Seven years ago, we had been planning a long trip to the Antipodes, mainly to do a campervan trip around New Zealand. Medical issues for Franco caused it to be delayed. We thought about it again a few years later but this time frail mothers made us think lengthy absences were, perhaps, not a sensible idea. Finally, in 2017, we are healthy enough (as far as we know) and free enough to try again. Third time lucky, we hope.
Having estimated the basic costs doing arranging it ourselves, Francine asked Trailfinders to put together an itinerary. It matched our cost estimate so, taking the easy option, we went for it. The basics were to visit friends and family in Australia for three weeks, then spend four weeks in New Zealand in a campervan. We wanted to push the boat out and travel premium economy class which made our agents favour flying Cathay Pacific. We’d wondered about Singapore Airlines, liking that as a stopover destination, but apparently not all their fleet has premium economy. Still, that choice routed us through Hong Kong, which would be new where we’d stay for three nights. Scary – a new city with hoards of people.
Yesterday, 12th October, our favourite local taxi firm pitched up at 12:45 to take us to Heathrow Terminal 3. The nice chatty driver let me sit in the front for leg room. Our conversation caused his eyebrows to raise slightly when he realized we’d be a good three hours ahead of our 17:05 flight but, like me, he understood the benefit of removing any potential time pressure from the equation.
Francine is carrying some of her mother’s ashes to Australia, where her brother lives. She mentioned it at check-in to make sure it wouldn’t cause a problem at the Hong Kong end; it wouldn’t – all went smoothly.
Things stopped going completely smoothly after we’d boarded when we were eventually told that a family of four was not allowed to board the plane due to “passport irregularities”. Their passport irregularities delayed our departure by 30 minutes as their baggage was unloaded. Finally, we were off.
Relative comfort; we had both leg room and elbow room. Maybe it’s worth paying for a bit of moderate posh class.
Despite the comfort, I failed to get any sleep. Studiously ignoring the dubious delights of Captain Underpants and Despicable Me, I began by watching Churchill, which taught me a thing or two about the erstwhile great man, assuming that it was historically accurate. For round two, I switched to Tom Cruise looking rather unlikely as Jack Reacher and being appropriately violent in a super-hero kind of way. Now hungry for sleep, I finally resorted to My Cousin Rachel, a Daphne Du Maurier costume drama which I thought might have made me nod off but which failed to do so, simply making me discard the headphones. relatively spacious though my seat was, it was still a seat and not a bed. Sleep eluded me. What I really needed was Lincoln, which must be almost the dullest film I’ve ever not seen because it successfully made me nod off on my 13-hour flight to Singapore five years ago, so stultifying was it. Just FYI, the accolade of the dullest film I’ve ever not seen remains Death in Venice, which I walked out of, not whilst on an aeroplane, I hasten to add. Where are the really dull films when you desperately need them?
After 12 hours of sleeplessness, we smacked – and I do mean smacked – onto the Hong Kong tarmac. Nice smooth flight, even if boringly long, but a rather less than smooth landing. We’ve arrived.