For months my original plan was to join some friends from university on a journey through Central America. But it turned out that I just could not afford the 3 month trip they intended to undertake. So, knowing that I might not be able to travel the next few years to some (financial and other) changes in my life I was looking for alternatives. After getting my hands on this very cheap air ticket to Australia the choice was done. So after having worked full-time (actually I am a full time university student, so much for the most part of my summer-break which I spent working at my local airport) during July & August, I flew HAM – MEL returning CNS – HAM for 810 EUR (incl. tax) + 170 EUR for a 30 day bus-pass that would get me from MEL to CNS with as many stops as I like and whenever I like. The only downpoint was I could only travel in one direction (northwards in my case).
So enjoy my trip report of flying to and backpacking through Australia!
8. September 2003
HAM – LHR BA967 Airbus A319
Take-off 19:45 (actual 20:00)
ETA 20:25 (actual 20:15)
Actually it was my second time at the airport that day as I already attended an employees meeting at around noon. A friend had offered to take to the airport and he arrived at my place while I was still in the shower and had just half packed my backpack. Traffic was ok for Monday evening and we still arrived ahead of time. I showed him where to park for free. At HAM you can park in the streets surrounding Parking Area 6 and then catch the free shuttle-bus to the terminals.
In Terminal 4 BA had two check-in counters open, one for economy which was busy with only one single person and the second one for business/first. The lady at the business counter waved me because there was no other BA pax in sight. I passed over my tickets, passport, Australian visa (ETA) confirmation and my self printed Asia Miles temporary Internet membership card. I had heard the rumor before that my booking class was not eligible for miles but since membership was free I figured it could not harm and maybe I might get better treatment. It seemed to have worked because I got all the seats I wanted all the way to MEL .
I invited my friend to a coffee in the Europa Restaurant which has an adjourned viewing terrace, which we left after we watched the BA A319 coming in. I said goodbye and proceeded through security into the passengers area. After strolling up and down a bit I went through customs to the non-Schengen gates and had to undergo security once again (BA is really paranoid these days).
We boarded a little late due to the late incoming of the aircraft. My seat was 20something F, cant find my boarding pass. The take-off from runway 23 was unusually slow (they all were, had seen this all day on every departing flight that I could see from the window of my place) which gave me a good view of my way to work and the house I live in. Unfortunately it was too dark to try any photos. A choice of drink + tea/coffee and a bread roll was served. After breaking through the clouds we followed the sunset and landed on 27L (I think) after one holding pattern a little ahead of schedule. Once on the ground we had to wait until our assigned gate was cleared by another one of BA’s busses.
My ticket showed that I had a good two hours before my flight to HKG so I did not bother checking out Terminal 1 and followed the connections signs to where the bus for Terminal 3 left, where I had to wait about 9 or 10 minutes.
8. September 2003
LHR – HKG CX254 Airbus A340-300X
Take-off 22:35 (actual 23:10)
ETA 17:55 (actual: about the same)
I enjoyed the short ride to Terminal 3. The terminal itself was not that great. The departures lounge is like one big duty-free shop with no windows and some chairs in it. After a while I found myself a big leather chair in a quieter area of the terminal. CX254 was actually the last flight to leave from Terminal 3 that day as the incoming aircraft was late. So when the gate finally appeared on the screens everyone left in the terminal suddenly got up and proceeded to gate 34 (or 32 not so sure anymore, the left one when you’re coming from the departures lounge).
The CX ground staff was quite shocked when they saw us coming and in broken English we were told to take seat as the aircraft was not ready and it still might take a while. Figuring I would stay seated for a long time I preferred to stand and walk up and down the concourses always keeping an eye on “my” gate. At one point a CX staff member cane around and pre checked if our boarding passes and passports fit together.
Finally the boarding call was made, of course my seat row was among the first being called for. As I said, knowing I would be seated long enough I waited until most passengers had already boarded before I made my way to the jetway.
I quickly realized this had to be one of the A343s CX bought from SQ as they have kept the interior. We taxied to runway 27R (I believe) and started our take-off roll. I must say it was not as I had expected. Last year when I flew an AFA343 the take-off was really weak, but this time it was just as you would expect from a modern airliner. We quickly gained height and headed eastwards, crossing Germany just north of HAM where we also encountered our first turbulences and were served peanuts and a drink. Meal service started about 40 minutes later. In economy CX DOES NOT HAVE any MENUS, which is quite odd if you ask me. On the other hand we were given the choice out of three (!) different meals: beef, pasta or chicken. I chose the chicken which turned out to be the Asian option. Very delicious to they the least. As the sauce was dark I opted for a red wine which did fit nicely with the meal and also helped me sleep later. Another thing I noticed was the plate: the sides were of faked bamboo and under your meal there was a paper with printed bamboo plants on them. A very small sidenote but it has quite an effect.
After dinner I had a small chat with the guy next to me who was also on his way to Australia. He was actually a member of the Australian Olympic Karate team. There must have been some Karate event in London before since there were many teenagers also wearing clothes from the Australian national Karate team (the teens were also going to MEL, while he lived near BNE). Then I decided it was time to try catching some sleep, which I quite successfully did even though we hit some mild turbulences along the way.
When I awoke we were over Siberia with a little less than 4 hours to go. I watched “Bruce Almighty”, “The Italian Job” and some TV programs (“Friends”, “Coupling” and some other stuff) on my PTV. Always switching back to Airshow whenever either one became boring. When we had about 1 hour to go we were served another meal, this time I chose the fish out of the three options, which, too, was delicious. Got some nice cloud shots over China and then we began our decent into HKIA. The Captain announced that since we were CX we would get an accelerated arrival procedure into HKIA. So after a few turns east of Hong Kong we landed on runway 07L.
As shown on the PTVs prior to landing we arrived at gate 3. Upon leaving the jetway some CX staff were holding up a huge paper sheet full of names and I found mine on it. Those who found themselves on there were told to wait a little and then guided to a transfer counter desk. As it turned out CX had lost some data of all passengers continuing on to Australia, and we were many I tell you. Maybe a general word concerning the loadfactor: all my CX flights to Australia were
After this short delay I decided it was still enough time to hit downtown Hong Kong as I still had 5 hours to kill before my next flight. I filled out the HK immigration form as well as the SARS health declaration form and proceeded through immigration which was a breeze. Once behind the customs I was greeted by several ladies dressed in traditional Chinese clothes. I was given a big bag full of ads, a “visitors pass” (more ads + discounts) and a welcome gift: a traditional Chinese paper lamp.
The vending machines for the Airport Express train did not state if I could use the same day return ticket both ways so I thought I give the staffed desk a try. I then passed a currency exchange booth which I though I would not need yet, as there were plenty to come, so I thought. So I went to the staffed ticket booth and bought a return ticket HKIA-Hong Kong for 100HK$ and paid with credit card. Then all currency exchange places I could find were automated and I realized I had not memorized the PIN numbers of my credit cards (I forgot them completely), bummer. So with no HK-cash I boarded the Express train. A really nice experience, with comfortable seats, PTVs and a very smooth and fast ride. A was gazing out of the windows and keeping an eye on the progress bar near the exits. After exactly 23 minutes I exited at Hong Kong station which is right next to the Star Ferry terminal (for which I now did not have the money (in right currency), grrr, and the new convention center. I wandered up and down a bit and then took on the train again. I noticed the huge check in hall at the station where HK passengers can already check in their luggage.
Back at the airport I still had plenty of time and walked up and down the whole terminal building watched several aircraft, took the “people mover” (sort of subway) from one end of the terminal to the other and simply took in the sheer greatness of the world’s biggest terminal building. Upon entering the departures area I went through a temperature screening, where I could see my whole body in a infra-red screen telling me all the warm and cold parts of my body. When I finally took a seat to relax, I was approached by a lady who asked me if I would take part in a survey regarding the airport, not having any better to do I took the survey and got a HK horse racing sticker as thank you gift: Then it was time to hit the restrooms to reapply some deodorant and refresh.
9. September 2003
HKG – ADL – MEL CX 105 Airbus A330-300X
Take-off 23:20 (actual same)
ETA 12:20 (actual same)
I do not remember the exact gate number, but it should have been in the 30ies on the side facing the island. I repeated my boarding procedure from LHR and again passengers in the economy line were prechecked on their passports.
This time I was seated next to a guy from Hong Kong who was studying in MEL and flew this flight regularly. We taxied to runway 07R and took off turning right once leaving Lan Tau Island behind. We were still in our climb when I was told to shut my window blind. I said I will soon and left it open.
For dinner I chose the chicken again, I’d have to go to a really expensive Chinese restaurant here to get a chicken like this! Then I was so tired I just wanted to sleep. Sleep was hard to get since we were regularly experiencing mild to moderate turbulences and the fasten-seatbelts sign came on and off during the whole flight. At one point I opened my window blind and got an awesome sight, a huge full moon illuminating the sky and reflecting in the wing. Unfortunately the photos I shot did not come out sharp.
For breakfast I had some Chinese noodles and then we began our descent into ADL. Pretty nice scenery around ADL. Once we hit the ground hard breaking was applied. I am sorry but I do not remember too much of this section of my journey because I was dead tired by then. The international Terminal was more of a barracks and so was the transit lounge. Not a place you want to stay at for long. After about one hour in ADL we boarded the Bus again for the last hour of the journey.
I remember we parked alongside one of QF’s 744ER. My luggage arrived pretty soon on the carrousel and I headed towards immigration passing the quarantine check along the way. As a geographer I dare say the Aussies are over exaggerating a bit considering all the damage done to the Australian environment in the last centuries. The immigration officer asked me for my address in Australia and when I told him I’d only know where I would stay the next 3 days he asked me to provide my email address in case someone of my plane got sick and they needed to contact me. Problem was we both could not find a space on the health declaration form.
From outside the terminal I took the Skybus into town. After arriving near Coach St. Station I asked one of the drivers of the free minivan service skybus offers to the biggest hotels in downtown Melbourne, if he could drop me off at my hostel. Being only the third customer it was no problem.
Ok, I think this has been long enough already. Therefore I just decided I will post my trip through Australia and the Skydiving I did at the Sunshine Coast in another thread, sometime later tomorrow and the return flight later the week.
Please feel free to post your comments, criticism or questions if you have any this far.
Thanx for reading.