Tired in TorontoMarch 3 in Canada ⋅ ☁️ 1 °C
In some respects planning and executing a complex overseas trip is like assembling a clock - in spite of how much effort you put into the preparation, you never actually know if it will turn out OK until you actually start the process. A successful trip involves a vast number of inter related events all correctly occurring just the way you planned them.
There are many things that throw your plans into chaos - a traffic jam on the freeway, a cancelled or delayed flight, a booking mistake by a hotel, a transfer that did not turn up as planned and (perhaps the most dreaded of all) the prospect of your luggage going missing in transit. In fact, when you consider all the things that can possibly go wrong, you might wonder why I keep travelling. The answer to that one is simple. The world is such an amazing place that once you start discovering one part of it, you just can't stop. It really can become an addiction.
My long journey to Cuba began when my alarm went off at 4 am in the morning on the 2nd of March. It was dark and drizzly outside but the exciting prospect of more adventures about to begin was enough to wake me quickly. After a hurried breakfast and a final quick check of my luggage - yes my passport and Cuban visa were both there, it was time to face the first challenge.
The prospect of driving the Monash Freeway at 6 am in the morning is indeed enough to make enough the valiant hearted weak at the knees. After ten minutes we found ourselves stuck in the first of many traffic jams. I could not help but feel pity for the poor devils who face this nightmare every morning of their lives. I don't care what salary you were paid, it could not possibly be enough to warrant this daily torment.
Fortunately the jams did eventually clear and we arrived at the airport with time to spare. I queued in the Air Canada check in line while the two staff slowly worked their way through each person's paperwork. They could possibly have worked slower, but I am not sure how. The line moved forward at a glacial pace until I finally was relieved of my big luggage.
The passage through security and immigration was actually fast when compared to the check in process. That gave me time for a coffee and a croissant. My wallet was lighter by about $15 already.
I was not the only one of our group leaving that morning. There were also five other who were making their way to Cuba via Mexico. Since their plane was due to leave about an hour earlier than mine, I went in search of them. I arrived at their departure gate just in time to hear an announcement come over the PA that their flight would be delayed. Perhaps I would get to leave first after all ?
I returned back to the Air Canada departure gate and waited for boarding, relieved to find that my flight would be taking off on schedule. I was not so relieved when I entered the plane and found the seat that I was going to be entombed in for the next 16 hours. I had paid extra for an "exit row", hoping for some additional leg room, not realising that the extra leg room came at the expense of seat width. It must have been the narrowest seat I have ever had on a long haul flight, but at least I could prop my legs up in the air on a bulging part of the exit door.
The next 16 hours were not the highlight of my life. The Air Canada food was terrible and the squashed space meant that equal quantities of the main course made it into my mouth and onto the front of my shirt. The plastic fork bent every time you tried to pick anything up and the bread roll was like old rubber. It made the food on Emirates seem like like a gourmet delight by comparison.
I tried to watch a couple of movies, but discovered that my screen was only half the size of every one else's. I suppose it was to match the width of my seat. There was only one thing left to do, and that was sleep. Somehow I managed to grab several slumber sessions, but each time I awoke I was disappointed to find that I had only been asleep for about 30 minutes or so. I envy those who can just shut their eyes and sleep all the way till touchdown. It is a skill I still have not mastered.
I won't go into any more details about the longest 16 hours of my life, but we did eventually land in Vancouver. Thanks to the mystery of the international date line, the flight actually landed earlier than it took off from Melbourne !
My first sight of Vancouver was not an encouraging one. It was foggy and raining. The temperature was about 5 C. Actually I could not have cared less about the cold. In fact I loved it. After the long hours spent in the over heated plane, it was delightful to breathe fresh cool air again.
I had a scheduled 2 hour stop in Vancouver, before catching the next flight to Toronto. Thanks to a passenger not turning up for the flight, the departure was delayed while their luggage had to be retrieved from the baggage hold. At least the next flight was less than four hours. That was a real short hop compared to the behemoth I had just endured.
We landed with a big bump on a snowy runway in Toronto about 45 minutes late. The clock and calendar tried to tell me that it was still the same day that I had left Melbourne, but my body and brain knew better - that was actually eons ago.
I staggered from the plane and went off in search of the baggage carousel. For convenience they were situated about 2 km from the arrival gate. Awaiting for your own familiar luggage to appear is always a rather stressful time, especially if you see just about everyone else departing with their bags while you are still waiting. It is one of those events that you have no control over - a bit like winning the lottery, but in a (very) bad way.
To my relief my bag did make a triumphant appearance and I went in search of the taxi that I had pre ordered back in Australia. I had not been waiting long when I received a SMS from the driver telling me that he was waiting for me. A short time later I was sitting in the back of a comfortable car, heading for downtown Toronto. The driver introduced himself as "Alex" and told me that he had originally come from Pakistan as a child, but had lived in Toronto for most of his life. Within minutes we discovered a common love of cricket and we spent the rest of the drive talking about players past and present. He seemed to know as much about all the Australian players as I did. I was even more surprised when he told me that he played Dodgeball and I was able to tell him that my youngest son had played on the Australian Dodgeball team.
It was fascinating to see the high snow drifts on the sides of the road. This is my first time in Canada and I had been hoping that winter would not end before I arrived. I really wanted to see snow and now I had.
The drive was only 26 km but it seemed much longer than that. It was around 7.30 pm when we finally arrived at my apartment. I had been planning to find something to eat, but all I could really think off was getting into a bed. So that's exactly what I did.
In spite of all the things that could have gone wrong, nothing had. My clock was working.Read more