Potty Page

July 19, 2007

The rest of the trip...

So then, I've been back a while now, so should really write about the latter end of the trip...

The last evening in Carins was quite interesting - we went to a Greek resturant. The meal was going quite well until it began to get a bit scary... the manager/owner (I guess) decided to start the plate smashing thing... "Opa!" and smash there's a plate thrown to the floor... not to worry... just make you jump a little.

Minutes later on come Zorba's Dance... and they start getting people up from the seats and arming them with plates. Pissed people with plates to break is never a good idea. Wham, I'm hit on the arm with a bit of shrapnel and it's drawn blood. Great, my arms bleeding.

Wham, there goes another fragment narrowly missing my brother's eye and hitting the side of his nose. Lucky.

We begin to think back to how this would occur back in the UK... with the waiting staff walking around first with the goggles, gloves and getting everyone to put long sleves on. If you'd said that to me before I'd entered the resturant I'd have said it was health and safety gone mad... try asking me that now! Before every swig of beer I was checking that a lump of porcelain hadn't ended up in the glass. Not fun.

It was off to repack our bags then ready for the trip. Although I'd not purchased any new stuff it definatly appeared that I'd got more stuff to try and hide away.

The morning comes and we check out, knowing that we've got the awful period where you've got no room, but hours to wait until you go to the airport. We dump our bags in the storage room and have breakfast whilst working out what we can do. Turns out there's nothing to do.... so I purchase some WiFi minutes and upload the first set of posts to the blog. While I'm doing this a random from the hostel comes to tell us that there's free wifi nextdoor because the hotel's had issues with its router. Doh, if we'd know we could have had free wifi the whole time we were in Cairns!

After more bored walking around we decided to get our way to the airport and get a taxi. The taxi driver's cool and we have a discussion about the smoking ban - both the one in the UK that we've yet to see and the one that's come in NSW at the same time [Queensland (where Cairns is) has had one from the begining of the year]. He's clearly a smoker as he sees it all as doom and gloom. When we arrive at the airport he mocks us for us turning up so early (2 hours). Well it's either wander around Carins doing f'all or walk around the airport doing the same we tell him.

We get ID'd at check-in this time, which is a good sign.

When going through the security screening we noticed a woman getting all flustered. Her bag's not come through the x-ray machine... it's been eaten! She goes and askes one of the people where it is... seems that it's going back and forth inside the machine whilst they try and work out if there's a knive in there or not. The bag comes out and she's asked the empty it.... and whoa there it is, a 4 inch kitchen knife. Doh! Trumps my 1-inch penknife incident in Dubai I'd say!

The flight is pretty uneventful - it's a budget airline - so everythings to be paid for... although there's faux leather seats, odd . We're sat next to an Australian (what's the chances of that?) and he's unpreturbed by the price of crap. It's a 2 hour flight and he's pressing the button... "Can I have cheese and crackers and a beer?".... "$8, please". Bejeezus. If that wasn't bad, 30 mins later he's asking for the same order! He dissappears to the toilet and his seats covered in bits of cracker! If you're going to spend that much on stuff surely you'd want to make sure you eat it all!?

So, we arrive in Brissy and get the train to the Central station from the airport. We find what we thought was our hostel... to be told that we're not in the right place... we're 2 blocks out. Slightly embarassing - but I think they get it a lot - having two very similar named hostels within spitting distance.

At the new hostel we have the joy of checking in with a guy who can only be described as a complete idiot. I hand him a print out of my online confimation of booking for the hostel. He looks at it... up and down...

Total:                  GBP 95.64
Booking fee : NONE
10% Deposit:            GBP 9.56
Total paid*:            GBP 9.56
Balance**:              GBP 86.08

*The total paid has been charged at today's USD exchange rate by XE.com and is non refundable.
**Your balance of GBP 86.08 is payable on arrival in the local currency at AUD 202.50

It looks something like the above. He looks at it with a puzzled look... "It's all in English pounds"... clearly neglecting to see the bit at the bottom that says "local currency at AUD 202.50". I'd have hoped that (seeing as this hostel has a computer booking system) he'd have been able to find our booking and the value of how much we owed would be on our account with the booking.... I'd only given him the bit of paper to make it easier for him to find us - via the booking reference for example....

"I'll have to use a currency convertor," he says as he's busily tapping away at Google (that's a guess... I couldn't see his screen) for a few minutes

He scrawls down something on the paper. I point out that it says we owe 202.50 dollars... my backpack is getting heavy

"RIght, I'll divide the deposit by two." as he scawls down the number he's written before by two.

"Eh?" I think

OK... so it's AUD 202.40

I'm not going to argue... he's given us a 10 cent discount!

He taps away at the computer... "No, sorry, it's AUD 202.50, AUD 101.25 each."

I hand him my credit card and ask him to put both of that.

Out pops a chitty from the machine... AUD 101.25 converted to GBP 45.08.

OK, two issues with this. Issue one.... he's only put half through. Issue two... it's converted to GBP. I want to pay in AUD, I'll get a better exchange rate.

I say, "so you've put both through..."
"No, only the one..."
"I asked you to put both through on this card..."
"Oh... OK"

"And also, I'm not liking this mention of pounds, I don't want to pay in Sterling"

"It's just the way it does it"

I'm not conviced.

I hand him my card for the next run through... watching carefully that he doesn't press any GBP buttons on the machine.

He cuts our keys - smart cards, this place is 'posh'. and we bugger off upstairs....

Our room resembles a prison cell - tiny windows and bleak. Not exactly what I was expecting, this being the most expensive place to stay on our trip. Oh well.

Off we go out for some food. On our way out we ask the idiot at reception if there's a lockout. He hands my brother a big flipper with a smart card attached. "No.... not locker! Lockout!", I exclaim. Oh... he says... no, 24 hour access, just use your card to get in. Bonza.

We have issues finding anywhere to eat. We sense we've walked into the wrong part of town... eventually we find somewhere - the place looks a littlle too trendy for us but what the hell... prices seem cheap. We order our meal... John orders a pizza and me lamb sausages. Eventually the meals arrive... John's pizza is a little on the tiny side and my sausages are a lot on the burnt side. Not to worry - it's still food and I'm hungry!

We've also ordered two beers (Stella) each so are a little worried about how big the bill will come to... not to worry, anyways, the bill comes and it's not too steep.... when paying it at the bar I realise we've not left a tip - not that it was exactly worth tipping for, although the service was friendly. John asks if there's a tip jar... "just leave it on the bar". John digs deep in his pocket and throws some coins on the bar... AUD 1.80. (about 80p)... it's only when we leave that I realise how it might have been better not to tip at all....! I hope we can find another resturant 'cause we won't be going back there!

When walking down the street we see our next lack of H&S. There's some welding work going on next to the pavement.... and although there's some kind of barrier between me and the work, it's not well put togheter, there's gaps and I see the flash of the welders tourch a little too brightly. I'm mentioning to John how dodge this is when someone from the otherside of the street - is shouting out "Where's the fucking helath and saftey, mate. There's meant to be a fucking screen around that." It appears at the other side of the screen (on the roadside) there's no screen!

We go into a pub/club and play a few games with randoms and go back to our hostel.

RIght... our hostel is described on the leaflet as "A peaceful Haven in the heart of the city". If that's the case why can I hear the night club next door? I'm not talking hearing a little noise... it's kinda like the noise level you get when you go to the toilets in a club.

That noise stops and the someone clearly uses a tap somewhere in the hostel, possibly somewhere in Brisbane - there's the whine of pipes.... seems to go on for ever. The plumbing in this place is also not peacful. Arrrrgh, where have we booked into!? Smart cards on the doors does not necessarilary maketh a great place.

Then at some silly time in the morning, not only is the whine of people showering, but there's the noise of the bloody vacuum cleaner - arrrrrrrrgh.

We head off to the station, aiming to get tickets to go to Austraila Zoo. When asking for a ticket to Beerwah (near the zoo) we've asked by the guy if we're planning on going to the zoo. Turns out it's pointless us going, we're too late to make it worthwhile... we should get the 8am train the next morning. We decide on the koala sanctuary instead. So go off hunting down the correct bus stop to wait at.

The bus arrives... seems like there's a lot of tourists wanting to got to Lone Pine with us. I feel sorry for the locals. They must hate this bus route. Everyone it seems has issues in getting a ticket for the bus and paying attention to the intricasies of how buses work in Brisbane. The queue is long enough and because I pay attention to what's gone on before that I know how it's all done... the guy wants the money putting on the tray, not into his hand. I also know the price of the adult daily ticket (they don't seem to do returns - you either by a single or a day pass to the zone you want to go to)... by the time it comes to me being in the queue, I place the exact change down on the tray, ask the driver for a Adult Daily to Lone Pine. He congradualtes me on the swiftness of the transaction. By now the bus has probably been in the stop for the last 15 mins!

Finially everybody is on. The driver gets out of his box and stands in front of the bus and says "If you are going to Lone Pine to see the koalas, it will take about 40 minutes, I will let you know when we are at the stop. Do not ask me any questions about it as you cannot talk to me while I am driving. Thank you!". Seems fair enough to me.

So off we go. So, we're nearly there... and we see signage pointing the bus in the direction towards the koalas. "Ping", a guy's pressed the stop button.

"Which stop are you going to?", shouts the driver.

"Lone Pine", shouts the eastern Europesan.

"That's not the next stop. I told you that we'd stop at Lone Pine, and I told you that I'd let you know when we were there. Most of the bus is going there, do you think I'd miss it?"

That told him. I wonder if they draw straws a the bus station to see who'll get landed on the bus route with the idiot tourists.

We arrive at the sanctuary. The bus driver tells us with great delight that we are there - and to make sure we read the white post next to where we've stopped to tell us when the buses return.

Off we go to see the koalas. Good stuff. There's also other animals to see including kangaroos to feed, just in case you're wondering. I feel that I should actually write about the sanctuary, however, I'm not sure what to write. Imagine a zoo with an emphasis on koala bears, it's like that.

There's not much else to say about this day I don't think. We found a Sizzler's to have food in in the evening, which was one of the better meals of the trip! (worrying maybe)

So... the next day... Austraila Zoo day, we're not going to miss this out... we manage to get to the train on time.... wooo....

Right, so, write up of this zoo... is similar to the koalas, but subtly different. Imagine a zoo with an emphasis on crocodiles, it's like that.

It's actaully quite good this place. The show in the 'Crocoseum' is well worth watching - if not a little Disney. At one stage they realease loads of different birds and they fly all around the arena - looks like a firework display with anmials! Amazing. I'm not sure how they get all the birds back in the cages though! It's kind of a bit strange there - as it's hard to beleive that Steve's dead - he's talked about as if he's still alive.

In the evening we went on a hunt to the different side of town - maybe food is easier to find here. Hmmm... all a little out of our budget. We stumble across an English themed pub. Heh... it's gotta be done, to see how unEnglish it is. Well the menu was sort of English. I went for the spicy corned beef (because I wanted to know what it was - being such a famous dish in England). Turns out their corned beef isn't like our corned beef, at all. Not exactly sure how to describe it. It looked like meat and was very tasty. I met some Aussie whilst having a piss who decided to talk to me because I was British. He bought be a beer that he said I must try. Hmmm... not bad. We went and chatted with some of his friends (who thought Bath and Stonehenge are in Wales) and that was is, time to call it a day. So, that was the last full day in Brissy.

So... after getting a little sleep after the "Old Skool" night next door and the pipes it was time to checkout. Woo... idiot features wasn't on the front desk. It did however take a while to check out, and the recption area is a little small for hordes of people all wanting to check out at the same time. Then came the highlight (which I'd kind of been expecting)... remember the guy orginally paying waaay too much attention to the booking deposit we'd paid online? Well he'd assumed that this was our clean sheet/key deposit (and hence not asked us for any cash when we turned up)... so, when we check out our hands a crossed with AUD 10 each. DId we tell them of their mistake? No, they can go bollocks - I feel less imoral about this when I get my credit card bill (see later). We ask for 'the flipper' so we can put our bags into the storage room. We're told that someones already got the key - so just go up and ask for it. Yeah, that's secure. We don't feel like carrying our bags all day, so decide secure or not we'll keep our bags there.

So, we go to find internet so we can do the online flight check-in thing. All is going well... until they ask me for John's passport number - hmmm... his passport is back at the hostel. Off he tootles to fetch it. Grrrr.

Then it's off for a walk by the river, after that it's a trip to Brisbane Museum which I thought was quite interesting, John thought less so. There was a section about Captain Cook, and photos of where he went on his travels. Quite funny being on the other side of the world and finding a big photo of good ol'Whitby on the wall!

Off to get our bags and get to the airport. On walking into the hostel we ask the guy we've never seen before for the flipper and are just given it. Yeah, this place is really secure. Maybe it's because we said 'flipper' and not 'key'... flipper being the secret password. Who can say? Amazingly our bags are still there.

So, we arrive at the airport and check-in. Looks like it's uber-security time again. What with no liquids and shit like that. We get through fine - although they did look at my bag and at my laptop very very carefully. Had me worried for a moment.

So, the plane takes off, pretty much on time, and we're off on a 7h30 trip to Singapore.

(ping) "If there is a medical doctor, paramedic or nurse on board could they please make themselves known to the cabin crew"

"Oh dear, someones ill" I think to myself, quickly looking around my section to see if there's anyone about.... a few rows back there's an old lady, looking none too good. She gets pushed over so she's horizontal and everyone's looking around the cabin with a look of worry on their faces. About 10 mins laters they're trying to drag her out of the seat and down the aisle like a sack of spuds to the back of the plane. It looks a little akward. I'm not totally sure, and I wish I'd asked how she was before leaving the plane, but I'd say she was probably dead as they weren't really handling her as you'd handle an living ill person! Also on arrival at Singapore you'd have thought if she was ill we'd been briefed to stay in our seats whilst the paramedic crew came on the plane to pick her up - there was none of this. Poor lady.

When landing at Singapore it's kinda a bit worrying... not the landing, it's more the "we're obliged to tell you that if you're smuggling drugs, they will execise captial punishment". I think maybe it would have been an idea to check nobody had been stupid and put drugs in my bag whilst they were in the most unsecure secure room ever. Too late to worry now! So, at Singapore we get off the plane and I find free internet in the Airport. Free internet in an airport! Cool. They've got something right. Then it's time to get back on the plane.

At every airport I've been in you pass through security screening on the way into the secure airport part. In Singapore they appear to do it at the gate (makes sense to be honest... there's loads of weapons you could find in duty free).... so it's time to go through past loads of scary guards to get back on the plane....

Uh-oh! There's a problem with my bag.

I feel the noose tighten around my neck.

He's routing through it like crazy... out pops a small can of 7UP. "This isn't allowed. You can drink it now, or throw it away." I down it. Right.... this 7UP has been in my bag since we arrived in Sydney, it was from the plane and I put it in my bag 'cause I didn't feel like drinking it at the time. It's basically been through three screening prior to this and been fine - inlcuding the "No liquids" screening at Brisbane International Terminal. Bollocks. Oh well. Down the hatch it goes and I'm through.

Back on the plane now... wooo.... only 7 hours or so and we'll be in Dubai. Woo...

Time flies (well almost).

We're in Dubai.

Not much time here... and we're on the plane to Manchester... only another 7h30 to go and we'll almost be home... wooo!

On the plane I've perked up a little having nearly been sick during take off in SIngapore (possibly something to do with the amount of fizz I'd just ingested at the gate)

Watched a couple of films - Blades of Glory is actually quite funny... and then helped the Chinese couple next to us who spoke very little English fill in their landing cards - I hope we did it correctly... or they might still be stook at passport control!

And that's pretty much that. Then end of the trip.

So, this credit card lark I metioned before... On checking online how badly I'd been using the plastic I noticed that the transaction at the hostel in Brisbane hadn't been in AUD, it'd been in GPB. Bastards. At a shitty rate that cost me about 2 pounds extra. On looking at the chitties they say "I acknowledge that I had the choice to pay in AUD." Nice. If only my backpack hadn't been so heavy I'd have spotted that and made sure he put it though the machine correctly and it's not like I didn't ask him to make sure it was going through in AUD. The idiot. Not to worry, because as I've said, his ineptitude meant that we got AUD 20 back... and AUD 20 > 2 pounds. Bonza :-) So, yeah, screw 'em.

So, that pretty much concludes these epic posts. There's just one appendix I'll write about "A sound that could kill" and I thinik that's it :-)... oh and maybe some maps from the magic GPS tracking :-)

Wonder how many people actually read all of it! :-)

Posted by Ed at July 19, 2007 11:04 AM | Trips |