Adventures in the Great Land Down Under

On the trip to Australia I had a bulk head seat, great leg room, on the new Airbus A380, a fabulous, quiet, well planned aircraft. I shared my section with two delightful young Australian men, brothers, and both duck farmers.

One man said to me, “Bet you’ve never met a duck farmer before.”

I had to confess I had not. Then I told them I was a romance author. They asked about my books and my writing. Some of the flight crew joined in and we shared many laughs. I eventually pulled a copy of Ring Me Later out of my bag to show them and one man grabbed it, pulled out $50 and put it in my carry-on.

RingMeLater_200“I’m buying it,” he said. Of course I gave back the fifty, and autographed the book to his wife.

One hour out of Sydney the pilot came on with an announcement: “Due to heavy fog we will need to divert to Brisbane. We don’t have enough fuel to circle and wait for the fog to lift.”

We sat on the tarmac for almost two hours. The duck farmer opened my book and started to read. Now four days before leaving the states, I’d discovered my cell phone did not have service in Australia. I’d figured I’d wing it. I told them about my concerns in making my connecting flight. They used their iphone to send a voice mail and a text to my sister, and they told her not to leave the house before hearing from me.

The plane was refueled, and we headed off to Sydney. This is what it looked like along the coast. OZ 2013 026

I cleared customs and rushed from the International to Domestic airport. Of course I missed my connection. Of course neither airline offered compensation as it was an, “Act of God, or force of nature.” Of course my little connector airline said my fare was a special with no changes allowed and I’d need to buy another ticket which would cost $250. I’d even taken out insurance, but again it wasn’t covered. Of course my response was: “No thank you. I’ll take the train.” Now keep in mind I had not taken the train since I was twenty years old.

I found a bank of local phones. Only one of the three worked. They ate my change. I got more. They ate it again. I finally got lucky and chatted with my mother. I could not get my sister on her mobile, and she was picking me up from Newcastle airport. I knew she had already left. I headed off to Central Station, found a connector to the Hunter Valley that took about two hours, but even with that, I was still about an hour’s drive from Mum’s house. A lovely young conductor offered me his cell phone and I got Mum again just seconds before jumping onto the train. I prayed somehow the messages would be relayed from Mum to sister and someone would be there to pick me up.

The train trip was great and cost only $14.40. I’d definitely do it again. It was so easy, clean, organized, and the countryside was pretty. I’d hopped on (with luggage and hand luggage exhausted after a fourteen hour flight plus two hour delay plus mucking around with ground transportation) and plopped into a seat with a sigh. There were other travelers with luggage and we shared details of our trips. We got along great, laughing and showing photos. A man came down the steps from the other part of the carriage and said: “This is a quiet carriage. You’re making too much noise.” We all laughed, thinking he was joking.

“I’m serious,” he said. Then he pointed to a big red sign. Designated quiet carriage: Mute cell phones, headphones, keep chatter to a minimum.

We all slunk into our seats, a little embarrassed. Then we started whispering, “Sheesh. Hate to be married to him.” But truthfully, none of us had noticed the sign. None of us were train travelers. We did understood that we were in the wrong. Poor dude had most likely been looking forward to his afternoon nap.

You can guess my relief to see my sister and B-I-L standing on the platform. Later on we discovered my sister had changed her mobile number a year earlier (the number I had carried for over ten years) and she had never told anyone. Whew! But, then again kind of bad luck for the person who had received all of those early morning texts and emails about someone named Roben who thought she might not make her connecting flight. Here’s my sister and Mum a few days later with the leftovers from our Mother’s Day high tea. home 010The pavlova was amazing.

home 002

So long story short, before my next trip I’m making certain that I have an iphone with a provider in Australia. And I’ll never be nervous about taking the train again, but I’ll be certain to choose a carriage where laughter is allowed.

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6 Responses to Adventures in the Great Land Down Under

  1. What an adventure. And what a rip off on the connecting flight! That’s what I hate about insurance, it seems to be money paid for nothing in return. I’m glad you had a good group on the train even though you got in trouble. Probably made it all the more fun

  2. robena grant says:

    Thanks, Lynne. My duck farming companions made the trip worthwhile. 🙂

  3. Thea says:

    Happy you finally made contact with your family and settled in for a visit. We’ve found airlines folks in Australia helpful, probably because we’re so obviously helpless and they want to move us out and along. Travel by train is wonderful, Australia is such a varyingly beautiful country. Soon as the traffic overwhelms in my town, I’m off to Hobart: all the sweet strangeness of the mid last century with the convenience and healthcare of right now. Plus, wonderful flat whites and eats. Everyone seems to have *their* special recipe for Pavlova.

    • robena grant says:

      Thanks for coming by, Thea. Hobart is delightful (I was born in Tassie.) Isn’t that the truth about Pavlova? We like ours with whipped cream, strawberries, kiwis, and loads of fresh squeezed passionfruit.

  4. Gina B. says:

    Hi Robena! What a beautiful adventure. Sounds like you made the most of everything and went with the flow, and glad you were able to share so many laughs with your family and people you’d just met along the way. Thanks for sharing this!

  5. robena grant says:

    Thanks, Gina. It ended up being a really lovely trip with a lot of fun, short outings to places I hadn’t visited in years, and great conversations. It took me a good ten days to readjust. 🙂