The Great Migration
Germany, Malaysia, Australia
5th, 6th and 7th September 2019
As expected the overseas-transcontinental long haul flight is not a joke. You don’t believe me… ?
Half-packed we do a final visit to Nana and Amias. I am a bit sad I won’t see him grow. In our next meeting he will be running and talking; doing almost everything we grown-ups do. After a kiss goodbye and a final cycle we pack our luggage. It, of course, follows the basic rule of luggage and doesn’t fit in the bag it was packed into only two weeks ago. Like the filling is fattening just by sitting there. Even the airport scale showed that my bag has been secretly swelling in Cologne.
In our role of pregnant camels, Nic and I set off again on our long multi-transportational journey. And when I say long, I mean three things. First, the kilometers traveled. According to Google the distance as the crow flies between Cologne and Sydney is 16,575.22 km.
Second, the long list of transport vehicles and transfers (not including walking between stops, platforms, entrances and exits, offices, security checks and gates):
Tram from Durener Str to Venlor Str (10 min.)
Train from Ehrenfeld Station to Cologne Airport (30 min.)
Waiting at Cologne Airport (1 hr)
Coach from Cologne Airport to Frankfurt Airport (2 hrs)
Waiting at Frankfurt Airport (1.5 hrs)
Flight from Frankfurt Airport to Kuala Lumpur Airport (13 hrs)
Waiting at Kuala Lumpur Airport (7 hrs)
Flight from Kuala Lumpur Airport to Sydney Airport (8 hrs)
Bus from Sydney Airport to Balmain Hostel (40 min.)
Third, the time it took to travel. We woke up on the 5th September at 8am in Cologne and went to bed on the 7th September at 6pm in Sydney. To spare you the complicated time difference calculations that is 50 hours awake in which we got about 6 hours of interrupted in-flight sleep. Therefore, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that we barely made it to 6pm. And slept 16 hours straight. We were probably capable of more, but Sydney can’t wait - it needs to be explored.
But let’s backtrack just a bit. I have never been on a long haul flight in my life. I was worried how well I would handle it and am, therefore, heavily equipped - wearing my most pijama-like but non-pijama clothes (leggings, sports bra, etc.), stocked up with snacks of all sorts (from apples to chocolate) and prepared with entertainment for any mood (books - audio or classically-readable, music, playing cards and many others). Fortunately, the German airline Condor calms me down as we board. We get on a new and sharp plane - pillow and blanket on every seat, touch screens, USB ports. I now know this is normal for flights like this but my then-unknowing soul was so happy in such an important moment. The plane is in 2-3-2 rows allowing the two of us to be on our own next to the window! Things kicked off well!
While we settle and the captain welcomes us on board the whole cabin is lit like the rainbow. Every row with its own colour flashing up and down the aisle. How could it not make you smile even with the perspective of 13 hours in a closed off tin.
While we waited at the airport we found ourselves some falafel sandwiches as we didn’t expect food to be served that late on the plane (9pm). Therefore, fed and tired we are now getting ourselves ready to sleep. We are quickly disturbed by a dinner tray - vegan. We are the first to be fed on the plane as we are special due to our dietary requirements. Poor us, we now have to eat second dinner, a gorgeous coconut curry and fruit salad (with many other extras on the tray). If only we also had free access to the films on board we would be true royalty.
The flight is not as difficult as I expected. After our great feast we manage to fall asleep and sleep for about 4 hours in limb-numbing positions. Enough to get us through to breakfast: vegan croissants, muesli, fruit and more. Oh, we are so well taken care of with Condor.
Before landing I decide it is time to take a walk to the toilets. Up until this moment I have not got up from my seat for now 11-12 hours. My body is not at all ready for the change. I am being so mean trying to transition it from a state of pretzel to a state of a bread stick; from fusilli to linguini; basically untying myself. Thankfully, it managed it.
We land safely at Kuala Lumpur and quickly find a Starbucks for coffee. We will be here 7 hours (instead of 5) so there is plenty of time to walk around. Not that it’s a big airport anyway. We circle the shops a few times and get to the outside rain forest area and waterfall. It is a blessing to breathe fresh air when you are otherwise constricted to an artificial one. However, with that also comes the main downside of the tropical climate - great humidity and high temperatures. It is isn’t quite bearable even with our previous deficiency of fresh air. Good thing the park is small, so we don’t have to stay out for too long. After the walk we find the airport’s TV center and settle ourselves there. Not that anything is happening in the area but there are sofas to cushion our tired bums.
Towards the end of our stay with a certain lack of sleep and good food, we are beginning to get cranky - well, I am! It’s the little things, but a few of them lump together and the glass is starting to drip from the top end. It doesn’t help there are security checks on all gates so we can’t fill our bottles with water (thus later dehydrating ourselves); doesn’t help, either, that we board an old-ish plane (even with a full catalogue of free films); or that food is bad and portions small; or that lights aren’t turned off during the entire flight; or that they try to feed us sausages although we’ve specially ordered vegan. I, personally, only manage a couple of hours of sleep, Nic - a bit more. BUT, we see Uluru.
After all of this, it will hardly surprise you that I start crying during landing as I see the Opera House perched up on the Harbour. Exhaustion or a dream come true - not sure which one is domineering but it completely finishes me off with so many emotions inside! An incredible view after such a long time (you decide if that’s time of travel or dreaming)!
Forgetting about the time difference (7 hours with Bulgaria) I call mum and dad after not receiving a response to my arrival texts. Oops! Poor them, probably got so worried by it at 2am in the middle of the night. I will get used to that! Will have to strengthen the maths games though.
It is a quick and easy passage through passport and customs checks. They don’t want to see our visas or go through our luggage. We find ourselves a shuttle to take us closer to the hostel, they say it’s cheaper than the train. A minivan full of tourists being dropped right at the door of their accommodation. We are unlucky with the location of our cheap hostel as this service doesn’t go to that neighbourhood. Or… maybe we are super lucky that our friendly driver drove us to the door anyway. But that’s a secret, the boss wouldn’t approve!
The hostel is a hole, especially with important elements missing from the window, good thing it won’t be raining soon. We have the great desire to snuggle straight into bed but everyone has warned us not to sleep in the middle of the day and to follow the local time and sleep only when it’s time. Thus, we take a quick shower and go out to explore the Roselle neighbourhood. We wandered the windy streets distracted and tired with huge mental efforts to decide on dinner choices. We get back with a pack of sushi and fall sleep minutes before the end of Mad Men’s first episode not waiting up till the right time. The plan was to finish the day at least after 8pm - we fall asleep at 6pm and sleep for 16 hours.
We’re in Australia!!! WOW!!!
Vassya (and Nic)