24/03/89

We had intended to go into the city today but as the buses and trains were running on some unknown Sunday timetable, we decided to only go for a wander round on the main street of Slough.¹ The weather was very cold & showery and we wandered around looking at the large selection of shops. Linda bought a pair of jeans & I bought a track-suit and we had a “1/2 of ale” at a corner pub. We went back to the flat & did nothing.

¹The town of Slough (pronounced to rhyme with “now”) is on the western outskirts of London. Our Australian friends Bernie and Sue Farquhar lived in Slough so we went and stayed with them for the first few days we were in England.

21/03/89 – 22/3/89

21/3, Tuesday – 22/3 Wednesday

         RANDOM THOUGHTS FROM 32,000 FEET

It is 7:55 Sydney time and darkness has fallen over the island continent. The darkened coast of Australia has slipped by far below us and we are gone. Outside, huge bolts of lightning are vaulting through the giant clouds; muzzle-flashes from guns wielded by angry gods above the Timor Sea.

We are high, but from much, much higher, the moon bathes the wing with its cold, silver light. The storm is past, but the turbulence is still buffeting the airplane. What monstrous stresses are at work on the metal and bolts and rivets that make up the body of the plane. Rattle and Hum.

We said goodbye to Russ outside the main entrance of Tullamarine airport late this morning and spent ½ an hour on the plane before we took of for Sydney at 1:30. After and hour in the Transit Lounge at Sydney Airport and a further hour on the plane while a missing passenger [was found]. We finally left Australian soil at 5:30.

GROUND SPEED – 942 km
OUTSIDE AIR TEMP – minus 34°
ALTITUDE – 9451 metres
DISTANCE FROM DEPARTURE – 6465 km

We are over the South China Sea.

“One night in Bangkok and the world’s your oyster…”

We landed in Bangkok at 11:00 PM local time. My head felt like it was going to explode out thru my temples with the change in pressure! We spent ¾ of an hour in the transit lounge, stretching our aching muscles as best we could then re-boarded. The air was hot and humid and a layer of smog hung over the airport. It is now 12:30 AM (3:30 AM in Sydney) & we are about to take off.

We are cruising through the turbulent air 9,451 metres above the Bay of Bengal. The shores of India lie below us in the darkness, the people unaware of us as we pass, a small pocket of light in the blackness of the sky. We are under “Total Control”.

10:15 AM Sydney time and we are over Russia. The Aral Sea is somewhere below us, 10<670 metres of empty air separating us from the cold, wind-swept country of Southern Russia. About 15 minutes ago an unidentified aircraft flew by us going the opposite way at high speed. We decided it must have been a Russian fighter plane checking us out. Earlier, as we dozed, the plane had flown over the Eastern end of the Himalayas not for from Kabul in Afghanistan.

3:15 AM London Time (1:20 PM Sydney Time). We are now somewhere over Northern Russia, flying in the eerie half-light of morning. There is still some turbulence and I have been watching the wing-tip dip & sway as the forces of the air wrestle with it. The trip flap rises & falls rhythmically as it keeps the aircraft on course. There is low cloud over the entire expanse of the Earth visible from our window so the clusters of lights that have marked our progress across India, Pakistan, Afghanistan & Russia can no longer be seen.

Wide awake
And the world’s aware,
There’s radiation over Red Square.
Creeping on to cross Roman Roads
Fear of freezing in the Soviet Snow.
One eye on the winter,
Oh, there’s just a hint of
Soviet snow.¹

We touched down at London Heathrow at 6:00 AM London Time on a cold, overcast day. The walk from the aircraft to the customs and immigration area seemed to take forever. We queued for about 45 minutes and went through immigration without a hiccup – no questions asked! We got our packs off the round-about & went straight thru customs, again without a hitch. Outside, Sue & Bern² were waiting for us and we were on English soil at last.

We drove to Sue & Bern’s flat in Slough, past Windsor Castle with England all around us. They live with a girl called Trudi, from Gore (!)³ in a little flat above a laundrette. We relaxed for a while then we both had a bath which helped revive our jet-lagged bodies. At about 10:00 we caught a bus down to the train station then caught a Britrail train into Paddington Station. We got into a grotty-looking compartment & when the guard came thru to check our tickets he said in a most disdainful voice “you are in the First Class accommodation, Sir, and you only have a Second Class ticket.”⁴ We had to move into into a second class carriage which was even grottier. The trip to Paddington took about ½ an hour, through the dirty wastelands of the outskirts of London. From Paddington we caught a tube on the Circle Line to South Kensington then another tube to Piccadilly Circus.

We emerged from the tube station into the turmoil that is London. We wandered round in a daze (literally) for a couple of hours, found where NZ House* is and the office of N.Z.N.U.K.* then caught a tube to Hyde Park where we sat in the biting wind for ½ and hour. We both seem to be finding it difficult to accept that we are actually in London!!

We caught the trains back home & managed to stay awake until 10:00 when we crashed, totally exhausted, in our sleeping bags in the lounge of the flat.      

¹ From the song Soviet Snow (about the Chernobyl reactor fire) by New Zealand singer Shona Lang. I had a cassette copy of her 1988 album South with me on our travels and I listened to it while we were flying over Russia.

²Bernie and Sue Farquhar from Bairnsdale were our family friends (see earlier entries) who had been living in England for about a year.

³ Gore is a small town at the very bottom of New Zealand’s South Island. We New Zealanders are, and have always been, great travellers, and throughout our travels we encountered people from our home shores in the most exotic, outlandish and isolated places.

⁴The “first class” accommodation was littered with rubbish, scratched with graffiti and stank of diesel fumes from the engine clanking beneath the floor. We were the only people in the entire carriage. Nevertheless, we moved to a equally squalid compartment in a second class carriage, giggling about the guard’s pompous attitude and saying “you are in the First Class accommodation, Sir” over and over.

*New Zealand House, on Haymarket, just off Trafalgar Square, is the home of the New Zealand Embassy. In those days, it was also the headquarters of NZ News UK, a weekly newspaper published for New Zealanders living in the UK.

20/03/89

Linda and I spent they day doing our final chores in this country. I went to the dentist & got a hole filled, we changed the last of our money over & bought a few things for the journey. Went up to the St. Andrews & said goodby to Betty and Shorty¹, Neil and the Bruvvers.² Went back to the flat & spent all afternoon cleaning up.

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Backpacker Life. Our last night in Australia with our neighbours, all of us from different parts of the world, at our flat on Prentice Street in Melbourne.

We had tea in Charlotte & Kalina’s³ flat and I rang Joe⁴. I stood in a Melbourne phone-box in the pouring rain & talked to him as if he was right next door. They had snow on the tops last night. We went to bed at about 9:30 and slept our last night in Australia with the rain tapping on the roof.   

¹ The pub’s owners
² Brad and Richard, my former workmates
³ Our neighbours were some Danish backpackers.
⁴ My brother who at that time was living in the town of Fairlie, on the edge of the South Island high country.

19/03/89

During our time in Melbourne, I travelled to work each day from the suburb of Balaclava, where we lived, in to Flinders Street Station in the centre of the city, then by tram up to Fitzroy where I worked.

In those days, the transport system used tickets called the Inner Travelcard, printed on yellow cardboard and checked by ticket inspectors who clicked a notch out of the day’s date with a hand-held punch. I quickly worked out a money-saving scam whereby I spliced a small billet of yellow cardboard, with the correct date number on it, cut from an old, disused ticket, into the gap made by the ticket inspector’s hole punch, then cut out a punch-shaped hole in the next day’s date.

By tapping the spliced-in piece with the handle of a knife I could make it blend seamlessley into the ticket and the cursory glance the inspectors gave easily passed it as a new, freshly-punched ticket. By this means, I could get away with only buying a ticket once a week, on Monday morning, thus saving myself $2.40 per day from Tuesday to Friday.

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In this travel card, you can see that the 2 and the 6 have been replaced and the 8 cut out to resemble the notch left by a genuine ticket inspector’s hole punch.

 

18/03/89

Penguins on Parade!

Russ drove us down to Phillip Island which is a large island about 130 km from Melbourne. Our first stop was on the way was the Fountain Gate shopping complex on the outskirts of the city where we spent an hour or so watching boring people wrapped in their boring lives bustling round in a large and very boring shopping centre. We described our time in that hell-hole as “An Enema Tour of the Asshole of Suburbia.”

After leaving there, we drove for an hour or so to reach the island. We went over a rickety old wooden bridge to Churchill Island which was lovely – sheep grazing beside an old homestead surrounded by old Macrocarpa trees with the sea shimmering all around.

Re-crossing the old bridge, we drove round to Cowes for a can of drink at the end of a pier rocking gently in the breeze with calm tranquil water lapping the piles & turning the rows of kelp washed up on the shore.

Back in the Mazda¹ again, we drove out to “The Nobbies” on the western end of the island. This place was really beautiful. The coastline of the island is rough & broken & comes to a point where 2 rocky islands rise out of the sea and and are home to penguins,

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Phillip Island Coastline.

seals & sea birds. The swells wash up around the black, rugged rocks, swirling and foaming into deep and treacherous pools and a blowhole foams and wooshes under the cliff. We spent an hour or so there then drove down to the penguin reserve to see the show.

The place was crawling with tourists, screaming babies, and generally boring people. We sat in a concrete grandstand facing out into a wide curving bay with gently breakers washing up onto the sandy beach. As the sky darkened and the horizon faded, the Southern Cross shone on the waves as groups of little blue and white Fairy Penguins struggled ashore. They had been at sea since the early hours of the morning and during the course of the day would have swum up to 50 km in their search for small fish.

They come out of the surf in small groups, being tumbled over by the waves time & time again before they stand out of reach of the water then begin their journey across the flood-lit stretch of sand and into the safety of the dunes. They are like little workmen coming out of a factory in their overalls, lunch-box in hand, standing round in groups saying “see you tomorrow” to their workmates then hurrying off in their own directions, bound for their own little street of burrows!

We left the penguins to their dark windy burrows and headed back to the city where people live in their own little streets of dark, windy burrows.

¹Russ’ car

09-10/03/89

A Weekend on the Great Ocean Road.

We left Melbourne at 8:00 on Friday night and drove out to Geelong¹ in Russ’s car. We camped the night in light rain in a camping ground at Anglesea with the surf rolling in a hundred yards from our tent.

Next morning we drove to Lorne for a breakfast of disgusting pies then began our trip along the spectacular coastline. The day was warm with a cool sea breeze blowing off the

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The Twelve Apostles (well, 2 of them)

sea and a swell large enough to send waves crashing high up against the sheer cliffs where the flat, barren island continent meets the strength of the great southern ocean. Millions of years of wave action have chipped & weathered the old rocks into huge monuments bearing names such as The Twelve Apostles, London Bridge, The Sentinel, Thunder Cave and The Blowhole.

For me, the most beautiful and mysterious was Loch Ard Gorge where the sailing ship “Loch Ard” was wrecked in 1878 with the loss of 54 lives. The graves of the four bodies that were recovered lie at the top of the cliffs at

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Loch Ard Gorge.

the entrance to the gorge amongst the bleak, windswept scrub. Buried there too are several pioneer families who spent their lives breaking in the harsh country inland from the gorge. The only 2 survivors from the Loch Ard were a ship’s apprentice and the daughter of an immigrant family from England. They were swept into the gorge clinging to wreckage & the young lad climbed the cliffs & walked 5½ miles thru the scrub to reach a farmhouse.

Standing on the sandy beach of the gorge and looking out to the swell surging through the narrow entrance, you can almost feel the power of the waves that tore the ship as it foundered on the reef outside the mouth of the gorge. A truly beautiful place.

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London Bridge.

We camped that night at a bush camping ground on Cape Otway and drove home, back to the smell and noise of the city on Sunday.

¹ Geelong (pronounced “J’long”) is an industrial city south of Melbourne.