Getting there

Up at 3:30AM. Flight at 6AM. Heck of a way to start this whole thing. Flying over New Zealand was beautiful though, the ranges patched white with cloud and snow.

Getting there

Getting there

Getting there

Melbourne was supremely tropical, with dark skies and lightning arcing down as we came in to land. Navigated Melbourne like a pro, and after an hour on the train out of town was collected by Colin and Gloden. Grabbed an hour long nap on the couch before heading out for lunch in a restored school house, which was a super cool spot. As the first thing I ate that day, the eggs benedict with salmon was pretty much the greatest thing ever.

We drove in to the hills, past the dams and along the ridge that runs north of Melbourne. Stopped to see some birds and ate a massive block of vanilla slice, because it’s Australia.

Getting there

Getting there

Getting there

Getting there

Getting there

Getting there

Getting there

Another hour on the train to town at 6PM, on to the bus, then the magical clothing transformation at the airport in to someone you’d give a standby ticket to. Terribly nerve wracking, but it worked. I kept waiting for someone to change their mind and grab the boarding pass back off me.

14 hours on a plane is a really, really long time. Thankfully it was broken up with meals and awful movies – how did people travel before we had those? With an empty spot beside me, I spent a few hours trying every possible configuration of limb and seat to try and sleep. The best one was trying to lie as close to horizontal as possible, compressed like a Slinky between arm rests.

Flying in to Abu Dhabi over the desert at sunrise was absurd. I didn’t have a window seat so couldn’t grab any photos, but the glimpses out as we banked were unreal. Ripples of sand as far as you could see, occasionally divided by perfectly straight roads still lit by orange street lights. The sky itself looked sandy and hazy, a textured warm yellow through dusky blue from a perfectly flat horizon.

Getting there

Abu Dhabi must have the most relaxed passport and customs ever. With no paperwork you just walk straight through – the only person encountered is a passport official who barely pays you any attention. The people are extraordinary too. A very tall, young, fully veiled woman with helper slowly floats by with grace I’d never seen before.

Getting there

Getting there

Getting there

Standby tickets are issued in some kind of purgatory, a large empty concrete room with chairs along one wall and two staff standing on another. Bizarre, but it worked again. Flying out was bizarre too. The runway has no edges – it just sinks beneath the sand, giving the effect of some forgotten airstrip in an Indiana Jones film. A camera under the aircraft at takeoff shows runway, Formula 1 track and complex, sprawling motorway junction, vibrant green golf course, then suddenly nothing but sand.

A guy across from me at the window looks outside for a few minutes, closes the blind, falls asleep a while, then opens the blind again to check the world is still there. This continues throughout the flight. As does my hunt for the perfect seat posture – the last few hours are spent perched upright on crossed legs.

Getting there

I set some kind of speed record through immigration and baggage claim in Milan, then grabbed a train to the station in town. There was a lot of smiling and saying gratzi! at things I didn’t catch – Italy is fun. A long tense wait at the TGV desk for a ticket, then on the train to Lyon with 10 minutes to spare. It’s kind of amazing how many things had to go right since getting out of bed to be sitting on that train at that exact moment on the other side of the world.

I sat around a table with 3 older French ladies, all terrifically lovely and giggly. I couldn’t remember a single thing in French to introduce myself so stuck to smiles – I had enough trouble trying to keep awake, let alone communicate in any language. I caught myself starting to snore loudly and jerked myself awake to grins around the table.

I first noticed the police on the train when one of their holstered guns knocked me in the elbow. They were rounding up those that shouldn’t be on board before the French border and escorting them off. Our cute little middle-aged corner must have looked trustworthy – we were the only ones not asked for passports.

Our first stop in France made me giggle – it appeared to be for no reason other than to let everyone get off and smoke for 10 minutes. The rail line was surrounded by low cloud and severe mountains, all dark and incredibly picturesque in a very moody way. An adorable little Italian girl watched Shrek a few rows back, which also sounded adorable in Italian. Tired beyond belief, I jerked myself awake every few moments to avoid ending up in Paris.

Getting there

In Lyon I had to wait an age in the cold for the tram to the city at 10PM, but from there everything came back: the Metro ticket machine, lines, stops and platforms; attractive and impeccably dressed kids riding the Metro back from town late on a Saturday night; the streets to the hostel and that goddamn hill. It’s a good feeling to remember how a place works.

Broken computers at the hostel meant I don’t get to my room until after midnight. Too tired to work out why there weren’t any blankets on my bunk bed, I fell asleep under my hoodie.

24 hours on planes, 8 hours on trains, 1 hour on buses, 52 hours between beds. Bam!

From September 28, 2012.

Getting there
September 28
Roanne
September 30
 
October 1
 
October 2
 
October 3
 
October 4
Roanne to Amsterdam
October 5
Amsterdam
October 6
 
October 7
 
October 8
Amsterdam to Maastricht
October 9
Maastricht to Brussels
October 10
Bruges
October 11
Brussels to London
October 12
London to Perugia
October 13
Perugia
October 14
 
October 15
 
October 16
Perugia to Siena
October 17
Siena
October 18
Siena to Rome
October 19
Rome to Paris
October 20
Paris
October 21
 
October 22
 
October 23
Paris to Melbourne
October 24
Melbourne
October 27
Melbourne to Wellington
October 28
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