Off to Europe

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Two tents, three sleeping bags, two paragliders and three harnesses, two ice axes, two bed rolls, two or three pairs of socks and jocks, oops that’s 30kg already stop packing! My carry on was a helmet and bag full of electronics, maps, passports, and so on.
I had extra baggage allowance with my early morning Qantas flight to Sydney where I was to meet Bec and bolster her 5kg of belongings at the Air China check in.
With a healthy distrust of a single alarm for a 415am start I woke every few hours to check the time. Received an alarming message from Bec around 2am – her flight was 2.5 hrs delayed! Oh shit. Made a few helpful suggestions then slept and hoped for the best. She sorted it in the end, but I still needed the helpful assistance of a check in girl waiving excess baggage and giving me a express card to get me to the gate five minutes before boarding!
On retrospect a productive morning – a not so stealthy pick up of my spare bank card and sun hat from Leona st, and i finally bit the bullet booking three months travel insurance with ihi bupa, in the airport because I couldn’t do it at home on a Mac browser!!

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So next stop is a night in Shanghai, the maglev train and flashing lights.
Saturday night in Paris, we’ll try and nip up the Eiffel tower for sunset, then quickly see the Notre Dame before taking a long train ride through the French countryside all the way to Luchon in the Pyrenees.
With a bit of luck Alex and Aaron will meet us there (they’re coming from the UK) and we plan to spend a couple of weeks wandering in the mountains. Needless to say I’ll be bringing the tandem!
On 29 June I fly from Toulouse to Munich, testing my airport sleeping skills on the way in London. All of July will be spent in the Alps, with up to half a dozen compatriots from my local Aussie paragliding club. The idea is to have a mountain vol biv (fly then sleep out) extravaganza, and from 17 July we will roughly follow the Xalps (elite pilots racing by foot and flight 800km through the Alps). Think of us as the B-team??
Some time in August I’ll head back to Spain, most likely the Pyrenees again followed by Andalusia.
It should be good!

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Postscript: some air travel debacles on the way…!
Yesterday, tired after minor delays on Tarmac in SYD and PVG airports on the way up, with a quick look at Shanghai (the Bund) and only 4hrs sleep we left the airport a bit late and arrived only 5 min before boarding!! Although we already had baggage tags and boarding passes, they reissued boarding passes for 2pm (5 hours later). Initially I thought we’d missed the flight but in fact it was delayed. We got 200 yuan cash each compensation, not enough for a taxi in Paris and definitely not enough for our hotel booking, also not quite the currency we need! Also it became apparent that the flight to Paris was routed through Beijing.
Things got worse after boarding – we sat locked in the plane on the tarmac for 5.5 hours!! At 730pm we left the ground and I started a cheer through the aircraft!
They blamed bad weather in Beijing but when we got there the tarmac was as dry as a crisp. Next 3 hours or so was a complete disaster, to and fro in Beijing Airport, they made us reissue our boarding pass which by the way says Paris on it and not Beijing.
We slept an hour at the gate and then saw the flight had been delayed again, to 4am. A small handful of Air China staff were surrounded by upset Chinese! We went back to sleep and a few hours later, 20 min after my alarm Bec woke me up. The entire airport was deserted. Of course we thought they’d gone without us for the long walk away from the gate, everywhere deserted save a few cleaners here and there.
Finally found someone who pointed us to the Air China lounge – I told you so Bec! When inside it became apparent we had not missed the flight, just everyone had relocated here.
Now it is scheduled for 10am but honestly the apparent lack of management in Air China leaves us doubtful. We will see.

Post post script. We finally boarded, with another 1000 yuan compensation (not quite enough!) and arrived in Paris 22hours behind schedule.

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About sharemyjoys

Nick Neynens
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