Waiting for another flight

Sat at Brisbane Domestic airport and for those who are interested there is a free wi-fi hotspot at the train station outside. Within the station there’s an Optus signal that I can tell you without looking will be charged for. There’s also a Qantas one that I’ve connected to and seems to be live, but the signal’s too weak to be of any use.

As ever, I need to thank people – and it’s that awesome Belinda and Albert again. Guys, thanks once more for the use of the spare room and for dinner the other night (I bought dessert so I feel partially out of debt). See you next time!

To those I didn’t catch on this visit, I hope to see you again another time. I may be back in Bris in 2 weeks or so (very briefly) depending on what my next flight arrangements are. We shall see.

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Catching up with the family

Visiting the cousin

Visiting the cousin

Well, after a quiet weekend I caught a train to the other end of Brisbane to have dinner with my cousin and her family. As ever, I had a great couple of hours with Avril, Jim, Heather, Jamie and Callum. It’s hard to believe they’ve been out here for seventeen years, now. The kids are full of life and I spent a bit of time working on homework with them before Jim started forcing beer down my throat. Bad Jim.

I caught the last train back to B&A’s place and got ready for the next day.

As things stand I have plans for the next week or so and then I really need to start thinking about moving on to another destination. I fly to Townsville tomorrow (24th) to see Talia – a nurse I first met in a hostel in Cairns around two years ago.

From there I must somehow get to Cairns by the morning of the 30th. This will prove to be a challenge if I don’t want to spend much cash as the buses and flights are artificially highly-priced. Only one company runs each route so there’s a lack of competition to keep the fares down.

I’ve got a camper van booked in Cairns which is costing me $1 per day (yes… one dollar) and I have up to five days to get it to Darwin. This journey could be done in two at a push, three without making life too unpleasant. Five is loads of time. The mileage allowance is adequate for the journey and the $750 fuel allowance more so. Got to love van relocations! It’s hit and miss about getting one that’ll go your direction but if it does then it’s ridiculously cheap.

I think I also have a travel partner after placing an ad on Gumtree. Obviously, cost isn’t a worry but it’s nice to have some company if you’re driving 12 hours a day, especially in the Outback. With any luck, I’ll catch up with Tom (from Canada) on the 29th in Cairns for a couple of beers and to discuss the route.

A shame he can’t collect the van on my behalf and pick me up from Mt Isa! Annoyingly collecting the van will involve doubling back and also a return trip through Mt Isa (if I can’t find an alternative route) but it’s definitely cheaper than any other method of getting to Darwin.

With luck I should get to Darwin when Katie’s off work so we can check out the diving if it’s feasible on Thursday. Diving in Darwin does have to take the tides and wildlife situation into account. If not, then I can try at the weekend with one of her friends.

As I said, I’ll also have to start looking at my next destination and how to get to it. I think I’m going to try and force myself to bite the costly bullet and book a flight to Japan along with the foreigner train ticket. This will, most likely, involve doubling back to the east coast as all the Japanese flights leave from there. Again, I’ll see if I can get a camper van relocation so I can enjoy the trip!

So that’s me up to date… Hopefully I’ll be able to snag some wi-fi in Mt Isa!

[Update as I type – Tom’s just texted to say he can’t make the trip as flight prices from Darwin leap up on April 1st. As such, he has to get there sooner. Ah well. At least this means there’ll be no arguments about what music to play in the van!]

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Not doing a lot… and enjoying it

Just another post to let people know I’m alive. I’ve organised a few things, caught up with a couple of friends and hope to see some more before I move on on Tuesday. I managed to book a flight up to Mt Isa which wasn’t cheap, but was by far the quickest method to get there. Around 3 hours including checking in, as opposed to three days during which I’d spend about the same amount of money on food, accommodation and unavoidable transport.

I’m also still pondering where to go after Oz. Dili is tempting, but I’m heading to Bali again later in the year so it goes better with that. Japan’s still very high on the list but flights aren’t cheap. Vanuatu and Fiji have been making themselves known to me as well. Then there’s the Philippines. So much choice!

Well, I should be seeing my cousin and her offspring on Monday. Over the weekend I’m just kicking back with Belinda and Albert. I just found out Elaine is in a cycle race at Mt Cootha on Sunday so I may see about getting there otherwise I won’t get a chance to see her on this visit.

And that’s all she wrote! I’m going to relax and watch the rest of Hogfather with some chips and dip now. Nom nom.

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South of Sydney to Brisbane

Decorative train station

Decorative train station

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 (£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!

More nice painting

More nice painting

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.

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.

Not a flabby ex-wrestler

Not a flabby ex-wrestler

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.

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