from town to the airport - or, at least, I thought I did; turns out I didn't need to be there quite that early, which was a bit annoying since I probably could have used the extra time for (much-needed) sleep. But because the website was unhelpful and the phone number failing to connect, I didn't know for sure when I need to be there, I'd decided I'd better err on the side of caution and get there early. So, I got up, trudged up the hill to the tram stop, and waited for it to appear; eventually, it did.

The tram wasn't the quickest way to the airport, but it did have the bonus of giving me the opportunity to do a little of what I hadn't had a chance to do in my time in Edinburgh - see some of the city and countryside. Not that I could see a great deal from the tram, but it was better than nothing.After about 45 minutes or so we reached the airport.

Edinburgh airport is about as exciting as you'd probably imagine; sitting there for a couple of hours waiting to board was therefore quite dull. The flight itself was a little more interesting since I had a window seat and got to see the countryside between Edinburgh and Gatwick airport (which, incidentally, I had no idea of the location of; turns out it's in West Sussex, about 30 miles south of central London), which included some of the country (the north west of England, I guess) that I hadn't driven around. But it's not a very long flight (1 hour 20 minutes from takeoff to landing) so before long I'd arrived in Gatwick.

Bad news: my flight from Gatwick to Dubai was delayed. I didn't really want to hear this, since of all the aspects of travelling I loathe, the time spent languishing in airports is perhaps the most odious - I can't settle, which means I struggle to read or listen to music or any of the other means one might adopt to pass the time. A delay is therefore more unpleasant than just the additional time.

I wandered around the airport for a while, and I didn't bother going through security because there'd be less on that side of the barriers than there was on this side - right? Wrong. There were a *heck* of a lot more of shops, caf├ęs, restaurants and so forth; it was like I'd wandered through some kind of magic doorway into Narnia or Neil Gaiman's London Below. So, I was able to distract myself for a while by looking at things and enjoying my last espresso frappuccino. After far too much time they announced we were boarding, so it was time to get on the plane to leave the UK.

This time it was another 737 - I think you only get A380s if you go from Heathrow - and I had the window seat again, so I watched as we travelled from England across the channel above France and then east across Europe and then south-east back down to the Persian Gulf; by then it'd gotten dark, so I got to see it by night - including the flaring of the oil wells, which looks pretty impressive, even from the height we were at. What was also interesting was the lighting indicating just how much of the region is populated - I had no idea it was as dense as that.

Because we'd left late we'd (apparently) flown a little faster to make up for it; however, we didn't land until about the scheduled departure time - and then we had to go through the odious disembarking process (something I hate almost as much as sitting about in airports; I really wish they had some kind of system for it which meant we didn't spend all that time half-sitting, half-standing) wondering if we (there were other Adelaide-bound people aboard) would be catching our flight or an alternative.

Once we'd gotten off the plane we found there was a guy calling out for people going to Adelaide; once he'd collected us all we were rushed through security and hurried along to board the next plane (which of course answered the question I asked earlier) - the already-seated people didn't look especially impressed, and I can't really blame them. Despite our having bolted there, though, we sat for quite a while - presumably while the luggage was moved from plane to plane (or not; more on that later), which I found annoying; I really could have used the time to not be sitting down (at least not in a seat on a plane) given that I'd just had seven hours of flying with another twelve or thirteen hours ahead of me.

After a while the long, long flight began.

While I'm never going to enjoy flying, I do appreciate how much effort/expense airlines have gone to with the entertainment options. As I noted in my post on flight number 1, there are hundreds of movies and tv shows and albums available to help pass the time - I partook in quite a few of all three, though at this point I can't really remember which, exactly; Frozen1was definitely one of them, as was Wreck-It Ralph, the most recent one-off IT Crowd episode, and another of my favourite animated films, The Incredibles.

All the entertainment helped, but it was still a very unpleasant experience. Not having had the time between flights to walk around and stretch my legs - and, to be perfectly frank, give my ass a rest from being stuck in a plane seat - made it much worse. I think I might have managed to get some proper sleep if my damn seat could recline - but as it couldn't, I didn't.Which meant that, by the time we landed, I'd been awake and in transit for something around 30 hours, minus the few minutes here and there where I did manage to drift off.

Other people had recommended various different kinds of drugs to help with the sleeping; I wanted to at least try it without any pharmaceutical assistance to see how I'd go - but next time I'll definitely be getting my hands on something. It's just too long to go without sleep.

Anyway, after getting off the plane and going through the immigration/passport section - somewhat easier these days because recent Australian passports allow you to go through a 'self-serve' machine that has facial recognition. Then it was on to baggage retrieval, where I stood around and waited for mine to appear.

And waited.

And waited.

And waited. 

It wasn't long before I reached the conclusion - after all, I'd come on a route that involved three flights - that they'd left my baggage behind somewhere; the only questions where a) where, and b) when would they get it back to me. My suspicions were confirmed when the sign saying something along the lines of 'all luggage unloaded'.

So, I (and the others; it wasn't just me) went to the counter to fill out the requisite forms; I became very annoyed when they said 'yeah, your name's on the list of bags we know are in Dubai' - why the bloody hell couldn't they have told us that at the start and saved us the time (I reckon it was close to an hour) of waiting around watching the luggage that wasn't ours go by. Not to mention that fact that my girlfriend, who'd come to pick me up, had no idea what was happening because you aren't allowed to use your mobile phone in the baggage retrieval section.

Hilariously, I wasn't all that fussed about my actual bags; I knew they knew where they were, and there wasn't anything in them that I couldn't live without for a couple of days.Once I'd filled out the forms I was reassured they'd almost certainly have my bag back to me on Sunday morning (I got back Friday night) since they'd be putting it on the same flight that I'd been on, since there was one a day.

And with that I went home. My trip was over2.

1Yes, I'm aware I watched it on the flight over; I like it a lot.
2True to their word, the luggage was delivered to my house on Sunday morning.

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