Book Reviews x 2!

With the recent trip completed I managed to actually finish of 2 books while I was away. Both books kept me fully intwined while I was away and both are worth it. So let us begin!

Book #1

Driven to Distraction

Driven to Distraction – Jeremy Clarkson

Another in the long line of Jeremy Clarkson books. In reality its not really a book as such but just a compilation of all of his Newspaper articles all packed together. Always great for a laugh and always great for something to read when things are seeming a bit glum for me, cause his writing style just brings a smile to my face. The book pretty much just focuses on his car reviews from each weeks newspaper articles.

Now if your a fan of Jeremy or familiar with him at all, you know that he rants and raves a LOT. These articles are no different. Pretty much it can be a total off tangent from what you could be expecting and it will eventually get to discussing what it should be about.

Great book for a laugh, highly recommended!

Book #2

Kingpin

Kingpin – Kevin Poulsen

This book I picked up in Auckland Airport while waiting for my flights around NZ for the day (almost missed my flight trying to decide on what book to read there was several that all sounded good). The book is about essentially, Cybercrime.

I am sure most of you reading my site have bought something off the web, or used your credit card online for something, I know I do it quite a bit. What this book covers is how one hacker pretty much took over the world and became the #2 credit card theif in the world and how he was taken down by the US Government.

I could not believe this book as I read it. It just shocked me how easily and how much money they were ripping off people. It did make me think twice about buying online at times, but I know I am at least smart about what I do on the web. The book focuses on the life of Max “Vision” Butler and his rise and fall in the Credit Card Scamming world. A lot of this I did not even know existed (i knew about all the skimming that you hear about in the media, just didn’t know it was this huge) and it was shocking to know this is what goes on out in the world.

CRAZY!!!! It’s a fantastic read and once I started this book I got throughly engrossed in it and at times, just could not put it down. Well worth a good read if you have any kind of interest in Cyber activities or want something to read on a trip away. It is definately one of those airport books you hear about, quick, easy and to the point while keeping a reader entertained while travelling.

To Sydney for Anzac Day… the Long Way

Planning.

Each year I make a pilgrimage to Sydney for Anzac day to spend time with my family and also to enjoy lunch with my grandfather’s old army unit from World War 2 the 2/2nd Machine Gun Battalion. This year was obviously going to be different with Easter falling the same weekend. So I was not sure if I was going to fly down just one or two days or make a full weekend out of it. But then I had the usual predicament of work. Part of me knew that I would be roistered to work for Easter (sure enough got rostered for the 7th year in a row) but then part of me was sick of working every Easter.

I saw some expiring NZ points as well, I thought to myself… “hrmm why don’t I have a bit of fun with this. A bit of flying about to go with my trip to Sydney. What better way to get to Sydney for a Plane Geek than to fly the “long way” So I looked around at using all of my points to fly to Auckland for a day or two. But then I remembered that Emirates flies the A380 to Sydney from Auckland. Hrmmm that would be a good idea. So I looked at those prices from Auckland to Sydney and it was damn cheap in comparison. So that was the first segment planned. Then I looked at the segments over to New Zealand with Air NZ. Well a flight in a refurbished A320 or a Long Haul configured 777-200ER. I wonder. Long Haul it is. But this left me with about half of my points unused.

I started playing with domestic flights looking at perhaps visiting another city, for a day or two other than just Auckland. But then I thought, I love to fly, lets have a flying tour of New Zealand. I had been told flying into Queenstown was amazing. So that was to be the turnaround point. So I spent several days toying with combinations of flights, looking at what I could get for the points or very little extra money.

In the end I settled on the final Itinerary.

22 April – Brisbane to Auckland
23 April – Auckland to Christchurch to Queenstown to Christchurch to Auckland
24 April – Auckland to Sydney

So now I had up to Sydney. I figured I had better come back on Anzac Day itself in the evening rather than risk there not being a public holiday on the 26th when I was planning this as no details had been decided on yet, so a cheap and quick Virgin Blue flight back to Brisbane was used as it was considerably cheaper than Qantas (my usual airline).

The last thing to do was organize hotels. I usually book through work for any domestic stuff as I can get it at cost but since we now sell New Zealand this made it even more fun. I was looking around for hotels in Auckland when I came across the Pullman (at that point it was still the Hyatt). 2 nights including breakfast came in at about $250 AUD, instantly booked that without even looking at the location.

Now for Sydney. Needs to have a gym, be in a good location close to the train and close to the harbour area as the location for the March form up is down near that area. I looked at all the options and the one that appealed most to me was the Four Seasons. I had not stayed there at all yet. I’ve stayed at the Amora, the Intercontinental, the Hilton and all were fantastic. So why not add one of the predominant hotels in Sydney to the list, and at cost it was not too bad really. So it was decided, my one night in Sydney was going to be a bit of indulgence.

When the Hyatt swapped over to the Pullman and became part of the Accor Group I fired them an email to get my Gold Status added to the booking. I knew I wouldn’t get any points out of it, but hell if they recognize my status I would not mind at all.

As the time approached this was going to be a good trip. I had one last thing to work out. Do I cabin baggage the whole trip and prove to myself I can do it. Then I remembered I had to carry my suit. I didn’t want to lug my old Suit Bag around as it was heavy as hell. So I looked around at other options. Do I go for a rolling Suit Bag or a more slim line suit bag just for the suit itself and carry it on with an extra bag.

I ended up with the slim line carry bag, my Crumpler roll aboard suitcase (checked luggage) and then decided to use my old Crumpler “Hoax” messenger bag as my personal item. I was all good to go!

Friday 22 April

After an early morning run, final preparations and a quick cleanup of the house, it was time to hit the road. Taxi was ordered for 915 and was told an sms would be sent a few minutes before arriving. It was 905, no message but a taxi was sitting in my driveway. I usually order a silver cab, costs a little more but they are a touch more reliable. Thing is each time I seem to order them, I get the old cabs, this time was no different.

It was a quick journey to the airport and not much traffic at all (given it was Good Friday and all). Arrived at the international terminal with ease. It had been a good 6 months since I was last here to fly with Air New Zealand over 4 years ago. Walked past the Business Premier line thinking “see you in 2 months” and joined the long long economy queue.

It wasn’t to long in queue (10-15mins maybe) before it was my turn. I was quickly checked in and on my way. My scheme with the bags worked so I was in the clear. Got some currency took a few photos and then headed down to immigration. No queue at security but I wasn’t thinking and forgot my belt so took a little longer than it should. Not long at immigration and i was out into the airside portion of the terminal.

Walked around for a while, claimed some TRS money, and browsed some shops for a while. Parked myself on some couches by the gate after a while and read through my book. Pretty soon the plane touched down from Auckland and made its way to the gate to disgorge another plane load of kiwis.

Air New Zealand
NZ136
Brisbane to Auckland
1225-1725
Boeing 777-200ER (ZK-OKF)
Economy Class – Seat 41A

Boarding: 1155 (Gate 81)
Push Back 1225
Take Off Roll: 1236 (Runway 01)
Top of Descent: 1640
Touch Down: 1705 (Runway 05R)
Shut Down: 1710 (Gate 8)

Flight was eventually called, and boy was it a scrum, they tried calling by rows, this didn’t work so I joined the masses and got in the queue. Pretty soon I was walking on down the air bridge to begin another journey. Only one bridge used to board through door 2L today and it was turn right this time, next time would be left. Found my seat and settled in.

The seats on board the 772 are getting a bit tired and the legroom was pretty damn comfy. Last time I sat in these seats I was heading to the USA and weighed a lot more than I do now so it was definitely not as comfy. Now even though things haven’t changed onboard in 4 years it feels so different (but that’s another story).

Gate to gate IFE is a god send so i got it switched on and found a decent movie to watch. Tron Legacy it is and got about 5 minutes in before all the announcements started. Captain first, then the cabin crew, safety demo next (Rico version) and then we pushed back dead on time. Quick taxi to the active, third in line and a bit of a wait for inbound aircraft and soon it was out turn. Sitting over the wing didn’t make for good photos but you get that, I was too engrossed in a good movie anyway.

The flight seemed to just cruise on by effortlessly. First a run through with water, then meals for those who had ordered them. Today’s choice was Roast beef salad or a ham and cheese toasted sandwich. I went salad which was served with a warm mini hot cross bun and a small tub of ice cream (chocolate). Next came the drink service (diet coke) and then coffee (black). I was content.

After a while it was cleaned up, the movie finished so took a peak at the airshow and it was 45 minutes to landing we were going to be 20 minutes early. Descent started and pretty soon we were heading through the cloud layer on approach to the airport. Coming in over Manakau harbour onto 05R and we touched down smoothly and effortlessly. Pulled into the old pier next to an EK 773 and 2 gates down from the NZ star alliance scheme.

Took a while to get let off the plane but then it was a long long trek to immigration after passing through the giant duty free store (as you always seem to do), immigration was a breeze, no questions just a grunt and then when asked for a stamp in a totally empty passport he stamps the middle (bastard). Bags took ages with 2 apologies for delays. Through ‘biosecurity’ with no hassles and I was out into the open in the cold and into a shuttle within 5 minutes.

The Pulman was shortly reached and I was helped with my bags. Definitely a good start. Check in was a bit long but it wasn’t rushed or rude or anything. They eventually got me set up, my AClub gold was recognized and they said they would let me know about breakfast as my pick up the next morning was set for 605 yet breakfast started at 630.

5 minutes later true to their word they called me in my room to let me know it was handled. Can’t fault that. The gold amenity was already set up in my room, it was some form of tart and mineral water. Room was spacious, bathroom was clean and modern, what more could you want.

Went out for a while to find some internet (to fix an issue with my phone), some supplies and some food. Staggered the CBD for a while, found an awesome Chinese restaurant down a back street full of people (good sign).

Crashed out earlyish

Saturday 23rd April

Up at omg o’clock, lots of time for fun today. Breakfast was ordered for 530, pick up at 605. Breakfast was 20 minutes late, pick up was 10 minutes early so I was mega rushed but I managed to down a cup of coffee and some fruit while eating toast on the run.

Another quick shuttle ride back to the airport and I was the only one let off at domestic. With no bags to check just my Hoax with me, i must of seemed crazy to the driver let alone the other people in the shuttle and when quizzed by the driver about the VIP tags on my booking, I explained and got a quick salute before he headed off… weird.

First duty today was the collection of boarding passes (not cause I was going to use them but to add to my collection). Epass worked a treat and that process was over quickly. Strolled around the terminal for a bit, lost track of time trying to choose a book before seeing “Go to Gate” on a monitor. Whoops!

I cleared security and forgot my belt again but instead of a rescan, they just wanded me and had a quick chat. Kiwi hospitality! The gate area was pretty small and empty, a Koru Lounge was off to the side, and o how I wish I could have been in there. Managed to see the new domestic config NZ 320 all blacks as it headed to wellington I think. Pretty soon boarding was called and I was first to board.

Air New Zealand
NZ513
Auckland to Christchurch
0750-0910
Boeing 737-300 (ZK-NGD)
Economy Class – Seat: 19A

Boarding: 0725 (Gate 29)
Push Back 0751
Take Off Roll: 0802 (Runway 05R)
Top of Descent: 0850
Touch Down: 0910 (Runway 02)
Shut Down: 0913 (Gate 19)

Domestic NZ uses mainly 737-300′s and I had not been on one in many years. They are pretty Spartan onboard. About what you would expect with most airlines in the region really.

Plane filled slowly till not a seat was free, doors were shut announcements made and we pushed back dead on time. Safety demo played and this time it was the ‘Fit to Fly” version which had giggles and weird expressions going around for everyone. Pretty soon we joined the line taxiing out behind a new Jetconnect (Qantas) 738 bound for somewhere in Aus.

When it was our turn we were held for a little while before finally heading out and up we went heading for the skies. In a first for me the seat belt sign was off within 90 seconds and out came the iPod since there didn’t seem to be any other entertainment.

A light refreshment was offered onboard. Tea, coffee, water and a choice of snack being Cookie, Lollies or BBQ Cassava chips. Took the cookie and stashed it since it was still early but definitely had some coffee and was happy to see it wasn’t instant but plunger coffee.

Had plenty of time onboard to read, along with take photos out the window, it was a pleasant flight. Before you knew it we were on descent into Christchurch heading in over the Canterbury plains. As we were coming into land, I was now starting to worry, At time of touch down I had very little time to change flights but since i was up the back it was not going to be easy.

When we finally pulled up to the gate, everyone else onboard seemed to take forever to get off, so I walked as fast as I could to get to the main terminal. Didn’t need to worry as the gate was right next to mine.

Air New Zealand
NZ627
Christchurch to Queenstown
0930-1020
Boeing 737-300 (ZK-NGG)
Economy Class – Seat: 17A

Boarded: 0920 (Gate 18)
Push Back 0927
Take Off Roll: 0932 (Runway 02)
Top of Descent: 0952
Touch Down: 1010 (Runway 05)
Shut Down: 1014 (Gate 3)

The Fids at the gate was showing final call so I know I was definitely one of the last onboard but not the last. Found my seat and got settled as quickly as possible. This was going to be a very quick hop down to Queenstown and was meant to be an amazing flight in threading through the mountains.

Again same as before, it was a basic simple flight. Up for not long before seatbelts are off, and the crew were serving the same snacks as the last flight but no coffee or tea just water.

Stashed a second cookie as I was too interested in the scenery on descent into Queenstown. It was breathtaking. Such a magnificent part of the country as the approach threaded its way down through the valleys before coming in over the lake and city.

Such a brilliant view as you touch down of a small airport surrounded by mountains. Disembarked through the rear door and out onto the tarmac, it was clear and ‘crisp’ as I took a few more photos and made my leisurely way inside. I wasn’t in a rush as I had plenty of time to kill. Wandered around this well-appointed airport and then settled in by the big picture windows where I caught up on the trip report and read as well.

Before I knew it my next plane touched down and taxied in and it was time to get myself in order.

Air New Zealand (Operated by Mount Cook Airlines)
NZ5384
Queenstown to Christchurch
1200-1300
Aerospatiale ATR-72-500 (ZK-MCY)
Economy Class – Seat: 5A

Boarding: 1140 (Gate 1)
Power Out: 1153
Take Off Roll: 1157 (Runway 23)
Top of Descent: 1231
Touch Down: 1246 (Runway 02)
Shut Down: 1248 (Gate 47)

I was first to the gate but not the first onboard as I was overtaken by several people while I stopped to take photos of the other NZ aircraft on the ground (incl another domestic A320).

This was my first time onboard an ATR and only my second time onboard a regional turboprop (the other being a Dash 8 Q400 in New Guinea). What struck me first was the lack of head room. Holy cow was it tight, my head was skimming the roof and I am only 6 ft tall.

Got myself situated, saw not only is there no entertainment but also no recline either…o dear. The seats were ok, not slim line but leather old school chunky. For the first time today I had the seat next to me free (2×2 seating) which was great. This time we took off in the opposite direction to what we had landed and this made for an amazing departure. Bad news was that i was sitting next to the propeller which meant heaps of engine noise, my noise cancelling headphones helped though.

Thinking this would be another water only flight I was wrong. Tea, coffee, water and a cookie. Ah NZ, three flights, three different service levels. At least there was one constant, no instant coffee. So i sat, read and marveled at the scenery for the flight as we cruised along at 19000ft.

Soon we were on descent into Christchurch and the crew (only 2) were scurrying to get things done (even had time for a lolly run but someone nicked the last of the lollipops before I could get one for Kelly.

As we touched down we were quickly off and headed down past the aerobridges to what would in any other country be a bus gate. But here, you get to walk, what felt like forever! But the good part was it disgorged you at stage 1 of the new terminal and it looked good.

Went for a walk to explore a little but quickly realized, Christchurch airport is a dump! It makes the old Canberra airport look amazing, but I am sure by the time of the world cup at the end of the year it will look amazing (like the regional ramp did).

Found myself some lunch (although not as good as I would of liked it was healthy enough, although slightly more than I should of had however by now it was almost 2pm and my last real meal was at about 530am.

Managed to get a spot overlooking the runway and the domestic ramp and settled in to plane spot and work on the trip report. After a while of sitting in the sun decided to walk off lunch a bit and explore the terminal some more.

While i was out walking around a couple of young spotters came running past and they were in a rush so i knew something good was coming. Turned out to be the daily emirates flight. A lovely large 777-300ER, and it was pulling up right in front of me… Score! Got a number of photos there before heading to get a photo of the US Air Force hangers, commonly referred to as the deep freeze ramp. Unfortunately nothing was out :(

Continued my walking around past a few outdoor garden sitting areas, something that i think is a fantastic idea just aimlessly walking, taking photos of the rebuild in progress. The new tower at Christchurch looked good.

I ended up in the NZ regional terminal relaxing their and using some free Wi-Fi for 15 minutes or so to tweet and Facebook some updates but nothing substantial. Before long I was returning to the domestic terminal to my spot where I had lunch to chill and read my book. Lost track of all time again and soon it was time to clear security and head up to the gate for my last flight of the day.

Air New Zealand
NZ532
Christchurch to Auckland
1630-1750
Boeing 737-300 (ZK-NGF)
Economy Class – Seat: 17A

Boarding: 1610 (Gate 18)
Push Back 1627
Take Off Roll: 1633 (Runway 02)
Top of Descent: 1718
Touch Down: 1741 (Runway 05R)
Shut Down: 1744 (Gate 30)

Boarding was called in what must be the NZ style but is very different to anything I’ve seen before. It makes total sense though. First is star gold and koru club. You expect that. Then it’s anyone with an A or F seat then everyone else. It works a treat because I like sitting in window seats.

This was pretty much the stock standard domestic flight, another set of announcements more laughs at Richard Simmons (swear i saw Phil from amazing race). A quick take off and seat belt sign again really early (why can’t Aussies do this to). As we flew north, the view out my window was the sun slowly setting. It was great. A sunset, some hot, half decent coffee, an interesting book (Kingpin) and something to munch on (piece of fruit would be nicer though). These are the kind of reasons I love flying, relaxing in the sky. What more can you want?

As we approached Auckland it was sad to see the day of flying coming to an end, but I still had two days to go. The airport was busy at the international. All the long hauls getting ready for the America flights. Short hauls heading to Aus. and of course the EK whale dominating the ramp. As we pulled into the gate, the All Blacks A320 was parked as well but unfortunately no chance of a photo. No clean shot :(

Headed out of the terminal and jumped on the airbus express this time as I was going to grab some dinner in the CBD before heading back to the hotel. I had scoped out a Spanish place the night before but it was a letdown. Headed back to the hotel after a long day to crash out.

Sunday 24th April

After an awesome morning with an old Contiki friend exploring Auckland she dropped me off at the international terminal with heaps of time to check in for my emirates flight to Sydney. I had heard heaps of stories of Emirates offering cheap upgrades on trans-tasman flights so tried my luck at the ticket desk first, but was told the flight was sold out so even paid upgrades were out.

Waited in the check in queue about 10 minutes but even that was flowing fast and had no problems checking in. Had forgotten all about the departure card so grabbed one on my way to the departures floor. I had been told that there was a great viewing deck at Auckland airport so figured I would check it out. Auckland has had some major work done to the airport in readiness for the world cup this year and it looks amazing. The viewing deck though has not and in reality is pretty crap. But something is better than nothing. I figured I would get through and then relax somewhere quiet, work on the report and read.

Immigration was slow as I had assumed wrongly that they stamp passports on the way out. Wrong. Should have used the smart gate because it would have been quicker. I went for a walk through some of the shops but eventually started the long long trek out to the gate.

Auckland has 2 A380 gates (15 & 16) and they are the newest gates but they also happen to be on what feels like the other side of Auckland. Took me a solid 10 minutes to walk over there and I walk pretty fast. Not much over there though, one shop which is one stop shop for all food, drink and reading material. Grabbed a coffee and plonked myself in front of the windows to enjoy the scenery.

Outside this window though was “the whale”. My first A380 flight was approaching and I was pretty excited. After a while the flight attendants walked past me and then slowly but surely more passengers came to take photos. I figured at that point it might be good to move out of the way as I was in a spot that would get crowded soon, and frankly with a flight of 4-500 people the flight alone will be crowded enough.

Slowly but surely crowds came as boarding approached, they came in waves, but really they had not started really arriving yet. The passengers that were coming seemed to be a very different mix to what I saw on the flight over. Air NZ seemed to be mainly kiwis and Aussies but this looked like a very different mix especially a lot of Indians.

Emirates
EK413
Auckland to Sydney
1800-1925
Airbus A380-800 (A6-EDC)
Economy Class – Seat: 44A

Boarding: 1718 (Gate 16)
Push Back 1806
Take Off Roll: 1825 (Runway 05R)
Top of Descent: 1850
Touch Down: 1925 (Runway 16R)
Shut Down: 1935 (Gate 57)

Eventually boarding was called, however this time I knew I wasn’t getting on anytime soon. Hell boarding was called almost an hour before departure time. I was Zone F and things were going slowly. So I people watched a bit while I waited. More and more people flowed into the gate area but boarding went pretty
quick with about 6 lanes for economy open. Eventually Zone F was called and I moved into the queues and waited my turn.

I got to the front and as I presented my boarding pass it wouldn’t scan. I was thinking here’s my chance for an op up, but it was not to be, they just manually entered my details and invited me onboard. As I walked onboard it was not as I expected it. It feels so spacious inside.

As I settled into my seat I couldn’t believe the leg room it was pretty generous, whether this was just the seat I was in (2nd row of the first economy cabin) or if this was the emirates standard. As more and more people seemingly flowed on, I got ICE started. Emirates inflight AVOD is amazing. So much choice that it has its own guide. Crazy! I picked out a movie (Avatar) and settled in.

Doors soon shut and the announcements began, first in Arabic then in English. Same with the safety video. The main cabin screen had been showing an ad real for emirates but as we pushed back was changed over to the tail camera. It was weird watching the aircraft move as we moved on the screen. But I did realize on night short haul flights, window seats are a little pointless.

As we moved into our turn for takeoff and began our roll, there was no sense of any massive thrust. The whale just glided effortlessly and quietly down the runway. Hell I barely noticed we were in the air! Shortly thereafter service started to commence. First up, cold towels out of a packet so essentially a moist towelette. Then came the menus. A menu on an economy flight of 3 hours… what the hell (the menu was promptly placed directly in my bag).

After a little bit longer the meals were handed out for the special menu people, and then the cart service began. Choices according to the menu were either “Honey Roasted Ginger Chicken” or “Lamb Medallions”. Went with the Ginger Chicken. Both were served with an Appetizer of Smoked Salmon and Mustard Potato Salad, along with a roll, Cheese, Biscuits and also a Dessert of Sticky Date Pudding and a little chocolate to finish.

The Bar cart came around not to long after the meal so I was slowly eating things rather than just inhaling it like the lady in the aisle did. I wanted to enjoy the meal slowly while still watching Avatar. When the bar cart came around it was time for a diet coke. But then I was a bit stunned at the size of the can (tiny!) and also the design. The Cans must have been loaded in Dubai because Diet Coke was written on it in Arabic.

After what felt like forever, (probably a good 15 minutes) Tea was offered first, when I asked about coffee was told it would come through next. So I waited, and waited, and waited. Another 10 minutes later I finally got a cup of coffee and this is when I had the dessert (wanted to have some coffee with my dessert).

When the trays were finally cleared I excused myself to the rest room and used the ones that were up the set of steps just so I can say “yeah I went upstairs on an A380” (although in a matter of months I’ll be flying the upper deck of an A380 anyway). When I came back to my seat I had a look around at some of the panels in the area mainly just to stretch my legs but the spaciousness of the cabin is still a little mind boggling.

Settled back into my seat and just relaxed. Asked for another Diet Coke after a little while it finally arrived but the cup and can were never collected back, ever. So I landed with a cup and can dangling from the Cup Holder.

As we came in for final approach into Sydney again it felt like we weren’t moving at all and it was a quiet quiet approach over the city and into the Airport. A slow taxi to the terminal and we slowed to a stop at one of the A380 gates (not quite sure what pier it was).

Being in the first cabin meant I was toward the front of the queues when we hit immigration but it was PACKED! A couple of flights from China, Malaysia, and Pacific Islands also arrived around the same time so Immigration and Customs were bedlam.

Got through after 10 minutes or so (wanted a stamp) and my bag took a little while to come out this time. Thankfully since I had nothing to declare or anything Quarantine was easy, straight to the exit and out we go to the train. Within 45 minutes of landing I was on a train heading to the city and my hotel for the night, the Four Seasons.

Monday 25th April

I had planned on getting up today for the dawn service, but it was bucketing rain, so didn’t. Wanted to go for a run around the harbour as well but it was bucketing rain, so didn’t. This would set the tone for most of the day. Things just did not seem to go right at all. I had been having phone problems most of the night with data issues and after issues getting some breakfast from one of the local cafes I had to rush to get changed and get ready for the march.

After power walking across the CBD to the new meeting location, it was back to some relaxed state of mind for a while. Was a bit disappointed to not see Dick Smith on the march this year but there’s always next year. After the march I had to rush back to the Four Seasons to check out before heading off to the Anzac Day luncheon.

After lunch and an afternoon with a friend, I headed to the Airport really early as I knew it would be busy and figured that check in might be a bit slow and getting some food in the terminal might be a bit busy. Arrived at the terminal just as I finished my 2nd book of this trip, and made my way up from the station to Terminal 2 check in.

I was going to use one of the Virgin Self Check in Terminals then figured, nah, I want a real boarding pass. So jumped into the Queue for normal check in (Virgin still offers this service thankfully). After a minute or two I was in line and when called over I let them know I was on the 830pm flight to Brisbane (it was around 6pm at this stage). The check in agent asked me if I would like to go on an earlier flight if the seats were free. Hell Yeah!

As I checked in I had to run my photo ID gambit with pre warning before handing it over (hurry up new driver’s license) and had a bit of a chat with her. She asked me if I would like window or aisle and I said “Exit Row would be nice, but I know since it’s a new flight and all I’ll take what I can get.” She replied with “I don’t have any exit row windows, but how about an Exit Row Aisle” I thought for approximately 1 second before answering “yes please.”

Seconds later I was on the flight to Brisbane boarding in 30 minutes. Plenty of time to grab a drink, pick out a new magazine and make my way to the gate. Called home to let them know the new flight info and checked out the food options as well. Food options were pretty busy and didn’t appeal at that point so called home again and pre warned I would be hungry.

Grabbed an Australian Aviation from the newsagent (kind of a flight tradition when I don’t have a book to read almost), and headed to the gate. Within 10 minutes of our scheduled boarding time, there was still no inbound aircraft and then the delay advice was given. 20 min boarding delay.

Waited some more, read away, was not really worried as either way I was still getting home earlier than planned. After about 25 minutes the inbound aircraft arrived and the people kind of flowed off. But this is when it happened. The boarding scrum had begun. People just lined up because they could. When they announced priority boarding for Premium Econ and also for Elites everyone rushed the gate and I could hear the gate agent having to calm people down.

General Boarding was called and the line snaked quite a bit so I jumped in early to make sure that I could get on eventually. I was heading for the gate, for my final of 7 flights.

Virgin Blue
DJ981
Sydney to Brisbane
1900-2030
Boeing 737-800 (VH-VUT)
Economy Class – Seat: 15C (Exit Row)

Boarding: 1900 (Gate 31)
Push Back 1918
Take Off Roll: 1934 (Runway 16L)
Top of Descent: 2025 (Guessed)
Touch Down: 2046 (Runway 19)
Shut Down: 2050 (Gate 41)

Headed down the Aerobridge to the final flight of the trip and boarded onto VH-VUT. This seems to be one of the rogue aircraft that doesn’t have proper premium economy seats or any inflight entertainment (thankfully I have an iPod and a magazine). Settled into my seat and as we pushed back shortly after I was advised by the inflight crew that I need to take off my headphones (even though they were plugged into their radio system) because they were noise cancelling. I explained that the noise cancelling is not active and I can hear perfectly fine at the moment. She let that slide.

It was a long slow push back and taxi out to the active runway. All the way out to runway the furthest from the terminal. Felt like we taxied forever, but that seems to happen in Sydney. This flight was pretty uneventful like most Virgin Flights I take. Up & Down. Don’t buy anything, just read what’s in my hand and conk out really.

We got a nice little announcement from the pilot about 15 minutes into the flight telling us that it was going to be a total flight time of 1 hour 5 minutes so should be touching down in about an hour, he then told us to track along by watching the Airshow on Channel 13 on our seat back screens. Hold on a second, what drugs is this guy on! Firstly we had been in the air almost 15 minutes by this stage, and we still had an hour to go (that’s weird). He also doesn’t know what aircraft he is on because we don’t have screens. Puzzling! Turns out that we were slowed down by Air Traffic control so I didn’t even realize we had started our proper descent into Brisbane till we punched out of some clouds on final into Brisbane.

After a very rough landing into Brisbane and then taxing to the gate, got to chat with the same flight attendant who told me I couldn’t use the headphones and she explained they were borderline not going to make their next flight as they were due to head back to Sydney again and things were not looking good for the curfew. So gave her some comforting words of “$10 says you don’t make it” as I deplaned.

I was home free now! Off the flight, through the mess that is the upgrades to the new Lounge at Brisbane and down to get my bag which arrived after not to long of a wait. Soon I was in my parent’s car heading home.

Aftermath

This was an amazingly good trip. I had the best time, caught up with some friends and family and enjoyed myself immensely. I worked this out that all up for flights and accom this trip set me back roughly $700 however I flew a total of 4598 butt in seat miles and managed to still pull some points out of this trip (with both Emirates and Virgin).

All in all, I deem this a success, I was relaxed for most of it, in my element with a nice big grin across my face. What more can you want from a short break, ready to get back to the grind tomorrow.

Anzac Day & Easter Weekend 2011

Easter Weekend

So its a very long easter weekend, coupled with Anzac Day. Now most people who know me know that I always travel to Sydney for Anzac Day over the last few years to spend some time with relatives and also pay tribute to the fallen at the morning service. The last two years though I have done something different. I have marched in the Parade to honour my Grandfather. This year I will again do the same, with a bit of a difference.

Since my parents are not joining me in Sydney this year (since it falls over easter and they are themselves away on the Gold Coast) I am heading off to New Zealand. Why go to Sydney via New Zealand, put simply, Because I can.

I will be posting a full Trip Report including planning and everything upon my return but this way you will know why I am a little bit quiet over the next few days. I am switching off Data on my phone so will only be hitting up Twitter etc if I can find a free WiFi hot spot around the place (which I am sure won’t be that common). Luckily I have my (new) ipod synced with heaps of music, movies etc and a good book to finish (and an excuse to buy a new one if i finish this one while away).

Otherwise I will be back in touch with life on Sunday night when I get into Sydney.. Till then… Catch ya on the flip!

Book Review – Chickenhawk

I had been recommended this book time and time again for a good story on life as a Helicopter Pilot in the Vietnam war. And it did not dissapoint…

Chickenhawk

The book is Chickenhawk by Robert Mason. He was a Huey (UH-1) Pilot for the Air Cav (US 1st Cavalry Division) in the Vietnam War. This is a fantastic book following him during his training as a pilot and then for his 1 year tour of duty to Vietnam. I could not believe how vivid he is at some times, it was as though I was there with him.

Nothing was held back, stories were told exactly as you pictured them to happen and were pretty graphic at times. I didn’t really think that a lot of the pilots lived in conditions he describes, but it does make sense. Being an Air Cav pilot he would of been based closer to the front with the troops and its shocking to think that it wouldn’t be as you would of thought with hot meals and hot showers each night and a comfortable bed.

It was quite crazy to think that the sort of things that happened during the early stages of the war (1965-1966) it was a good insight to a part of the war I had not really heard or read much about. Plus anything to do with a helicopter.. I mean seriously you doubt I won’t like anything with a helicopter in it.

I thoroughly rate the book and the last paragraph is mind blowing! What a freaking change (won’t give it away of course).

Highly rate this book and I am not suprised so many other people do as well.

Busy Busy Busy

Well, it seems all I’ve been doing lately is posting about movies, books or food. Hah! Well I thought I would post a little about life for the last month or so. Things have been busy busy busy. I feel like I am on the go non stop day in day out. It feels like I haven’t taken a breath and rested for more than 20 seconds for the whole month and it doesn’t look to change much at all for the next week or so.

I’ve had the bike for just on a month now, (been riding for 10 weeks now and I think I can cross it off my bucket list as I know how to ride now). I am getting more and more confident each time I get on the bike and don’t in any way regret any decision to buy it. It was well worth the investment, even though I have fallen off it about a billion times already.

It feels good sometimes to get out and ride but I am still not at the point where I am able to switch off and do things instinctively like I can with my running. When I run at the moment, my brain switches off. I am able to just run and run without thinking, my brain goes off and I can relax I guess you could say. With riding I have to constantly think about what I’m doing, concentration is always at a peak. But I guess with that it means that my heart rate stays up there and it means I can burn a hell of a lot more calories (11k ride on Sunday morning burnt like 1200 calories which is roughly 2/3 of a daily intake).

In life outside of the bike, work has been pretty good, but I have been having to focus pretty damn hard, make sure I am getting every single booking and every single dollar so that I can make my goal of top consultant. As of this morning I was sitting in first place but I am holding onto that position by the skin of my teeth ($60.. yes that’s right $60). I have to work my butt off to stay in first place and the thing is, It is going to take major effort to stay there.

The trip planning is pretty much done now. I have like 2 things left to organise but they both can’t be done till very last minute (JR Pass and rail in France both don’t allow bookings till like 2 months prior) so you could say I am pretty much done. I have to organise some insurance thanks to lovely difficulties I am having with my current policy (won’t cover me due to a clause on the length of trip) so after the Travel Expo on Sunday I am hoping to have this all worked out. With the Trip pretty much done all that’s left in my check list is really to organise the spending money, insurance and those train bookings and its all done, and with less than 3 months to go, I would have to say its all going to go swimmingly.

What more can I say. It has been a pretty full on last month or so, and with more full on times coming I don’t see things quieting down any time soon. I travelled to Canberra for a weekend last month to catch up with Stuart, Michelle and see Daniella again which was an awesome weekend. Qantas stuffed me around on the way home and still haven’t given me the credit that I wanted for the flights (giving up on that I guess). Next weekend (easter) is going to be some fun travelling. I might post about it just before I go but will be doing some travelling for the hell of it and acting like a Plane nut for the first time in a while (essentially flying to Sydney for Anzac Day via New Zealand).

Guess I should probably get back to work now… slacked off enough

Movie Reviews

Well been meaning to write this post for a few days now but been ultra busy and even today has been flat out since 430am till now.

I thought i would give some quick one or two line reviews on some movies I have seen lately. Some will be good, some not so.

Adjustment Bureau saw this in Gold Class for free. Wasn’t bad. The movie definately has merit but it’s been advertised as more of a Action flick. It’s not. It’s more of a love story. I still rate it though. Love the whole premise of the movie.

Black Swan: Saw this one again at the movies, cheap tuesday’s love it! But all I can say is W T F. This movie is seriously trippy. I am still not quite sure to make of it. Definately see it though, well worth the mind fuck.

The Kings Speech: another Academy award winner. Such a good movie. Totally not what I expected and actually enjoyed it. Kept me intrigued.

The Dilemma: This is definately one of those silly romantic comedies (romcom) but really it was just boring and crap….. don’t see it unless you really want to.

Battle of Los Angeles: I thought this was the new Battle: Los Angeles movie, but it’s not. DO NOT SEE IT! It is a low rent stupid version, pretty much the worst thing ever!

Grown Ups: This movie was not bad, it was ok. Wasn’t fantastic either. Ok to see on a quiet afternoon.

The Mechanic: Now we are getting somewhere!!! This is another great Jason Statham movie. Typical style for him though, lots of action. Reminded me of a good assasin flick. Well worth it for just the action scenes and the nice twisty ending.

Drive Angry: Perfect movie for Mal. Lots of Action, a Hot Blonde (who is apparently a Bisexual gun nut) and a stupid unbelievable plot line. O and also stars Nicolas Cage.

Unknown: Still not quite sure what to think of this one. Didn’t make a lot of sense, not the best movie either. Not really worth paying for, but I would definately say its a DVD Rental.

Yogi Bear: Just pathetic. Great for kids to get a good laugh but really, just lame. Why… WHY !!!

Fire Birds I remember seeing this back in the 90s on TV one day. Found it after some googling as there was certain things I had been remembering from it after reading Hellfire pretty lame on the graphics and looks and story line, but its from the 90s so what can you expect these days!

Hall Pass: Pathetic. I can’t believe I watched this, I mean really. It was just stupid. Middle Aged men trying to cheat on their wives. Do not bother.

Food Inc: A documentary about food production in the modern world and big corportism. I had seen a lot of the stuff they try to bring out on tv on other shows so wasn’t as mind blowing for me as other people have said it is. But I saw my first ever Chicken being slaughtered.

That should just about cover the last month or so of movies.

Book Review: Absurdistan

So another book completed… i seem to be destroying them lately! Plenty more where that came from (really thinking i need to get a Kindle or Tablet or similar so that these books don’t take up so much room).

Absurdistan

The Book this time is Absurdistan by Eric Campbell. An ABC Foreign Correspondant who has spent most of his career either in China or Eastern Europe (along with a bit of time in Afghanistan & Iraq). O man was this book good. I thoroughly was engrossed in it. The tales of his time in Moscow and around Eastern Europe and Russia just made me want to visit there all the more. Along with just the crazy tales of War from the Media perspective is kinda new to me. It was an amazing book.

Very well written and comes across very light heartedly. Although at times there should be a lot more seriousness in the situations he describes, the way he writes it, gives you a sense that you can keep reading it with out being to distracted by what he is talking about, being to put off.

Considering I picked this up at borders as a free book, I don’t in any way regret it.

Coming up later this week, a whole heap of movie reviews… cause thats all i seem to be doing lately. Watching movies.