1. Australian Adventures Begin

Our journey to the other side of the world, which, despite sounding magnificent, is so commonplace now it is easy to forget how fantastic it is to be able to say it so glibly. We had a smooth run to Gatwick through the rolling English countryside at 5am, accompanying all the bunnies munching away at the side of the road in complete indifference to the car zooming past just a few feet away. As we unloaded the car at the rental return I realised that the jacket I’d been wearing the evening before was no longer on the back-seat of the car but still hanging on the back of Martin’s dining room chair! Not a good start. Made worse by my previous deliberations as to whether to bring my thick fleece of the thinner one with the shower proof lining. I’d finally opted for the latter but on finding that my backpack wasn’t full, decided I could take both and now had neither, great! Very annoying.

Our in-house experience at the airport was, I must admit, the smoothest I can remember of any travelling. Once we’d dropped off our bags, finished the water bottle and proceeded through the first check point to be met with a smile and sympathetic comment of ‘you’ve got a long journey’ from the pleasant woman at the desk. At security there was hardly any queue and we were through in just enough time to remove our belts. I felt I had to say to one of the staff clearing up the trays how impressed I was with their speed. She accepted the compliment gracefully commenting that no-one seemed to notice when they get it right. Hopefully she’ll pass on my remark to her colleagues as I suspect they get little positive feedback despite everyone wanting to feel safe in the air.

I’m not sure if they’d been on a customer awareness course or taken a leaf out of the Australian/Adelaide ground staff’s book but they were super-friendly here as well. After the gentle grilling we had received on arrival in Canada this border officer was more of a tour and travel guide, suggesting places to visit, tours to take and extolling the virtues of the wine regions, not that they really needed much promoting. Like the complacency of this distance of travel, the selection of Australian wines is so large in UK supermarkets that the vineyard tour doesn’t pose too much of a draw. One could sit in a wine bar in the UK and embark on a tasting tour without leaving your stool or table. The bio-security guys in the baggage reclaim area were checking our immigration cards in a seemingly random fashion but even he tolerated my garbled account of why I was bringing food into the country and how it was all sealed and packaged.

Our stopover in Dubai was uneventful but as I mentioned previously, was enhanced by the unexpected meal voucher. We enjoyed fish and chips served in a frying pan! I’d wondered what the round wooden blocks on the table had been for when we sat down. I suppose it saves on the washing up. We were able to relax in the plentiful reclined seats with extended footrests for the additional couple of hours left to wait for our connection which were very acceptable. There only drawback being that as the whole line was linked if anyone else sat down, got up or even moved, everyone else was bumped around (although nowhere near as bumpy as the section of the flight west of Jakarta where even the cabin staff were told to take their seats!) Whilst killing some time I wandered around the duty-free shop which was almost identical to every other duty free shop I’ve come across anywhere in the world except for 3 huge fixtures of powdered milk!? I couldn’t work out if was just baby formula or all-purpose milk as well (my Arabic not being a strong point) but it certainly was a distinctive addition and presumably tells a tale.

We arrived in Adelaide half an hour early and reset our watches taking into account the peculiar half-hour time zone we’ve landed in. Another first. As we skimmed the road adjacent to the airport I was rather horrified to see that its surface was obviously wet. It was raining! At least when we eventually emerged from the building we found it to be rather warm so didn’t bother with the waterproofs on our way to the airport shuttle which dropped us off right outside Zicky’s door.

We had just booked the one night here as we were due to get the overnight Greyhound bus north to our first ranch, or ‘station’ as I will have to get used to calling them, tomorrow. However on Monday morning we received an email from our first hosts asking if we could arrive on at 7.30am on Friday morning instead of Thursday as they hadn’t been able to load up the cattle in Alice Springs as planned due to the rain so everything was a bit delayed. We have postponed our travel until Thursday night and now have an extra day to explore the delights of this allegedly laid-back city. If this is laid-back by Aussie standards it must be nearly horizontal!

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