So, where was I? Ah, yes – Down at Ves’s.
Well, I had a great chill-out and then an early start on the Tuesday morning. Mike drove me through to the train station where I paid the princely sum of $22 (Â£10) for a ticket from there all the way to Maitland. The journey required four trains and a total time of around six hours.
Had I turned up on the day at a train station in the UK to do a journey of the same length I’d have expected to pay more than ten times that price. Will someone kindly explain why our trains are so expensive? They run on the same technology and so forth as the Aussie ones.
I stopped off in Sydney for lunch, ending up with a chicken schnitzel sandwich from a random stall in the nearby Asian mall. It was OK for $8 and one of the cheaper lunch options I could find.
The train I took up to Hamilton (which went through Cardiff… that’s two UK countries they’ve ripped off) was jam-packed with OAPs. It turns out it’s Seniors’ Week in Sydney and there’d be some kind of performance for them. As a result, there wasn’t a seat to spare on the double-decker train especially with a lot of schoolchildren getting on partway up. I stood for around three-quarters of the journey, and I’m glad to say there were very few non-OAPs in the seats.
Finally, I got to Maitland where Marge and her daughter picked me up. I was originally planning to stay with another friend, but she had come with with a bad dose of ‘flu and didn’t want to pass it on. Get well soon, Carol!
Marge and Rod volunteered (or were volunteered when Ves rang them) to fill the breach for which I’m very grateful. Again, I just chilled out – I’m doing a lot of this at the moment – and tried to fix their PC. Sadly, I didn’t have enough spare parts, but at least we know what needs done.
In the morning, Marge drove me to the freeway where I held up my shiny new Brisbane sign and waited.
Until two ladies in a ute picked me up and drove me about 30km. Every little helps, I suppose. My next lift was better, taking me further up to the Big Rock diner. I remembered passing by this place a couple of years back when I was hitching to Byron Bay from Sydney. It was built by two guys who used to star in a TV series, but who fell out afterwards. I just used it to buy an overpriced Coke and a Mars Bar then stuck my thumb out again.
My third lift – a salesman called Patrick – took me quite a distance up to a small township called Kew where I had a decent lunch from the 24 hour garage (“Far Kew” – www.farkew.com.au). Really good steak pies!
I waited well over an hour for my next lift, a chap who’d had a bad day trying to get some work in Newcastle. He took me as far as Kempsey where at least I knew I could get some food. By now it was two hours before sunset and I was pretty much resigning myself to grabbing some dinner at sundown and finding a place to camp.
Then… the lucky lift.
Just as the sun was starting to disappear, a huge truck pulled up and the driver informed me that he was just getting a KFC and then heading all the way to Brisbane. Joy! Now, I’m paranoid so I’m not going to mention his company or name as he would get into trouble if someone found out he’d picked up a hitcher. Needless to say I was incredibly grateful and we made it to the Brisbane CBD at around 1am (remembering that the clocks go back an hour at the Queensland border as they don’t do Daylight Savings).
He dropped me near his work, swapped his truck for a car and drove me to the Roma Street train station where I sat and waited a couple of hours for the first train to the station near Belinda and Albert’s. Which, once I was on board, I fell asleep on. And missed my stop.
Thankfully, they live near the end of the line so I only had to backtrack two stations. I staggered into the McD’s near them and used the free wi-fi there for a couple of hours until B&A woke up. Nice to know – every single McD’s in Australia is now wired for free wi-fi. Now, why won’t the UK follow suit? Don’t worry – that’s rhetorical. I don’t really have any hope that they ever will.
So now I’m sat in B&A’s front room with daytime TV on the screen and itchy eyes.
I think I’m off for a lie down.