Brown paper notebook
1998 was the first time I took long holidays. I decided to leave for a month and pay a visit to my friend Petrina in Sydney. I’d never been away from Europe before, I’d never taken trips longer than a week…
Before leaving, I crafted a brownpaper and cardboard notebook, where I would write about the trip. Here are some of these notes.
1 - Flying
June 2, 1998
I’ve first taken a train to Paris, spent a night there, then I take a bus to Charles de Gaulle, fretting as traffic jams delays us, I can clearly see a guy shaving in his car while “driving” to work. RER trains are safer on the schedule side.
I then get on an Austrian Airlines flight to Vienna, and have a pleasant chat with a Romanian engineer who is back home after a training period in Lannion and Nantes. He’s got a few scary anecdotes about small central Europe airlines, like the one where passengers sat through five failed attempts at taking-off before the pilot decided to call it a day.
Once in Vienna, I catch my Lauda Air flight to Sydney via Kuala Lumpur. I think Lauda Air is just starting at that time, we have a brand new 777 Boeing with personal entertainment terminals, and stewardesses dressed like Formula1 pit-stop staff. I’m really impressed to get data about the flight, like speed (1000 km/h), altitude (11000 m), time to arrival, etc…
I first fly above Hungary and duly note that Kuala Lumpur is just 12:30 hours away, then the flight takes us above Romania, the Black Sea, east of Turkey, north of Iran then above Teheran, Isfahan, north of the Arabian Sea, north of Bandar Abbas, Gwadar, Karashi, Ahmadhabad, over the sea, along the coast of Malaysia to Kuala Lumpur.
The smell of the heat and vegetation is terribly estranging as we get through the plane door. Just a couple of hours in the airport and we are back in the plane. On we go to Singapore, flying over the clouds as the sun rises, following over islands, through the Timor Sea. Then a stewardess ushers me quietly in the cockpit (it is 1998). Just as we start to fly over Australia, I get to see the burnt land, dried rivers winding on the sand. I get the feeling I’m standing at the tip of the branch of an enormous tree, not seeing the tree under me. We fly over Broome, Derby, then Alice Springs, and arrive in Sydney.
The strict Australian customs and quarantine are a worry for all first-time visitors, I didn’t bring food, a little wine and spirits is allright, so I pass (note to French visitors: get a quarantine leaflet before loading your bag full with delicacies). I get to be sniffed by the cute and fearsome quarantine dog, and then I get out to give a big hug to my host Petrina.