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  • Dougie

There is a very good reason we call it "long haul" ...

Updated: Jul 27, 2022

When we began this long, long journey it was 6:00 a.m. in Paris on Thursday 23 June. So what would that be 'back home'? Two o'clock on Thursday afternoon.

55 hours to Sydney.

And so -- it seems -- we must begin. Two time zones that will merge somewhere in the Neverland of a Qatar stopover made even more unpalatable by the airline's frequent setting back of our second flight times and the COVID-driven entry rules with which we cannot now comply. This last bit, I should have planned it better.

We are back in the friendly, quirky oh-so Parisian 25Hours Terminal Nord hotel. We have another Paris breakfast, check-out, then see if we can rescue tomorrow from conflicting time constraints of travel between Italy (yesterday) France (today) and Qatar in its Neverland (some time tomorrow).

We now face a 16 hour stopover in Doha. That was not the deal when I booked the flights in February. But the airline has juggled their (and our) arrangements several times since then. I imagined at the outset we might spend a few hours in Souq Waqif. The growing length of our plane-change stay makes that even more desirable but probably unattainable.

COVID-19 rules make entry difficult to guarantee. To facilitate access to the city we require a printed pre-departure negative result of a PCR test taken within 48 hours of our flight time. We had not been long arrived in Milano when the clock started ticking on that countdown. And when we arrived in Paris yesterday -- delayed -- finding a quick turn around testing clinic was beyond my skill. But it turns out that's simply because it was not possible.

Thursday morning, therefore, was given over to a search for somewhere that could test us within hours and send back an email before our plane took off. By lunch time it became clear our a test would not happen in the city. There are only so many pharmacies you can check out (promising fast test results) before you're forced to accept "fast" means 24 hours.

Our last chance could be another promised "4 hour" test result out at the airport. And -- as our last resort -- that's what we chose. Too early by far for a 7:30 p.m. check-in time at Charles De Gaul (under normal circumstances). But when needs must ...

A "suspicious package" at the airport railway station put an end to that last chance.

There is a long sad story about a closed station that wasn't in fact closed, an airport assistance office that wasn't returning calls, and a series of exchanges between Difficult Dougie and increasingly senior Gare du Nord employees before we were finally assisted to board a train. They relented. But the delay lost us three hours we needed.

Our 'overnight' flight (less than seven uncomfortable hours) landed in Doha at 5:45 a.m. As we landed our pilot told us it was already 30 degrees.

It will be 48 degrees later. A temperature I have never experienced. Not this trip either.

After a wash and change of clothes we went in search of food. Breakfast, lunch or dinner? I'm guessing that in at least one of the three time zones we inhabited simultaneously we both made the appropriate choice. Spike had coffee and a pastry back in Paris time. I had veggie ramen in the Pitt Street Mall, Sydney time. In Doha.

I cannot tell a lie. I do not wish to be impolite to the good people of East Street, Doha Airport but if that overpriced cabbage and carrot pot noodle soup is a ramen my name's Daisy. No one to blame but me.

Doha airport seems to operate in cycles of super busy and very quiet. A lot of flights from all directions converge on Doha early in the morning. Next -- around what may or may not be sort of Midday -- there is a second, less intense flurry of activity. And in the evening there's another wave of arrivals and departures. Me and Spike among them.

When I say "very quiet" I mean Alien (the movie) quiet.

In the space (of Doha airport at three p.m. on a Friday) no one can hear you scream.

Seven hours later -- so that's sixteen hours in total -- we boarded our final flight. The good news was the plane: the two deck Airbus 380. The bad news was the seat allocation: 61C.

  1. It's about as far away from the door as you can get.

  2. It's one row away from the lavatory -- so there are 13 hours and 55 minutes of toing and froing by my fellow passengers that we're never getting back.

  3. It's the aisle seat on the left side of the plane. Paralysed people are usually allocated D or G -- aisle seats in the central block of 4. Airlines tend to do so because that avoids any need for the person in window seat 61A -- who you usually do not know and have never met before -- to climb over your paralysed body several times during the 14 hour flight. Could be someone my mum's age going to visit her son.

Fortunately, it wasn't a little old lady like my mum. A young German woman joined our row. I suggested she might like to ask for a different seat. The woman considered the prospect of clambering over me throughout the flight then pushed the attendant's call button. We all agreed that even in the cheap seats one should not be asked to vault over helpless cripples. Although that's not how we phrased it.

The upside of the strange seat allocation is that we ended up with free space next to Spike. We made the most of it although I'm pretty sure I slept very little. I just didn't shake and shoogle quite as much as usual.

We landed in Sydney at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday evening. We took a wheelchair accessible taxi to my friend Sharon's flat and sometime later fell asleep.

This was not my best bit ever of holiday planning, if I must tell the truth. Not my worst but -- still -- not good. I will never, never, never -- not ever -- make the same mistake again.

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