Posts Tagged ‘Australia’

Stopover in Melbourne

Saturday, September 24th, 2011

Australia wasn’t an objective on this trip. I was there for a month in 2004, loved it and applied to emigrate. I had enough points when I filled the form in. By the time it arrived they had moved the goalposts; increased the points requirement out of my reach. My reason for not wanting to visit on this trip was purely financial. Southeast Asia and South America are relatively cheap places; Australia is not. However, airline timetables meant I couldn’t get from Shanghai to Queenstown without an overnight stop in Australia. So I decided to have a couple of nights in Melbourne and try to catch up with an Australian tanguera I met last year in Buenos Aires. Unfortunately I couldn’t get in touch with her. With no friendly tanguera to guide me around the Melbourne milongas I didn’t even look into when and where they were. After six months with almost no tango is my addiction wearing off?

On the first day, a lovely crisp Spring morning with crystal blue skies which developed into a nice warm afternoon I wandered the city and rode the circular route tourist tram. The sights were all familiar from my previous visit. They presented the same photographic challenge as last time too: overhead tram wires. There is lots of photogenic architecture. There are even more overhead tram wires strung along many of the streets. Without a super wide fisheye lens you need to be across the street to fit in decent chunks of the buildings. And that means an unsightly mess of black cables across every picture. Consequently I didn’t take many photos but there are a few over at Flickr.

My hostel, Greenhouse Backpackers in Flinders Lane  had free wifi. I spent most of the second and third days sat in front of my laptop planning the imminent New Zealand leg of my journey. They also had free breakfast every day and one other free meal most days. All good news for budget travellers. Single ensuite rooms are out of my budget while I’m back in the first world but their four bed dorms were pretty civilised. On the day I arrived I was the first one into an empty dorm so got choice of bed. The location was good too, just a block from Flinders Station.

On my last night I walked to the bus station for the airport express and then spent four hours at the airport waiting for checkin to open. The benches in Melbourne domestic terminal departure hall are the hardest I’ve ever tried to sleep on. At 04:00 the hall started to come to life but it was a good 45 minutes before I was checked in and through security. Let’s not talk about airport security. Really, let’s not.

My journey to New Zealand was in two parts. First a commuter hop to Sydney with all the smart dressed business people. Second a quick dash through Sydney airport from the domestic arrivals to the international departures terminal and then the international flight to Queenstown. I made sure I had a window seat for the second flight to be able to enjoy the hopefully spectacular scenery on approach to Queenstown.

Here’s the plan

Friday, March 11th, 2011

Lots of people are asking me what the itinerary for my imminent round-the-world trip is. I launch into an enthusiastic spiel and one of two things happens:

  • their eyes glaze over and they stop listening about half way through.
  • they get excited and ask more questions and after a while I reach the point of shrugging my shoulders and saying “… and then I’ll see.”

Hopefully you’re in the second group.

I have an itinerary because I booked a OneWorld Explorer ticket and I had to name airports and dates. I have an itinerary because I had a rough idea of the places I wanted to go and approximately how long I might want to spend in each place. The itinerary is flexible and likely to change once the travelling starts. The ticket is good for upto one year. There are very few details filled in yet between the flights. There are some highlights and must-see/must-do things and lots of vague arm-waving inbetween.

Date changes are freebies, changing my mind on the routing will cost me money – about £100 per change. Sadly there is no reciprocity between the airlines and me in this respect. They have changed two of my flights already and did not pay me £200.

So the plan at the moment is:

  • London-Delhi, Delhi-Kathmandu for a two week Everest base camp trek. This is organised by Above the Himalayas Trekking and I booked directly with them, cutting out a UK agent and saving some money in the process.
  • Kathmandu-Delhi, Delhi-Bangkok for a ten week tour around SE Asia with my friend, Hannah, who will be blogging about the trip from her perspective at travelpod. We have an approximate route worked out for this, based on information we found at travelfish. Briefly it’s a week in Bangkok including a Thai massage course at Wat Po, a few days in Koh Chang for Thai New Year, north through Thailand, south through Laos and Cambodia, north through Vietnam, topped off with 2 weeks lazing on a beach somewhere in Southern Thailand.
  • Two more weeks in Thailand by myself. I have various ideas for how to fill this time. We’ll see…
  • Bangkok-Beijing for three weeks in China. I have a very rough idea of how to get from Beijing to Shanghai involving Qi’An, Chengdu and half a dozen other cities. Probably this will be a challenge. A friend who knows much more about China than me says this will be hard outside of Beijing and Shanghai because of the language. It will probably involve lots of train journeys. We’ll see…
  • Shanghai-Melbourne for a couple of nights in Australia. Why only a couple of nights? Because I’ve been before and didn’t plan to stop in Oz at all on this trip. However, I couldn’t get from China to New Zealand in one day and will have to spend at least one night in Australia. So I’ve routed via Melbourne and will have a couple of nights there. Hopefully this will give me a chance to catch up with a tanguera friend I met last year in Buenos Aires, and maybe get to a milonga or two.
  • Melbourne-Queenstown for three weeks in New Zealand. How I get from Queenstown to Auckland is completely unknown right now. I’ll work it out much nearer the time. I have another tanguera friend to visit in Auckland and again, hopefully get to at least one milonga.
  • Auckland-Santiago de Chile. Not looking forward to this one; it is a LONG flight. I’ve got a few nights in Santiago and then double back westwards to Easter Island for a five night stay. Then it’s back to Santiago for another night. This extra night is courtesy of one of those airline imposed changes; they changed one of the flight times making it impossible to get from Easter Island to Lima in a single day.  Well, it would have still been possible but only by reducing my stay on Easter Island to two days, or by extending it to nine days.
  • Santiago de Chile-Lima for 3 weeks in Peru. I’ll go to Cusco and then Machu Picchu of course, but whether by train/bus or by trekking the Inca Trail is still to be determined. Yes, I’ll have to decide very soon – if it’s not already too late – because I’ll have to book the Inca Trail. That would pin me down to specific dates. I’m already tied down pretty tight with Easter Island so it could be argued that fixing another date for the Inca Trail would be no extra hardship. But that is approximately five months into the future and I don’t really want to be that constrained.
  • Then there’s a bit more uncertainty; I may go to Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands or I may not. Money will be a big factor in that decision. All the flights up to this point except Delhi-Kathmandu-Delhi are on the round-the-world ticket. Getting from Lima to the Galapagos would be a separate trip. I had thought I’d book a LAN airpass for the intra-South America flights, but found I couldn’t because I didn’t book it at the same time as the RTW ticket. Opinion on the web is divided about whether or not this should be possible. Anyway, if I’m under budget by enough when I’ve done what I want in Peru then I might manage a trip to the Galapagos Islands.
  • Finally sometime around the middle to end of September I’ll return to Buenos Aires. Ah, proper tango, at last! A couple of months of milogas and much more learning/improving my Spanish than last time. After that travel all around Argentina until about the middle of February and then return to Buenos Aires for another month. The travelling will include Ushuaia and if I’m really really lucky an Antarctic cruise. I’ll decide in that “final” month whether to use the final Buenos Aires-London sector of my RTW ticket to come home. Maybe I will, maybe I won’t. Perhaps I’ll stay in Buenos Aires or perhaps by then I’ll have decided there’s somewhere else that would suit me better. We’ll see…

Great, you were in the second group!

That’s the plan so far. I have just a few more days in the UK and then the tenants move into my house and I hop on a plane to Delhi. My transit visa for India arrived today, the Nepal visa is already stuck in my passport, I’ve had jabs against just about everything and I’ve sold or otherwise gotten rid of most of my stuff. Just another dozen or so boxes to go :-)

I’ve got three more nights of tango to look forward to, one of jive and maybe one of West Coast Swing. And then several months of probably no dancing of any sort that I’m used to. Withdrawal symptoms here I come.

Have you done a trip like this or been to any of these countries? Are there any must-see places or must-do things you would recommend in the countries I’m visiting?