Hell is other people . . . on a Ryanair flight.
I dislike flying with Ryanair intently. The entire process is unpleasant — from booking on the website to the flight itself.
The ghastly advert-ridden livery offends me. Their insistence on playing Eine kleine Nachtmusik on loop in a vain attempt to inject a modicum of class while waiting to taxi to the runway drives me mad. Then there’s the near-constant sales push and finally the cringeworthy recorded cheer for landing on time. I almost feel embarrassed for the crew. I’m usually a stickler for punctuality but on each and every Ryanair journey I actually hope our arrival will be delayed just to avoid hearing the self-congratulatory fanfare but the padded flight times render my wants moot.
I was quite pleased to leave Japan behind. Don’t get me wrong: I quite like it there but, after nigh-on three months of living out of a bag, I was ready to go home. I was also a little fed up with not understanding practically anything that was going on around me. Most places that I’ve traveled to before I spoke a little of the language or could at least make an educated guess at what signs were telling me. Being immersed in a kind of audio/visual white noise for a week was pretty disconcerting.
Continue reading Tokyo – London – Edinburgh (6,622 miles)
I have to say that I was surprised by just how much traffic was on the M5 freeway in to Sydney at 0530 and glad that I allowed plenty of time to get to the airport. I caught up on some sleep on the plane before occupying myself by circling typso and errata in Virgin Blue’s in-flight magazine. Parachute jump over Port Macquarie from 30,000 meters? I may have only one tandem jump under my belt but I’m fairly sure that jumping from the stratosphere – even HALO or HAHO jumps – isn’t all that common.
After drinking the night away in the Red Rock for the black Friday party and taking a cross-country route back to my friends place I was feeling pretty shabby when I woke up. I said my goodbyes once we’d pieced the night before together and headed back to Queenstown airport along the Crown Range Road and through Cardrona.
I landed back in Auckland and telephoned the first airport hotel I found that had a free airport shuttle service. The timing was perfect as I just managed to check in, deposit my bags in my room, book a wake-up call and a seat on the 0630 shuttle before settling down to watch the new-look All Blacks cream England.
I’m now in Sydney where I’ll be for just over a week, catching up with friends and flatmates from university days and also some family who emigrated over 20 years ago. The weather is still pretty warm and there has been quite frequent rain showers since I landed but this is an improvement on the persistent (but welcome) rain from the previous fortnight. Another positive: I was treated to the sight of a rainbow above the clouds when approaching Sydney airport a couple of days ago.
I left the vivid colours of Autumn behind me and headed for the distinctly chillier climes of the South Island. I did attempt to acclimatise myself beforehand though with a visit to Minus 5 Ice Bar in Auckland but there was no need to worry. The temperature had climbed to zero by the time we landed in Queenstown. I love being able to see the mountains so I was always going to love it here. Flying in this morning over the Southern Alps was really nice but I was stuck in an aisle seat with a snap-happy Japanese girl obstructing my view out of the window.
Once we landed at Queenstown I hired a car – smaller this time and manual transmission which took some getting used to. It’s no Zeus but maybe could be one of the lesser gods.
Having found a voucher in my welcome brochure for 30% off a massage I set off into town but somehow ended up in the parachute jump place to see if they had anything available for tomorrow. They did but the weather is supposed to be crappy for the next couple of days and it just so happened that they had a free space this afternoon.
Well that was it. The next thing I knew, I was in a jumpsuit with a man strapped to my back and sat in a small plane climbing to 15,000 feet above ground level (which is 16,020 feet above sea level here in Queenstown). Falling at 54 meters per second for just over a minute. Somewhat weirdly maybe but I was far more nervous doing the SkyJump. I’m pretty sure that stumbling across how to survive an unplanned freefall from 15,000 feet had nothing to do with my lack of nerves.
Once back on terra firma I made plans to meet up with a few of the other jumpers for some drinks and a bite to eat back in town.