Sunday, November 8, 2009

When we got up, we hoped it would finally be crystal clear, so that we could get some good photos before we left. But in fact it was foggier than ever - we couldn't see 50 feet out the window. So we gave up on that, and just got ready for breakfast and finished packing. At breakfast, we were told they needed to "clean up a couple of tables" and we were asked to wait a "couple of minutes." 45 minutes later, they finally sat us down. We had been waiting with about a dozen of other couples in the lounge area. How and why they didn't have near enough room to seat all of their guests we're unsure, but it is inexcusable, especially given the cost of the hotel. Once in the restaurant, it was hectic and loud, because about a third of the tables had screaming little kids at it - also inexcusable. Needless to say, when we come back to the Blue Mountains, we will not be staying at Lilianfels.

The drive to Sydney was quite nice. Our driver was semi-retired - he had moved to Katoomba from Sydney a couple of years back. We talked for a bit about Lord Howe Island - it is his favorite place in the world, and he has been there a number of times. We also talked about the Australian economy, specifically all of the natural resources that Australia has and how China will be purchasing all of those resources for the foreseeable future. He also told us some about Perth and the West Coast - we already wanted to go there, but now we want to go more. We'll have to put it in the queue.

The weather was still yucky in Sydney - we couldn't even see the CBD from the gate a good portion of the time. At the airport, we tried to get rid of our last remaining cash (in retrospect, maybe we should have purchased more). But before we went shopping, we ate at one of the noodle bars (which Crystal had been craving), and we couldn't use our credit card, and we didn't have enough cash to pay, so we had to go to the ATM and get more cash. So after paying for lunch, then we exhausted our (now more) cash reserves. In the terminal, we had to wait awhile for them to "open" the gate for the plane - it was late getting in, and for whatever reason they had us all seated away from the gate. Looking out at the massive plane, we realized that we had run the gamut of plane sizes on this trip - from the A380 and 747 to "regular" jets to the tiny planes we took to Lord Howe and Kangaroo Island to the really tiny planes we took back and forth to Lizard Island.

 

They finally let us on, and the specialized gate had multiple boarding spots, so it didn't take long to board even though there were so many people. There was more legroom than in a 747, and the design on the magazine sleeve helped it be more comfortable. There was a really big television screen too, and we got to watch our own plane take off on one of the channels (video here). The seats recline farther than usual, which is good for most people, bad for Justin when the lady in front of him reclined. With the seats reclined, Justin actually had less room than on the 747. He got almost no sleep, but did get to see Gladiator, The Hangover (again), Godfather I, Godfather II, and play some Tetris. From now on, the plan is to sit behind one another, with short Crystal sitting in front of tall Justin.

Near the end of the flight, a lady in our section of the plane had a major medical problem - our best guess is diabetic shock. We heard some odd sounds, then a lot of commotion, then there were calls for doctors or nurses (fortunately there were almost a dozen). We were 3 hours out, and probably 3 hours from Hawaii, so we just kept going to Los Angeles. They gave her an IV, and she seemed to stablize, so that's why we think diabetic shock. When we landed, they took her off first, but she was up and about and looked okay. What was not okay was the smog - it was horrific. We went to Pink's, but the line was really long (even for Pink's), so we just drove over to Canter's and each got a half corned beef, half pastrami sandwich. After not driving for 3 weeks, driving all around West LA with no protected turns was sub-optimal as a first place to go. The drive home was uneventful, and we got home around 3pm. We wished Debo a happy birthday - he turned 9 today - and also wished Meth a happy birthday, as she had turned 9 while we were gone. We managed to make it to almost 9pm before falling asleep, and woke up on Monday at 6:45 am with no jet lag.

Next stop - Southern Peru (Tambopata, Nazca Lines, Colca Canyon, Lake Titicaca), Bolivia (Salar de Uyuni - each of us had it at the top of our "to-do" list), Brazil (Rio de Janeiro, while the world cup is ongoing). If it is anything like this trip, we should have a great time.