January 27, 2013

The Road to Down Under!

It has once again been a while since I did any serious writing here, but that was not without good reason. The last big post I did was from Verona, Italy. Now I am in Sydney, Australia. I have seen friends on two continents, walked in five countries on three continents, woken up with -14 temperatures and gone to sleep with +30 degree temperatures. I have simply not had the time nor the internet access to write a proper blog post. I am going to attempt it now.

The problem is where to start. I don't know if I should continue sequentially and write about Swiss adventures, or if I should jog forward to real time, and talk about Switzerland once I am settled into a routine at school. I think that I might just take the second option.

As I just mentioned I am now in Australia. I did not just teleport here from Switzerland however, there were many adventures in between. After saying goodbye to Tiffany in the Luzern train station, I had a lovely train ride to the other side of the alps through the Gotthard Pass

After arriving in the very Italian city of Milano, I wandered about the amazing train station there for a few minutes, before purchasing a ticket and hopping aboard a train bound for Verona. About half way along the line, it started to rain. At first just a little, and then a lot.

Now I did spend a month in Verona, so I do know my way about fairly well. I am not however telepathic, nor was I very prepared for arriving there. I was staying with my friend Julie. She had moved since last I was there, and had sent me her address and phone number. Which I had looked at and promptly forgotten to write down. I remembered that the address had a "3" in it, but that was about it.

I did know the general area of the city that it was in, so I started walking in that general direction, wandering about looking for internet. Free wifi is very difficult to find. What little I could find required you to have a cell phone to text the password to. I did not have that, so I could not use any of those. After nearly 2 and a half hours of wandering in the rain which was slowly turning to snow, I found a copy place that had computers, and I was able to use the internet there.

I met up with my friend and all was well. I had a lovely few days in Verona. I did a lot of walking around and seeing the sights. I cannot remember if I mentioned this before, but in Switzerland, Tiffany and I started Geocaching. We found about 30 caches in the last few days of my stay, and I continued that in Verona. It is a neat way to see new parts of a city, and to see a city in a new way.I think I found nine caches in Verona.

Here are a bunch of pictures from around town.

Anyways, I spent three nights there. I caught up with a few friends, had a few drinks. Well a lot of drinks....prosecco is very yummy. It was very nice to see everyone, and to see the city in a little bit of a different way. It was also kinda strange to have a very short visit to a city I have spent so much time in. It was not really like seeing a new place, because I had seen most of it before, but it was sorta new because I was once again surrounded by Italian.

After Verona I headed north to Bruneck in the far north of Italy. It is deep in the German speaking area of Italy. I stayed with a family with whom my family is very close. I spent four or five days with them. It was very very nice to see them all again.

I did a lot of just hanging out, reading, and playing with the little guy. We also went skating, sledging, and on these crazy ski/sled things. We went for an hour and a half hike up a mountain with these crazy one ski sled things and it took less than ten minutes to slide back down.

After many a fine meal, and much good company, it was time to leave, and head out to Munich to fly to Australia. There was some amount of drama attached to the departure. I was catching a bus from Brixen, about an hour away from where I was staying. The bus would take me directly to the airport. It left at 6:15 am. We woke at 4:30 or so (the temperature was about -14), and got in the car at 5:00. We promptly backed up and got well and truly stuck in the snow. About five minutes of trying to free the car later we jumped in a second car and got on the road no problem. We were heading along, and I noticed that the fuel gauge was firmly in the very empty part of the dial. We kept whizzing past gas stations, when finally Astrid asked if I had a ten euro note, since she had been planning on taking the other car with a full tank, and therefore had no cash. I did indeed have a ten euro note. We stopped for a rapid pit stop, and then got back on the road. The only trouble was that I no longer had the cash to pay for my bus. Astrid made a call to a friend, and once again we had to stop to pick up a bill from her friend. Thank you to that friend by the way. We then made it to where the bus would stop.

All was well after that. It was a nice little minibus which drove through Austria, and into Germany to the airport in Munich. I had a bit of a wait there as I was quite early, though that was the only bus which would get me there on time. It was a beautiful cold clear day in Munich. It was an uneventful wait, and eventually I hopped on the plane. It was parked at a remote stand, so we had to take a bus, then walk up the stair truck which was kinda cool.

This was my last view of the continent of Europe after just having left the ground in Germany.

Eating breakfast 37000 feet above Ulan Bator.

My longest flight up until then had been a 9ish hour Paris to Miami flight. This beat that by an hour. We took off and headed to meet the sunset on our way to Beijing. I watched a movie, and a couple tv shows, then tried to sleep. The flight was almost empty so I had my two window side seats to myself. I dont thing that I managed to actually sleep, but it was a very nice overnight rest for a few hours.

Just before landing in China the sun rose. It was beautiful. Beijing's terminal three is also an amazing building. It is one of the nicest airports I have ever been in. It is a great airport for watching the planes come and go, and for walking, and for lying down. The chairs are comfortable, and they even have these recliner chairs all over the place which are brilliant. The one and only downside is the music. There is an extraordinary set of speakers spread all through the airport which give perfect surround sound wherever you are. At first it was very nice. The classical piano and orchestral music making for nice background noise. The trouble arose when it became apparent that there were only about ten songs which were played over and over and over....on a short layover that would be no problem at all.....a ten hour layover like mine though, and you rapidly begin to wish bad things upon the speaker system....

My ride to Sydney.

I had a nice little nap in the early afternoon, and after what seemed like many hours, mainly because it had actually been many hours, I boarded my next flight. This flight was almost full. I did however have what I think was a pretty good seat. It was not a window seat, but it was one of the ones at the front of a cabin, so there was tons of leg room, and it really didn't feel like I was surrounded by people. I could get up without disturbing anyone as well which is nice. That flight was even longer. 12 hours. In terms of the longest flights that is not that bad, but in normal terms, that is a long time to sit on a plane. After five hours of sitting there, there are still seven hours to go.....

All in all it was not bad at all. It was again a night flight, and again I dont think I actually slept, but I did have my eyes closed for a good part of it. The sun rose, and after a little hold, we landed in Sydney in the bright sunshine and the middle of summer.

I was near the font of the plane, and I made my way to immigration rather quickly, had virtually no wait at all, and after a bit of a wait for my bag, was waved right through customs without even stopping. I met my friend Josh, and we headed outside into the summer sun. We drove downtown, and ended up parking a little outside of it at his university. Which is beautiful. This is why we did not park downtown.

We took the bus down George Street. We jumped off and walked the last little ways, then went for a stroll around Circular Quay to the Opera. It was so crazy to actually be in that place, one of the most photographed in the world, one which I have seen countless time in pictures. The harbour bridge is stunning, and it was just a lovely day. It was a lot warmer than it had been back in Italy. About 47 degrees warmer in fact. And it was actually a lot cooler than it has been here.

We went for a wander, had some cool beverages, and after a few hours hopped back on the bus and drove back to Josh's place. On the way we stopped at the Olympic park. It was really cool. The stadium there is huge!

After having a nap for a little bit, we went over for a bar-b and poker night with a bunch of Josh's friends. It was a ton of fun.

Yesterday was Australia day. Around noon we headed into Darling Harbour to see what was going on. We had a bit of a wander around, all decked out with Australia tattoos, and silly mexican hats. For supper that evening we had another bar-b. It was very tasty.

I got to meet a gigantic stick bug as well. They are frigging weird.... And huge! She just kept crawling up my arm!

And now I am having a nice slow morning writing this post.

I cannot believe I am here!

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