T is for Transport

Me and my travel buddy, Hayley, going slightly crazy after transport misfortunes.

It has been mentioned before on this blog that I have a tendency to avoid public transport due to my uncanny ability to attract the strangest, craziest, creepiest strangers in human sight.

I once had a crazy Italian man shout at me from the back of the bus before stumbling towards me and, much to my protests, stroke my hair with much enthusiasm before the bus driver intervened.

Another time I had a lady on the train ask me to watch over her little girl while she went to the bathroom, only to emerge an hour later, high as a kite.

I even once had a woman throw all my bags and suitcases into the aisle of a train in a fit of rage, for no apparent reason.

Like I said, Katy and transport are not the best of friends.

Unfortunately, public transport is an unavoidable part of travel and whilst not always pleasant, it is sure to provide excellent fodder for stories.

The first of my travel woes began on the very first leg of the trip when I discovered that the sound to my entertainment system, that same system I was relying on to get me through the 14 hour flight with its many new release and classic movies, was, naturally, broken. After two hours of many different air hostesses trying to fix it, and a few hints from me that an upgrade to business class wouldn’t go astray, it was concluded that the system was not repairable and I was instead compensated with three remarkably droll finance magazines to help pass the time.

Still on the high that comes with the start of a journey, I was unperturbed by the news and instead decided to rest my head while I could.

My optimism soon waned, and after a few hours I turned on the screen and watched the moving pictures in silence. I then came up with the grand idea that perhaps I could watch something with English subtitles. Sadly, the English movies only came with foreign subtitles. The foreign movies on the other hand…

Der ganz große Traum

I ended up watching a brilliant German film by the name of Der Ganz Grosse Traum, or in English The Really Big Dream.  Based on a true story, it is a film about the man who introduced soccer to Germany and the trials he faced in that endeavour. A highly engaging story with some brilliant acting, I feel in hindsight I should be thankful to the faulty entertainment system simply for its part in leading me to this movie.

I was later unimpressed, as you could imagine, when the same issue presented itself on the second 9 hour flight. Thankfully, the plane was empty enough for me to move to a four seater, where I was able to stretch out to my heart’s content.

Other notable transport stories included: being interrogated at British Customs and nearly not being let into the country by a scary customs officer because I didn’t know the postcode of the address I was staying at; being on a train in Berlin as it ran over someone on the train tracks (which I spoke more about here); evading train controllers in Germany after discovering we had the wrong tickets; being patted down in a private booth at security in Abu Dhabi; and fearing death with every cough, sneeze and sniffle heard on every plane, train and bus after watching Contagion.

View of the alps from the plane.

But it wasn’t all bad. The four hour train trip from London to Edinburgh was particularly pleasant, so much so that I almost wish it had been longer just for the chance to enjoy more of the beautiful scenery and the joys of being seated in a ‘silent carriage’. The short, one hour train trip from Ferrara to Venice was also enjoyable after we forked out a few extra Euros to sit in First Class. And let’s not forget the fantastic views that come with flying several thousand feet in the sky.

Whilst their were some dramas, there was a discernible lack of ‘crazies’, which was a welcome change. I don’t think I’ll be making best buddies with public transport any time soon, but I can be thankful at least that I survived without anyone stroking my hair or throwing my suitcases around in a rage.

Do you have any memorable transport experience to put you off travel forever? Do you, like me, attract the ‘crazies’?

Meanwhile, if you’d like to read some more crazy stories, Aussie writer, Kaitlyn, over at Transports of Delight has been documenting her latest encounters with weirdos on public transport. Check it out!

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J is for Jet Lag

Yes, I take my pillow when travelling.

Arguably the most painful part of travelling.

Living in Australia definitely has it perks, but unless your overseas holiday is in New Zealand or Antarctica, it can take anything from 7 to 30 hours to get anywhere. And no, that isn’t by boat; I’m talking jumbo freakin jets.

My first experience with jet lag was when I was 16. I had the mild sensation that something wasn’t right, but it wasn’t until about two weeks after arriving at my destination (when some sense of logic returned to my weary head) that I realised solid ground wasn’t supposed to move under my feet. It was something akin to standing on a rocking boat and every now and then I would suddenly feel as if I needed to catch my balance. By the time I realised what it was it was over, but it was unpleasant all the same.

Since then I have had the ‘rocking boat’ sensation only one other time, thankfully not on this trip.

The Sydney to Hamburg trip took just over 30 hours, not including the time spent waiting at the airport beforehand, which is probably the real killer. The waiting.

I hear some people get by on jet-lag pills and remedies, knocking themselves out with medication, or, brace yourselves for this one, just falling into a deep slumber allowing them to arrive refreshed and ready to take on the world.

Signs of jet lag: Wild, delirious look on face; Raised eyebrows that say "put the camera down or else"; Massive plate of food substituting inability to sleep; Unbrushed hair; Risk of using sharp three-pointed objects as weapons against humanity; Smiling against the odds.

Nuh uh. That aint me. I think it’s all about the sitting upright. I just can’t sleep in an upright position. I’ve heard about those strange people that can sleep standing up and don’t get jet lag and I’m convinced they must be part alien. Or something.

But I digress.

Of course on arrival the not sleeping at the appropriate hours is a bummer when you’re working with a short holiday. Staying awake all night and sleeping all day is hardly the best way to see the sights. But eventually your body adjusts and all is well and good for a time.

Until the return journey home.

And this journey home was probably the nightmare of all return travellers.  It began one chilly (-4) Sunday morning in Ferrara, Italy. Things were packed and suitcases were overweight, but I was ready to leave. We were at the local train station by 11am. The train left around midday for Bologna, which took just under an hour. We then had to get off and wait another hour before hopping on a two hour train to Milan. This was followed by another hour’s wait at Milan train station before the shuttle bus left for the airport, which took another hour. At the airport we then had to wait 3 hours before we could check in and another 4 hours after that before take off.

Then the flight was delayed an hour.

After a 7 hour trip we landed in Dubai, where we had to wait another 3 hours. This was where we also found out that our direct Dubai-Melbourne flight wasn’t quite so direct with a stopover in Singapore. That would take about 17 hours including the one hour stopover.

On arrival in Melbourne I had another 3 hours to wait for my plane to Launceston, which was fine because I knew I was nearly home. YES! I boarded the plane and buckled up with a sigh of relief. The plane rolled down the runway and started to speed up when suddenly the breaks went on and we were slowing down. Great.

We circled back to the starting point and sat on the plane for an hour while engineers came to fix the problem. By this time I should have been home.

Eventually we were ready for take two. We started picking up speed down the runway when, yep, you guessed it. The same thing happened again. At this point we were told to disembark and wait at the gate for further instructions.

This pretty much sums up how I was feeling. Probably how I was looking too...

After one hour and then two, I asked the lady at the desk if there was a possibility I wouldn’t get home tonight. When she responded with ‘yes’ I think a little (read:big) part of me died inside. I had been awake for almost 50 hours and I was starting to get emotional. I just wanted to get home. Like, now!

After another hour 5 names were called out. Mine was one of them. Some divine being saw my need and managed to shuffle me onto a seat on the next flight out. I sighed with relief as I heard the following announcement stating that there were no more seats left and all remaining passengers should head to check in to collect their bags and be sorted with accommodation for the night.

Of course I then had to wait another couple of hours for that flight, which was then delayed because not one, but two out of the two toilets on the plane were broken. They couldn’t fix them in the end but after some deliberation decided not to cancel the flight and send us on our merry toilet-less way. THANK YOU.

Needless to say, I held my breath in anticipation at take off, but thankfully we made it in the air and within the hour were safe in Tasmania.

I arrived home at 7pm that night. Tuesday. It had taken over 2 days to get home.

Of course, the jet lag that ensued was a different experience all together. The following week I found that I couldn’t sleep morning or night and I just wasn’t tired. I think I heard my body saying “Well hey, you kept me up for 2 days and now you wanna sleep every 12 hours? Make up your mind already”.

Two weeks on and while all is now well and good, I have decided that for my next trip I’m going to do some research. It will involve looking into becoming part alien so that I can sleep whilst sitting upright with fluorescent lights in my eyes and babies screaming behind me and old ladies coughing in front of me and old men snoring across the way.

Sayonara jet lag! I’ve got my eye on you…

Seeing my first Australian sunrise in a month