Sunday, August 8, 2010

August 8th: Brisbane to Sydney to Los Angeles to Universal Studios - The Longest Day Of My Life

Ok, so today was literally the longest day of my life. My day started at 5am on August 8th, and finished at 11:00pm on August 8th. Sounds pretty normal? Well, after timezones are considered, my day has lasted for 35 hours - and I've only slept for a few of them.

My day started by getting a lift to the Brisbane Domestic Airport. After checking in, making my way through security, and eating salty toast, I headed to my departure gate. This was my first solo flight, and as such, I was slightly nervous. It was soon time for boarding, and I had to say goodbye to my family and Emma. This was alot more difficult and emotional than I thought it would be. Yes, I'm only away for two weeks, but it did choke me up quite a bit.

Qantas Flight QF509 Brisbane - Sydney
Aircraft: Boeing 767-300ER VH-OGM "Bundaberg"
Class: Economy
Seat: 52A
Pushback (intended): 0845 (0815)
Arrival (indtended): 1021 (0950)

My flight started off by being delayed. Apparently the fuel truck that was refuelling our aircraft had a malfunction, and sprayed fuel over the tarmac. This lead to a lengthy cleanup period, and a replacement fuel truck having to be brought out to refuel the plane. All in all, this caused a delay upwards of twenty minutes. This made me very glad that I decided to take an early flight down to Sydney, as if I was on the closest flight to my international connection, this delay would've caused me to miss my flight to LA!

The flight itself started like the other 767 takeoffs I've experienced - a very powerful takeoff, smooth flight, tasty breakfast and a rough landing. Our flight path flew down the coast of Australia, so I got to see all of the various coastal regions on my short flight. Our approach was over the lovely Botany Bay, so it was very photo-worthy. Photos will hopefully follow soon!

After landing, I took the cross tarmac transfer to the international terminal. It. Was. Awesome. I took a bunch of photos of the various aircraft of all shapes and sizes. The last aircraft we drove past (and under the nose of,) was the A380 I'd be catching later that day. It is a massive plane, and I couldn't wait to fly on it!

I exited the transfer bus, and immediately made my way through immigration. The hall was deserted. Unlike in Brisbane, I wasn't asked any strange questions such as "Are you taking any bee-keeping equipment with you? Live animals? etc.?", but I did manage to have a semi-friendly chat to the somewhat grumpy lady who served me, so that was something, I guess.

I then spent the next two hours aimlessley wandering around the airside of the international terminal. In my honest opinion, it is a mess. You can't actually reach any gates without going through a duty free shop, and some gates can only be accessed by going through a newsagent! Not cool.

After watching various aircraft movements, and eating my final meal in Australia for a few weeks, I headed on up to my gate. I was there about 20 minutes early, but boarding commenced shortly after I arrived, so I guess they were trying to accommodate for the 550 odd people on this fully booked flight.

Qantas flight QF11 Sydney - Los Angeles
Aircraft: Airbus A380-800 VH-OQD "Fergus McMaster"
Class: Economy
Seat: 82A
Pushback (intended): 1315 (1305)
Arrival (intended): 0947 (0945)

The A380 is massive on the inside. At 10 seats across, the width of the plane is hard to get your head around, let alone the wingspan. I was one of the first passengers on, so I got to play around with my seat and the various features without aggravating the person behind me. The recline is good. Very good for economy. The headrest is adjustable, and most importantly, the seats are damn comfy. I mean, by the end of the flight, my butt was hurting, but I can guarantee that if you sit on anything for 14 hours straight, you'll get sore.

We soon taxied out onto the runway. I switched on my "SkyCam" and watched the giant plane begin its takeoff roll. Being such a large aircraft, its takeoff is incredibly slow. It looks like it is lethargically rolling down the runway, before it magically lifts off into the air. The physics behind it baffle the mind.

About an hour into the flight, dinner was served. I had the beef. It was good, but nothing special. Then, sunset was upon us. Thankfully, I was on the left side of the plane, and as such, was able to snap some awesome sunset photos. As I said, photos will come soon. After that I settled down to watch some movies (Iron Man 2 and Kick-Ass). The A380's in-flight entertainment system is great, but unfortunately the flight path map was broken for this flight, so I had no idea where we were, except for "over the pacific ocean".

To be honest, aside from the odd bathroom break or trip to the snack bars, not that much happened on the flight. I actually managed to get a decent amount of sleep (albeit light), too.

I awoke at about 8:00am Los Angeles time - apparently I had slept right through the breakfast service. Damn! I began to watch another movie, but then realised that I didn't physically have enough time on the plane to finish it, so I soon gave up on that, and instead admired the view out the window. Before long, we began our descent. I caught my first glimpse of Los Angeles as we passed under the cloud layer. Huge, flat, and meticulously layed out blocks of land. Not really all that inviting. I looked on SkyCam, and could see that we were lining up for our runway approach. Our landing was very smooth, so no complaints there!

Here's the kicker though - due to timezone differences, I actually arrived BEFORE I LEFT SYDNEY. Yes, this does screw with your body clock.

After de-planing, and making my way through the strict but fairly appropriate immigration control, I got into my transfer shuttle. I was the first in the van, and my Hotel was the last stop out of the other eight people in the van with me. Two hours later, I made it to my hotel, where I met up with Peta, my travel buddy for this trip.

Feeling somewhat jetlagged, and definitely exhausted, we did what every seasoned traveller does on their first day in Los Angeles - we went to UNIVERSAL STUDIOS!

This theme park was interesting. The lines were epic. Like, you'd queue for 50 - 70 minutes for one ride. Or, you'd think you've finally reached the end of the queue, only to go up some stairs and find a whole other queue at the top.

The rides themselves were pretty awesome - especially The Simpsons ride. Very good sense of motion and depth - it was essentially a virtual rollercoaster, just without the track.

The next ride we went on was the Jurassic Park boat ride. Some of the animatronics were a bit silly looking, whereas others looked like they were straight out of the movie. The ride ended with a gut-wrenching almost vertical drop, and the compulsory splash down soaking at the end of the ride. All in all, good fun.

After grabbing some food at "Doc Brown's Fried Chicken", we then began the 70 minute queue for the studio tour. The tour itself was a mix of interesting sights, such as the various backlot streets and sets they shoot films on, amazing rides, such as the king kong 3D experience, and downright lame, such as the endless montages they showed us of Universal films, and the stupid animatronic dancing cars. Don't ask.

Peta and I were both feeling pretty exhausted by this stage, so we quickly caught one of the last showings of the Terminator 2 3D ride thing (not really recommended - ancient CGI, live action actors who look nothing like their celluloid counterparts and a goofy plot line), and then made a bee-line for the exit.

Upon exiting, we were confronted by another queue. Yes, there is a twenty minute queue to exit the damn park.

All in all, expect about 10% of your day to be rides, the other 90% to be waiting in queues and walking around.

We then caught the Metro to our Hotel, grabbed some pizza from a local pizza shop, and then collapsed on our beds. Well, this is true for Peta at least. She went to bed an hour ago - I've been up writing this damn blog! Time for a well earned sleep methinks.

Up Next: More LA! San Francisco - where Daddy started out, tooting on his trumpet in a loud and mean manner.

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