So I do need a visa?

The budget terminal at Changi Airport was a pleasant surprise with a free laptop connection and fast internet available. The connection was good enough that I managed to Skype home and talk to my mum for the first time in… erm… ages.

After converting all my remaining US and Singapore dollars to Aussie ones, I had just enough left (with a small donation from the girl beside me) for an orange juice and a Toblerone on the plane. Whoop. Sleep was hard coming as it always is on a flight, at least for me, and I probably managed a total of 45 minutes’ sleep during the journey.

We got to Darwin slightly late, but no big deal. It was a pleasant 20-ish degrees and 3am. After filling in the immigration cards – that were more bothered about nuts, wood and bananas then they were about Semtex or Kalashnikovs – we queued up for passport control.

Guess who forgot that everyone entering Oz, apart from residents, needs a visa. Whoops.

Fortunately, the airline got the blame as they shouldn’t have let me on the flight in the first place. The immigration chap asked me how I got on the plane. “Well”, I told him, “I kind of just… walked on. Like you do.”

It seems my passport hadn’t been checked and I wasn’t on the flight register or anything. So Tiger Airways are in for a hefty fine. Myself? Visa sorted at no cost. Cool. And it’s multi-entry, lasts for a year and allows me to stay for up to 3 months per visit.

After all that, I needed some munchies, so after working through the rest of the immigration procedure (two lovly dogs sniffing the luggage before it was x-rayed for rogue rambutans and Al-Quaeda pumpkins) I wandered to a vending machine.

Drink. Hmm. Orange juice looks nice. Insert money, press E…7… and watch machine go ape. Arms goes up, conveyor belt moves, arm goes down, belt moves. Up, down, shake it all around. At one point, the drink I’d ordered even moved slightly. Then my money was refunded in small change. You wonder why these machines always have “exact change only” on them? It’s because when they refund you, they don’t give you your actual money back. They chuck out the same amount in really small bitty change, just to be annoying.

OK, give up on a drink. Crisps. Salt and vinegar! B… 3… insert money. Oh. The coins just stuck in the slot and didn’t go down. I managed to hook out a 20c piece, but had to leave the rest in there. Grr.

I finally found a machine that did want to part with its contents after wandering to the other end of the terminal, by which time the shuttle bus was ready to leave.

20 minutes or so later, I was dropped off at the Gecko Lodge. Typically hostelly, just with a small pool at the front and a lounge area open to the elements at the front. Oh, and a locked gate with a combination to which I hadn’t been given the code.

Luckily, another guy on the bus was stopping here and he’d been given the keycode. I wandered in, dropped my stuff and went for a walk as he crashed out in his room. A quick wander back the way the bus had come in located a 24-hour foodery. Chips, sausage and a pint of full cream milk. Oh yes! Real milk after all these weeks!

I walked as far as the nearby bay just as the sky changed from black to dark blue. The number of people out jogging at 5am was surprising.

Back at the hostel, I got in no problem as I’d made a note of the keycode. A young couple were sat on one of the couches having arrived from Bali in the early hours. Like myself, they hadn’t been given the keycode but were in luck as someone else was arriving back at the hostel just as they got there.

So, I’m now sat here with no internet. It’s 7:08am (having discovered that the time difference between here and Singapore is an hour and a half) and I’m struggling to feel tired enough to nod off. This is going to be an interesting, and possibly expensive, couple of days. The trips around here are very pricey compared to Asia!

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