Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Flight to Australia | Part 2

So now we had our boarding cards for the Flight to Australia, finally we could relax, we had arrived safely and successfully booked ourselves onto the flight. If you missed the first part of this series of posts relating to the recent holiday to Australia, then you can read it here > Flight to Australia.

Security is now very tight and rightly so, notices everywhere inform as to what items or substances are banned and detail the maximum size for hand luggage and the restrictions currently in force. This terminal 1 of Manchester airport seems to have changed beyond all recognition since I last flew out of here. But actually the last time I did fly from here was probably the last time we both flew to Australia and that is seven years ago.

With plenty of time on our hands, we ate a sandwich, I bought a small bottle of Coke for £1.50 (no the airport is not taking advantage of the fact that you can not bring liquids past security) sauntered through the shops, buying nothing, then found the designated departure lounge for our flight. Here we sat and watched the people of the world go by.

The prize for the woman with the worst dress sense went to the lady of mature years with the thigh high leather boots. I have nothing at all against older women dressing in modern or fashionable clothes as long as they look right and look good. She looked awful. I got the impression that the Manchester Women's Institute old aged pensioners society pantomime group were doing a version of Dick Whittington. She had definitely got the part of Dick.

I tried also to award a prize for the person with the most and largest hand luggage. What about those signs I saw earlier, advising us of the restrictions on the size and amount of hand luggage you could take on board. One piece of hand luggage it said. There were people with pull along bags bigger than my suitcase, plus handbags or laptops, plus bags overflowing with all manner of duty free. I am afraid I could not select a winner for this award, there were just too many to choose from.

I kept looking at my watch, the staff had been at the boarding desks for a while now and  we were getting close to the planned time of departure.

"Bing Bong" sounded the tannoy. This was followed by a message stating that due to a technical problem we were going to be delayed by approximately 30 minutes. Oh well, that's no great problem we have a stop over of three hours at Dubai. A technical fault can of course be anything, not necessarily anything wrong with the plane.

"Bing Bong" the tannoy sounded again some while later. This next message now informed us that the delay would continue for another hour while the engineers worked on the plane to rectify the fault. As murmurs, mutterings and exclamations of f*** and s**t went around the crowd, Mrs Pecker and I looked at each other with feelings of dread. Not due to the fact that the problem was with the actual plane, it was more the feeling of deja vu.

This situation we had experienced the last time we travelled to Australia but it happened when we were on our way back home. From Perth we had flown to Kuala Lumpur then onto a small island named Langkawi to spend an idyllic few days. As we then waited at Langkawi airport for the short hop of a flight back to Kuala Lumpur we heard similar messages to those we had just heard. It was also a similar time of night and we had a connecting flight from KL to Manchester to catch.

That situation turned into a nightmare with the engineers and flight crew deciding that the plane would not fly that night. The airport had closed while we were waiting and at the news of the cancellation pandemonium ensued. The crowd, many of them locals were close to rioting, the heat was tremendous and there were no facilities open to buy drinks or food. Eventually some of the staff appeared with a quantity of bottled water but unfortunately much of this was simply plundered by a mob of youths who had no regard or respect for fellow passengers.

At some time around midnight we were ferried to a local hotel where we were given rooms and informed that planes would be laid on the next morning to fly us to Kuala Lumpur. They did their best in what must have been a very difficult situation to deal with.

On reaching Kuala Lumpur our troubles were far from over, we now had to be assigned a flight back to the UK. There were no flights to Manchester so we were booked onto a flight to Heathrow with an onward flight from Heathrow to Manchester and a very short time between the two. Unfortunately it was now still early morning and the Heathrow flight did not take-off until sometime that night. They did however put us into the Kuala Lumpur Airport Hotel which is absolutely fabulous. We had meal vouchers for lunch and for dinner and could eat whatever we wanted. I have never in my life seen so much food as there was at the lunch buffet. Food from every continent, to suit every possible taste, there were tables and tables full of it, and if you like sweets and puddings, you would think you had died and gone to heaven. This is where the rich and famous stay, we of course were dressed in the flight clothes that we had worn since the previous day, we had no access to the luggage. We spent the afternoon in the shower, in the bath, and lazing around in the big fluffy white dressing gowns.

 The flight was late leaving Kuala Lumpur which then caused us to miss the flight from Heathrow to Manchester. That meant another delay, another ticket desk, another wait for a flight. Can you understand why it was we did not fly for another six years.

But back to the Flight to Australia that I was telling you about.

"Bing bong" that tannoy again, this time informing us that the fault had been corrected, all that remained was for the engineers to run the engines and we now had a revised departure time of 22:30 hrs.

And true to their word, at 22:30 - or as near to it as makes no difference - we were trundling down the runway picking up speed and rising slowly but steadily up into the air on our Flight to Australia.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Flight to Australia

It was 01:00 hrs and exactly on time that we landed at Perth International Airport to complete our Flight to Australia.

After calling in the duty free shop to purchase some spirits for our hosts, we collected the bags and negotiated the very strict and thorough immigration control and customs. Stepping out into the arrivals hall we then saw R'bill waiting to greet us. Following the hugs, how are you's etcetera, etcetera, we stepped out into the rain. WHAT !! - yes we did - we took a flight half way around the world to Australia, to find the rain.

Our journey it seemed, had started so long ago and in real time that was indeed over 32 hours. It began on the Sunday afternoon when our dear son-in-law arrived at our house in plenty of time to drive us - myself and Mrs Pecker - to Manchester Airport. We were all prepared and waiting with cases packed, hand luggage ready, passports to hand and anxious to be on our way.

I quickly dashed upstairs to fetch my new zip-up top that was still in my wardrobe but imagine my surprise to find that also hanging there were all of my shirts that should be packed in the case. The case was quickly re-packed and we were on our way with hardly any time lost but we were allowing ourselves plenty of time anyway. This was to us such an important journey and if there should be any delays or hold ups on the way to the airport we would hopefully still be able to arrive with enough time to catch the flight.

I also felt a certain amount of apprehension since booking this Flight to Australia due to everything relating to it being done on-line. I purchased the flight tickets from Ebookers, obtained Evisas from the Australian High Commission website, resulting in no tickets, no physical visa, in fact nothing physical relating to the flight being issued at all.

I imagined arriving at the airport check-in desk to be humiliated and flightless, the staff rolling around on the floor,

"What did you say - You've not got any tickets" accompanied by uncontrolled roars of laughter.

"Sorry Mr pecker, there's no record of a visa here." Ha,Ha, "You say you did it all on line."

"We can not let you board a plane without the proper documents sir."

I could not stop thinking of what might be. So I printed off a copy of every receipt, every email, every flight itinerary confirmation that I could find. I had a complete folder filled with a whole tree's worth of paper just to be sure I would have anything they may ask to see.

We arrived at the airport in plenty of time and bade farewell to W with thanks for conveying us there, we had three and a half hours to spare before the plane was due to depart. Get through check-in and then I would be able to relax. The staff were already in attendance and gestured for us to make our way forward, there was no queue whatsoever, a situation I had never experienced before. I walked forward as I began to extract my huge bundle of papers from my shoulder bag.

"Have you got your passports please sir?" said the friendly young gentleman behind the desk.

"Yes, there you are" I replied, handing over the passports with one hand as I continued to free the sheets from out of the plastic sleeve.

"It's Mr and Mrs W.. travelling to Perth via Dubai" he said pleasantly "Is that correct?"

" Yes that's correct" I now had some of the papers free and started to point them in his direction.

"How many bags are you checking in today sir?"

"Two" I replied, but what (I thought to myself) about asking for some of these papers that are now falling to the ground and spreading themselves all over your bright shiny floor, so you know I have bought the tickets and got visas for both of us.

"Have you packed these bags yourself. Have the..... etcetera, etcetera...." he continued.

Yes, it was all that simple. From entering the numbers of our passports, the system confirms that we have booked and paid for tickets on that Flight to Australia via Dubai, the seat numbers allocated to us, and the fact that we have been granted entry into Australia as tourists.

I guess there was no need to worry at all.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Western Australia Holiday | Mindarie

First I must apologise for taking so long to begin telling you about my Western Australia Holiday in Mindarie. Since returning home I had a lot of catching up to do, however I found it difficult to motivate myself and found it extremely difficult to get my body clock in snyc. Going out to the beginning of spring in Australia at the end of September did not seem to be a problem, but coming back to the British autumn four weeks later certainly proved to be a struggle.

Western Australia:
There were no sightings of Rolf Harris, nor did I hear any renditions of "Tie me Kangaroo down sport" or "Waltzing Matilda". I did see Kangaroo's, Koalas and Kookaburra's, plus many varieties of colourful Parrots and Cockatoos. You can see a selection of Australian birds that I managed to photograph on my other blog "My Garden Birds"

Kangaroos take a midday nap.

A Koala takes an all day nap. When they are not asleep, they eat. When they are not eating they are asleep. Yes they are my own photographs.

Due to the limitations imposed by my own disability and by the health of my sister-in-law, we were not contemplating trekking into the bush or travelling any great distances. It was a rather more sedate and relaxing approach to visiting the areas around Perth and spending quality time with friends and family.

Parks and gardens that we visited included the Kings Park in Perth, Whiteman Park, Yanchep National Park and the park and lakes of Joondalup. We also visited the coastal areas and marinas including Hilaries, Two Rocks, Yanchep and Mandurah. An adventure that will not be forgotten however was the day we headed down the Swan river to Freemantle on a friends boat, then out to sea to scatter Father-in-Laws ashes into the Indian Ocean. I'll save that for another post.

Yes the names of some of the towns in Western Australia are very "Ozzie". As mentioned above there is Joondalup and Mandurah then other great sounding places such as Yangebup, Mundaring, Kallaroo, and Wanneroo.

Petrol costs just half the price of what we pay here in the UK, but I guess that is the case in many other parts of the world too such as the USA. The roads are good, straight and uncongested. We were noticeable as Brits because we walked into the drive-in off licence. You can even drive into Bunnings, the Australian equivalent of B & Q.

A view of Perth taken from Kings Park.

Mindarie:
We stayed in Mindarie, a relatively recent suburb of Perth situated approximately 40 kilometers from the city. Mindarie is a highly populated family area that is very community orientated offering a great lifestyle with the harbour and Clayton’s beach close by.

There is a mix of residential property in the suburb, with some older style single storey homes, modern two storey designs, apartments and an extensive retirement village. You can find large mansions in the Clarecastle Retreat and waterside apartments in the Marina. Despite it's young age the Marina is currently being revamped with further residential development happening at the moment. Some plots around the Mindarie Keys harbour are currently for sale with a very hefty price tag.

Claytons beach.

Mindarie Keys - the harbour.

Sunset on the waterfront.