Under the ice

Day 7. Monday 20 May.

T is dangerous in the morning with a cup of tea in one hand, iPhone in the other and Google at the ready. D was vulnerable: catching up on the news from Australia online, he was ready to agree to anything. So the plan for the day was settled: we’re going to go to Husafell to go under the glacier into a man made cave. D immediately went online to book, securing a 3 PM spot. With a drive of about an hour to get there, we had some time to fill and some vital tasks to complete – visit the state-owned liquor store being number one on the list (a cask of Chilean red won out) and some olive oil (well down D’s list but T can’t operate without it).

Ventured out to find that the liquor store and the supermarkets didn’t open until 11, not 10 AM as we’d thought. Never mind, we’ll drop into the next door bakery to get some bread. D asked for a sourdough loaf and received a blank look. ‘Surdeig’, said D, comprehension dawned and we bought a loaf and a couple of rolls for lunch. Amazing what you read on labels the day before and more amazing what sticks!

To fill in time we dropped into the next-door Farmers Market, in reality a craft outlet targeting tourists. T started up a conversation with one of the women running the store (it is perhaps a cooperative) mainly about wool, but the discussion ventured into the cost of living. It seems that revenue is now mainly from tourism, and although fishing is still big, it’s nowhere as significant as in the past. Salmon, for example, is all imported or farmed (or both). Wild salmon is available, but is hideously expensive, and the once abundant stock from the rivers is no longer readily available. But things are good for the rich – who can afford to buy, or fish for in closed rivers, this delicacy. Another woman joined the conversation, and then took over. She had definite opinions about tourists – cruise ships in particular – and the negative effects, notwithstanding the positive impact on the economy. She complained that they didn’t buy anything because the cruise ships had warned them against doing so, purportedly for insurance/warranty reasons, but really so that the money would be spent on board. We quickly advised that we were a ‘nice’ type of tourist, disassociating ourselves from cruise ships.



Stocked up, we headed for the glacier. Because we had time to spare, we did a U-turn to revisit a small location named Reykholt. We had driven in earlier but as there didn’t seem to be much on offer, we drove straight out but T subsequently found some information that suggested a visit was worthwhile.  What we thought was a church was indeed so, but it also accommodated a library and a big research facility/display focused on Snorri Sturlusan, a thirteenth century poet/writer/law teller, politician, and (although this is not how he was described) a bit of a philande

The man in charge, an enthusiast, seemed surprised that we’d not heard of Snorri, because he is the foremost and most famous figure in Nordic literature. We felt suitably chastened (a bit like someone asking in Britain: who was Shakespeare?)



The display was very comprehensive – and afterwards we visited Snorri’s Pool. It was interesting that concepts, ideas and practical applications of physical/mechanical/infrastructure needs were so well advanced in that age, without the internet to help. We’ll have to catch up on some medieval Nordic stuff.

Then to Husafell to visit Langjokull Glacier, the second biggest in Iceland and the third biggest in Europe (as Inga, our lovely Alison G look-alike told us several times). The rough terrain transporter (a US missile carrier in a previous, Cold War life) transported 12 tourists up to the ice. How fantastic, we were the only people on the glacier this afternoon.

D was not so convinced: being underneath 50 metres of ice, slushing through pools of melt-ice, water dripping from above…but he was suitably impressed by the colours and guarantees of environmental etiquette. Interesting that the tunnel/cave has a shelf life of only about 12-15 years, due to its constant downhill movement and regardless of any climate change factors. Nonetheless, Inga made a passionate, sensitive plea for us to join her in a ‘reduced-plastic-/reduced meat-eating/more bike-riding world’. Fortunately, that’s all we had to commit to. T wondered about the 2 lamb shanks waiting in the fridge. D thought that for them, it was too late.

This operation, now privately owned but set up with government assistance, is apparently environmentally sound (if you don’t count the diesel trucks going to and fro, the diesel generators, the thousands of tourists and the cost of getting them (& us) there, etc) but we were assured that when the cave finishes its useful (i.e. commercial) life the glacier will, over a relatively short period if time – about 5 years – simply absorb the cave and it will return to its pristine condition.




On the return trip we decided to drop in to check out the waterfalls at Hraunfossar and the thermal hot spring at Deildartunguhver. The early evening was glorious, with late sunshine. The first stop had several waterfalls and cascades, reminiscent of New Zealand, water emerging from a lava field – a beautiful sight and unique. Others were more ‘traditional’. The water was that light turquoise usually found in glacial streams and the power in the narrow sections was awesome.

Apparently there was once a stone bridge that crossed the river to which a sad tale is attached (which may be an Icelandic ‘saga’): there were two children in the Hraunsás household who were supposed to stay home while the parents went to church for Christmas Mass. When the parents returned from mass, they discovered that the children had disappeared – possibly because the children got bored and decided to go out.

They then followed the children’s tracks to this waterfall at the stone natural bridge where the tracks disappeared. The mother concluded that the children must have fallen into the river and drowned. The mother had the arch destroyed in order to ensure no one else faced a similar fate. The waterfall is now named Barnafoss: Children’s Waterfall.

Deildartunguhver is Europe’s most powerful hot spring producing 180 l/sec of 100°C.  Most of the water used for central heating in the nearby major towns of Borgarnes and Akranes, as well as other locales, is taken from here. At Borgarnes, where we are staying, for example, the water is still at 77 degrees C after travelling 34 km. Iceland has a big advantage in being energy autonomous, perhaps mitigating the high cost of other items. T had a chat with two women from Austria, who highly recommended the adjacent Krauma spa, fed from the same hot springs: they’d spent two and and half hours immersed.T commented on the quietness, as it’s still not tourist season, but the Austrians remarked that their spa had been busy with a group of ‘Brits” who were apparently not quiet. Who would have thought ? D was surprised that the Austrians didn’t look like dried prunes (there’s a disconnect there).


It’s now 1045 and still very light…most confusing! No idea what we’ll do tomorrow – a cup of tea will probably generate some ideas.

Day 6. Sunday 19 May. Iceland.


We received sad news this morning of the death of a dear friend. John had coped with his cancers and associated conditions for several years, always stoic and accepting, and never losing his wry, subtle sense of humour, nor his compassion and quiet, questioning faith. He was a gentle, wise man – a husband and father, teacher, preacher, historian, author and cricketer (good enough to play in the Prime Minister’s Eleven) and a friend and mentor to many.  Like many from SWUC who are travelling, we will miss his funeral, but will be there in spirit to farewell a lovely man and to offer our thoughts and prayers to his family.


T was totally disoriented on waking; the day looked bright and although there was some wind movement in the garden, and a weak sun just casting the shadow of the trees, the silence was extraordinary. We had gone to bed with light (10:30) and it had been light most of the night. D suggested a cup of tea and then announced that it was 0600!

After donning layer upon layer of merino, the down puffer jackets, beanies and gloves, we set out to locate and investigate the town. It was indeed cool, and even icy when the wind blew, but as we walked into Borgarnes we were ‘over toasty’.

There is a stillness here that is almost unnerving. We saw very few vehicles and just one jogger as we walked the couple of kilometres into the centre of town. The views were stunning –black mountains with snow streaks, a dark, cold sea, black sand and a range of different building types.

The little church commands the highpoint in town, there are a few hotels, a few supermarkets, a small hospital facility, pool & sauna (we’ll get to this later in the week) and the Red Cross Op-shop. Borgarnes is not really an island, being at the end of an isthmus connected to the mainland by a long causeway, but it certainly has an island feel.




At the camping area just out of town, at least one camper was ‘freeze’ camping rather than free campin




The cottage is very comfortable – and overly warm, thanks to the use of natural thermal heating which also provides electricity – we saw the steam from many fissures during a later drive.



Oh, to have this luxury at home! One downside: the hot water stinks of rotten gas. And no TV, not that we’ll miss that – only just noticed its absence at lunchtime!

Over breakfast D explained a way of very roughly estimating the Australian dollar equivalent of the Icelandic Krona (1 AS$ equals 84 K): divide by 100, then by 2, add the latter to the former and…..so T wrote it down and off  we set to Netto, an IGA equivalent, to get food for the next couple of days. Total confusion about pricing, not helped by a plethora of labeling, none of which seemed to apply to the goods displayed, not to mention THAT formula (it works for D). Now there was a new way to calculate.…A helpful shop assistant showed us where the barcode scanner was so that we could check any item. She was then keen to discuss Eurovision, of which we had little idea except that an Australian singer was involved (Kate Miller-Heidtke, who was 9th). Somewhat dismayed by the high prices, albeit that some are roughly equivalent. The wedge of goat cheese bought in total ignorance yesterday, comes in at about $25 (we don’t even want to think of what that means per kilogram!) and later there was more pain when T chose a pack of 2 lamb shanks, figuring that she’d finally got the currency exchange sorted, and discovered at the checkout that they came to about $30!!!!! Generally the cost of essential consumables (based on our limited and non-scientific assessment) would seem to be up to twice, and in some cases three times, of those items in Australia. T wonders what kind of incomes the locals must have. We topped up fuel in the hire car this afternoon at a cost of roughly $2.80 per litre.

That being said, we knew that when planning the trip based on the excellent advice from the Fairies – not the bottom of the garden types but real ones, who are experienced Scandinavian travellers. If you read this H & K – thank you, you’ve been spot on so far.

So after that confronting reality moment, we simply had to go for a coffee and sweet treat (hang the budget) before heading out on a Sunday afternoon drive. First destination was Akranes, a bit south of Borgarnes, which had a history as a fishing and salted-cod-processing town. We’re not sure whether that industry continues, but the smell certainly suggests this. We stopped at a parking area short of the two lighthouses, the older of which ceased operating in 1947, when it was replaced by the newer one. A bunch of boys were being boys in the rock pools.

The bird life was fantastic, although much of it would have been missed without binoculars – identified were Eurasian Oyster Catchers, Arctic Terns, Sand Pipers, Elder Ducks and of course various gulls. And T saw a dolphin repeatedly cresting the surface. Magic. And at 12 degrees without wind, it was a glorious afternoon.

From there we opted to travel through the 6 kilometre underwater tunnel – D as always anticipating a cave in – to  loop around an inlet named Hvalfjorour, which on the map looks to run about 40 kilometres inland. We stopped at a viewing site for no particular reason, to learn that it was where a significant military establishment had operated during WW II. It was set up by the Americans, with British forces involved in supplies and the anti-aircraft capability, to support the convoys sailing to and from Russia. There were a few signs of that time, primarily concrete bunkers and then a bit later there was a compound of Nissen huts in very good condition, so perhaps something military still happens here, or perhaps the locals, in the time honoured way, had simply ‘appropriated’ them. Amazingly, there were a few hardy cyclists on that part of the road, powering up the steep hill, but not acknowledging our waves of admiration and support.

We hit the main road north, but the traffic was heavy (and lots of caravans) fortunately heading back to Reykjavik but it was still uncomfortable enough for us to decide on a loop off Highway 1, taking in farming country and the occasional ‘steaming fields’. Farms are small holdings, super tidy, for small flocks of sheep, sometimes cattle…geese… and a couple of wild sheep wandering unconcernedly down the road.

T finds being a passenger in a little car quite disturbing, with the yellow road posts coming at her, feeling that D is too far over to the right (cliffside). Some of our friends agree that D is often too far to the right. They are all wrong. She will need to focus differently: D suggested she might get into the back, immediately behind the driver! And become a real back seat driver.


A cool change

Day 5. Saturday 18 May. Helsinki to Iceland.

A gremlin got into the post yesterday and inserted the photos of the Rock Church after those of the Wintergarten. No idea why, and no idea why we couldn’t correct it!

Helsinki continued to bless us with fine weather – a very sunny 21 degrees. Our early start had us packed, breakfasted and out by about 8 AM – that’s very early for us. First stop after dropping our bags at the Central Train Station was the Old Market Hall for a coffee and a shared cinnamon bun from Story – taken in the sun overlooking the South Harbour ferry terminal.

To get there we walked through Saturday markets in the park, which included celebrations of the 100 year old Finland-Japan relationship. Lots going on, but as we understood neither Finnish nor Japanese it was a bit over our heads.

T had a senior’s moment, and began talking to a bystander who had a remarkable resemblance to D. Furthermore, like D, he didn’t talk back.  It was all sorted out eventually.


And what an appropriate name!


It is the name of all the Government liquor stores (yes, truly, trust me).

Then on to an exploration of Finnish design and manufacture (although D noted that some was made in China) at Marimekko, Artek and Tre. Lovely work, although very expensive, a bit like everything so far! T had a few moments of temptation, but couldn’t quite find the right item. At Marimmeko, the women went one way and right next door the men the other – something for everyone.



Walking in circles, we visited the Lutheran Cathedral overlooking Senate Square. Huge and impressive, but understated, without the gilding and stained glass of some equivalents. It was actually a far more spiritual experience, as much as could be had sharing it with the selfie-snappers from tourist buses, because it invoked less questioning of what else the money could have been spent on.

Returned to the Old Market Hall to share two seafood lunches on rye bread – one smoked salmon and the other crab meat. Delicious.


But by now we’d had enough, so back to the main railway station to catch the train to the airport. D stressed almost all of the way there ‘is this the right train?’ but T calmly reassured him that it was passing the same places we’d seen on the way into Helsinki. She was right, of course.

Check-in was smooth – except that T was inspected for explosive residue rather than D for a change – but our flight was delayed about an hour, so T would have had time for that exhibition at the Art Gallery (a local resident had told her it was a must-see)!

Boarding was chaotic, with a group of Chinese passengers jostling for position and avoiding the otherwise orderly queues as we got on buses to take us from the terminal to the aircraft. The jostling continued along the gangway, the time taken to stop to take a photo outside the aircraft obviously necessarily made up by clambering past the rest of the passengers patiently waiting their turn on the steps!

We recognized an Aussie accent in the queue and passed on the early election results but they were distracted (as you would be) by having left their duty -free scotch behind in the terminal. Although they explained the loss to the cabin staff, who tried to help, it could not be retrieved.

There were no formalities on arrival – no immigration or customs, just baggage collection, duty-free wine and scotch purchased, and car pick -up and we were on our way to our Borgarnes Cozy Apartment. Outside it was 8 degrees, breezy and gentle, intermittent rain.

Google maps (bless them) advised that it was a one and a half hour drive to Borgarnes, north of Reykjavik.  We stopped for essential supplies at a Kronan supermarket and were on our cautious way, seemingly the only car on the road travelling at the speed limit  – as much as anything trying to get used to driving on the wrong side of the road. Lots of roundabouts – D had to concentrate as he had horror memories of trying to enter one in Spain years ago on the left!  ‘Keep right, give way to the left….keep right, give way to the left…..’ was the mantra. T’s knuckles were white. The guidance was simple – Route 41 until it joined Route 1, then continue.  About two hours later doubt started to creep in – were we on the right route? What does Route 1 N mean as opposed to Route 1 S? Why are the signs pointing to Reykjavik when we had left it behind half an hour ago? D was confident – well, outwardly. Pulled over to check the map in Lonely Planet, which was of no use, so took the next roundabout into a Service Station to check. ‘Yes’, said the young girl with a wave of her hand in the direction we were heading, but with a look that said she was surprised that anyone was going to Borgarnes, ‘straight on and into the mountains’. T was wondering at the choice of location, but the idea of being ‘in the wild’ had been appealing back in the January planning phase! After two and a half hours we arrived, found our cottage (a recently converted garage) but it is warm, super-quiet and very stylishly appointed: T’s first comment was ‘its like being in an Ikea showroom’, but later revised to observe that this seemed to be very much an interior designer’s project – which has worked beautifully.

Tomorrow will probably be a rest day, as we try to adjust, once again, to different time zones.

Almost Finnished

Day 4. Friday 17 May. Helsinki.

A slower start after our long day on foot yesterday. Having got the transport system sorted, we took Number 4 Tram to Central Park, which has a lovely lake in the middle, with numerous walking/running/cycling tracks. Stopped at a rustic lakeside café for coffee, to be joined in conversation by a local who thoroughly agreed with T that chocolate on a cappucino was excessive, and who noted that in Belgium they also added cream. Across the lake were some examples of earlier-times wooden Finnish homes.

Wandered on to the Wintergarden (conservatory/hothouse) displaying some fascinating flowers. A group of students, either secondary or college level, were taking innovative photography shots around plants and garden items such as chairs, benches, alcoves etc.

Then headed for ‘Rock’ church, with D confidently navigating. Having walked for about a kilometre, we stopped to re-examine the map, turn it around a few times, and scratch our heads. The street names seemed wrong, and D wondered how the authorities had mucked it up. A policewoman saw our confusion, explained we were heading in entirely the wrong direction, and without any hint of derision sent us in the right direction. She apologized as she rushed back to her duty station, which we shortly saw was part of the traffic control for a foreign dignitary (D thinks the flag was Turkey) being escorted with a large police escort, lights flashing and sirens sounding. Must have been important.

We made it to the Rock Church (Lutheran) and by wonderful chance, found a quiet moment in the tourist day. Described accurately as exemplifying the spiritual essence of Finland (nature, simplicity, beauty)…wow!


Hewn into rock, glass roof allowing for the combination of sky, sun, shadow, birds overhead, a domed ceiling of copper strips and a piano recital… a totally sublime experience. T thought she’d gone to heaven.

Onto the highly recommended gourmet street food locale. We were a bit disappointed as we sat down at an outside table overlooking a square that had a small flea market operating. T went inside to check out the menu, to then beckon D inside: the food stalls were all in there, and were well set up to provide a range of options – pasta, Portuguese cuisine, Filipino, Peruvian and so on. We opted for bowls of soup – a bouillabaisse and a beef borsch, both of which were satisfying – not least because it was by now 3 PM. Only disappointment was that we were too early for the craft beers that had been recommended – they only became available at 4 PM.

On to the Finnish Design Museum. T did suggest that D might prefer to sit in the little park nearby, but as tempting as this was (and the outdoor bar just outside was even more so) D decided that his cultural and artistic education should continue.


T wished that she had done some design studies; the concept of combining functionality, aesthetics, excitement & pleasure (ingredients for mental health) in the production of things is easy to understand.


Happily a Number 10 tram stop was adjacent so we could rest our weary legs. The 24-hour supermarket gave us a ready-made dinner: roast chicken & salad mix. The range of prepared meals was more than adequate: fish in various guises, pork cuts, chicken cuts and a salad bar for mix& match. After picking up supplies, a dilemma: which way was ‘home’? Help came from the strangers nearby who confirmed the direction. The kindness of strangers has been notable.

As we write this, Art Pepper played ‘Patricia’ for us. It seems she’s everywhere.


To Tallin

Day 3. Thursday 16 May. Helsinki and Tallinn.

Still getting used to the six hour time difference, so the earliest 10.30 ferry to Tallinn seemed like a good idea, since the day was bright, sunny and calm. Sorted out transport for the three days – one ticket to cover all public modes: the system is efficient and regular. Trams have been an eye opener since our trip with Charlie on the new Canberra light rail, but it shouldn’t have been because we’ve regularly used the Melbourne system.

Ferry to Tallinn, in Estonia, took about two hours over a calm Baltic Sea, with very little other shipping in view apart from a couple of other ferries in the distance and one tug. That changed on arrival – three cruise ships tied up. Horror! … memories of disgorging tourist ships (Alaska trip) and crowds crawling all over town.


An easy walk into town to catch up with all our fellow tourists, with cafes and restaurants full of lunchers and drinkers, people hovering to snaffle any table that became vacant.


So we wandered up and down a few back streets and found a perfect spot. Salmon and duck, shared, accompanied by two local craft beers. D just wanted to find a quiet warm spot to curl up and have an afternoon granddad nap, but this was not on the agenda.

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A comprehensive tourist map gave us about fifteen ‘must see’ sites, which T had narrowed down to about five. So off we went, over cobblestone and paving streets, marveling at the structures and colours, with glimpses into the inner courtyards behind the street frontage.

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T commented that at any moment, she expected Villanelle (‘Killing Eve’) to pop up…there were so many look-alikes. And lo….!


Needless to say, Old Tallinn is 800 years of history. A comprehensive display at the Tallinn City Museum presented a 100 year synopsis, by decade, as an excellent introduction to everyday life in more recent times with alternating German/Russian influence/control. T was taken by the reference to the Russian small –concrete -apartment-building period, creating ‘Kruschevskies’. Other galleries covered aspects of Medieval history to give a comprehensive overview. We were reminded of those history lessons in middle high school.

The Town Hall Pharmacy, from 15thcentury, and still serving today, has a fascinating display of previous compounding ingredients. We were a bit doubtful about some of the remedies on offer!

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Tallinn was a walled city and three towers were open today – the lady in charge told us that on one day only in September all of the towers were available to the public, with music at each of them, but we can’t imagine how this works, as it’s a steep single file staircase climb, with rope handrail, requiring good balance, no vertigo issues (and some insurance).


We passed a small but vocal protest against Russia, just down from the Consulate. Two policemen arrived but they were more interested in interrogating the bicycle taxi driver than the protest.


Our final stop was St. Olav’s Church, with a spire that dominates the landscape.

By now it was time to head back to the ferry for our 19.30 return trip, but not before a quiet beer (D) and herbal tea (T) on the way. The architecture near the port and below the old town is marvelous. At the terminal, T chatted to a Finnish guy who ‘has a friend in Australia…in a big city down the bottom’…eventually worked out he meant Perth. He loved watching ‘The Flying Doctors’, and appreciated the importance of this service. When T commented on the Russian era, he offered comment on how important it is today to maintain a watchful eye all along the Finland-Russia border (‘noone likes the Russians’)

The sun was just setting as we arrived back at the dock. It’s an amazing feeling…daylight still at 10pm and plenty of folk out walking in town. There’s an air of ‘no menace’. And T remarks on the genteel public behavior…no aggro, no rubbish and very limited access to alcohol apart from at bars and restaurants. A 24-hour supermarket provides soup and bread for a midnight snack and then the trusty tram to ‘home’. Tomorrow is ‘Helsinki in a day.’

Are we there yet?

Day 2. Wednesday 15 May. Tokyo to Helsinki.

Daylight crept in around 5, with the promise of some sun. Of course we were early for the shuttle and the 20 mins ride was almost accurate – the distance was, after all, less than 5 kms. The hotel claimed we’d be there at 8 AM – it was actually 8.02. Where had the train taken us last night?

Efficient, orderly clearances and then into the sky with Finnair. The staff will be twiddling their thumbs with only a handful of passengers this time. 10 hours of sunshine, blue sky, the frozen land below, food, food and more food! And some wine.

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After extensive advice from two very helpful railways officials we trained into Helsinki railway station – about half an hour. Again, impressive and efficient system. Our instructions, again with the aid of Google, included the next leg, a tram to the area of our apartment. These instructions, as it turned out, were accurate, although our grasp of the city meant that some of our decisions on where to go in following them were mostly guesswork. The cobbled footpaths tested the small wheels in the suitcases, but they survived. And the tram took us to just below the apartment, much closer that we’d anticipated.

It’s old and probably a converted housing complex – solid walls, high ceilings – but it’s warm (almost too much so), plenty of room and basic amenities.

Shop for limited supplies was followed by a stroll down to the wharf area in the sun – but the air was still cold if we passed into shade, enough to need a jacket. Plenty of people enjoying the late afternoon sun at cafes and bars, soaking up the warmth and the beer. There were lots of brave souls in the outdoor swimming pools,which didn’t appear to be heated in any way.

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By the time we got back it was around 7 PM local time, but our body clocks were telling us it was 1 AM the next day. Off to bed; T dons the ‘Lone ranger’ mask, as the sun is still bright and no, the curtains are NOT blockout.

The journey has finally started

Day 1. Tuesday 14 May. Canberra to Melbourne to Tokyo.

The around-the world adventure starts with that 0400 alarm set why bother?) in readiness for the first flight at 6.15 AM. When you wake up at 1 AM (T) or 2.39 AM (D) you know you are finally going somewhere. D was restless, with a myriad of concerns and thoughts – not the least being ‘was our phone/internet travel agent legit?’ It sure was and Melanie had done a great job. T was restless with a thousand thoughts – as usual.

Canberra airport at 5 AM is super quiet and thankfully was fog-free but needless to say, D was screened for explosives residue. The flight to Melbourne was on time, although D was still pretty much asleep. So much so, in fact, that he took another passenger’s backpack from the overhead locker. The owner caught up once in the Arrivals lounge, brusquely said ‘that’s MY back pack’ took it away and that was it  – didn’t even have the courtesy to bring D’s pack with him! So a wait ensued while all the other passengers disembarked and then the flight attendant  good humoredly went back onboard  and retrieved it. D had been worried about a short connection time at Melbourne but hadn’t allowed for a ‘theft window’.

Was this an omen? At the international departures security check in, D forgot to pick up his book after screening, but fortunately a guard asked in general if anyone had left it behind. D was decidedly sheepish by this stage. Nothing else could go wrong, could it? From the look on T’s face, she wasn’t convinced. And indeed, there was more. T went through the automatic face recognition/passport matching without a hitch – the machine didn’t like the look of D, so he was shepherded through another line to be screened in person. He passed.

There’s not much one can say about ten hours in a full aeroplane, but we were comfortable, the service and food were excellent and T briefly wondered. at the ‘monogrammed glass’ of chardonnay. T found the seat button for lumbar massage and did not need to worry about the proximity of the baby: the little girl (8 months?) across the aisle was perfectly behaved, if a bit of a flirt.

Trained from the airport to Narita having learned that the hotel shuttle was 40 mins wait and it was possible to train and then a short walk to the hotel. Well, the train actually covered a route of 40.1 kms  in about 30 mins; we wondered if we’d got this wrong, as the hotel was listed as an airport hotel. Alighting, we were baffled by any way off the platform other than down several flights of steep stairs. A posse of five uniformly dressed Japanese girls came to our rescue, using Google maps to guide us through a maze of lifts, tunnels and ramps to ground level just in front of our hotel. It turned out they worked in a Travel Agency, so we complimented them on their service.

The room was tiny but comfortable. A couple of local beers as a nightcap and hope for a sleep. Strange that the airport shuttle booked for the morning will only take 20 mins in peak hour!

But to think that we missed this until we were departing.