As you know, most of the times I travel, I write a blog or two or three about my experiences.We are leaving on Friday for a month in Australia, time with grandchildren in Melbourne and Brisbane and friends in Cairns.relating my experiences.
One of the reasons we went during the summer heat was to be at granddaughter Ellie's third birthday - Maureen was also on holiday too. (she's a highly thought-of Remedial Pre-Primary Educator)
Well, this blog is different - let's call it a pre-travel experience.
On Thursday night we went to the City for 1st Thursdays. An interesting, vibey evening when shops, restaurants and galleries are all open.
Long Street , Bree Street and other parts of Cape Town are packed with people - mainly Millenials, Yuppies, whatever.
All walks of life in all sorts of gear and garb.
You just walk in and walk about, have a look around, maybe a drink, something to eat, as you please.
Nice evening, it’s crowded.
We were passing the Moravian Slave Church in Long Street and decided to go inside to see a duo in concert and an art exhibition -
they also offered a chocolate coated soft serve ice cream if you signed the visitors book - a real enticement!
I ate my soft serve outside standing in the street, then turned and as I was about to step onto the pavement which was two steps,
my eyes lit upon a 25ish, bouncingly perfect set of breasts in a very low-cut top. Needless to say, I missed my step onto the pavement and fell.
I could feel the side of the my thigh muscle in my left leg tear as I went down. I was out for about twenty minutes. then with some help, managed to sit up but was very groggy, it was too painful to even try and stand. My friend went to fetch my car and which was parked in upper city. Three guys tried to mug him in the back streets but he resisted and they ran away. Maureen drove me me to the Constantiaberg hospital near home.
They pumped a painkilling injection into the head of my gecko tattoo on my bottom, put my leg in pressure bandage and gave me pills and crutches and sent me on my merry way.
The next morning as a favour through a friend, I got an appointment with his buddy who is an orthopaedic surgeon who sent me for ultrasound and that confirmed the tear. That's my left leg...
... for three months now I’ve had a bad pain in my right shin my GP keeps telling me it’s shin splints and to rest my leg. I mentioned this to the surgeon who sent me for an MRI scan of both legs - turns out it’s not shin splints but a tear in the right calf muscle!
So I’m sitting with feet up and ice packs and pain killers. Crutches at my side.
I’ve sent a motivational letter requesting assistance on the ground to cover the long distances from arrival to departure gates and leg room on board … let’s wait and see.
Big problem is what to do about cameras, can’t travel without them!
Well, if you think a wheelchair at the airport is an easier option, think again.
We flew from Cape Town to Jo’burg on SAA. I had requested legroom seating upfront because my left leg was injured, I was on crutches, hard to bend without pain. At the very least, a right hand aisle seat where I could stretch my left leg into the aisle. So, obviously I was shown to a left hand aisle set in the third row from the back of the plane - a long hobble. I couldn’t get my leg in. Eventually some kind man in a bulkhead seat, swopped with me and sat next to Maureen.
I don’t know who operates the assistance service at OR Tambo but it’s fucked up!
When we landed I was told to stay in my seat until everyone had disembarked.
Then I hobbled down the aisle carrying my camera bag while Maureen followed with our two cabin bags SAA staff most unhelpful. We turned right at the exit (instead of left to disembark) and walked into a large cabin with about 10 dilapidated seats in it. Maureen was then told she couldn’t accompany me so she turned round and disappeared into the terminal.
I sat and waited while four more people were loaded into the cabin and then we all sat and waited for twenty minutes. Suddenly there was a lurch and the cabin descended.- it became the back of a truck which proceeded very slowly to the correct off-loading gate. We all (the other 'disabled' people were allowed their partners to accompany them) then stood on a platform on the back of the truck which jerked its way to ground level. We climbed into 5 wheelchairs each with its own pusher.
We were transferred to the wheelchair management office and left sitting there - pushers disappeared. Originally I had about 2 hours to connect with my Qantas flight - by now I was down to one!
We sat. 10 minutes later 4 fresh 'black' pushers arrived. The other four people in wheelchairs were black! The new pushers took the four wheelchairs with black people and were swallowed into the bowels of the building. A touch of racism?
Maureen phoned to find out where I was. I had the passports and boarding passes...
Over the next twenty minutes, I stopped, four uniformed officials asking for help.
Maureen calling constantly! Starting to panic!
Then I stopped a uniform whose name was Elvis!
Explained my predicament, he looked at his watch and said “your flight is already boarding!” a good half hour walk to the boarding gate. It wasn’t his job function but he started pushing me at the run - people don’t move out of the way and we collected a couple of Achilles Tendons and shins en route.
We found Maureen waiting at the Wimpy with the two bags and she ran behind us. We just made the flight. I had requested bulkhead seats on all legs (pun intended) of the journey and Qantas got it right. Settled in and relaxed at last. The usual blanket and pillow are on the seat and all three of us in our section, put them on the floor. The air hostess doing the rounds told us to put the blankets and pillows in the overhead lockers - I queried the logic “because I say so”.
I asked what her previous job had been? “Policeman in Sydney”. Hmmm ...
“Difficult transition?” I asked, and got a punch in the ribs from my wife who by-the-way seems to do that quite a lot!
Then we sat in the stuffy, overheated plane for almost two hours because there was an electric storm and everything was grounded ...
So we departed for Sydney 2 hours late with a connection to Melbourne waiting
We’ve left OR Tambo and it’s supper time at 12000m. They served dinner and pre-dinner drinks at the same. Qantas, oh Qantas. It's called pre-dinner for a reason! I asked for a “pre-dinner” whisky - they serve from a 750ml bottle - got half a finger on ice, could hardly see the scotch, I tilted the glass to my lips, put it back on the tray and thought ‘where the fuck did that go?’ The lady then put my “chicken or beef selection” in front of me and I requested a bottle of Merlot to drink with dinner but she refused to serve me two alcoholic beverages at the same time. Even though one was gone! Never saw her again!
Over the Bass Straights it felt like the wings might snap off but calmed as we neared and touched down in Sydney.
The pilot had made up for the delayed departure so we were in time to catch our Melbourne connection. I was wheeled to baggage claims, Maureen pulling the carry-on bags and me with my camera bag on my lap.
The baggage crocodile was silent...
Then it was announced that there was a problem with the plane’s off-loading mechanism.
The crocodile didn’t move for half an hour.
Then it was announced that it had been repaired. The crocodile was still and silent.
Then it was announced that there was an electric storm and no-one is allowed to work outdoors during an electric storm, this one lasted an hour. We finally collected our luggage but missed our connection.
Then had to change from international to domestic terminals - a bus ride - but before getting on the bus, it’s another hit through security!
Maureen got crapped on by the lady who scanned our hand luggage because she pushed our trolley too close to the scanning area.
So as punishment, the border protection woman, having a bad hair day, switched off the scanner/conveyor system and ran around the departure hall collecting and squaring away about 100 trolleys while the queue got longer and she purposely didn’t give a shit.
On her return, I asked her why she didn’t simply put up a “trolley instruction” sign and was told pretty smartly not to interfere in her job!
And got a smart smack on the back of my head from wife (high, because I’m still sitting in the wheelchair) “how many times must I tell you, you don’t start shit with people in a uniform?”
I am often inclined so “say it” before calculating consequences - but very few people know that ...
Orange seat on the bus between terminals -15minutes.
Next, an uneventful wheelchair ride through the airport.
We eventually arrived in Melbourne after midnight instead of 9pm.
We are now in the First World.
Everything works and everything in the public domain is spotless. Trains every ten minutes and on time to the minute.
People smile and greet. ‘G’daay’.
Shops are full of state-of-the-art stock and people spending money!
Now here’s the thing, today I gave the day to my wife. We spent 2 hours walking the local high street doing coffee and browsing and then hopped onto a train and spent 5 hours exploring an enormous shopping centre.
Still hobbling on one crutch.
I spent an hour or two sitting on benches outside shops watching the passing parade. There seem to be many unfortunate-looking Australians, many big, overweight ladies who seem to dress
and almost everyone is covered in tattoos. Men walk around in vests and are so densely tattooed that you can’t see skin! In every conceivable (visible or not - I assume) spot.
There are a large number of electric wheelchairs around!
If one waves a crutch, the waters part. I’ve been offered seats on busses and trains. When walking on crutches, people step aside. Very aware of the disabled.
BUT there’s now a problem in Aus ... the doors were opened to a few boatloads of refugees, Somalians I believe, and these guys have formed street gangs that fight each other as well as any whites who get in the way, in prime tourist locations. They steal clothes and valuables at the beach while people are e swimming, trash al fresco restaurants, rob the diners and beat them.
Also car hijackings and cars waiting at traffic lights etc.
Here you fill up your own car, and when you go to kiosk to pay they steal your car - Australians must still learn not leave keys in the ignition ...
Murders, rapes, housebreaking, hijacking. I’m beginning to feel quite comfortable. Just like being back in Cape Town although they haven’t slaughtered a sheep on the beach at St Kilda yet. I’m feeling a bit more at home not quite so isolated!
One beach away to the East, is Brighton where you buy a fully plumbed bathing box on the beach
for up to A$1m.
Across the road, old beachfront properties start at around A$15m and then you demolish and rebuild.
Well, blow me down, this morning I heard a car hoot!
An on-coming vehicle didn’t yield at a circle and they missed a crash by about 25m ...
We took a train into the city and tram to the Queen Victoria Market.
Every piece of fruit and each vegetable is bigger and better than we see in South Africa and where possible polished till it shines. Prices look cheap - until you multiply by just over 10! We shared a peach for $3 (R32).
Then we moved to the enclosed meat and fish section, a separate building with rows of fish shops along one side, butcheries on the other they all seem to sell the same product at the same prices with an occasional exception. Apparently locals have their favourites and swear by them. Lots of noise as barkers try to catch your attention.
West Coast Rock Lobster (probably from Hout Bay) is not too bad at R150/kg - the smallest is about 750g and saw one that must have topped out at 3.5kg! All sold pre-cooked - better display colour.
To use public transport in Melbourne one buys a travel card (same concept as My City buses in Cape Town) and add an amount of money to it. Every time you walk into a station you tap your card and when you get off at the other in you tap your card so it records your journey’s distance and deducts the relevant amount. It's like they put a happy chemical in the local drinking water. Everyone just does it - a bit like the Stepford Wives - as a South African it’s very tempting to not tap - I mean why pay when you don’t have to? Surely it's an accepted practise?
So easy to forget if one is not used to it... and there’s no-one to check. Same on the trams, there’s a tap machine as you climb on except in the centre of the city where trams rides are free.
All the train station platforms are exactly the same height as the floor of the coach so wheelchairs have easy access - a Ro-Ro system.
Coaches have a blue commercial design upholstery but near the doors, it’s orange - anyone can sit there until a disabled person boards and then the seat must given to them. Maureen gets very pissed off about it but here the nickname for a disabled person is a ‘crippler’. Whenever I say it, I get a (another) punch in the ribs. But walking around on crutches, is quite useful as I’ve come to notice, sitting on
Oh my God!
News headline on TV tonight! A bus crossed a solid white line and drove past a dozen cars to get to the front at at a traffic light! All caught on street security cameras!
Also, believe it or not, a cabinet member abusing his travel allowance - that sort of rings a bell.
In the city cops do foot patrols - about 5 or 6 in a group. Think about it, when last ( other than writing parking tickets at the beach in Muizenberg on a hot Sunday afternoon) did you see a foot patrol cop - when I was a kid it was a common sight, seeing two policemen walking together.
Saw a couple of interesting art exhibitions at the Victoria National Gallery - in fact walked (crutched, 9kms one day) - resting in between on trains and trams, sitting on the orange (crippler) seat...
An exhibition by an artist named Opie - interesting mix of 3D and digital. Some pics are static but others, are on digital screens and while you look at the the blink or the person smiles but nothing else moves. Fascinating./
There are a number decorated horse-drawn carriages outside the very beautiful architecture that is Flinders Street Railway Station, they do trips across the Yarra River and through the paaark - looks very romantic and then you smell the horse shit. Scratched that off the list!
And you’re being pulled along - a horse fart in your face is even worse!