Steve Goble

Choose life. (Deuteronomy 30:19)

The more you do a thing, the better that you ought to get at it.

Take travelling. I must have set foot in about 20 countries around the globe, so I should be not too bad at getting from A to B by now, right?

For example, my self-generated itinerary for this week's holiday was busy, yet also easy:

1. Fly from Auckland NZ to Brisbane Australia.
2. Stay the night with Tim in Brisbane.
3. Spend today travelling overland (by either coach or train) 280 miles south to Port Macquarie, taking in the scenery.
4. Stay two nights with Andy near Port Macquarie.
5. Spend the day travelling overland (by either coach or train) 200 miles south to Sydney, taking in the scenery.
6. Stay three nights with Scottish Dave and Fionnuala in Sydney.
7. Fly home to Auckland NZ.

A nice balance of organisation and freedom, hey? There's another thing that can happen when you do that one thing a lot though - overconfidence.

As Tim dropped me off by the side of Morningside train station early this, uh, morning, I bought my ticket to nearby Roma Street with every intention of jumping onto the next railway wagon heading down the Gold Coast to rendezvous with Andy. I like travelling by train. I like looking out of the window. And I hadn't seen Andy for 15 years! Boy, today was gonna be just great.

At Roma Street, I discovered that there were only about two trains a day to Port Macquarie, one of which I'd already missed. The other wasn't due to leave for several hours, and wouldn't therefore arrive there until silly o-clock at night.

So I duly moved on to looking at coaches, which shared the same problem.

Andy's earlier advice via email came floating back into my brain to haunt me…

May 9
Re: Visit
"How are you travelling to Port? Getting a flight down would be quickest and cheapest I think. The coach takes too long and you'll be exhausted. Train ain't that much better either."

May 10
"I'm actually quite keen on travelling overland to see some of the country, even if that only turns out to be Australian roads. Whatever method I use, I'll probably be booking it locally in Brisbane, so will be able to email or text you a time and further details then."

Having declined Andy's advice, the idea of now asking him to pick me up at 5am didn't exactly flush me with success, so option 3 - flying - it had to be.

Until someone dropped the bombshell that, apparently, Port Macquarie didn't have an airport.


Well, clearly there was no way I could walk it. Don't forget, in my backpack I was still officially carrying a camping stove.

Even my expectation of finding a travel agency based within Roma Street Station to give me some definitive options turned out to be wrong too. Pretty soon I was lugging my backpack out into Roma Street the actual street. Down George Street and past Herschel Street (eurghh), I can't tell you how glad I was to spy the familiar red branding of Flight Centre! If they couldn't help me, then no-one could.

First however, I had to get some money together. ASB Bank is called The Commonwealth Bank in Australia, but all the same, they couldn't access my NZ account there. Straight into converting my hard cash from NZ then.

When the familiar metal airline pilot finally opened his cut-price travel agency at 9:30am, inside there was both good news and bad. The good news was that Port Macquarie did indeed have an airport again. The bad news was that there were no flights there from Brisbane.

So basically, as well as spending a lot of money by flying, and as well as spending even more money by booking the ticket on the same day, I was now committing to spending yet more money flying over Port Macquarie to get to Sydney, just so that I could get a second last minute expensive flight back again.

In fact, the NZ cash that I'd changed couldn't cover it. I had to borrow internet access to arrange to pay it from my UK account.

The deed done, minutes later out in the street, my phone rang. It was Andy. It was the first time I'd heard his voice saying something new in 15 years, and it felt so good to not have to be answering his questions with a vague 'I'm not sure'.

With a few hours still to kill, I tried out the GPS on my phone to see if there was anything worth doing for an hour nearby, and immediately spotted the river.

Soon however I was back on the train heading determinedly for Brisbane's domestic airport, reading my booking info as I went:

Heh-heh-heh, now that's what I call in-flight entertainment!

After checking-in, I decided to check-out my Facebook account, and here's where Australia turned my life up-side down yet again. Facebook wasn't used to my logging-in from this country. Facebook therefore thought that I might be a hacker. Facebook wanted further reassurance as to who I was.

"To verify that you are the owner of this account, please identify the people tagged in the following photos."


Below are the actual photos that it asked me to identify. If you're a particularly close friend (or even a regular reader of this blog) then you might like to play along with me. Apologies if I've borrowed your picture, but Facebook borrowed it first. Let's begin now...

Okay, I'm 85% sure that hiding behind the flowers that's probably Sara's hair.

Um… I have no idea who that is. It looks like Bish. Is that Bish? It's Bish.

What? Oh now HOW am I supposed to be able to see through a wall? Why are you picking these images? Is this some sneaky Facebook attempt to catalogue photos that are currently untagged???

Oh fer BL£$^&GRR*&%$£**&!!!!!

So there I was, lost on the other side of the world, running out of cash, and unable to recognize my friends. Heck, the way this day was going, pretty soon I wouldn't even be able to correctly spell 'recognize'.

Giving up on my friends (sorry everyone), presently I boarded the plane, we took off, flew over my destination ignoring it, and duly began the descent into Sydney.


Despite all the day's challenges, it felt absolutely great to look out of the plane window and see my old friends the Sydney Opera House, the harbour bridge and the look-out tower again. That they were still okay after I had left them here over six years ago did me a power of good. No-one had stolen them or anything!

I briefly toyed with the idea of phoning Scottish Dave to ask if he wanted to come to the airport for a coffee with me, but discounted it. He was my Thursday. This meant I had to slouch around the Sydney Domestic Terminal alone for a few hours, becoming familiar enough with it to start feeling a bit like Tom Hanks.

The thing about airports, is that aside from shopping, there's absolutely nothing to do but eat. Surrounded by the food court, it was tough not to buy a huge overpriced maccas or something, only to twenty minutes later buy another one to alleviate the boredom. It's almost as if this was the airport planners' intention...

Presently I boarded my second flight, and we took off, again. Despite my cross-hemispherical lifestyle, this was only the fourth internal flight that I have ever caught, and I was beginning to feel pleasantly like I lived in the States. The irony that internal flights are probably more common per head in Australia is not lost on me.

Soon we began our final descent, landed, disembarked, and I discovered that Port Macquarie Airport resembled a little railway station, except maybe a bit smaller. Perhaps the person who'd given me that earlier advice about its non-existence had once visited here and got mixed up.

I think I collected my luggage straight off the back of the trailer outside, before repeatedly walking past a guy who didn't quite look enough like a slightly older version of Andy.

Eventually I managed to make direct eye-contact with the guy who didn't quite look enough like a slightly older version of Andy, and you know what? You'll never guess. I was right. It turned out that it actually wasn't him.

Return To Oz episode #1
Return To Oz episode #2
Return To Oz episode #4
Return To Oz episode #5
Return To Oz episode #6
Return To Oz episode #7


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