Wednesday 28 & Thursday 29 January – Cairo to Melbourne
Final packing before a last breakfast at the Grand. We got down around 9am to find that Arab business types had eaten all the eggs, cheese and cold cuts and the staff didn’t seem to have noticed that there was nothing left for the Aussies. I had a few words (well, following Mike’s example, a bit of a shout} at a couple of the staff and lo! More food was produced. It is hard sometimes not to feel that there is some subtle racism at work – another morning when there were a lot of business types in the hotel, a chef appeared & started cooking omelets.
After breakfast I popped out to Lennart & Landrock and spent my remaining Egyptian pounds on some historical post cards, greeting cards and a couple of mounted photographs. Then the bus arrived to take us to the airport. The international departure terminal was new, and the check in was much smoother than we’d been warned to expect – seamless, really (and certainly much easier than our domestic check in for our flight from Cairo to Aswan at the start of the tour).
Inside there were shops and cafes – not terribly exciting ones, but Chris assured us that they were a vast improvement over his first visit when the airport facilities consisted of plastic chairs in a concrete bunker.
The flight to Singapore (9 hours) seemed endless, but we struck a steward with a strong hand on the spirits. I was sitting next to David and he had several good Jim Beam & cokes and I a similar number of very stiff G&Ts. Said goodbye to the Sydney (well, Wollongong) contingent (Adam, Judy and Chris) at Singapore where they had a tight connection, and to Ellen who was checking into the transit hotel for several hours before her flight to Brisbane. Chris & I then did our duty free scotch buying before having coffee (this seems to have improved since my time in Sing City). Then we went to the food court in Terminal 2 where I had a wonderfully spicy mee siam (Chris had a taste and found it too spicy), after which, to fill in the time and get some exercise, we walked all the way from the end of Terminal 2, through Terminal 1 to the new Terminal 3 for our flight to Melbourne.
Like the flight to Singapore, the return journey was in a rattley aging Boeing 747-400, which rumbled and eventually lurched its way into the air. The already tight space was further impacted by us sitting in the midst of a group of oafish Russians who had no respect for anyone’s personal space but their own, as well as by the general rundown state of the fittings – the seat in front of me was so loose that every time the Russian in it moved, it lurched back at me alarmingly. Anita and David had managed to score exit row seats on this sector. My tray table was about to fall off and Chris’ head rest did actually fall off. Of course the flight was so packed that there was nowhere to move to, so we stayed and suffered.
Got into Melbourne at 8pm, but then Chris’ bag took ages to turn up on the carousel, so we didn’t clear customs and get out of the airport until nearly 9.30. We got outside to discover Melbourne (in fact all of SE Australia) was in the grip of a major heatwave, with temperatures soaring over forty degrees. It was still 34 degrees when we landed. We managed to get to the Formule 1 hotel – very basic but at least it has air con, where we had showers and changed in to shorts before taking the only option available for a meal – the Maccas around the corner!
We transfer back to Hobart on Qantas tomorrow morning.