The Curse

Long lay-overs are a travelers curse. I despise long waiting times; I want to be there regardless if it is the anticipation of discovery of visiting a new place or the redundancy of returning to familiar routines. Waiting has never been my forte.

Days of waiting or what seemed like it, it occurred to us that we had booked our room in Adelaide one day earlier than needed. Time zones, date lines, horizontal lines, poetry lines, or any other lines that have clogged up our thinking, we realized we were supposed to be in the reserved bed at this very moment. Yet, it is only the next day and early morning when we will feel the comfort of a mattress.

Fearful that the hotel would cancel our reservation, but only after charging us for one night’s stay, we found the Internet kiosk in the airport lobby. All six computers were being used most likely by others who had time to kill and no airline lounge privileges to distract them. I chose to stand behind a little boy, thinking I could intimidate him into releasing the computer into my custody. This kid was tough. He held his ground searching his Hotmail account in Arabic, reading unread messages from March of 2008. I was not certain why he felt the sudden urgency to read them now, other than there were a line of people waiting to use the computers and he was now had power. After the Hotmail, he Googled for on- line games. At this point, impatience kicked in and I wanted him gone. I asked him if he were almost done with his ‘work’ as others needed the computer. It was at this point, I heard an authoritative voice coming from behind me, with this the kid briefly turned and responded to the voice. His little fingertips were still glued to the keyboard; he seemed to fear that lack of contact was an admission of lack of interest. The authoritative voice reverberated commands causing flickering actions from the kid like short volts of electricity vibrating his body. The voltage must have finally caused him to admit defeat relinquishing the computer to me.

I whipped out an e-mail to the hotel after an expert Google search and within minutes, I graciously gave the computer back to the forlorn minor who must have had as much time on his hands as we did and no way to amuse himself.

Malaysian Airlines carried us from Kuala Lumpur to Adelaide. Honestly, I was not prepared for the plane or service we received. The plane was a 777-200, with a 2-5-2 configuration. Each seat had its own television screen, so we had on demand movies. The space between seats was roomy, much more so than the 747-200 we had been on with KLM. Malaysian Airlines does not serve hard liquor. I really wanted a scotch to knock myself out, but the options were white or red wine. Dinner was actually cooked and reminiscent of the old meals they served on airlines. Those would be the meals we complained about before they started lowering their standards to save money. Now we have a new gastronomic incompetence targets to focus on.

This flight was close to eight hours, but regardless of the personalized televisions, we slept most of the flight. There is just something about dry recycled air that does not provide much incentive for staying awake. It did not motivate us to watch Wall-E a second time or most of the others were just reruns also.

Miracle upon miracle, we landed in Australia, Adelaide International Airport. Our luggage, though checked in in Vienna and routed around like we were, was riding on the conveyor belt by the time we made it through Passport Control. The inspector, a young woman, asked why we were there. She then defensively asked why Adelaide specifically? She was not amused with my blunt answer that these were the cheapest tickets we could find to Australia. It was my innate sense that told me she has a bit of inferiority complex regarding her home area. Cheaper airline seats was own motivation. I do hope she proves me wrong.

So we were advised to take a taxi to the hotel for 10-15 Australian dollars. The taxi came to 19 dollars by the time we pull up to the door. After thirty hours of travel, I would have paid double just to be here. Yes, the hotel received our e-mail, but they thought we missed a connection, not realizing we had left Europe two days prior. They were impressed with the long lay-overs we had endured to come to their fine city, obviously they are not as uptight as the Customs Agent.

Our room is extra large-so is the bed. There is a cabinet with an assortment of cups, glasses, and other stemware. The fridge is fine for food storage if you want to forage as a raw foodie. The shower is large enough to entertain in. Since we technically stayed here last night, we are technically allowed to have breakfast, so we ventured up for some cold cereal, instant coffee, and reconstituted juice.

As was the plan, we had two nights here before being picked up for Kangaroo Island and two nights there. Well we will have our second night here tonight, but the first night was spent in absentia. Finding our pickup point for the shuttle tomorrow was our first priority. We no longer had slag time with a missing day, International date lines, and all of that playing with our heads. Our hotel is only three blocks from the beach; a pristine barely caramel colored sandy oasis that stretches for miles with frothy shafts of water gently slapping it.

It turns out we are not in Adelaide, but rather in Glenelg, a palindrome named suburb. It is a lively little town with festive smallish houses that are reminders of the beach front properties of my New Jersey past. The main street and all of the arteries running from it boom with businesses or storefronts waiting to be filled. The number of coffee shops are only out-numbered by the abundance of banks. We had to have a coffee to recharge our batteries, so we lamely went to Gloria Jean’s since they offered outdoor seating. Smoking indoors anywhere here is taboo, so outdoor seating is popular where space permits it. We are grateful it is summer time.

Right, summer time and we are wearing our jackets with the liners inside. This is summer like South African summers. The locals don’t seem to realize it is cold out. They are wearing shorts, sun dresses, and sandals. What was it Mark Twain said? “The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco.” I may have missed a word here or there, but the quote is appropriate for here. Yea, though it is summer here, the air is brisk and the winds are wild. No one seems to pay much attention to our strange ways or accent when we have an opportunity to converse with a local, but the coats are a dead giveaway we are not from here. The fact that Ron has yet to remove his Obama ’08 pin could just be another clue to the observant.

Vodafone exists here as well as in Europe and South Africa, so when I found a store, after giving my life history, show three forms of ID, and pledge allegiance to the Mobile Community, I was able to buy a Sim card for my phone. It pays to have an unlocked global phone. For $35.00 Australian, I am now topped up with $150.00 worth of calling time allowing me to call anywhere in the world. Technology can be wonderful. Of course, I could not test it out immediately since my battery had died from lack of use and each time I tried turning it on, it suspended itself. I needed to recharge it. I could have sworn I had done that before leaving home, but then again that was days, weeks ago? It seems like we have traveled in a time capsule.

Glenelg has a tram that runs into the city center of Adelaide. After a nap, shower, and shave, we take this thirty minute ride by buying a day ticket from the on-board conductor. For $8.00, you can unlimited trips, whereas a one-way ticket would run $4.50.

As the Customs Inspector suspected, we did not know much about Adelaide, so everything we saw was a pleasant surprise. It is charming with old English buildings nestled in between modern ones. The influence of Great Britain is not lost anywhere. The currency coins still has Elizabeth on it. Depending on the year of minting, her looks change. The more current coins have an unflattering image of her side view, but I must say, the bills are strikingly beautiful in color, design, and each has a transparent plastic window. Each denomination has a different design. Parker Brothers should pay more attention to these details if they ever redesign Monopoly money. This alone could increase sales.

All of Adelaide is razzle-dazzle Christmas, which is difficult to wrap your head around when you were born and raised in the northern hemisphere, but two years in Southern Africa and one in Asia has preconditioned us for this phenomena. With all of the Christmas décor, it does make it more festive than any other non-seasonal Christmas destination we have been to over the years.

Before returning to Glenelg, we double checked on our transport for tomorrow. Ron called the Youth Hostel people to confirm our pick-up to be taken to the boat for our Kangaroo Island adventure. They had it wrong, so it was a good thing we called, but then had to stop into the office to pick up transport vouchers. We finally had it all planned and was good to go

Looking at restaurant menus and stores, prices here are high. Fortunately for us, the Australian dollar has done a nosedive. When we were first planning this trip, the Aussie dollar was almost 1 to 1 with the American dollar. Now, it is one $ American to $1.65 Australian. The Euro is even better at one of them to 1.95 Australian. Such as our exchanges go, it seems expensive for restaurants to be charging $23-35.00 for an entrée and side dishes extra. How do these people afford these prices? Albeit, there are many empty storefronts that must not have survived the economics of the times, those that are still going seem to be flourishing.

Ron had a hankering for BBQ. He really wanted to be able to say, “Throw some shrimp on the barbie for me.” so he investigated the top spot to go. When we returned to Glenelg from Adelaide, we went to the BBQ restaurant for dinner. They only serve various steaks and steak with shrimp. With our Aussie beer, I ordered the 450 gram porterhouse steak; Ron ordered the beef and reef, steak with shrimp. Perhaps my expectations were too high, but what I received was a big slab of cooked meat. This beef had not seen a spice or herb before I rambunctiously attacked it with the salt shaker. Even then, it was just salty beef lacking a personality. In my imagination it would have been marinated, or prepared in some way to make it stand out from other meats, but it did not. Plentiful, yes, full of flavor, not exactly. Our bill came to $70. and I know I have repeatedly told myself, we will not pinch pennies on this trip, that seemed like an extravagant amount of money for a dinner that was not worth writing home about.

Walking back to the hotel, the air had gotten noticeably cooler, reassuring us it was a good idea to bring out jackets along. We were in bed by 10:00 watching a comedy on television. What a thrill to have all channels in English.