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THE JOURNEY CONTINUES: From the Bottom of South America to the Top of Australia

THE JOURNEY CONTINUES: From the Bottom of South America to the Top of Australia

Old Apr 13, 2005, 12:11 am
  #1  
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THE JOURNEY CONTINUES: From the Bottom of South America to the Top of Australia

When I first started putting this trip together back in November, the idea of spending only three weeks in South America sounded about right. Even then, I would like to have stayed a week or two longer but travel schedules three weeks hence forced me to limit my stay. Now I’m regretting that I wasn’t able to spend two or three months longer.

It had been six years since my last visit to South America. That trip, like the one before it, was spent primarily in and around Chile. This would be the first trip that I’d ever spend any real time in Argentina, a country that I’d visited only briefly in the past due to the much higher costs associated with staying there. Now, with the devaluation of the Argentinean dollar to today’s new Peso, I could afford a much longer visit. And, knowing what I now know of Argentina, even were the exchange rate to return to its pre-2001 level, I’d still come back. In a heartbeat.

Argentina is a country of warm people, colorful culture and spectacular natural beauty. And let’s not forget the food! The meals I’ve eaten over the past couple of weeks here have been creatively prepared and absolutely delicious. Add to this the fact that Argentina is currently one of the world’s great travel bargains and you’d have to be crazy not to at least consider a visit. As for me however, though I’d like to stay awhile longer, other factors have forced me to pack up my belongings and return now to the far northern side of the planet. At least for awhile.

The primary culprit in this untimely egress is the BC Ferry schedule between Port Hardy on the northern end of Vancouver Island and Prince Rupert, three hundred miles farther up the coast of British Columbia. Northbound sailings are weekly during the winter months, but unfortunately after March 26th there are no available departures until April 10th. By then I’d be nine thousand miles southwest of Port Hardy in the middle of Australia’s Northern Territory.

Another factor further limiting my choice of Canadian travel dates was my award ticket on Cathay Pacific between Vancouver and Sydney. Regardless of whatever Frequent Flyer Plan you may be affiliated with, it’s never easy to procure First Class award seats on Cathay Pacific. This seems to be especially true out of Cathay’s West Coast North American gateway cities. Though I first contacted Cathay via the Alaska Airlines Partner Desk back in early November, the only First Class seat available in the first two weeks of April was on April 2nd out of Vancouver. Numerous subsequent checks have not yielded any later departures. Life is tough, ain’t it?!

On a positive note, my flight out of Vancouver is aboard Cathay’s mid-afternoon 747 departure. It leaves Vancouver at 2:40pm and arrives in Hong Kong thirteen hours later at 7:50pm. This means the entire flight will be in daylight – far preferable to those horrible midnight departures where I’d see nothing, get offered a meal at a time when I don’t want to eat and essentially sleep through the majority of my First Class experience. Why anyone would want to do that is beyond me.

Oh yeah, I forgot. Most people could care less about flying or inflight service. It’s an airplane, not a hotel or a fine restaurant. What was I thinking?! My love of flight has blinded me to the bigger picture. Oh well. There’s no prescription for my affliction, so you’ll just have to bear with me or head back to the Trip Report Forum and find something better to read.

Cathay Pacific offers arguably the finest First Class service in the world. I wouldn’t want to sleep through any more of it than I absolutely have to. I’ve even reserved a seat on the right hand side of the aircraft so that if we should fly within view of Anchorage or Fairbanks, I won’t miss the view of home. If it’s clear, I’ll even place a call to friends down there from my seat side telephone and tell them quick, run out and look up! I’m in that silver jet traversing your clear blue skies. I’ve actually done this before. It’s pretty cool.

Before boarding that flight however, I’ll be climbing aboard ViaRail’s domeliner “The Skeena” in Prince Rupert and rolling through the beautiful Skeena River canyon and Bulkley River Valley to Prince George. I’ve driven the Yellowhead Highway along this route many times and every time I see those gleaming rails running through the Skeena River canyon, I tell myself I’ve got to ride that train someday. That day is now imminent.

My flight between Hong Kong and Sydney is another daylight flight, departing at 9:00am. Upon arrival in Australia, I’ll head straight to Adelaide, take a nice weekend in Glenelg, and then hop aboard the only south to north transcontinental train in the world. That would be Australia’s famous “Ghan” between Adelaide and Darwin. It’s been seventeen years since I last visited Darwin and now I’ll be coming back in somewhat nicer style than my last visit when I arrived by bus.

I love itineraries like this. I think it’s right up there with last year’s run between Tasmania and South Africa. And, given the many thousands of miles to be traveled in International First and Business Class, along with multiple segments on trains, boats and busses and an antique trolley, I think it could make for a pretty good trip report as well. You be the judge.

By the way, I read recently that FlyerTalk’s membership roll now exceeds 50,000 members. That is a remarkable figure and congratulations are in order not only to FlyerTalk but also to all of those members who contribute towards making FlyerTalk such an enjoyable place to visit.

50,000 members means that we also have a lot of new visitors to the Trip Report Forum who may not be familiar with my style of Trip Reporting. Although the title of this report indicates a trip from South America to Australia, you’ll not be reading about all the neat things to see and do in either of those locales or anyplace in between. My reports are primarily about getting there as opposed to being there. While I enjoy being there every bit as much as the next guy, I’ve always had a passion for the mechanisms of travel as it were. I love riding in planes, trains, boats and cars. As such, this report, like all my others, will focus on getting there. If you’re looking for a report about being there, just hit the back button on your browser and I’m sure you’ll find a wide variety of Trip Reports more to your liking. We have some fine writers here at FlyerTalk and many of the reports are quite good, not to mention thorough.

Continuing now with my Continent to Continent theme – following a less than direct routing, of course – here is the story of my journey from the tip of South America to the top of Australia. Flight time is projected at over fifty-two hours, and the first of many fine meals will be served shortly after we’ve reached our initial cruising altitude. We’ve got 28,000 miles to cover so let’s get this report on the road.




March 20, 2005
Ushuaia to Tierra del Fuego National Park
Train At The End of the World


NOTE: Pictures covering travel between Argentina and Canada can be found RIGHT HERE


On my last day in Ushuaia, I headed out to Tierra del Fuego National Park for a ride on the Ferrocarril Austral Fueguino, the southernmost railway in the world. The train is called the Tren del Fin del Mundo, or The Train at the End of the World. The railroad was built at the turn of the century with most of the labor being supplied by prisoners sent to Ushuaia for re-offending. Like Tasmania in Australia, Tierra del Fuego was reserved for the worst of the worst prisoners. The narrow gauge train was used to haul wood into Ushuaia from the forests of what is now the National Park. Unfortunately, plenty of evidence from the logging can be clearly seen from the tracks. Even so, it’s a very scenic ride that follows the Pipo River into the mountainous terrain of the park. If you take the morning train, you can spend the day hiking in the park and then catch the afternoon train back to the park entrance. Total cost, including roundtrip transport to the park from Ushuaia: $25.00 USD.




The Southernmost Train Station in the World



The Train



First Class Carriages



Hiking through Tierra del Fuego National Park


The next morning, I boarded an early morning bus from Ushuaia up to Rio Grande and then switched to another bus for the journey across Tierra del Fuego to Bahia Azul where we transferred, bus and all, onto a ferry for the crossing to the mainland. From there it was only another seventy miles into Punta Arenas.




On The Road Across Tierra del Fuego



The Ferry to Mainland South America


Tierra del Fuego translates into the Land of Fire though its hard to imagine any fire could be maintained in all the wind and rain that are known to hammer this region. Along the way, the landscape ranged from rugged mountains to sparse tundra and rolling hills. The Argentinean and Chilean border stations are located on some of the most barren, windswept terrain on the entire island. They looked exactly like the kind of forlorn outposts that people are threatened with being sent to if they screw up on the job. Total travel time was ten hours. It is possible to fly between Ushuaia and Punta Arenas – the flight takes only forty minutes – but at present there are only two flights per week. Today was not one of those days.

In Punta Arenas, I stayed at the Hostal Carpa Manzano and bought my most expensive meal of the trip: $11.00 for Rabbit Stroganoff. Delicious!

Last edited by Seat 2A; Apr 5, 2014 at 1:20 pm
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Old Apr 13, 2005, 12:13 am
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March 21, 2005
Punta Arenas to Puerto Montt
LAN Express 80 Economy Class * Lunch
A319-100 CC-CPE Seat 11J
1240p-250p Flight Time: 1:44


Punta Arenas is the southernmost city in Chile. It is home to about 130,000 people and is the Chilean gateway to Tierra del Fuego and Antarctica. I had a pretty fair walk around the downtown district last night and I liked what I saw – lots of old colonial buildings and, in the heart of the city, a beautiful tree lined plaza dominated by a statue of Magellan.




Statue of Magellan in Punta Arenas


Today was the 75th anniversary of the Chilean Air Force. The downtown district was filled with men in uniform and a number of streets were closed for a big parade. I was sorry that I couldn’t spend a couple more days here.

Punta Arenas’ Ibanez International Airport is located 22km from town. For $3.50, you can catch the local airport shuttle service or splurge and pay twice as much for the taxi. Was that a collective moan I heard coming out of the New York metropolitan area…?

The government of Chile appears to have invested a fair amount of money into its airports over the past ten years. This is especially evident in smaller cities such as Punta Arenas, Puerto Montt and Concepcion – all of which sported nice new terminals with jetways. The primary beneficiary of these jetways appears to be LAN Chile. The competition, namely startups Sky Airlines and Aerolineas del Sur, are generally relegated to ramp space in front of the older terminals. Only in Santiago do they have a chance at a jetway.

LAN Chile’s domestic operations are handled by LAN Express, which does not offer First or Business Class. When I arrived at the counter, there was a good sized crowd waiting to check in for the flight to Puerto Montt and on to Santiago. The five agents working the counter along with the one expediter working the line did an impressive job of keeping the line moving and getting people smoothly on their way. My backpack was checked through to Santiago and I was issued an exit row seat for the flight up to Puerto Montt. I asked for an exit row on the milk run between Puerto Montt and Santiago as well but was informed that exit row and bulkhead seats could only be allocated at the airport of origin. Hmm…

Another new and welcome addition to LAN’s product is a collection of airport lounges called Pacific Clubs. Though my Economy Class ticket would not by itself gain me entrance to any of these clubs, my Priority Pass membership would.

In smaller airports like Punta Arenas, the Pacific Clubs are also small. Very small. How small are they? I’ve been in living rooms that were larger. Even so, the lounge was a welcome respite from the noisy crowd out in the gate area. In one corner was a small bar offering the usual non-alcoholic drinks. The bar also served as the reception area. I was checked in by an attractive young lady who also prepared me a caf con leche and a plate of cookies. Interestingly, the only alcohol available was wine. Across from the bar was a pair of Internet ready computers. In addition to computer terminals, most Pacific Clubs now offer Wi-Fi wireless access as well. A TV and a couple of couches completed the furnishings.




Beverages Service in The Pacific Club


The only downside to this lounge visit was a man sitting at one of the computer terminals who spent the entire time yakking loudly on his cell phone. He was a couple of spots ahead of me in the check-in line and talked all the way through that, too. Talk, talk, talk, talk, talk! If any airline should someday allow people to use their cell phones while inflight, they’ll see the last of my patronage. I’m not anti-cell phone, but for many travelers flights can great places to finally relax, sleep or catch up on some work after a long day of whatever. Having one or more people sitting within a row of your seat yakking away, loudly or not, would be nerve wracking in the extreme.

No boarding announcement was made in the lounge but I could hear the announcement outside in the gate area. At the gate awaited a gleaming Airbus A319, resplendent in the dark blue, silver and white livery of LAN Express. The aircraft was outfitted with 136 dark blue seats and as I walked back to my exit row seat, I wondered how many airlines sport cabin interiors in any color other than dark blue. I’m sure there are still a few but dark blue is far and away the most popular choice.

Back in the colorful 1970s, most US airlines employed all manner of bright colors and intricate patterns in their seat fabrics. Braniff’s seats were multi-hued yellow, orange and red, National’s DC-10 cabins were a mix of tropical lemon yellow, orange and melon. Eastern’s seats were upholstered in an attractive pattern of multi-hued blues and purples. As we became more conservative through the eighties and nineties, darker and more somber colors began to proliferate.

That said, I thought the cabin in LAN’s A319 looked very nice. Clean and uncluttered. That is until all those colorfully clad passengers started filing in and ruined the effect. As for the outside of the airplane, I think LAN has one of the more attractive liveries out there.



Flying north up the Patagonian coast to Puerto Montt

Service started with a basket of hard candies passed around just before pushback. A flight attendant stopped by my seat in the exit row to ask me if I spoke Spanish. Verifying that everyone in the exit row speaks the predominant language of the country is an excellent idea, I think. I assured the FA, in Spanish, that I could speak well enough to be of assistance in the exit row should the need arise.

The Captain welcomed us aboard and gave the usual flight details; first in Spanish, then English and finally French. French? I don’t believe I’ve heard French spoken even once in Chile though I did hear plenty of German. Still, if there were any French speaking passengers on board, I’m sure they would have been positively exultant because if there’s anything a Frenchman loves to hear, it’s his own language!

Our 12:40pm departure coupled with a scheduled flight time of almost two hours meant that luncheon would be served on this flight. Today’s offering was slices of baked chicken breast presented with peas, potatoes, a dinner roll and a custard dessert. I thought it was all quite good, especially in these times of diminished quantity and quality of inflight meals.




Luncheon on LAN's Flight from Punta Arenas to Puerto Montt



Patagonian Peaks Poke Above The Clouds


The far south of Chile is a land of rugged mountains, massive glaciers and azure blue lakes. On a clear day, a window seat is a must when flying between Punta Arenas and Puerto Montt. Unfortunately, localized cloudiness obscured what is otherwise one of the more scenic flights on the planet. Thankfully, the clouds cleared somewhat later in the flight and as we descended into Puerto Montt’s Tepual Airport, I got a nice view of Osorno volcano to the north of the city.

In Puerto Montt, I had a three hour layover until the departure of my connecting flight up to Santiago. It was time well spent in the Pacific Club while bringing my Alaska to Ushuaia report up to date. I was well over a week behind on that so the long layover was doubly appreciated.


Puerto Montt to Santiago (via Temuco and Concepcion)
LAN Chile 565 Economy Class * Snack
737-200 CC-CSP Seat 1L
455p-900p Flight Times: :29 / :24 / :44


Speaking of getting behind, you might be interested to know that I’m writing the portion you’re now reading from the back row of a Greyhound bus. At present, we’re winding through the spruce forested mountains of Vancouver Island enroute to Port Hardy. Where will I be when I get around to writing about today’s travels… Hong Kong?

LAN Express offers plenty of daily flights between Puerto Montt and Santiago. A three hour layover was not necessary, but since I wanted to fly LA 264, the two-stop milkrun up to the capitol city, that’s the way things worked out. Adding to my layover was a slight delay in boarding while the mechanics changed out a tire on the 737-200 slated to operate today’s flight.

Nonstop flights between Puerto Montt and Santiago take only an hour and twenty minutes, so as you might imagine this flight making two stops enroute offered some pretty short flight times. It was a nice sunny evening as we climbed out of Puerto Montt and made a big sweeping turn to the north.



Take off from Puerto Montt

Our first destination was ZCO, otherwise known as Maquehue Airport serving Temuco, Chile. Temuco’s a large agricultural and forestry center, attractively set in verdant farmlands surrounded by equally verdant rolling hills. Flight time was twenty-nine minutes so thre was no service of any kind enroute. Not even beverages. Up in bulkhead window seat 1L, I had the entire row to myself and spent the entire flight admiring first the volcanos north of Puerto Montt and then the setting sun as we descended into Temuco.




Volcanoes North of Puerto Montt



More Volcanoes North of Puerto Montt


Twenty-five minutes later, we were airborne again, this time for only twenty-four minutes as we winged our way further north to the city of Concepcion. Our landing at Carriel Sur Airport was textbook smooth and as we parked in front of the old terminal building we were joined by a 737-200 from Sky Airlines.

The Flight Attendant informed me that we had a full load from Concepcion up to Santiago so I quickly gathered up my well spread out belongings before my seatmates arrived. Flight time up to Santiago was announced as fifty minutes and once we’d leveled out, a snack would be offered. Oh boy! I was more thirsty than hungry but as one who generally views airline meal service as a form of inflight entertainment, I anxiously awaited the meal offering as well. Small trays were distributed, each bearing a cream cheese and tomato relish filled roll, a mysterious white pastry dessert and a coffee cup. To this day I’m not sure what that dessert was supposed to be. It tasted like something that had once been moist but was left out in the sun for a few days. One small bite was enough of that.




Sustenance on LAN Chile


Baggage delivery in Santiago was surprisingly fast and soon I was on my way into the city center where an air-conditioned room at the Ciudad de Vitoria Hotel awaited me. Total mileage flown today came to 1,680 miles. Only 8,810 more miles to go until I get back home to Fairbanks.


March 22, 2005
Santiago to Miami (via Guayaquil and Bogota)
LAN Chile 565 Business Class * Breakfast, Lunch, Snack
767-300 CC-CEN Seat 5A
915a-830p Flight Time: 4:35 / 1:26 / 3:06


In arranging a pick-up time for my ride out to Santiago’s Benitez International Airport, I was offered a choice of 6:00am or 9:00am. Since my flight didn’t leave until 9:15am, I was hoping for something a little later. Alas, it was a busy morning so a 6:00am pick up it was.

On a positive note, my early arrival and check-in left me that much more time to enjoy LAN Chile’s Neruda Lounge. Interestingly, as I was walking down to this lounge, I passed by LAN’s Mistral Lounge and decided to stop in there and check it out. The attendant took one look at my Business Class boarding pass and did her best to convince me that I’d really be better off at the Neruda Lounge. Apparently, the Neruda Lounge is a dedicated First and Business Class lounge with all the attendant amenities whereas the Mistral Lounge is somewhat more basic by comparison. Anyone can buy a visit to the Mistral Lounge whereas only Business and First Class passengers may access the Neruda Lounge. From what I could see of the Mistral Lounge, it looked comfortable and pleasant enough but I nonetheless thanked the receptionist and continued on down the concourse to the Neruda Lounge.

The Neruda Lounge supplied two things that I really needed at the time. Breakfast and an Internet connection. A buffet area offered peach, orange and raspberry juice along with sliced fruits, a tray of ham and cheese sandwiches and a plate of sweet rolls and cookies. The All Chilean Breakfast if ever there was one. I put together a plate with a bit of everything and relocated to one of the empty workstations. An hour later, having successfully communicated my imminent arrival to interested parties up north, I gathered my gear together and headed up to the gate.

Boarding was well underway when I arrived and a fairly long line had formed. Usually in cases like this I just take a seat and wait for the crowd to thin out but this group seemed to be boarding at a decent pace so I took my place at the end of the line. Moments later, a uniformed LAN agent approached and asked to see my boarding pass. Ah, Business Class, she said. Come with me. Still not quite sure how she’d managed to identify me as a Business Class passenger, I nonetheless followed her straight to the podium where my boarding pass was pulled, my stub was returned and I was subsequently welcomed to board. Yeah! Now that’s the kind of service I like!

The 767-300 operating today’s flight up to Miami was painted in LAN’s old livery, the one with the curved red line below the windows. I like the new livery much better. Still, I’ve never refused to board an aircraft because I didn’t like the livery and I wasn’t going to start today. This was especially true for this flight, one I’d really been looking forward to because it made stops at Guayaquil, Ecuador and Bogota, Colombia. I’d never landed at Bogota’s Eldorado International Airport and was looking forward to seeing the Colombian countryside during our approach as well as some of the many vintage jetliners I knew were parked there. As well, I’d never flown these routes, so I was looking forward to adding them to my over 650,000 miles of unduplicated route mileage around the world.

The First Class cabin was full for the first leg of this flight up to Guayaquil. All of the passengers were men between the ages of fifty and sixty-five. All of them were dressed in business suits. It was like a flashback to the 1960s.

Back in the Business Class cabin, pre-packaged pillow and blanket sets had been placed atop each seat. Seating is 2-2-2 and out of the twenty-eight seats available, only six were occupied. A Flight Attendant soon appeared, relieved me of my jacket and returned three minutes later with an amenity kit. Perhaps because this is not an overnight flight, the amenity kit I received contained only a pair of socks, some earplugs and an eyeshade.




Business Class Seating on LAN's 767-300



Business Class Seating on LAN's 767-300


As I began to get settled into my new home for the next twelve hours, I reflected on how vastly different the boarding process is when flying First Class on a Boeing 747 as opposed to flying First or Business Class on a 767. Upon entering the 747, you make a left hand turn and are almost immediately cocooned in the peaceful tranquility of the First Class cabin. It’s just you, your fellow passengers and two or three ever-helpful Flight Attendants. Coats are taken, cocktails and canaps are delivered and the overall transition from the harried environment of the crowded airport concourse to the serene world of International First Class begins the moment you enter the airplane.

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the boarding process on the 767. Today’s flight offered an excellent example of why. As I was getting my carry-on baggage stowed away and the Flight Attendant was attempting to relieve me of my jacket, the aisles were filled with people trying to make their way back into the Economy Class cabin. A mother with not one but two screaming infants in tow trundled by, followed shortly thereafter by a middle-aged couple hauling a number of bags and boxes well in excess of the one carry-on (plus a small personal item) per passenger limit. A Wide Load sign should have preceded them. During a stall in the Stampede to Economy, two guys decided to take a seat in the Business Class cabin, perhaps to sample the seating comfort. When the line resumed its procession, they remained in the seats. At first I thought they were fellow Business Class passengers until a Flight Attendant stopped by, asked to see their boarding passes and subsequently shooed them off behind the curtain like errant cattle that had strayed from the drive. G’wan, now… The advertised peace and serenity of First or Business Class would not begin until well after takeoff.

Takeoff took 42 seconds by my watch. I time all my flights starting with the takeoff. This is not done so much to provide you all with stirring minutiae of the flight (Oh my God! Honey, come quick! Look at this! This guy was flying on a 767 out of Santiago and it took 42 seconds to take off! Isn’t that just the most unbelievable thing you’ve ever heard?!!) but rather to give me a sense of where we are when I look out the window during the flight. I started this practice on domestic flights within America where AirShow maps are rarely seen. I have driven, ridden trains and hitchhiked through all fifty American states many times over. In the western third of the nation, there are only nine counties that I’ve not yet set foot in. From the course of its rivers to the location of its cities, I know the geography of America better than most. Because I’ve been there. To me at least, it’s fascinating to look at the country from a vantage point 35,000 feet above it, and know what you’re looking at. As for flights outside of North America, well, old habits die hard. Even if I’ve never been through the lands below me, that doesn’t mean I don’t have some sense of where I’m at. I love to look at maps like most people like to eat. They inspire me to go see more of the world.

This morning’s inflight service started with hot towels that were neither hot nor scented. Does any airline do a consistently good job of presenting this Japanese treat known as Oshibori Towels? Maybe Japan Air Lines. It really seems to be hit or miss with most airlines, and I mention it simply because a properly presented hot towel is truly as refreshing as it is relaxing.

A menu along with the wine list had been placed in our seatback pockets prior to boarding. The menu covered each segment of today’s 4,380 mile journey to Miami. On the flight up to Guayaquil, we’d be served a hot breakfast. Here is a transcript from the menu:


Santiago to Guayaquil

BREAKFAST

TO START

Orange Juice
Coffee or Tea


OUR COLD DISHES
Fresh Seasonal Fruit
Yogurt or Cereal


WARM ENTREES

Cheese Omelette

Served with crisp bacon and steamed asparagus

Ham and Edam Cheese Sandwich
Served on country bread with fresh butter


FROM THE BAKERY
Choose your selection from our variety of bread served with butter and preserves




Although many hotels and hospedajes throughout Chile and Argentina include a complimentary breakfast in their rates, I never once saw eggs offered. The national breakfast of both countries seems to be juice, coffee and sweet breakfast breads or pastries. A larger version of that breakfast would include fruit, cereal and yogurt. I hadn’t had an egg breakfast since my flight down from Miami. As such, a ham and cheese sandwich for breakfast was out of the question.

The omelette was fairly decent as airline omelettes go. That is to say it wasn’t greasy. The crisp bacon was not quite what I expected, however. Where I come from, bacon is served in strips. What I received with my eggs was a pile of crispy pieces of bacon. These were little tiny pieces of bacon, like Bacon Bits. Not that I’m complaining, however. The bacon tasted fine but the presentation was … interesting. I really liked the cereal. It was kind of a mixture of crunchy granola and puffed rice. Overall, this was a savory and satisfying meal.




Breakfast Over Northern Chile


Guayaquil sits 2,250 miles to the north of Santiago. Flying time was just over four and a half hours, so after breakfast I had plenty of time for a short nap. I needed it. I didn’t get to the hotel in Santiago last night until 10:00pm, didn’t fall asleep until about midnight and was up and at ‘em at 5:30 this morning. Thankfully, LAN’s Business Class seats have excellent recline. As well, the pillows are large and the blankets are thick. I slept quite comfortably.

When I awoke some two hours later, I fired up my tiny 6” PTV and tried to bring up the AirShow. It hadn’t been on earlier in the flight and it still wasn’t on now. A quick consultation with the Flight Attendant confirmed that unfortunately the AirShow was not working on this aircraft. Outside my window high clouds obscured everything below, so I ordered a cup of coffee with Baileys and read for awhile.

Our approach into Guayaquil took us past the eastern edge of the city before then making a big turn and landing to the south. Below us a huge river wound through the outskirts of Guayaquil before emptying into the nearby Pacific Ocean. What river is that, I wondered. I’ve always had a fascination with rivers. All that water - dark, silent inexorable energy flowing somewhere far away. Where does it go? When I was about nine years old, I mapped out every river in my home state of Colorado. Where did those rivers start from and where did they end up? As I got older, I started rafting them. The Green, the Colorado, the Yampa, the San Juan… the list goes on but I digress. In any event, I later found out that the river below us was the Guayas.

The last time I flew into Guayaquil was in 1983 aboard a brightly colored Ecuatoriana 720B. Sadly, Ecuatoriana and its wildly colored aircraft have been relegated to the dustbin of history, as has Boeing’s high performance 720B. This shorter version of Boeing’s 707 was originally introduced with pure jet engines rated at just over 13,000 pounds of thrust each. The “B” variant was outfitted with the much more powerful Pratt & Whitney JT3D-3B turbofans, each generating 18,000 pounds of thrust. It was a real sportster, going from zero to over 600 mph in mere minutes! Cruising speed was listed at a swift 615 mph. Unfortunately, the smaller size of the 720 combined with four of those ever thirsty JT3Ds resulted in unacceptably high seat mile costs and the airplane was retired from most US airline fleets by 1975. US operators of the 720B included American, Braniff, Continental, Northwest, Pan Am, Pacific Northern, TWA, Western and United. The last 720B in scheduled passenger service was operated by Middle East Airlines until the early nineties. The dimensions of Qantas’ 707-138 were very similar to the 720B, though Qantas’ little 707 had much greater fuel capacity for longer international flights.

As we taxied in to our gate, we passed a venerable Bristol Britannia, also known as the “Whispering Giant”. What a museum piece! The Britannia formed the backbone of BOAC’s trans-Atlantic fleet until the onset of the jet age. Throughout the 1960s and into the early 1970s, Loftleidir Britannias flew budget minded vacationers back and forth between America and Europe via Iceland. This aircraft parked in Guayaquil looked as if it hadn’t flown anywhere in quite some time.

As we approached the terminal, it was obvious that since my last visit Guayaquil’s Simon Bolivar International Airport had seen some improvements with the addition of a somewhat more modern looking terminal building that included three jetways. We parked at one of them, next to LAN’s southbound 767-300, inbound from Miami.

Guayaquil is located only about 100 miles south of the equator, so the climate is very much like Singapore’s. Hot and humid. As such, oppressive heat and humidity invaded the aircraft cabin the moment the doors were opened. Thankfully, air-conditioning was restored once we’d been hooked up to a ground based Auxiliary Power Unit. Apparently, the one on board our 767 was not functioning.




TAME 727-100 Parked at Guayaquil


During the time we sat parked at the gate, the ramp filled with an eclectic assortment of South American jetliners that included a TAME F-28, a TAME 727-100, an Aero Gal 737-200 and a COPA 737-700. Very few airlines around the world still operate the 727-100 in revenue passenger service, so it was quite a treat to see that TAME (Transportes Aereos Militares Ecuatorians) aircraft. If it’s still flying next time I’m down here, I’ll have to book a flight for old time’s sake. That 737 from COPA operates one of the longest scheduled 737 flights in the world, the 3007 mile flight between Panama City and Los Angeles. So far as I know, there are only two longer flights operated by 737s ~ Air Pacific’s 3,163 mile flight between Nandi and Honolulu and the 4,058 mile flight between Munich and Newark operated by Lufthansa via PrivateAir. That’s a long time to sit in a narrow-bodied aircraft though to be fair, Lufthansa’s aircraft is operated in an all Business Class configuration.

Out of Guayaquil we boarded maybe a dozen people, if that many. As we taxied out to the runway, the captain welcomed us aboard and estimated our flight time to Bogota at one hour and twenty-five minutes. We took off to the south, circled around the downtown district and accelerated north up to Colombia.

The menu indicated that we’d be served a Hot Snack on this sector. What we received would be called a hot lunch anywhere else. Here’s the menu transcript, and now that we’ve arrived at an appropriate time of day, I’ll also include the wine list.


Guayaquil to Bogota

HOT SNACK

TO START OUR SNACK

Champagne Henriot, Brut Souverain

FROM THE BAKERY
Choose your selection from our variety of warm breads

AS THE MAIN ENTRE, WE OFFER

Grilled Loin with Mushroom and Cabernet Sauce

Accompanied by Tomato Provenzal and Lyonnaise Mashed Potatoes

A FRESH SALAD
Assortment of fresh greens with seasonal garnishes

OUR DESSERT
“Alfajor” filled with dulce de leche and banana, served cold atop vanilla sauce

Freshly brewed gourmet, instant coffee, decaffeinated coffee, tea or herbal teas

Liqueurs





WINE LIST

Champagne

Brut Souverain, Champagne Henriot, Reims, France

Red Wines
Anakena Cabernet Sauvignon Reserva 2003 – Valle del Rapel
Ramirana Gran Reserva Syrah 2003 – Valle del Maipo
Bodega Salentein Roble Malbec – Alto Valle de Uco Mendoza
Porta Carmenere Reserve 2004 – Valle del Maipo


White Wines
Concha y Toro Trio Chardonnay–Pinot Grigio–Pinot Blanc 2004 – Valle Casablanca
La Fortuna Sauvignon Blanc 2004 – Valle de Curico


Port
Graham’s Late Bottled Vintage Port 1997




Once again, there was no pre-meal offering of Champagne. The steak was fine, especially the sauce, but the “Green Salad” never did happen. What we received instead was a wedge of some lightly flavored cheese, a scoop of cream cheese with some brown flaky stuff sprinkled atop it that looked suspiciously like fish food and lastly, a piece of asparagus sitting atop what might best be described as a mass of indefinable protoplasm. It was brown and mushy and didn’t have a lot of flavor. I ate everything but the mystery mush.




Grilled Loin with Mushroom and Cabernet Sauce



Dessert with Coffee and Baileys


By the way, the Cabernet Sauvignon from Anakena was magnificent! I’ll be looking for a bottle of that when I get back home. Hopefully I’ll have more success than I did during my search for the delicious Warre’s 1986 Reserve Tawny Port that BA used to serve its First Class clientele.

As we began our descent into Bogota’s Eldorado International Airport, I gazed out my window at the lush green mountains and valleys below. I took particular note of some villages perched high upon some fairly steep mountainsides, their only access apparently by foot or horseback. And, like Caracas, a large number of people lived within three hundred meters of the runway. In Bogota, that number would be several thousand, given the size and depth of the barrio that had grown up parallel to the runway.




The Edge of the World?


Like many South American airports, Bogota’s Eldorado is a veritable museum for classic airliners. Many people are surprised to learn that Colombia was one of the very first countries to provide commercial air transport to its citizenry. Avianca is one of the world’s oldest airlines. In fact, passengers were being flown around Colombia seven years before anyone ever purchased an air travel ticket in the United States.

Many people think KLM Dutch Airlines is the world’s oldest. However, that distinction must go to Chalk’s Ocean Airways, which commenced service in February of 1919 from downtown Miami to Alicetown, on the island of Bimini, Bahamas. KLM wasn’t even founded until October of 1919 and didn’t begin service until May of 1920. The third oldest airline is Avianca, followed by Australia’s Qantas. Mexicana is the oldest airline in North America and Northwest is the oldest of the US majors, commencing service in July of 1927.

Chalk's still operates between Miami and Bimini as well as providing service to Ft. Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport and the only scheduled service to Paradise Island and downtown Nassau.

Eldorado International is fairly large airport, about the same size as Helsinki’s Vantaa International or Auckland’s International Airport. As we made our way from the runway to our gate, we passed by all manner of vintage propeller and jet powered aircraft. There were lots of DC-6s, a couple of DC-3s, a Convair and even an old Curtiss C-46. More than a few of these aircraft were still operational, especially the DC-6s, arguably the finest propeller driven transport aircraft ever built. Certainly it is one of the most durable. Back home in Fairbanks, we regularly hear the distinctive drone of the DC-6’s four big 18 cylinder piston engines since the DC-6 is the backbone of Northern Air Cargo’s fleet.

Of particular interest to me was a small herd of 727-100s basking in the late afternoon sun over at the air freight area. As a child of the jet age, I was quite a fan of the 727and I wasn’t the only one. Commercial jetliners were still novelty when 727s were introduced in 1963. Back then, people would actually go out to the airport to look at the new jets and the 727 was a real crowd pleaser with its distinctive T tail and steep takeoff climbs. Because of the 727’s ability to land or takeoff from shorter runways, it was often the first jet ever to serve many small to midsize airports. My first flight aboard a 727 occurred in 1964 when we flew from Denver to New York (via Chicago) to see the World’s Fair. In the years since then, I’ve logged over seven hundred flights and more than a half million miles aboard 727s.

Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, Colombian airlines were strong supporters of Boeing jetliners. Avianca, SAM, AeroCondor and ACES all flew predominantly Boeing fleets. During those years, if you ever saw a McDonnell-Douglas jetliner in Bogota, it was being operated by a foreign airline. Speaking of foreign, does anyone out there remember the French built Caravelle? The little twinjet with the triangular windows? It was hugely popular in Colombia and amongst the world’s nations, only France had more Caravelle operators than Colombia.

On the subject of DC-9s and their variants, I should note here that Colombian domestic operator Aero Republica operates a large fleet of DC-9-30s and MD-80s. Avianca now operate some MD-80s as well. Overall however, McDonnell Douglas did not sell a lot of DC-9s to South American airlines.

At the gate, we parked next to an Avianca 767-200 that looked quite nice in its new Summa Alliance livery. Once the Bogota bound passengers had disembarked, those of us in transit to Miami were informed that we would have to gather our gear and exit the aircraft as well. We received transit cards at the door and then had to walk all the way down to immigration. There, we made a U-turn and headed up the escalators where we went through a security checkpoint, complete with wanding for all. We then walked all the way back down the concourse back to Gate 8 where a huge line had formed for yet another security check. This time, boarding passes and passports were being inspected, after which we were subjected to yet another walk through the metal detector followed by another round of wanding. Okay then, are we safe yet? No! Our carry-ons were then X-rayed, followed by a personal inspection. All the while, well armed soldiers from the Colombian military looked on. I wonder how this compares to flights out of Tel Aviv?

Given the size of the crowd being re-inspected at the gate area, I expected we’d have a pretty full flight over to Miami. This would turn out to be true back in Economy Class. Up in Business Class, only about half the seats were occupied and thankfully none of them were next to me.

Following a lengthy take off roll to the east, we climbed into the late afternoon sky and headed off across the Caribbean to Miami. During the first half-hour of the flight there were some really pretty cloud formations but unfortunately the angle of the sun sitting low in the Western sky prevented me from getting any lasting impressions with my camera.




Westbound across the Caribbean


Flight time to Miami was announced at three hours and ten minutes. The menu indicated that we’d be served only a sandwich on this sector. Had I boarded this flight in Bogota where we were scheduled to depart at 4:55pm, I’d have been a bit disappointed that we weren’t offered something a bit more substantial. As it were however, I’d been well fed with a full breakfast and lunch on the way up from Santiago so I wasn’t all that hungry anyway. For any of you that are, here’s the menu transcript:



Bogota to Miami

SNACK SANDWICH

TO START

Fresh fruit juice, tea, coffee and milk

Toast served with butter and preserves


GOURMET SANDWICH SELECTION

Seared Canadian Loin and Mozzarella Cheese Sandwich

Served on baguette bread with pesto

Canadian Ham and Dutch Cheese Sandwich
Served warm on a whole wheat bread loaf with parslied butter

SWEET OFFERING
Layered cake filled with prune preserves, topped with Dulce de Leche sauce



For this, my final flight of the day aboard LAN Chile, I decided to start with a Pisco Sour. Then I had two more. They are the one cocktail that LAN Chile does a nice job with. On the flight down to Santiago, I ordered a Bloody Mary. Ay Carramba! What a bloody disaster! It tasted as if it had been made with tomato drink rather than tomato juice. It brought back memories of a backpacking trip some years ago when we brought along a fifth of Vodka and a baggie of Tang, the orange flavored fruit drink that astronauts were rumored to enjoy. I always enjoyed Tang on its own but mixed with the vodka as a Tang Driver, it was revolting! Needless to say, I’ve never touched a drop of Tang since.

As for the meal service, the description of the sandwiches was much more appetizing that what was ultimately presented. I would definitely not use the term “Gourmet” to describe the sandwiches I was served. I’ve eaten a lot of sandwiches over the years and I know the difference between a good one and a mediocre one. When it comes to your basic everyday sandwiches sold in most restaurants and take away places, Chile and Argentina may well have the world’s worst cold sandwiches. If you like a lot of bread and only tiny portions meat and cheese that have been sliced with a razor blade, you’ll like sandwiches from these countries. At least by my standards, which are easily met in most any American deli, supermarket or sandwich shop except for Subway.




Gourmet Sandwiches on LAN


Not to digress too far from the main Trip Report but remember I’m talking about cold sandwiches here. The Barros Luco or hot beef sandwich widely served throughout Chile is excellent. Some Argentinean restaurants make a pretty fair steak or Milanesa sandwich as well.

Finally, we started our descent into Miami. From the time I boarded this morning, I’d been on this aircraft for almost twelve hours. From the time I’d left Ushuaia two days ago, I’d traveled 6,300 miles to get up to Miami. For so many Americans, Florida is considered to be way down there. Indeed, the southernmost point in the contiguous United States is at the bottom of the Florida Keys at Key West. For me at least, the idea of having been over 5500 miles in a straight line south of Key West is pretty neat. I’m already looking forward to my next trip!


*** ***** ***

Overall, I thought LAN Chile did a pretty nice job. Although their First Class product is highly regarded, I certainly wouldn’t rank their Business Class amongst the top ten or fifteen in the world. Even so, it was more than adequate and a far cry better than what lie beyond the curtain back in Economy Class. Also worth noting, the 75,000 mile Business Class award via Alaska Airlines’ Mileage Plan is one of the all time great values out there. I encourage all of you to make a visit to Chile and Argentina someday soon, while the getting’s good.


*** ***** ***

By the time I’d cleared customs, it was about 9:30pm. The arrivals hall was hot and humid and I felt like I had some sort of cold coming on so despite the 8:00am departure time of my Seattle flight I decided to look into getting a hotel. I’m $226.00 ahead of budget, so why not?

Alas, it seemed that every hotel in the area was sold out. I called about a dozen of them and only one said they had a room. Then they put me on hold and didn’t come back. I called them again. Again, they put me on hold and didn’t return. I imagined that it must be bedlam at that hotel and moved on to check others.

Finally, I asked a couple of hotels why they were so full. Is there a convention in town? It’s the season and it’s Spring Break were the answers. Huh?! Spring Break? Why would you want to come all the way down to Florida with its beautiful white beaches and sparkling blue waters and then stay in an airport hotel, miles from the beach? Spring break? So is it kinda crazy at the hotel? I asked. A little bit, was the reply. It’ll get a lot worse this weekend.

A little bit crazy… that’s all I needed with an early wake-up call and a cold coming on. Rowdy, noisy college students liquored up to excess and stumbling around the hotel, puking in the hallways and falling off of balconies. No thank you. I’ll stay in the airport and get a peaceful night’s sleep. And – that’s exactly what I did. I’ll spend the savings later in the week on a hotel in Canada.

Last edited by Seat 2A; Apr 5, 2014 at 1:51 pm
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Old Apr 13, 2005, 12:16 am
  #3  
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Join Date: Apr 2001
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Posts: 12,124
March 23, 2005
Miami to Seattle
Alaska 17 First Class * Breakfast
737-900 N320AS Seat 1A
800a-1100a Flight Time: 5:52


If you didn’t know where to look, it would be very easy to miss Alaska Airlines’ tiny little check-in counter at Miami International. It’s located at the entrance to the E Concourse but is obscured by a big bank of escalators that access the train out to the E gates. Alaska operates just one flight per day into Miami, so I suppose they should be happy they have a counter at all as opposed to, say, a podium.

I checked my pack all the way through to Fairbanks and then headed over to the Club America, located landside at the entrance to the F Concourse. I had a long day ahead of me – three more flights covering 4,430 miles – and I required massive infusions of coffee, orange juice and a couple of oatmeal raisin cookies. The receptionist remembered me from my November trips down here. It must be the beard. I’m probably the only guy in South Florida with a beard longer than 1/8th of an inch. The Don Johnson look from Miami Vice is still in, I reckon. Up in Alaska, we’re more partial to Grizzly Adams.

Alaska Airlines has a posted policy requiring passengers to be at the gate, ready to board thirty minutes before scheduled departure. For the most part, I ignore this policy. Furthermore, Alaska’s policy states that ten minutes before departure, all passengers should be onboard the aircraft so that doors can be shut and the aircraft finalized for an on time departure. Alaska truly endeavors to accomplish this goal and those who ignore the ten-minute rule do so at their peril.

I arrived at the gate about 20 minutes before departure. Large masses of humanity heading in the opposite direction brushed by me as I neared the gate. Where are all these people coming from? Ah ha! The inbound from Seattle had just arrived. The marquee board at the check-in counter reflected an on-time arrival for the inbound flight. Needless to say, I wasn’t too happy about this because had I known of the delay, I would have been back in the Club America downing quarts of coffee and orange juice. The sign at the podium showed an 8:10am departure. No way we’re turning a 737-900 around in just 30 minutes, I thought. Think again, 2A. By the time 8:10am rolled around, we were onboard the aircraft and waiting for the final paperwork. Well done, Alaska!

Soon we were pushing back from the gate and taxiing past a big, dirty A340 from Aerolineas Argentinas. That plane was in serious need of a good cleaning. The captain welcomed us aboard, indicated a 20-30 mph headwind along our route of flight and announced our estimated flying time as five hours and forty-eight minutes. He ended with that old standby line “If there’s anything we can do to make your flight more enjoyable, please don’t hesitate to ask.”

Aside from the advertised service, which is generally always delivered, I’m at a loss to figure out what else the crew might be willing to do. I mean, I heard that a Boeing test pilot once successfully took a Boeing 727 through a barrel roll. Can we please try that at some point during the flight with this 737? I’d really enjoy that!!



A nice level flight at 38,000' enroute to Seattle

We had a great group of Flight Attendants for this flight. They all must have gotten a good rest last night because they were all bright eyed and bushy tailed as opposed to the beady eyed and beaver tailed variety one occasionally encounters on these early morning departures. Perhaps because of the effort in getting this plane loaded, closed up and off the blocks by 8:15, breakfast orders were not taken until we’d leveled out at 35,000 feet. We were offered a choice between a cheese omelette or a quiche. Normally, I’d be interested in a quiche but the thing Alaska calls a quiche is one of those pre-fab jobs with way too much crust and not enough eggs. I went with the omelette, along with – you guessed it – coffee and orange juice.

On flights over three hours, Alaska begins its breakfast service with the presentation of a fruit plate. Today’s offering included slices of pineapple, cantaloupe and honeydew melon. The only bread offered was a warm apple filled Danish pastry placed on a doily in the corner of the tray. The fruit plate was tasty enough but on a flight of almost six hours, Alaska really should offer a proper bread service. Danishes, sure, but how about some croissants or bagels?




Fruit Plate



Cheese Omelette Alaska Style


The best omelet I’ve ever eaten aboard an airplane was two years ago on an Alaska flight between Seattle and Miami. It was billed as an Asiago Cheese Omelette and was topped with sliced mushrooms and green onions. Accompanying it were roasted potatoes, sauted spinach and turkey sausage. The omelet was actually fluffy, and the spinach, roasted potatoes and turkey sausage were much healthier accompaniments than the fried fatty items one often receives with breakfast.

Today’s simple cheese omelette was served with greasy potatoes and greasier sausage. It was about as unhealthy a combination as you can get, especially with only an apple Danish for the bread course. Frankly, it was a disgrace not only to the kitchen that prepared it but also to Alaska Airlines for serving it. Once upon a time, Alaska’s top executives including the CEO used to sit down to one of their weekly meetings and be served airline food. I doubt that’s the case anymore.

Unfortunately, inflight food is generally a no win proposition for the airlines. No matter how well prepared and presented the food is, amongst the one hundred and fifty or so passengers on board, somebody’s always going to find something to complain about. Even so, I don’t think it would be too much to ask of Alaska or any airline to prepare its First Class dishes in a healthier style. That means less fried items and more broiled or baked items. I don’t think it costs any more to broil or bake as opposed to frying, though it may take a bit longer.

Consider breakfast in America. As a whole, most Americans like eggs for breakfast. For a First Class hot entree on a five hour flight, I should imagine it would be quite possible to scramble up some eggs with veggies (with or without the cheese, it’d still be good) or prepare a nice omelette like Alaska used to serve. As accompaniments, they could offer roasted rather than fried potatoes and maybe a broiled tomato or asparagus or spinach if meat is deemed too expensive. Offering a sweet, fatty Danish pastry as the only bread item is just plain senseless. How much more would it cost, if any more, to offer a plain bagel? Remember, we’re talking transcontinental First Class service here.

Alaska’s First Class food service was once of such a high standard on short to medium range flights that the cutbacks enacted in the past year have not set well with its frequent flyers. The food related postings over at FlyerTalk’s Alaska Forum attract a lot of comment, most of it negative.

Perhaps the most appreciated perk in any Frequent Flyer program is the ability to upgrade to First Class. However, when passengers are asked what aspect if the inflight experience is most important to them, in survey after survey they have pointed to greater personal space and a quiet and relaxed environment as being the most highly rated aspects of a nice flight. Complimentary cocktails and elite lanes at security check points rate much higher than a better quality omelette or healthier breads.

A big part of Alaska’s rationale for cutting services in the forward cabin is that First Class simply doesn’t produce the revenue to support a nicer meal service. Okay, so then follow the early example provided by fellow Alaskan carrier Wien Air Alaska back in the early 1980s. Drop this now ridiculous faade of a First Class service and call the forward cabin Business Class. Meals, if any, will be the same as Economy Class but drinks will be complimentary. What you’re really buying is space. Wien even took it a step further and would not allow children under twelve to travel in the Business Class cabin.

Anyway, I’ll get off my soapbox now because our descent into Seattle has begun and soon all seat backs and tray tables will have to be returned to their full upright position and all electronic equipment must be yada, yada, yada …

We parked next to the Alaskaair.com jet and I headed down to the boardroom to catch up on my email.


Seattle to Anchorage
Alaska 177 First Class * Dinner
737-400 N779AS Seat 1F
330p-725p Flight Time: 3:23


On the way up to the gate, I ran into the postmaster of the tiny Post office in my hometown of tiny Ester, Alaska. He was headed with some of the boys to Mesquite, Nevada for a few days of sun and golf. I wished him well in his pursuit of par or within ten strokes of par. I also advised him to watch for the postcard I sent to him from Argentina. I’ve been going away on trips like this for years and Bill’s been more than patient in boxing and storing all my mail. In return, I try to send him postcards from every different country that I visit. I also try to put as many stamps as I reasonably can onto the postcard. This makes the card more colorful and also takes up space that I would otherwise have to write in. I send a lot of postcards and they all have at least three stamps on them if possible, plus an airmail sticker.

Awaiting me at gate C-11 was Alaska’s 737-400 N779AS. What, again?!! In all my years of travel with Alaska Airlines, N779AS is far and away the one aircraft I have flown more than any other plane. Today’s flight on this plane would be my fourteenth for 9,780 miles.

The Pacific Northwest has been in the throes of an extended drought over the past year. The lack of snow in the Cascades has been tough on local ski areas and will mean another summer of high fire danger in the region’s forests.

On a positive note, it’s also meant that Seattle has enjoyed what must surely be a record for the number of sunny days it’s experienced this winter. Today was a very sunny day indeed and I had my camera ready and loaded at my side in seat 1F, the scenic side for viewing all the mountains and glaciers on northbound flights.

Our First Class Flight Attendant was from Ireland, and although it had been some years since she’d actually lived there she still retained a good bit of that melodic Irish lilt. She stopped by now to take our drink orders and read us the dinner options:


Seattle to Anchorage

DINNER

To Begin

A bag of pretzels to accompany the beverage of your choice

Salad
Baby Spinach Salad with shaved red onions, chopped eggs and bacon
Presented with Balsamic Vinaigrette


ENTREES

Grilled Chicken Breast with Red Pepper Pesto Sauce

Served with red skinned mashed potatoes with green and yellow zucchini sauted with thyme

Beef Tender Tip with Demi Glace Sauce
Accompanied by rosemary roasted potatoes with stir-fried broccoli, carrots and red onion

** ***** **

Dessert
Chocolate Silk Pie




Ah, if only Alaska served Guinness! Instead I settled on a MacTarnahan’s Scottish Ale, quite possibly the finest beer served aloft anywhere in America. To accompany my beer, I opted for the Grilled Chicken Breast with Red Pepper Pesto Sauce. Like N779AS, this is about the fourteenth time I’ve had this entre. Where once one could fly Alaska and reasonably expect a different selection of entres every week, now it seems the same two choices are served system wide for an entire month. Thankfully I rather like this chicken entre but even so, I can’t help but think of that old Far Side cartoon that depicts a dog being served a bowl of food and the dog thinking “Oh Boy! Dog food again!!”




Grilled Chicken Breast with Red Pepper Pesto Sauce


Our flight this afternoon took us up along the East Coast of Vancouver Island – the very same side of the island I’d be traveling up in just two days time. The deep blue of the Georgia Strait coupled with the dark green of the spruce covered Gulf Islands looked wonderfully inviting in the late afternoon sun and I prayed that this good weather would hold for just a few more days.




Climbing towards cruising altitude over Vancouver Island


We continued up the coast of British Columbia, passing about forty miles west of Prince Rupert before entering Alaskan air space where we got good views of Ketchikan and Mount Edgecombe, the southernmost volcano in Alaska. All the while I was enjoying my chicken dinner whilst chatting with seatmate, a retired sales rep for Starwood Hotels. Unfortunately, she had misplaced her reading glasses and was unable to read any of the many magazines that she’d brought along for the trip north. Perhaps to compensate for the lack of stimuli normally provided by her magazines, she struck up a conversation with me early on in the flight. I obliged her as best I could with tales of great and not so great hostels that I have visited, as well as offering her a running commentary on the fantastic parade of nature’s beauty gliding by beneath us. For example, did you know that the last time Mt. Edgecombe down there acted up was on April Fool’s Day, about twenty years ago? Some pranksters hauled a load of old tires up there, doused them in gasoline and lit them afire. The resulting smoke caused quite a stir in nearby Sitka but when the authorities helicoptered up there to see if the volcano was reawakening, all they found was a bunch of smoldering tires arranged to spell “Happy April Fools Day!” Before long, seatmate was sound asleep and I returned to my reading.




Mt. Edgecombe - The Southernmost Volcano in Alaska


Actually, it occurred to me as we were flying past Mt. Edgecombe that just two days ago I was flying past all the Chilean volcanoes between Puerto Montt and Concepcion. Today I’ve seen six of the Cascade volcanoes as well as the southernmost of the Alaskan volcanoes. There are something like 22 volcanoes within 100 miles of Anchorage and if it remains clear, you can see quite a few of them during the approach for landing. That’s a lot of volcanoes to see in just three days.




Descent into Anchorage



Approaching Anchorage


Flights like this are why they put windows on airplanes.

In Anchorage I transferred to a smaller 737-700 for the short forty-minute flight up to Fairbanks. Unfortunately, high clouds obscured any view of Denali but it mattered little to me. I’d traveled 10, 730 miles over the past four days, from the bottom of the planet almost to the top. It was good to be home again.


March 24, 2005
Fairbanks to Seattle
Alaska 192 First Class * Dinner
737-700 N607AS Seat 1A
100p-656p Flight Time: :41 / 2:58


Despite checking in regularly with the friendly folks at Alaska’s Partner Desk in an effort to get a seat on a later flight out of Fairbanks, my efforts came up empty and I was forced to stick with my original reservation, a seat on the 1:00pm departure down to Seattle. I should add here that I certainly don’t bear any ill will towards Alaska Airlines for the paucity of available award seats out of Fairbanks. Generally, I find getting award seats on Alaska to be a fairly easy process and as I said, the staff working the Partner Desk are a friendly, capable and patient lot. The reality is that it’s March and a lot of people are looking to get out of town. I’m happy to have a First Class seat on a daytime departure rather than the dreaded 2:00am night owl down to Seattle.

In any event, my failure to get on a later flight meant I had just seventeen hours here in Fairbanks, of which I was hoping to sleep for at least eight or nine. That left me with very little time to deal with the myriad of tasks that I needed to accomplish before setting off on the next leg of this journey.

Accomplish them I did, however. Starting with a haircut, I then stopped by the insurance agency, the post office, my storage locker to restock on books and music and finally the Fred Meyer store on Airport Way to restock my coffee and vitamin supplies. By 11:00am I was ready to have lunch with friends at Lemon Grass - the other good Thai restaurant in town - before parking my truck and being dropped off at the airport. See y’all in May! Watch for postcards!

Through some fluke in reservations, I was assigned Seat 1D between Fairbanks and Anchorage and Seat 1A from Anchorage down to Seattle. On the flight out of Fairbanks, I sat next to a lady chemical engineer who knew a lot of the same people I know in Fairbanks. This included the head lab tech at the refinery in North Pole who I used to know when she was a housekeeper at the Park Hotel in Denali National Park back in 1984. Even back then, despite her seasonal position as a housekeeper, Gail had her Masters in Chemical Engineering. She’d just arrived in Alaska from North Carolina and was looking for something to tide her over while she checked out the job market in up in Fairbanks on her days off. We had a good time chatting about old acquaintances and before we knew it, we were on final into Anchorage. There, we went our separate ways, she down to Seward and me across the cabin to seat 1A.



Alaska's 737-700

Out of Anchorage, a few clouds had gathered but we still had pretty good views of most of the glaciers and big peaks along the way. Dinner was – you guessed it – another serving of Grilled Chicken Breast with Red Pepper Pesto Sauce. I never did try any of the dessert, but it looked pretty good, rather like a chocolate cheesecake.


Seattle to Vancouver
Alaska 148 First Class
DC-9-80 N958AS Seat 1A
1010p-1102p Flight Time: :33


The MD-80 was originally known as a DC-9-80 when it was first introduced in the late 1970s. Why change the name to MD-80 for this most successful variant of the DC-9?

In May of 1979, an American Airlines DC-10 crashed on takeoff from Chicago’s O’Hare Airport. The pylon that attaches the engine to the wing separated from the wing with catastrophic results. There were no survivors. The subsequent NTSB investigation indicated improper maintenance practices by American contributed to the crash but more importantly, design flaws in the aircraft exacerbated the situation. All of the DC-10’s hydraulic systems – the main and back-ups – were located in the leading edge of the wing. All of them were severed when the engine and pylon swung upwards under full takeoff thrust. Boeing’s 747 and Lockheed’s L-1011 had their main and back-up hydraulic lines spread throughout the wing. Why didn’t McDonnell Douglas?

Two earlier incidents involving DC-10s also pointed to design flaws. Both involved the rear cargo door’s inability to stay closed inflight. Under pressurized flight, the sudden depressurization resulting from an open rear cargo door resulted in a partial collapse of the rear passenger cabin floor. Often this affected cables that controlled the rear ailerons. In the first incident, another American DC-10 was able to limp into Buffalo. In the second, a THY Turkish DC-10 crashed outside of Paris, killing all aboard.

In the wake of the Chicago crash, the domestic DC-10 fleet was grounded. Questions were asked, investigations were launched and ultimately it was alleged that McDonnell Douglas had taken some short cuts in the DC-10 design in an effort to enjoy the competitive edge gained from being able to get the DC-10 into service before Lockheed’s L-1011.

Of course, the mainstream media put the DC-10 story front and center. The result of all this was that a lot of negative publicity was generated towards not only the DC-10 but all McDonnell Douglas products. Just like that, the successful legacy of the “DC” brand evaporated. More than a few people refused to fly upon any plane that started with a “DC”.

At the same time, McDonnell Douglas was working hard towards generating orders for its new DC-9-80. All this negative publicity towards McDonnell Douglas in the aftermath of the DC-10 incidents was not helping sales at all. So – starting with the DC-9-80 and extending to all future commercial aircraft, the “DC” was replaced by “MD”. It’s worth noting that the Douglas Aircraft Corporation had become McDonnell-Douglas some years before the DC-10 entered service, but given the success of the “DC” brand with such stars as the DC-3, DC-6, DC-8 and DC-9, it was decided to stick with “DC” for the ten.

Had there not been any problems with the DC-10, the MD-80 would still be a DC-9-80 and the MD-11 would more likely be a DC-10-50. After all, what is the MD-11 if nothing but a stretched DC-10 with improved aerodynamics? It’s like the difference between Boeing’s 747-200 and 747-400.

I once got an email from a FlyerTalk member asking why I always listed the MD-80 as a DC-9-80 in my reports. I do it because that’s what the airplane was called when I first started flying it and if you look on any of the air worthiness certificates posted inside the aircraft (either above the front door or in the cockpit), that’s what it’s still called.

I like the DC-9-80. I’ve logged over 125,000 miles aboard it and I’ll be logging another 130 miles on tonight’s short flight up to Vancouver. Short would be the operative word here. With a total flight time of just thirty-three minutes, there wasn’t much time for any more service than a cold beer and a bag of pretzels. The only shorter flights I’ve been on aboard DC-9-80s have been inter-island hops on Hawaiian Air in the 1980s and a ten mile, seven minute flight from San Francisco to Oakland aboard Alaska Airlines a few years ago.

In Vancouver, we parked next door to a big HMY Harmony Airways 757 arriving from Las Vegas. It was unloading at the same time we were so I wasted no time in disembarking to hopefully beat the big glut of passengers soon to be descending upon immigration.

Vancouver International is a beautiful airport. Wood, glass, steel and stone have been combined to create an attractive, spacious and functional facility. Unfortunately, the designers did not create any dark and quiet places to sleep. The entire airport was brightly lit and down in the baggage claim areas, all night TV blared from the baggage carousels. I did find a reasonably quiet but well lit lounge area where I set up camp with four or five other weary travelers. While they tried to get comfortable atop banks of chairs, I unfurled and inflated my Thermarest Pad, pulled out my pillow and threw my sleeping bag over me like a quilt. I slept comfortably until my alarm went off at 6:30am.

Last edited by Seat 2A; Apr 5, 2014 at 2:06 pm
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Old Apr 13, 2005, 12:18 am
  #4  
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VANCOUVER TO CAMPBELL RIVER
Bus, Car and Ferry


Today’s plan called for getting from Vancouver over to the city of Nanaimo, located across the Strait of Georgia on Vancouver Island. Once there, I’d find a place to stay and catch a bus the next morning up to Port Hardy, located on the northern end of the island.

Getting from the Vancouver Airport across to Vancouver Island is easy. A company called Pacific Coach Lines operates a bus service direct to Victoria via the BC Ferry out of Tsawwassen. They sell thru-tickets to Nanaimo as well, but the bus will only take you as far as the mainland ferry terminal at Tsawwassen. From there you take the ferry across to Nanaimo. This sounded just fine to me, and so I shelled out $27.00 CAD for the trip to Nanaimo.

There was just one problem. The ferry didn’t actually dock in Nanaimo. It docked at Duke Point, about ten miles from Nanaimo. This was kind of like landing out in Virginia at Dulles Airport when your ultimate destination was downtown Washington DC. The ticket agent told me the only way into Nanaimo was via taxi. Is there any city bus, I asked. She didn’t know. Oh well. I’d figure it all out once I got there.

BC Ferries does a brisk business between the mainland and Vancouver Island. The most heavily traveled crossings are between the Vancouver ports of Tsawassen or the more northerly Horseshoe Bay across to Victoria and Nanaimo. However, there are many other crossing points as well.

My boat today was named the Queen of New Westminster. Aside from this ferry, I wasn’t aware that New Westminster – much less Old Westminster – had ever had a Queen. Ah well, they’ve got one now in the form of this ferry, and quite a large and spacious Queen she is. Built in Victoria, BC in 1964, the Queen offered spacious passenger seating areas, a snack bar, a restaurant serving full, plated hot meals and even a children’s area. Crossing time was about an hour and a half, during which I enjoyed a tuna sandwich and that morning’s Globe and Mail.

At Duke Point, I quickly discovered that the only way into Nanaimo was via taxi. I approached an available cab and asked how much it cost to get into Nanaimo. $35.00 to $40.00 was the reply. Oh my God! That’s highway robbery! Five minutes later I was standing alongside the road into town where I quickly got a ride from a nice couple who took me directly to the city bus station.

My ultimate destination on Vancouver Island was Port Hardy, located on the northern end of Vancouver Island, about 250 miles up the East Coast highway from Nanaimo. From Port Hardy, I’d be boarding another BC ferry the following evening for the twenty-two hour passage up to Prince Rupert, BC. There’s one bus a day from Nanaimo to Port Hardy. It leaves Nanaimo at 8:30am, arriving in Port Hardy at 3:40pm, allowing plenty of time to connect to the ferry which departs at 6:00pm. My original plan had been to spend the night in Nanaimo, but right now it was 1:00pm and there was a 2:45pm bus heading up to Campbell River, about a third of the way up to Port Hardy. The Port Hardy bus would pass through Campbell River tomorrow at a little after noon. After so many early morning wake up calls, it was an easy choice to go to Campbell River today so I could sleep in tomorrow morning.

So far, everything was working out quite nicely. The only thing that wasn’t was the weather. It had returned to its usual winter pattern of cloudy days with occasional wind and rain. Tomorrow’s forecast called for intensified wind and rain. As if on cue, the rain started falling in earnest that night in Campbell River. The wind woke me up the next morning.


March 26, 2005
Port Hardy to Prince Rupert
B.C. Ferries
M.V. Queen of Prince Rupert
600p-430p Travel Time: 22 Hours


To say that it was merely windy would be quite an understatement. Gusts were approaching 40-50 mph and the rain was falling in sheets. It was an impressive, if somewhat disheartening display. Only three days ago from the vantage point of my window seat some 30,000 feet overhead, it had looked so calm, sunny and beautiful down here. Now I was faced with riding a ferry through this. Good thing I didn’t throw out that Chilean sea sickness medication I thought as I listed to port and caught another hour of sleep.

Thankfully, by noon the worst of the weather had passed and when I boarded the bus to Port Hardy, it was merely cloudy with occasional light rain. As we rolled through the suburbs of Campbell River and finally turned north on the main road up to Port Hardy, it occurred to me that exactly a week ago at this time I was down on the other side of the planet, choogling along through Tierra del Fuego on a steam train. What a difference a week makes! A week from today I’d be comfortably sat up in the First Class cabin of a Cathay Pacific 747-400, flying between Vancouver and Hong Kong. A week after that I’d be tossin’ back a cold one in Alice Springs after a long day in the Alice Springs Desert Park. Daydreaming sure is fun, especially when it’s reality based!

The bus dropped us off at the ferry terminal right on time. The town of Port Hardy itself is located about a mile away. I had hoped that there’d be a store nearby the terminal, but there was nothing. Oh well. Hopefully the food on board the boat would be affordably priced.

When I made these reservations three months ago, I’d requested a cabin since it cost only $45.00 USD more per night than a mere seat. At that time no cabins were available, but I was put on a waiting list. Having heard nothing by email from BC Ferries, I assumed that nothing had cleared and so I was prepared to make the best of it in the passenger lounge with my Thermarest pad and sleeping bag. Imagine then my surprise and delight upon checking in to discover that my accommodation request had cleared off the waitlist and I did indeed have a cabin assigned to me.

Is it my own or will I be sharing it? I asked. It’s all yours, was the reply. Yippeee!

Just before boarding was announced, a chartered bus arrived and disgorged a large group of Royal Canadian Sea Cadets. They were all boys and girls who looked to be between the ages twelve and sixteen or thereabouts. All of them were decked out in their black dress uniforms, complete with black wool Captain’s hats. Three or four similarly bedecked chaperones maintained order amongst the group. All of them toted a full sized duffel bag. It was quite a group.

Boarding began at about 4:30pm. Foot passengers were allowed to board first, followed by cars and trucks. As with my experience two weeks earlier on the Navimag ferry in Chile, it was raining as we walked the one hundred or so yards from the ferry terminal down to the boat, named the “Queen of Prince Rupert”. Thankfully it wasn’t as heavy a rain, nor did we have to walk as far.




Boarding The Queen


We entered through the vehicle deck and climbed a couple flights of stairs to get up to the lounge deck where passenger seating and the Purser’s Office were located. At the Purser’s desk, I paid the additional $55.00 CAD for my cabin and was handed a key to room L-8. The L stood for Lounge Deck, so no more narrow stairways for me – at least not while wearing my big backpack. As I walked down the hallway and counted off the room numbers, I took note of how much space there was between doors. Either I’ve been upgraded to a suite or they’ve put me in another four-bunk room, I thought. Finally I reached L-8, the last cabin at the end of the hall, and opened the door.

Oh My God! What a room! It wasn’t a suite but it might as well have been after some of the accommodations I’d stayed in of late. I would guess the cabin measured 8’ by 10’, not including the ensuite toilet. Along one wall was a set of comfortable looking curtained bunk beds. I lay down on the bottom one and was thrilled to discover that there was room to spare for my nearly 6’ frame. Each bunk had a reading light and a small shelf for books or personal items.




Spacious Accommodations Aboard The Queen



These Bunk Beds Were Really Comfortable


A small couch sat alongside a table built into the wall. An electrical outlet was conveniently located alongside the table. Good! I’d be able to recharge my laptop. I even had a window between my bed and the table. This was no porthole, either. It was a big curtained window that let in lots of natural light. The bathroom had a full size flush toilet and a sink with hot and cold running water. Hand towels and washcloths were hung on a nearby rack.

Needless to say, I was positively thrilled with my accommodations. This was going to be a nice ride, regardless of the weather!

Once I’d gotten everything in my cabin squared away, I headed out to take a look around my new home for the next twenty-two hours. The Queen of Prince Rupert was built in Victoria, BC and entered service in 1966. At that time, she was considered the flagship of the BC Ferries fleet, and with good cause. Measuring 310 feet long and weighing in at 5,860 tonnes, she was the first ocean going ship in the fleet and the only one to offer staterooms.

My cabin was on the Lounge Deck, the largest on the ship. The cabins were located at the rear of the ship. My cabin was one of thirty-two cabins on the deck, twelve of them outside cabins with windows. All of the inside cabins had been allocated to the young Sea Cadets, most of whom were now out of their uniforms and conducting a localized ship inspection of their own – namely each other’s cabins. Every cabin, regardless of location, included its own ensuite toilet facilities. Showers were located across from the Purser’s office. Between the cabins and the Purser’s area was the Theater Lounge. Movies were shown here as well as the occasional documentary. At the forward end of the Lounge Deck was the main passenger seating area. This was the largest room on the ship and had reclining seats for about 125. People were spread out all over the place – both in the seats and on the floors. Makeshift camps comprised of floor blankets, sleeping bags and coolers had sprung up in most every open space. There was all manner of humanity spread about, from families with young children to retirees to backpackers. I was happy to have my cabin because this room was a noisy place.




The Scene In Steerage


Up a wide stairway from the Purser’s Office was the Promenade Deck. It featured the restaurant and gift shop. The restaurant was set up cafeteria style and looked very inviting. Not in a pretentious kind of way but rather a comfortable, homey kind of way, much like a rustic roadside caf. I found myself looking forward to dinner and I wasn’t even hungry.

I took a quick look at the deck above, only to find it contained more passengers cabins. Apparently nothing else. Above that was the ship’s bridge and officer’s quarters. Everything I needed was on my deck and the one above. Satisfied, I returned to my cabin and put in some work on this report.

The deep bass bellow of the ship’s horn announced that departure was imminent. Soon, I felt as much as heard the big engines power up as the boat shuddered and slowly backed away from the loading dock. Port Hardy sits in a pretty little cove surrounded by spruce covered mountains, so all my attention was directed towards the scenery for the next half-hour.




Leaving Port Hardy


The coastline of British Columbia is dotted with hundreds of islands and pierced by numerous fiords. I’ve flown over it hundreds of times and often wished I could be down there on the ocean blue sailing amongst those green spruce covered islands. Seventeen years ago I rode the summer day trip between Prince Rupert and Port Hardy. The sailing took fifteen hours and it rained the entire way. The current winter schedule takes twenty-two hours and makes stops in some communities not visited on the expedited summer schedule. Hopefully the weather will be a bit nicer enroute.

Alas, low clouds and rain were the order of the day. Still, given the heavy winds and rain I experienced earlier this morning, things could have been a lot worse. I found out later that we were on the northern edge of a substantial weather system that had dumped over three feet of snow in parts of the Cascade Mountains down in Washington State. The storm was a most welcome development because the winter of 2005 had thus far been one of the driest ever in the Cascades. Most ski areas were closed – some had never even opened. I flew through Seattle numerous times during February and was amazed at how pleasant and sunny it always was.




Beautiful BC Coastline ~ Lousy Weather



Beautiful BC Coastline ~ Lousy Weather


At 7:45pm, the last call for dinner was announced on the ship’s PA system. Thankfully, these announcements didn’t blast into the cabins but I could easily hear them from the speaker out in the hallway. Unfortunately, I could also hear screams and laughter from the rambunctious sea cadets. Occasionally a stern adult voice could be heard admonishing them to keep it down, after which they’d be good for about twenty minutes. While I would have preferred a quieter ride, I remember how excited we were as kids to go anywhere and I doubt we were any quieter. As long as it was quiet by about 10:00pm, I could live with it.

Up in the dining room, the specials were listed as breaded pork chops, barbecued spare ribs and roast beef. These were served with the usual accompaniments like a green salad, rice, mixed vegetables and/or potatoes. There was even a horseradish sauce for the roast beef. Also available were everyday standbys from the grill like a cheeseburger, grilled chicken sandwich, fried chicken tenders or fish and chips. Prices in Canadian currency ranged from $5.99 for the burger to $9.99 for the roast beef or pork chops. A self-serve cooler was stocked with a variety of desserts as well as pre-made sandwiches and beer. I had the breaded pork chops and was not disappointed.

I considered buying a beer but at $5.75 per bottle, I thought the price was a bit steep. Later, I asked the cashier about the lack of a bar on board and was told that there used to be one years ago but drunks had caused more trouble than not and so it was removed. Beer and wine were still available, but only during mealtimes. That meant alcohol sales ended at 8:00pm.

I like a couple of cold ones and the camaraderie of a good pub as much as anyone, but I’ve also been on boats and trains where alcohol has been a problem before and it’s generally not a pretty scene. While I think it’s a shame we couldn’t have a nice pub on board, under the circumstances I’m totally supportive of the decision to remove the pub. Few things irritate me as much as losers who can’t drink peaceably.

Tonight’s movie was announced as Ocean’s Eleven. I’ve seen this film a couple of times now so I decided to head back down to my cabin and enjoy the sanctuary it provided. Honestly, I was so impressed with that cabin that I quite enjoyed the comfort and solitude that it offered. I was very fortunate that I cleared the waitlist, particularly in light of how nice my cabin turned out to be. And, at only $55.00 CAD more per trip than a seat, my cabin was one of the best travel bargains going.

As I looked out my window at the rainy evening outside, I thought there’s something quite nice about having a warm room and a comfortable bed aboard a big boat on a night such as this. Because our route up to Prince Rupert took us primarily through the Inside Passage, the waters were calm and the ride smooth. Even the sea cadets were quiet after 9:00pm, having been ordered to bed by their commanding officers. By 11:00pm, I was also sound asleep.

During the night I slept through the stop in McLoughlin Bay. When I awoke at about 7:00am, we were just getting ready to depart Ocean Falls on our way to Klemta, our final stop before Prince Rupert. After taking advantage of the shower facilities – good and hot with decent water pressure – I headed upstairs for a ham and cheese omelette with coffee. As with the passenger lounge below it, the dining room was surrounded by windows on three sides. I took a table at the front of the room and enjoyed the view. The narrow, misty channels and spruce covered shoreline actually looked rather nice against a backdrop of twenty shades of gray. I was reminded of my trip through New Zealand’s Doubtful Sound many years ago. Even so, I would hope to someday see both areas under sunshine and blue skies. Given the normal weather patterns in both locales however, some might say I have a better chance of winning the lottery.




Docked at Ocean Falls



The Town Hall at Ocean Falls



The Restaurant Aboard The Queen
The view from the tables by the windows is fantastic!


Our arrival into Prince Rupert was about an hour and a half late, not that I was complaining however. This was one of the most enjoyable boat rides I’ve ever had and if any of you visiting the Pacific Northwest or British Columbia should have the time to visit coastal B.C., I highly recommend making a trip up the Inside Passage as part of your adventure. It’s worth noting that the ferry from Port Hardy generally has good connections with the Alaska Marine Highway. You may have to overnight in Prince Rupert for a night but if you’re in too much of a hurry to do that, you’ll probably be flying anyway.


PRINCE RUPERT, BC

Prince Rupert is known as “The City of Rainbows”. It is a name well earned, for Prince Rupert is also the rainiest city in Canada. It receives an average of about 100 inches of rain per year. The city has a population of 17,000 and is supported primarily by forestry, fishing and tourism. I paid a visit to the Museum of Northern BC and discovered that this area has seen substantial human activity for over ten thousand years.

Just 80 miles north of Prince Rupert is Ketchikan, Alaska. It is said to be the rainiest city in North America, receiving over 150” of rainfall annually. There’s a funny postcard out of Ketchikan that shows people cowering in the street as a stray ray of sun breaks through the clouds and illuminates them. The caption reads “Sunshine terrorizes Southeast Alaskans”. The only relief is to quickly run inside and jump into a cold shower. I wanted to cruise up the on the Alaska Marine Highway but the schedule wouldn’t accommodate my limited time in Prince Rupert.

My two full days in Prince Rupert were spent at my usual leisurely pace. I’ve never been one to arrive somewhere and immediately rush out and try to see this or do that. I’ll get around to it when I get around to it. And if I don’t get around to it, then I don’t. It’s a poor approach to work but a laid back approach to travel that suits me well. As such, I woke up each morning at around 8:00am, showered and wandered into town in search of a good coffee shop. I found a couple of very nice places and in one got caught up in a conversation on travel around the South Pacific and Australia. Australia? Why it so happens I’ll be heading there in just a few days. And on it went from there.

I spent one entire afternoon in the Museum of Northern BC and another walking a coastal trail out towards the ferry terminal. Given the amount of rainfall that the area gets, its forests are quite spectacular indeed and I was quite fortunate to get one afternoon that was merely blustery. Rainy weather not withstanding, I wouldn’t mind returning to Prince Rupert for another couple of days. It’s a nice place.


March 30, 2005
Prince Rupert to Prince George
ViaRail Comfort Class
“The Skeena”
800a–830p


I’ve driven to Prince Rupert many times in order to catch the Alaska Marine Highway ferry up to Skagway, Alaska. During the final forty miles of the drive, the highway enters the spectacular Skeena River canyon where it parallels not only the river but also the Canadian National Railroad tracks. On one trip, I happened to share the canyon with ViaRail’s westbound “Skeena” as we both sped towards an early evening arrival in Prince Rupert. While I had to pay attention to the narrow roadway alongside the tracks, passengers on board the train were relaxing and enjoying the view. I love riding trains and knew then that I’d have to someday ride the train through this beautiful canyon. Now, thirteen years later, my dream has become reality.

The Skeena is not a glamour train. Starting from Jasper, Alberta, the Skeena travels 813 miles across the middle of British Columbia to Prince Rupert. Unlike it’s celebrated cousin, ViaRail’s world famous Canadian, The Skeena doesn’t have a long and storied history. As well, its route through western British Columbia, while very pretty, is not nearly as dramatic as that enjoyed by passengers on The Canadian during its journey through the heart of the Canadian Rockies.

All that aside, The Skeena is one of the few remaining trains anywhere on the planet to be equipped with classic 1950s era dome cars. Collectors own most surviving examples and only ViaRail still offers scheduled service aboard trains equipped with them. Amongst rail fans and anyone who appreciates the glamour of post WWII rail travel in North America, domeliners like The Skeena and The Canadian will always be special trains.

ViaRail’s dome cars are old Canadian Pacific Railroad stock, built in 1955 especially for the CP’s brand new Canadian. There are dome coaches and dome lounges in addition to the beautiful dome observation lounges that bring up the rear of the train. These are called “Park Cars” because they are named after various National and Provincial Parks in Canada. They are normally reserved for the exclusive use of First Class passengers, meaning those passengers holding sleeping accommodations.



*** ***** ***


I thought I’d be able to walk to the ViaRail station in Prince Rupert, but it has relocated to the ferry terminal outside of town. Though inconvenient for me, the move allows ferry passengers arriving in the morning from Alaska or the Queen Charlotte Islands to more easily connect to the 8:00am train to points east. Interestingly, a new containership terminal to be completed next year will mean the relocation of both the ferry and railroad terminals to a location closer to the city.

The taxi dropped me off at the station in a driving rain. It was raining so hard that in the short time it took me to step out of the cab, remove my pack from the trunk and step into the station, I actually got pretty wet. Wet enough that I decided to change my shirt.

Inside the station were about a half a dozen people. Where is everybody? The ViaRail ticket agent exchanged my electronic ticket for a paper one and told me that the load was pretty light today. I’d say so. Ultimately, only fourteen of us boarded in Prince Rupert.

The train pulled into the station just ten minutes prior to departure. Headed up by a single F40PH engine, the remainder of the train consisted of just two cars - a flat top coach and the dome observation lounge “Kootenay Park”. That was it. I do believe this is the shortest train I’ve ever ridden upon.

During the off-season, the Skeena is operated as an all-economy class train. As such, the inclusion of the dome observation lounge was a real treat because these cars are normally reserved for First Class passengers.




The Skeena Awaits at Prince Rupert Station



The Domecar "Kootenay Park"



All Aboard at Prince Rupert



Economy Class Seating on The Skeena



Economy Class Seating on The Skeena
Decent Legroom


With only fourteen passengers to board, we were loaded and ready to go within five minutes of boarding. There was no baggage car since the coach had baggage storage shelves at each end. Tickets were collected by the conductor, some last minute paperwork was exchanged through the vestibule window and we were on our way, smoothly gliding through the Prince Rupert suburbs and out into the rainforest south of the city.

I didn’t spend but five minutes in my seat before gathering my gear and relocating to a seat upstairs in the dome car. The dome is accessed via a small stairway and offers
24 seats under the glass, six rows of 2-2. The views is forward and above as well as to the sides, perfect for viewing the mountains above and the river beside us as we rolled out of Prince Rupert and into the Skeena River Canyon. Now if only the rain would stop.




Upstairs Seating Under The Dome



Looking Downstairs From The Dome Into The Bullet Lounge



The Mural Lounge Located Under The Dome


In the language of the Gitksan people, Skeena translates into River of the Mists. The river has been a trading route and fish source for thousands of years. Over its last forty miles, the Skeena is as wide or wider than many of the channels that I’d recently sailed through in both Chile and British Columbia.




Rolling Along The Skeena


At one point, we stopped briefly as the train crew pointed out a two hundred year old native rock painting. The painting depicted an eagle, of which there are many along the Skeena River.




Rock Painting Alongside The Tracks

Our speed through the Skeena River Canyon was about 50 mph. I thought the pace was perfect for enjoying the scenery enroute. By contrast, trains like the French TGV and Japanese Bullet Train rip along the tracks at speeds three to four times faster. I’ve never been all that impressed with ultra high-speed travel. This includes the Concorde. I’m into the experience of travel, of getting there. Super fast planes and trains are for people who are more interested in the destination. The less time they have to spend getting there, the better.

To be sure, we all face situations where time is of the essence and travel needs to be accomplished as quickly as possible. In general though, if the time and price are right I’d much rather drive or take the train than fly. The pace is slower and more relaxed, I get to see and enjoy the country I’m traveling through rather than over, and there’s often a diner or lounge car in which to enjoy a meal or mingle with fellow travelers.

Leaving the Skeena River canyon, the train passed through pretty valleys and small towns surrounded by high mountains. Approaching the town of Smithers, we passed by Hudson Bay Mountain. I’ve seen this mountain many times under sunny skies and its quite impressive. The view of the Kathlyn Glacier upon its upper reaches is said to be the best view of a Glacier from any train in North America. Unfortunately, low clouds obscured any chance of seeing the glacier, much less the top of the mountain. Later, big fluffy snowflakes started falling as we paralleled the Bulkley River. High mountains gave way to rolling hills as we entered B.C.'s Lake District. As we slowly rolled into Burns Lake, a popular fishing and vacation area, one of the train attendants took time to check a nearby eagle’s nest for sign of chicks. I commented that it seemed a bit early for chicks but she replied that she’d seen some last week out at Fraser Lake. No doubt the unusually warm winter has jump-started some of the natural processes.

Food on today’s train was nothing to write home about. The menu was strictly take away and was highlighted by pre-fab sandwiches and instant noodle soups. There were a couple of microwaveable entre dishes but neither of them looked particularly appealing. During the summer months, the selection is considerably better.

About an hour out of Prince George, we passed through the town of Fort Fraser. It was announced that this was where the final spike was driven in to complete the Grand Trunk and Pacific transcontinental railway in April of 1914. That railway went on to become today’s Canadian National.

At a little after 8:00pm, we saw the first lights of Prince George, the largest city in Northern BC with a population of about 75,000. Approaching the city from the west, those first lights turned out to be about the only lights because there really wasn’t much of a western suburb. We passed by lumber mills and old warehouses and when we finally did enter an area of bright lights and city streets we were just a few blocks from the train station.

Alighting from the train, I headed over to the National Hotel located just across the street from the station. I’d discovered this hotel via the Internet when searching for budget accommodations in Prince Rupert. While I couldn’t argue with the hotel’s convenient location, the place had a rough look about it that wasn’t captured in the glossy photos posted on the website. The lobby was open but there was nobody working the front desk. A sign directed potential guests to register with the bar next door. Hmm… My doubts about this place were confirmed when I watched three of the hotel guests lurch into the hotel. One of them asked me for some spare change.

I headed back across the street to the train station where I booked a clean, quiet room at the Downtown Motor Inn for just $45.00 CAD per night.


March 31, 2005
Prince George to Vancouver
Air Canada Jazz 2825 Economy Class
DHC-8-300 C-GKTA Seat 1B
1230p-200p Flight Time: 1:24


My flight down to Vancouver didn’t depart until 12:30pm so I enjoyed a late breakfast and a leisurely morning in Prince George before catching a shuttle out to the airport. The terminal was nearly empty when I arrived, so check-in was accomplished quickly.

Prince George is served by Air Canada Jazz, WestJet and a couple of smaller regional airlines. Until just recently, it was also served by Fokker 100s from low cost carrier JetsGo. Two or three months ago when I’d made my reservations for this segment, I gave serious consideration to booking my flight aboard JetsGo. Not only was it an airline that I’d never flown before but it also operated the Fokker 100, an aircraft fast disappearing from North American skies. Ultimately, I chose Air Canada’s Jazz because its Tango fare was substantially lower than anything offered by JetsGo or WestJet at the time. JetsGo recently filed for bankruptcy and ceased all flight operations, so today I was doubly thankful to be booked aboard Air Canada.

The aircraft for today’s flight was a DeHavilland Canada DHC-8-300, one of the most popular regional propjets ever built. It was painted in Jazz’s green livery, which features a simple green maple leaf on the tail and the stylized “Jazz” title across the forward part of the fuselage. Other colors for this livery include red, orange and yellow. Autumn colors. Green was an appropriate color for today, the 10th day of spring.



Air Canada Jazz Dash 8 enroute to YVR

This one hour flight down to Vancouver didn’t offer much in the way of service, but then not much was expected from an airline teetering on the brink of bankruptcy just one year ago. I had a Coke and a bag of surprisingly tasty sesame sticks. Unfortunately, the cloudy skies deprived us of viewing some of the pretty scenery between Prince George and Vancouver. After last week’s sunshine, it seems I’m travelling through this region just a few days too late.

Upon landing in Vancouver, I collected my pack and headed off to pick up a rental car for a weekend down in Seattle.

Last edited by Seat 2A; Apr 5, 2014 at 3:35 pm
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Old Apr 13, 2005, 12:21 am
  #5  
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Join Date: Apr 2001
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Posts: 12,124
April 02, 2005
Vancouver to Hong Kong
Cathay Pacific First Class
747-400 B-HOV Seat 2K
240p-755p Flight Time: 12:43



Spring and winter got reversed this year in the Pacific Northwest. The biggest winter storm of the season arrived on the fifth day of spring and hasn’t really let up since. The mountains have been getting large amounts of snow

At a time when most ski areas are starting to wrap up their seasons, many of them here in Washington State are just now opening. It seems fitting that for many, opening day is April 1st, or April Fool’s Day.

Springtime not withstanding, I awoke this morning to yet another gray, rainy day. I never thought I’d say this about life in the Pacific Northwest, but the fact is I haven’t seen much in the way of sunshine since winter!

After running a few last minute errands in Bellingham, I headed up I-5 to Vancouver. The big border crossing at Blaine was pretty busy for a Saturday. Electronic signs above the interstate advised that there would be a thirty-minute wait. I timed it. Twenty-seven minutes. Close enough.

After dropping the car off, I headed straight for the Cathay Pacific check-in counters. No dawdling for me. I’d been looking forward to this day from the moment I stepped off my last Cathay Pacific flight and I was anxious to return to the world of Cathay’s First Class service as soon as possible.

Today, that service began with an empty First Class check-in counter and continued with a Fast Track lane through the security checkpoint. Nobody was ahead of me, not even a few Business Class passengers. It was almost dreamlike to just stroll up to security and have friendly, smiling agents waiting there just for me. Reality quickly reasserted itself when one of the agents decided that my laptop was worthy of a few swabs with the explosive residue detection wipes.

Cathay Pacific’s First Class Lounge is located just beyond security, up on the fourth floor. The lounge I visited last year served both Business and First Class passengers. It was not air-conditioned and the buffet area offered only a sparse selection of dim sums and hot noodles along with peanuts and Asian snack mix. I had heard that Cathay’s Vancouver lounge had recently been refurbished and was now much nicer than the mediocre facility I visited before. Well let’s just head right on up there and find out, shall we?

Just outside the entrance to the lounge is a life sized cardboard cutout of a Cathay Pacific Flight Attendant. These cardboard cutouts seem rather popular with the Asian airlines - I have seen examples from China Airlines, Singapore Airlines and now Cathay. A hostess greeted me from behind a long counter, inspected my boarding pass and then escorted me into the First Class Lounge. Along the way, she oriented me to the location of the wash rooms, the workstations and the buffet. Boarding would be announced at a little after 2:00pm. Please make yourself comfortable and enjoy the lounge.




Cathay Pacific's Vancouver Lounge


Right away it was obvious that Cathay had done an excellent job of refurbishing this facility. Polished black marble floors, potted plants, comfortable seating and big picture windows made this lounge a pleasant place to while away an hour or two before departure. Outside the windows on the ramp below us was a pair of Air Canada A340s, both sporting the new weird greenish white livery. Soon they were joined by a Lufthansa 747-400. Isn’t it about time Lufthansa considered a new livery?

Turning away from the window, I headed over to the other side of the lounge to take stock of the epicurean delights on offer. Along one wall was a nicely stocked buffet area that included a tray of sushi with wasabi and ginger, a nice selection of small sandwiches and wraps, small bowls of Macadamia nuts, and a hot bowl of wontons and something unrecognizable. In a self-serve refrigerator were nice looking, individually made up fruit plates along with a good selection of juices and soft drinks. Red wine from Chile and white wine from Australia accompanied the usual variety of bottled spirits. The champagne was Pol Roger and the beer selections included Molson and Heineken.

I put together a colorful plate of food, grabbed a cold Molson with a bowl of Macadamia nuts and headed over to one of the three Internet capable computer terminals. I really wanted the desk space more than the computer, especially since I was able to plug in my own laptop and access the Internet via the lounge’s Wi-Fi availability. A couple of phone calls, a couple of emails, an Internet purchase of travel insurance and suddenly it was 2:15pm and boarding was announced for CX839 to Hong Kong.




First Class Snacking in the Lounge


In the boarding lounge, a large group of high school students was being shepherded together by their teachers with a small talk being given about proper behavior onboard the airplane. A field trip to Hong Kong! Man, would that ever be exciting - even in Economy Class! I envied the thrill those kids must be feeling to travel so far away at so young an age. All my school field trips were aboard busses and never went any farther than a hundred miles or so.

There was no separate jetway for First and Business Class passengers so although I didn’t have to wait in line to enter the jetway, I did have a fair wait inside the jetway to actually get onboard the aircraft. At the door, two Flight Attendants welcomed passengers and I was directed to cross the aircraft and bear left. As usual on a big airplane like the 747, it looked to be sheer bedlam back in Economy Class with lots of people up and about, trying to stow their carry-ons and squeeze into their aisles. It’s weird how when I’m flying Economy, I don’t give all this noise and commotion a second thought. When I’m fortunate enough to be sitting in First or Business Class however, it’s with an almost palpable sense of relief that I take that left hand turn and accelerate smoothly into the peace and quiet of the forward cabins.

Today, it was with great pleasure that I was able to continue on through Business Class and enter into the rarified atmosphere of Cathay Pacific’s First Class cabin.

Ahh…

Soft Chinese melodies floated through the cabin like a gentle breeze on a spring afternoon. A Flight Attendant approached, welcomed me by name and introduced herself as Jennifer. She assisted me in stowing my carry-ons and hanging my jacket, then returned with a tall glass of Krug Champagne. That’s right, folks – Cathay still serves the good stuff!

Next, a male Flight Attendant appeared. Would you care for a lobster appetizer, perhaps? But of course! A small plate of shredded cabbage topped with a nice portion of sliced lobster tail was soon delivered. Mmmm!




Welcome Aboard!


Champagne and lobster - this is how a proper flight should begin.

Hot towels were next, followed by sleeper suits and amenity kits. Renowned clothier Shanghai Tang makes Cathay Pacific’s sleeper suits and this year’s version is black with green trim. The suit comes with slippers and an eye mask. I still have a couple of last year’s suits that were gold with red trim. Since I don’t expect to be sleeping much on this flight, I reckon I’ll mail this one home and add it to the collection.

This year’s Amenity Kits feature products from skin care specialists Elemis. A small brochure included in the kit reads as follows: Brought to you by Cathay Pacific, the world renowned Elemis range of advanced skin care products is uniquely designed to provide life-enhancing solutions for every man and woman… helping to re-awaken your senses on your journey into sensory heaven.

What is it with skin care and all this New Age mumbo jumbo? The Molson Brown Spa at British Airways’ Heathrow Lounge Pavilion is famous for its massages and skin treatments that suggest you’ll be the beneficiary of not only better skin tone and circulation but an enlightened sense of being as well. As for journeying to sensory heaven, I’m only going to Hong Kong but so far the comfort of my First Class seat, the sounds of the soft Chinese music and the taste of the champagne and lobster were stimulating my senses quite nicely, thank you.

This year’s amenity kit includes the following Elemis products:

Lip Rescue
A fresh, wild mint balm to support, nourish and moisturize the lips. Use at anytime to keep lips in perfect condition.

Skin Survival Cream
Helps improve the appearance of fine lines, whilst nourishing and moisturizing the skin. Apply liberally to face and neck throughout the flight, especially after shaving.

Moisture Mint Shave Gel
This peppermint shaving gel provides intense moisturization and protects the skin from irritation. Apply to the face and neck to soften the beard ready for shaving.


Also included are a basic toothbrush and toothpaste set, a bottle of mouthwash, a set of earplugs and a lint brush. As First Class amenity kits go, I think this is a very nice little kit. I’ll send it on home with the sleeper suits and it’ll make a nice Christmas stocking stuffer.

In the center console across from me was a large selection of Asian and Canadian papers. There was even the international edition of USA Today. I selected a copy of the International Herald Tribune and listened as the Captain made a short announcement welcoming us aboard. He promised us a smooth journey over to Hong Kong and indicated a planned flight time of twelve hours and forty-four minutes.

Pushback was right on time. I love the sound from up in the forward cabin as those big Rolls Royce engines spool up, then whistle into “second gear” as we begin our taxi out to the runway. Upon completion of the safety video, Head Purser Karianne stopped by to welcome each passenger aboard and thank us for our patronage of Cathay Pacific.

The menu and wine list were presented during taxi. Cathay’s menus are always very attractively designed. The cover usually features an artistic photograph of fruits or vegetables, a stylish hint of the Epicurean delights to be served aloft. Today’s menu featured a close up of a tasty looking morsel of herbed prawn. I’m hungry already! Let’s see what’s for lunch:




The Menu


Vancouver to Hong Kong

LUNCHEON

Caviar and Fine Fish Delight

Caviar and Fine Smoked Salmon served with Warm New Potatoes and Crme Fraiche

Soup
Seafood Chowder

Salad
Baby Spinach with Grilled Romaine and Warm Goat Cheese
Served with Sundried Tomato and Oregano Dressing


Bread Basket
Assorted Bread and Rolls


MAIN COURSES

Grilled Lobster with Garlic Butter Sauce

New Potatoes and Mixed Vegetables

Sauted Chicken with Kung Po Sauce
Steamed Rice and Black Mushroom in Oyster Sauce with Boiled Shanghai Pak Choy

Roast Herb Crusted Lamb Rack with Mint Flavored Lamb Jus
Roasted Red Skin Potato Wedges and Fresh Seasonal Vegetables

Noodles in Soup
With Braised Beef Brisket


*** ***** ***

Cheese Board
A Selection of Fine International Cheeses
Served with the Traditional Accompaniments


DESSERT SELECTION

Wildberry Gateau
Chocolate Souffl
Vanilla Ice Cream
Double Milk Custard with Ginger


Tea and Coffee

Pralines and Cookies





So many choices … and four desserts! I was glad I hadn’t eaten too much in the First Class Lounge.

We took off into a gray and drizzly sky but soon climbed above the cloud cover, allowing bright sunlight to flood the cabin. After a week of continual clouds and rain, I quite welcomed that first warm glow of sunshine. I was the only one however. Everyone else in the cabin slammed down their window shades quicker than a pack of vampires! I almost expected to hear a collective hiss as my fellow passengers recoiled from the bright world outside their windows and replaced it with blissful darkness illuminated only by artificial light. Go figure.

Our initial route of flight took us up over Vancouver Island. We then passed between Prince Rupert and Queen Charlotte Island before adapting a more westerly heading that took us a little farther from land but still essentially paralleled the Alaska coastline. Being as it was a little after 3:00pm with a big luncheon service soon to come, I decided to keep a couple of my window shades up. Besides preferring natural light to artificial light, I’d also checked out the weather report for coastal Alaska and knew that the clouds would disappear and we’d soon be treated to some pretty fine scenery. In the meantime, I reclined my seat and perused the Wine List:




The Wine List



Wine List Presentation


WINE LIST

Champagne

Krug Grand Cuvee Champagne

White Wines
Franciscan Oakville Estate Chardonnay 2001
Vincent Girardin Meursault, Vielles Vignes 2001


Red Wines
Corton Grand Cru Louis Max 1996
Foley Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir 2001
Chateau Lynch Bages 1997, 5me Cru Class



Dessert Wine
Chateau Roumieu “Haut-Placey” Sauternes 2001

Port
Ramos Pinto Quinta de Evamoira 10 Year Old Tawny Port

***** ***** *****

Aperitifs and Cocktails
Campari * Martini Rosso * Martini Extra Dry * Harvey’s Bristol Cream Sweet Sherry * La Ina Dry Sherry * Gordon’s Dry Gin * Stolichnaya Russian Vodka * Bloody Mary * Screwdriver

Whiskeys
Chivas Regal 12 Years Old
Johnnie Walker Blue Label
Glenfiddich Ancient Reserve Single Malt Whiskey
Gentleman Jack Bourbon
Canadian Club


Cognac
Hennessey XO

Liqueurs
Grand Marnier * Cointreau * Drambuie * Kahlua * Bailey’s Irish Cream

Beer
International Selection




I’ve never really been much of a whiskey or bourbon drinker, but then I’ve rarely had occasion to be served any of the top shelf stuff. Today I decided to try out the Gentleman Jack Bourbon. Again, being as I'm not a regular drinker of bourbon, I requested only a small glass, served “on the rocks” or over ice. Apparently, my request was misunderstood because what was ultimately delivered was a full ten ounce tumbler with just a little bit of ice.

Oh my God! I’d need wheelchair assistance off the aircraft if I drank all that! Though I hate to see good alcohol go to waste, there was no way I was going to drink anywhere near what was in that glass. I managed to communicate this clearly and concisely to a different Flight Attendant who quickly replaced my large glass with a smaller wineglass of the amber elixir.
As for the Gentleman Jack’s, it was very good. True sippin’ whiskey as they say. I might just have to buy a bottle to keep around the cabin for special occasions out on the porch.




Whiskey and Cashews ~ Oh yeah!


Speaking of special occasions, it was time for lunch. A trolley was wheeled out with all the accouterments necessary to setting a quality table. Crisp white linens, sparkling glasses and cutlery, a salt and pepper shaker, a bread plate and a toothpick completed the ensemble. Once my table was set, I was asked if I’d care for a glass of wine.




Trolley Service


Hmm… How about a glass of that Lynch Bages 1997. Over the past couple of years, Cathay’s First Class clientele had sung the praises of the 1995 vintage loud and clear. I was fortunate to enjoy a couple of glasses of that fine wine during last year’s travels aboard Cathay to South Africa. Would the ’97 be a worthy successor? I thought so.

Luncheon service started with Cathay’s revered caviar and salmon presentation. This was done in the grand old tradition via the trolley and I watched with considerable anticipation as my plate was artistically put together with generous spoonfuls of caviar, sliced salmon, chopped red onions, eggs and crme fraiche sprinkled with finely chopped shallots. Also included were four pieces of Melba toast and a lemon half. Sheer decadence!




Caviar And Salmon a la Cathay Pacific


The seafood chowder was neither New England style nor Manhattan, but it was fairly thick and had generous portions of seafood and potatoes. Good stuff. It was followed by a nice salad that was highlighted by the delicious Sundried Tomato and Oregano Dressing. The dressing was presented in an individual small pitcher placed next to the salad. This was a nice touch that other airlines would do well to emulate.




Seafood Chowder



Luncheon Salad


For my entre selection, I ordered the Grilled Lobster with Garlic Butter Sauce. I’d never had lobster as an inflight entre before and was looking forward to seeing what Cathay’s chefs had come up with. Two other passengers across the cabin from me had also ordered the lobster and I watched with interest as their entrees were delivered.

My entre as delivered certainly looked impressive. The big red lobster tail took up about half the plate and the potatoes and grilled red and green peppers made for a nice looking combination on the other half of the plate. Unfortunately, my lobster tail was about 70% shell and only 30% meat. I got all of three bites out of it. The tail I was served would have made a better appetizer. Still, most of these International First Class airline meals can be quite filling – occasionally overly so. I was looking forward to cheese and dessert so on the plus side I at least minimized the risk of feeling too full after the meal.




The Lobster Looked Better Than It Really Was


By the way, I accompanied the lobster with a glass of the French Meursault. That was the best wine of the flight in my opinion. But don’t take just my word for it. This wine won “Best First Class White Wine” in Business Traveller Magazine’s “2004 Cellar In The Sky Awards”. I’ll be looking forward to more glasses of this on flights to come.

Plates were cleared and it was time to move on to the cheese service. To be honest, what I was really looking forward to was a glass of that tasty port that Cathay proffers. A cheese board bearing six different cheeses was brought to my seat and I was allowed to select my preferences. I selected four including a tasty blue cheese and also requested a glass of the port. Very nice…




The Cheese Selection


Four different dessert choices! How many airlines offer that? I chose the Wildberry Gateau and was not disappointed. It was presented in much the same style as the Pear Charlotte I had on last year’s flight between Vancouver and Hong Kong. It consisted of a thin layer of chocolate cake topped by a berry souffl garnished with berries. This was a delicate and delicious dessert, washed down with a couple of cups of Cathay’s very good coffee.




Wildberry Gateau


It’s worth noting here that on Cathay Pacific at least, requesting a cup of coffee with your meal will get you much more than just a cup of coffee. What you get is a coffee service that includes a pot of coffee, a pitcher of cream, sugars, a small plate of pralines and a chocolate mint.




The Coffee Service - Cathay Style


Even though the lobster portion was too small, overall I felt this was a very tasty and satisfying meal. After plates were cleared and my table stowed, I reclined my seat and took in the beautiful view of the rugged Alaska coastline outside my window. The clouds cleared just outside of Juneau and those of us who cared to look were treated to spectacular views of some of North America’s most impressive coastline. Mountains, glaciers and clear blue sky punctuated by some of the tallest mountains on the continent. Mt. St. Elias rises to over 18,000 feet while just behind it and to the east is Mt. Logan, Canada’s tallest at 19,550 feet.




Cruising Along Alaska's Rugged Coast



'Tis A Privilege To Live In Alaska!


As I sat there relishing life in Cathay Pacific’s First Class, it occurred to me that on this very date just one year ago I was similarly ensconced in the forward cabin of a British Airways 747 flying high over Australia’s Great Sandy Desert enroute to Singapore. That flight, BA 18, may be my favorite flight ever. It leaves Melbourne in the late afternoon, just as the shadows begin to get longer and the sky takes on a deeper shade of blue. After a leisurely round of cocktails and canaps, dinner is served over the Simpson Desert southeast of Alice Springs. The flight time of just over seven hours allows for a service that is relaxed and unhurried. After dinner, as the sun sinks below the western horizon, it’s time to recline that big comfortable seat, enjoy another glass of fine wine and perhaps watch a movie. There are over thirty to choose from. Time flies by all too quickly in such comfortable surroundings and before you know it, you’re over the Sea of Java and Singapore is only an hour away. Arrival in Singapore is a little before 10:00pm, leaving plenty of time to get into the city for a good night’s sleep.

Meanwhile, back over the deep blue Pacific, we were cruising along at 35,000 feet while battling a staunch 42 mph headwind. This reduced our ground speed to a leisurely 574 mph, allowing that much more time to enjoy the views of Alaska’s Seward peninsula, rising spectacularly just off our starboard side.



A fine afternoon for flying out over the North Pacific

Not long after this however, clouds began to gather so I closed the shades on nature’s highlights and decided to check out this month’s offerings on Studio CX.

When it comes to inflight entertainment systems, I cannot imagine a finer product than Cathay Pacific’s Studio CX. It is unquestionably the finest inflight entertainment system that I have ever experienced. The range of movies and television programs is absolutely stunning, and of course the ability to bring them up on demand, with pause, rewind and fast forward functions is simply superlative. In all fairness, I’ve not flown First Class aboard some of the other top notch IFE providers such as Singapore or Emirates but I’m sure that Cathay’s Studio CX would compare favorably with whatever product they offer.

Now if only Cathay would offer inflight Internet access…

I decided to watch Meet The Fockers. It would be interesting to see such fine actors as Robert DeNiro and Dustin Hoffman reduced to gags in a B comedy. And Barbara Streisand - I didn’t even know she was still alive! Well, I got a good laugh out of this movie and on a couple of occasions couldn’t help but let loose with a hearty guffaw that hopefully did not overly disturb the peaceful tranquility of the First Class cabin.

By contrast, the elderly Chinese woman across the cabin from me in Seat 2A sounded alternately like an old steam engine or an old camel – gasping and wheezing one moment, snorting and snuffling the next, punctuating these episodes of respiratory distress with the occasional hacking cough. I wasn’t entirely sure she’d survive the flight. The Flight Attendant kept her plied with seemingly endless pots of tea and darned of she didn’t toddle off the plane under her own power once we reached Hong Kong.

After the movie, I switched back over to the AirShow. We’d left Alaska behind, crossing over the Bering Strait just south of Big Diomede and Little Diomede Islands, where Russia and the U.S. are just 10 miles apart. We’d also crossed the International Date Line at that point so I had to figure out how to move my watch ahead to April 3rd. Maybe it was time to lay off the alcohol and switch to something mellower. I ordered a Cathay Delight and decided to put in some work on this report while occasionally monitoring our progress on the AirShow.

After crossing into Russian air space, we adopted a south-southwesterly heading and flew down the length of the Sea of Okhotsk before then over flying the Gulf of Shelekhova. At this point, Hong Kong was just 3,605 miles away. About as far as your typical flight between most western European capitols and New York City.

I sure wish I could’ve had the windows open for our journey down over Eastern Siberia. The few peeks I did sneak revealed a snow-covered world of big mountains, frozen rivers and long, wide valleys. Outside our windows, the late afternoon sun shown brightly but with local time in Vancouver now approaching 10:00pm, many passengers had their seats fully reclined and were trying to get some sleep.

The menu listed some refreshment items in addition to a light dinner to be offered prior to our arrival into Hong Kong. Let’s have another look at that menu:


REFRESHMENT

French Baguette with Artichoke and Crabmeat Dippings

Noodles in Soup

With Chicken, Chinese Mushrooms and Choy Sum

Prawn Congee
Accompanied by Oriental Pancake

Rice with Minced Pork Patty and Salted Egg Yolk in Hot Pot
Served with Clear Chicken Soup




The French Baguette is served with a hot artichoke and crabmeat dip and is downright decadent, if not off the scale in the cholesterol count. I’m not a big fan of congee and the minced pork patty hot pot is nothing special. However, one thing I did learn after last year’s travels with Cathay Pacific is that their soups are not to be missed. Last time, I ordered the Noodle Soup with Braised Beef Brisket. It was one of the finest Asian dishes I’ve ever had, be it in the air or on the ground. That same soup was available on today’s flight but the chicken and mushroom soup sounded like an interesting combination, especially with the addition of the Choy Sum, whatever that is. I ordered a bowl of it along with another Cathay Delight.

Cathay’s soup presentation is very nice indeed. I was presented a red tray bearing a covered bowl of soup, a small plate of hot chilli paste, a soup spoon with its own little holding dish and a set of chopsticks. The chicken soup was good, especially with the addition of that chilli paste. Even so, I have fonder memories of that beef soup. Hopefully it’ll be available on one of my flights home next month.




Noodle Soup with Chicken, Chinese Mushrooms and Choy Sum


We’d been aloft a little over seven hours so far and there were still another five hours left in the flight. Twelve hours is a long time to remain sat in one place, so if only for the opportunity to just get up and move around a bit, I decided to take a stroll back into Economy and Business Class. We all know how comparatively crowded and cramped Economy Class travel is. It’s no better or worse on Cathay Pacific. What surprised me was how comparatively crowded the New Business Class looked. I’ve read more than a few Trip Reports that make this Business Class sound quite good. I guess it would certainly seem that way if your main point of reference were Economy Class travel. Alas, I’ve never flown anything but First Class aboard Cathay so from my perspective that new Business Class doesn’t look very nice at all. Three across seating in the main cabin… eegads! (Shivers!) If you must travel in Business Class, definitely try to get a seat upstairs.

Have I become a spoiled rotten Trip Reporter? Probably. Have my flight reports lost their luster and objectivity because I’ve lost touch with FlyerTalk’s Business and Economy Class constituency? You be the judge. I’m just saying that when viewed from the perspective of a suite in Cathay Pacific’s spacious and luxurious First Class cabin, the comparative space and comfort in Cathay’s Business Class cabin represents a substantial drop in the quality of the travel experience.

Our 7:50pm arrival time in Hong Kong was the equivalent of 3:50am back in Vancouver. Since my travel budget has never allowed an outlay of over $100.00 a night for a hotel room (Single room rates at HKG’s only airport hotel start at over $200.00 USD per night) I knew I’d be overnighting in the airport as a transit passenger. Hong Kong International is a huge airport and the hustle and bustle of passengers going and coming would not likely die down until after 10:00pm. Since it was unlikely I’d be able to find a nice quiet place until at least then, that meant I’d have to be up and about until the equivalent of about 6:00am my time. As such, it made sense to get in a bit of sleep now before we arrived so that I’d be in better shape once we arrived at Hong Kong.

As I was reclining my seat, Jennifer stopped by to ask if and when I’d like to be served dinner. This was not a full dinner service but rather a light meal, on a par with what’s called dinner aboard many domestic First Class flights these days. She’d be willing to start the service as late as 6:00pm Hong Kong time, so that’s what I opted for. As for my meal selection, what did I do with that menu? Ah, there it is, under the Studio CX catalogue:


DINNER


Appetizer

Fresh Seasonal Fruit

MAIN COURSES

Braised Pork Spare Ribs Wuxi Style

Steamed Rice and Stir Fried Choy Sum

Superior Fried Noodles with Crabmeat
Stir-fried Pak Choy

Oven Roasted Chicken Breast stuffed with Wild Mushrooms and Brandy Cream Sauce
Saffron Risotto, Glazed Baby Carrots and Zucchini


BREAD BASKET
Assorted Bread and Rolls

*** ***** ***

Tea and Coffee

Pralines and Cookies






Oven Roasted Chicken Breast stuffed with Wild Mushrooms and Brandy Cream Sauce. Try repeating that name yourselves. Doesn’t it just roll beautifully off the tongue? I ordered this and then reclined my seat and stretched out fully. Ahh… Jennifer returned and laid a soft wool blanket over me. Sleep came soon after.

I awoke (or was I awoken?) right at 6:00pm. The AirShow indicated that we’d just passed over Beijing. The air temperature was –83 degrees Fahrenheit. My table was quickly and efficiently set and another glass of that delicious Meursault was delivered. The chicken dinner was almost as good as it sounded. I say almost because the Brandy Cream Sauce was certainly flavorful though hardly creamy.




Fresh Fruit Appetizer



Oven Roasted Chicken Breast stuffed with Wild Mushrooms and Brandy Cream Sauce


We began a long gradual descent into Hong Kong at about 7:15pm. An informative film about the Hong Kong airport was shown and then the IFE system was shut down for the remainder of the flight. Well dang! I was just in the middle of only the second CSI episode I’d ever watched and I must say the show had held my attention thus far. Ah well, I’d have to catch up with the rest of it somewhere over the Philippines tomorrow.

We made a nice landing in Hong Kong and I briefly considered that perhaps all landings seemed nice up in First Class because the cabin is such a long ways from the main landing gear. Especially on a 747. By the time we parked at Gate 21, one of the closest gates to the main terminal, it was 7:45pm. We were five minutes early.

To me at least, a sure sign of an excellent flight is when you regret arriving early, or in my case - arriving at all. This flight epitomized the standard of service for which Cathay Pacific is world renowned. That’s not to say it was perfect, but it scored high marks in all the areas that are intrinsic to a superior air travel experience. The First Class Lounge in Vancouver was comfortable and well stocked, the Flight Attendants were gracious and attentive, the food and beverages served aloft were of superior quality and the seat and Studio CX contributed greatly to a comfortable and entertaining flight. Time just flew by, making this twelve hour and forty-three minute flight feel like a much shorter one.

Last edited by Seat 2A; Apr 5, 2014 at 4:34 pm
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Old Apr 13, 2005, 12:24 am
  #6  
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HONG KONG AIRPORT

Hong Kong’s International Airport at Chek Lap Kok is located about 25 miles from the city of Hong Kong. A high speed train will whisk you into the city at about a mile a minute. I considered going into Hong Kong to get a hotel for the night but since my connecting flight to Sydney was scheduled for a 9:00am departure, I decided against this. Taking into account the amount of time required to claim luggage, clear customs and then get into the city and get checked in, it was quite likely that I wouldn’t even see the inside of my hotel room until 10:00pm. Add to this a 6:00am wake up call and a hurried transit back out to the airport and I decided that the approximately $100.00 it would cost me to have a bed for the night would be better spent somewhere in Australia.

I realize that for many people, spending $100.00 USD or more for a hotel room is no big deal. In some cities such as London or New York, a $100.00 room would be considered quite inexpensive. Cheap, even. Well call me miserly, but I just can’t see the benefits of sleeping in a bed for a few hours outweighing the expense of $100.00 or more. This is especially true given that this isn’t my vacation, it’s my life.

Vacations are for people who work most of the year and have two or three weeks off to go travel. In that case, why not plug a fair bit of money into that short span of vacation time and have a real quality trip? Vacations are as much a reward for all your hard work as they are a pleasant escape from the mundane routine of the day to day work life.

I’ve been on the road quite literally since I was just a teenager. After graduating high school, I spent most of my seventeenth summer hitchhiking around the American West. During that time, I made about $700.00 last me the entire summer. In subsequent years, I’ve gotten by with a lot less. I hitchhiked from Seattle to Denver with 50 cents in my pocket and once flew a seventy flight, two week Liberty Fare itinerary on Allegheny Airlines with just $40.00 spending money. Thank God the airlines still served meals back then! Sleeping in hotels was never an option and I spent many a night in parks, fields, under that big bush or in this or that airport. I never had any complaints about my lack of accommodations, nor did I yearn for better ones. I was having a great time just being free and on the road. So long as wherever I stayed was reasonably safe, dark and quiet, that’s all I required. Surprisingly, I never had any trouble with my fellow citizenry or the authorities. Ever. I was smart and resourceful and picked my spots wisely.

When I was in college, I inherited $3000.00. Having lived on an allowance of just $25.00 a month all through high school, I’d never seen such a huge amount of money. No way was I going to blow it all on the usual stuff most eighteen year olds of that era craved such as a car, a new stereo or better drugs. The hoard mentality that enabled me to stretch $700.00 over an entire summer wouldn’t allow such extravagance. I stuck with my $10.00 Mexican weed and didn’t get my first car or stereo until I was twenty-one.

I did however allow myself the occasional motel stay, but then only if I had enough time to actually stay and enjoy the benefits that came with the room, such as television and the ability to sleep late. Staying in a motel was and still is a special treat. No sense shelling out all that money if you can’t sleep in. Back then, in the mid-1970s, you could find lots of motels around America for less than $15.00 a night. Of course, you could still get a full breakfast for less than $2.00 so $15.00 wasn’t exactly small change.

For me, a hotel isn’t just a place to stay for the night, it’s my home for the moment. Then as with now, I don’t have a nice house or cabin waiting for me back in Alaska. All of my possessions are in a storage locker. When I get back, I move into employee housing at the park. When the job’s over in September, hopefully I’ll have figured out what I’ll be doing and/or where I’ll be staying. In the meantime, home is wherever I hang my hat. Hostels are inexpensive and great places to meet fellow travelers but they are communal and privacy is difficult if nonexistent. Having my own private room is a rare and cherished treat and I’m generally not going to pay out any money for that room unless I have a proper amount of time to enjoy all of its benefits.

*** ***** ***

Faced with a thirteen-hour layover in the airport, and somewhat re-energized from my short nap and meal prior to landing, I decided to pay a short visit to The Wing, Cathay Pacific’s award winning airport lounge. This lounge is, in the minds of some connoisseurs, the finest airport lounge in the world. To be sure, it is an excellent facility offering all the usual amenities attendant to a lounge of its caliber. In addition, it also offers not just a buffet area but a full service restaurant from which complimentary meals – not just snacks – may be enjoyed. Also revered amongst the cognoscenti are the Cabanas – private rooms in which one can unwind, relax and even sleep undisturbed by the lights, sounds and humanity out in the lounge.

In terms of services and amenities, I think The Wing is without peer. In terms of overall ambience, I find its gray stone walls and dividers somewhat uninspiring. This is just my personal opinion that I’m sure will be at odds with many Wing aficionados but I prefer warm woods and earth tones to all that gray stone. In terms of ambience, my favorite lounge is Northwest’s C Concourse World Club at Minneapolis. I also really like British Airways’ Concorde Room at London Heathrow’s Terminal 4.

I wasn’t hungry and since the Wing was set to close just after midnight, it made no sense to check into a cabana for just four hours. Instead, I settled for a glass of orange juice and put in some time on the Internet. At about 10:00pm, I headed down into the terminal to find a quiet area to sleep.

I’ve discussed sleeping in airports before in other Trip Reports, so I won’t give it much attention here. Suffice to say that most people would rather pay $100.00 for a hotel room than suffer the indignity of sleeping in an airport or worse – being seen sleeping in an airport. I could care less what anybody thinks of me if they see me lying on a floor in an airport. I’ll likely never see them again anyway. I’m not proud (at least not in that regard) and in the big picture there are far worse transgressions in life than sleeping in public. Like vanity and excessive pride or ego.

By the time I’d checked in for my flights in Vancouver, I’d determined that I’d be transiting rather than staying in the Hong Kong airport for the night. As such, I removed my sleeping bag, Thermarest pad and a small pillow from my pack and took them with me as carry-on baggage. Next, I stopped by a Duty Free store and picked up a big shopping bag to carry them in. In Cathay’s First Class cabin, there was plenty of room to store them.

I found a good place to crash down by Gates 6-7. It was nice and quiet, save for the delayed departure of one Dragon Air flight that was just beginning to board. I inflated my Thermarest pad, pulled out my sleeping bag, eye shades and a small pillow and lay down for a proper rest.
I slept soundly until 5:30am.

Transiting through Hong Kong as a First Class passenger with Cathay Pacific does have its advantages. Chief amongst these was a hot shower and the breakfast buffet awaiting me at The Wing. The showers at The Wing are just the thing to refresh and revive you after a long day of travel and a night on the airport floor. The showerheads are huge and standing under one of them is similar to being caught in a cloudburst in an Amazonian rainforest. Everything from large, thirsty towels to nice smelling shampoo is provided in each shower room. All I had to bring along was a clean shirt and a trial sized deodorant stick. When I emerged from the shower and headed into the Haven Restaurant for breakfast, I was as clean and presentable as most anyone else in the lounge.

The breakfast buffet at the Haven was surprisingly large and varied. It offered a nice selection of fruits, juices, cereals, breakfast breads, meats and cheeses. Hot items included congee and scrambled eggs presented in a hollowed out bun. I limited myself to some scrambled eggs, muesli and fruit since Cathay would be providing me plenty of food aloft in just three more hours.




The Breakfast Buffet at The Haven



Scrambled Egg Roll


After breakfast, I borrowed a plug adapter from the front desk and put in some work on this ever burgeoning Trip Report. At 8:30am, I closed up shop and headed down to board my flight. Boarding was from Gate 2. Of the 68 gates my flight could have departed from at HKG, Gate 2 was the closest to The Wing. How close was it? I had only to walk forty feet across the concourse and I was there.


April 4, 2005
Hong Kong to Sydney
Cathay Pacific First Class
A330-300 B-HLW Seat 2K
900a-730p


Cathay Pacific offers three daily flights between Hong Kong and Sydney. Had I wanted to, I could have connected last night to an 11:50pm departure that would have put me into Sydney this morning at 10:55am. This was never a consideration however because I don’t like wasting the First Class experience on a night flight. I like to sleep at night and it’s difficult to appreciate that rare and cherished treat of flying in Cathay’s First Class when I’m sleeping through it all. Add to this the fact that I’d be offered a full dinner at a time when I wasn’t hungry and that there’d be nothing to see for most of the flight and it made a lot more sense to wait for the 9:00am departure. That way I’d be fully alert and better able to appreciate the bounty of foods and services ahead.

Another reason to get excited about this flight was that it would be only my second flight aboard an A330, the first coming three years ago on Air Canada metal between Toronto and Vancouver. I’ve flown every Airbus variant except the A340-500, and given the operators and routes for that particular aircraft, I’m sure my first flight on it will be a memorable one. This will be particularly true should come in First Class aboard Emirates Airlines.

There was nobody in the gate area when I arrived. Upon entering the aircraft, I was not particularly surprised to find that only three of the eight First Class seats were occupied. Business Class was about two thirds full and I doubt Economy was much busier. An A310 would have been better suited to handle this morning’s load.




First Class Suite Aboard Cathay's A330



The View Across The Cabin From 2K


I love the suites aboard Cathay’s Airbuses because of the big storage bins along the wall that, when closed, provide an excellent surface storage area for books, magazines, laptops, etc. Soon, I was all settled in and enjoying hot coffee, orange juice and a copy of the South China Morning Post whilst awaiting departure. Only two weeks ago I was climbing out of Santiago swilling a cup of LAN Chile’s rancid powdered coffee, so Cathay’s brew was indeed quite an improvement! It’s worth noting that my coffee was presented with a pitcher of heated rather than refrigerated milk. This was very much appreciated and representative of the little touches that figure in Cathay’s consistently high ranking amongst the world’s finest airlines.

Sleeper suits, amenity kits and hot towels were delivered in short order and at 9:01am the aircraft shuddered as the powerful ramp tractor revved its engines and began to push us back from the gate.

The Captain welcomed us aboard in a distinct Australian accent and announced our flight time as eight hours and forty-five minutes. He was expecting good conditions enroute and an on time arrival in Sydney as well. Right on.

On our taxi out to the runway, we passed by the usual garden variety of Asian jetliners including A321s and A330s from Dragon Air, a Malaysian A330 and a Singapore 777-300. One striking exception was a beautiful 747 freighter, resplendent in the green, red, gold and white livery of Emirates Airlines. Also noted were three Fed Ex MD-11s parked in fleet formation at the far end of the cargo area.

Menus were presented soon after take off and were perused with another cup of coffee. Today’s menu cover represented a departure from Cathay’s usual style in that it featured an artistic rendition of The Hong Kong Jockey Club against a beige background. I thought it looked very nice. Inside the front cover was a brief description of the Jockey Club and why passengers could expect a fine dining experience ahead on this flight:




The First Class Menu


Cathay Pacific is proud to present a menu of special dishes from the Hong Kong Jockey Club’s exclusive Happy Valley Clubhouse restaurants.

The Hong Kong Jockey Club is Hong Kong’s number one provider of sporting entertainment. The Happy Valley Clubhouse offers a number of exceptional restaurants, including Derby Restaurant and Bar, The Fortune Room and The Gallop.

At the helm is some of the region’s top culinary talent, including Clubhouse’s Executive Chefs Christoph Suter and Bobby Lo, Simon Wu, Chief Cook at The Fortune Room, and Derby Restaurant & Bar’s Chef de Cuisine Donovan Cooke. Each employs his unique approach to the culinary art, resulting, always, in a singular distinctive dining experience.

Cathay Pacific and the Hong Kong Jockey Club are pleased to offer you a selection of the best Chinese and Western specialties from the restaurants, with a range of their most popular dishes for you to enjoy during your flight.



Very nice. Alright then, let’s see what these fine chef’s have come up with. Today’s service will begin with brunch:




The Breakfast Presentation


Hong Kong to Sydney

BRUNCH

Juice Selection

Appetizer
Fresh Seasonal Fruit

MAIN COURSES
Eggs – Freshly Scrambled, Fried or Boiled
Assorted Dim Sum
Leek Lorraine


Accompaniments
Grilled Back Bacon, Lamb Noisette and Pan-fried Pork Sausage
Lyonnaise Potato with Onion and Herbs
Vine Tomato and Sauted Fresh Mushrooms


Bread Basket
Assorted Bread Rolls, Fresh Toast and Waso Crackers
Served with Preserves, Honey and Butter

Tea and Coffee





Over my 3,377 flights so far, I’ve been served everything from Asiago Cheese Omelettes to Fritattas to Eggs Florentine. The one egg product I’ve never eaten aloft is a simple fried egg. I ordered two of them now along with everything but the fried sausage.

Table linens were laid but this time cheap looking clear plastic knives had replaced the nice metal ones Cathay normally sets. Evidently the Australian Government has followed the lead of the British Government in banning metal knives on flights into or out of Australia, though the British ban extends to all metal cutlery aboard their airlines. I still say that a simple ballpoint pen, wielded with ill intent, is more dangerous than one of those rounded metal knives that most airlines use.

This meal started with a good looking fruit bowl that would have thrilled even Carfield, that well known chronicler of fruit plates. Included in today’s offering were slices of orange and grapefruit, a huge strawberry, kiwifruit, pineapple and a grape.




Fruit Plate Starter


When my eggs arrived, I was happy to find that they’d been fried medium, which meant that they weren’t runny but also weren’t hard. Us bearded guys don’t like runny eggs for obvious reasons. Even the toast was warm and crisp. Well done, Cathay Pacific!




Perfectly Fried Eggs


After plates and linens had been cleared, I was left with a pot of coffee, my laptop and seven more hours of flying time. Now for some, even those sat in First Class, this might seem an unhappy prospect. Seven more hours! What are we gonna do for seven hours?!

Start with enjoying the flight. How could one not enjoy sitting in one of the world’s most comfortable airline seats while a bevy of beautiful Flight Attendants happily await your every beck and call? And in the unlikely event that Cathay’s Studio CX were not entertainment enough, there was a marvelous parade of Pacific Island scenery passing by outside my window.




The Scenic Route


On a clear day, this flight between Hong Kong and Sydney is one of the prettier flights on the planet. After crossing the South China Sea, we continued down past the Philippine Archipelago, then past Borneo as we over flew the Celebes Sea. Next up was Indonesia. We left the Celebes Sea behind and met the Arafura Sea as we passed Sulawesi on our right and West Papua on our left. Finally, we met the Australian coast just east of Darwin. I celebrated this with a glass of Deutz and a plate of cashews. Not long after, the sun began to set on the western horizon, resulting in some very pretty pictures.




Cheers to Australia!



Cathay's A330 at dusk over northern Australia


Thanks to Cathay’s in-seat laptop power ports, I was able to plug in and fire off a few letters for later e-mails while listening to my own music. This was great because musicians and groups that I like such as John Prine, Salamander Crossing, Leftover Salmon, Nanci Griffith, Jorma Kaukonen, JJ Cale or The New Grass Revival will likely never be heard on any airline IFE. Those were some of the groups I was listening to when one of the Flight Attendants stopped by to deliver a bottle of water and we got to chatting. Being Hong Kong based, she got to go all over the world. By comparison, Cathay’s Vancouver based Flight Attendants were limited to HKG and JFK trips. Although she’d never been to Alaska, she had been to Whitehorse, which is practically there. She asked what I was listening to so I gave her a listen.

Had she not liked what she was hearing, I’m sure her politeness if not her professional training would have prevented her from saying so. As it was however, she actually asked whom she was listening to and if I might write down the name. (Tanya Savory) Luckily for her, I just happened to have a couple of blank CDs in my daypack so I burned her a mix of that song and some from similar musicians, which I presented to her as I was disembarking in Sydney. As I told her, I don’t think it’ll be easy finding any of Tanya Savory’s CDs in Hong Kong. Non mainstream music like this can be hard enough to find in the US unless you go on the Internet, and even then it helps to know what you’re looking for.

About two and a half hours prior to our arrival in Sydney, the dinner service commenced. It’s worth noting that Cathay Pacific, like all the world’s great airlines, tailors its First Class meal service to its passenger’s needs. Had I wanted to eat dinner an hour or two earlier, it wouldn’t have been a problem.

I’d had plenty of opportunity to peruse the menu and wine list so when the Flight Attendant stopped by to take my meal requests, I knew exactly what I wanted. What would you order?


WINE LIST

Champagne

Cuve William Deutz 1996

White Wines
Hollick Coonawarra Reserve Chardonnay 2002
Vincent Girardin Meursault, Vieilles Vignes 2001


Red Wines
Chateau Branaire-Ducru 1996, 4eme Cru Classe
St. Andrews Shiraz 1999
Tignanello 2000


Dessert Wine
Chateau Roumieu “Haut-Placey” Sauternes 2001

Port
Ramos Pinto Quinto da Ervamoira 10 Year Old Tawny Port




Hong Kong to Sydney

DINNER

Caviar and Balik Salmon Delight

Oscietra Caviar and Balik Salmon “Tsar Nicolaj”
Served with Warm New Potatoes and Crme Fraiche


LIGHT CHOICE

Fresh Mushroom Soup

Served with Mini Garlic Baguette

Tossed Salad with Feta Cheese
Served with Cider Vinegar Honey Dressing

Bread Basket
Assorted Bread and Rolls

MAIN COURSES

Grilled Seabass

Presented with Asparagus, Boiled New Potatoes
And Lobster with Citrus Fruit Dressing


Pesto Tortellini
With Tomato Sauce and Pinenuts


HONG KONG FAVORITES

Steamed Chicken Balls with Mushroom and Water Chestnuts

Steamed Rice and Broccoli

Noodles in Soup
With Shrimp Wontons

Congee with Abalone and Meat Balls
Pan-fried Shredded Chicken Pancakes with Ham and Spring Onions

Braised Assorted Vegetables with Gingko Nuts in Abalone Sauce
Stir-fried E-fu Noodles with Vegetables


Condiments of Guilin Chilli Sauce, Chinese Red Vinegar and Soya Sauce
are available to accompany your choice



SNACK

Mozzarella Pizza

Seasonal Salad with Black Olive and Pesto Dressing


*** ***** ***


Cheeseboard
A Selection of Fine International Cheeses
Served with the Traditional Accompaniments


Dessert
Sago Coconut and Taro Soup
Haagen Dazs Ice Cream

Tea and Coffee

Pralines and Cookies





I’ll have the Seabass please, along with the salad. Oh what the heck, throw in a bowl of that soup too. What? It’s asparagus instead of mushroom? Make that two bowls!

While I savored a glass of tasty St. Andrews Shiraz and a mysterious tasting amuse bouche, my table was set and a plate of salmon and caviar was delivered. Interestingly, this was not done from the trolley per Cathay’s usual presentation but since there were only three of us up front, one of whom had already eaten earlier, perhaps it made better sense to present the plates individually.




Amuse Bouche Starter



More Caviar Please!



Asparagus Soup



A Colorful Salad



Grilled Seabass Presented with Asparagus, Boiled New Potatoes and Lobster with Citrus Fruit Dressing


The asparagus soup was a hit and I especially liked the sharp tang that the Feta cheese in combination with the Cider Vinegar Honey dressing lent to the salad. Delicious! As for the Sea Bass, it’s a very light flavored fish that was complimented well by the lobster and citrus dressing. However, I’d like to try it again sometime with something spicier. Nonetheless, it was a good and filling entre that left my appetite more than sated. I closed out this repast with a portion of blue cheese and a glass of surprisingly good Sauternes. Aside from Port, I’m not a big fan of dessert wines but I tried the Sauternes on the enthusiastic recommendation of the Flight Attendant and was not disappointed. It really complimented the sharp flavor of the cheese very nicely.




Love That Blue Cheese!



Pretty Evening Sky After Dinner


Our arrival in Sydney was right on time and we parked next door to Qantas’ brightly painted 747-400 “Wunala Dreaming”. This is one of three Qantas aircraft that are painted in an Australian aboriginal livery and I must say, the overall effect is quite striking. Qantas also have a 747-300 and a 737-800 painted in a similar style.

As I left the plane, I thanked the First Class cabin crew for a wonderful flight. Flying Cathay Pacific to Australia from North America may not be the first choice for most passengers, but I do believe revenue passengers are entitled to a free stopover in Hong Kong along the way, so that might make the longer trip more bearable regardless of what class one’s traveling in.

As for my experience, as usual I find myself wishing I had a couple more flights worth of Cathay’s First Class to connect to. From the quality of its tangible First Class product to the superior service standards practiced by its Flight Attendants, Cathay Pacific is truly worthy of consideration as one of the finest airlines in the world.


SYDNEY AIRPORT

Thirty-four hours of travel between Vancouver and Sydney is a long time, even for one so fortunate as to have traveled in Cathay Pacific’s First Class. I was tired and would really have appreciated a bed tonight. However, my 7:00am departure the next morning ruled out any hotel stay and with no hostels nearby the airport, that meant I’d be spending another night in the airport.

Of course, I am better equipped than most when it comes to sleeping in airports but after my one night in Sydney’s International Terminal, I think in retrospect I’d just go ahead and pay the money for a hotel room.

The bottom line is that Sydney’s Kingsford Smith International Airport is a horrible place to have to spend a night. I know, I know – it’s an airport, not a hotel - but most international airports serving cities of Sydney’s size are open twenty-four hours and offer much better options for the not uncommon phenomenon of International passengers having to stay overnight between flights.

In Sydney, all those wishing to remain overnight in the airport are herded into a small, brightly lit waiting area that has plenty of seats but very few upon which one might be able to lie down. The floor is hard, cold linoleum and the airport cleaning staff are headquartered right across the hallway so there’s plenty of noise as they trundle about throughout the night with their cleaning carts and conversations.

As I mentioned, I’m better equipped than most to deal with this and so I did as I placed a waterproof ground cover underneath my Thermarest pad and got pretty comfortable under my sleeping bag. Then the jackhammer started. Whut the ..! Apparently there was some work being done above us on the roadway leading from the departures area. The jackhammer’s noise and percussion reverberating through the building made sleep impossible, so I pulled out my book and read a bit until the jackhammer ceased about an hour later. By now it was almost midnight and I had to be up at 5:00am. Thankfully, I fell asleep soon afterwards.

The next morning, I headed downstairs to the International Airport train station and hopped on the convenient suburban train that made its next stop at the Domestic Departures Terminal. The fare for this two minute ride was $4.00 AUD or about $3.00 USD. I hope fares around suburban Sydney aren’t so expensive for such short distances!


April 4, 2005
Sydney to Adelaide via Melbourne
Virgin Blue Economy Class
737-700 VH-VBO Seat 1F
700a-950a


My original plan had been to take the train from Sydney to Adelaide. I have a six month rail pass with Great Southern Railways so it made sense to use it since the Indian Pacific operated between these two cities. However, the ongoing airfare war between Qantas, Virgin Blue and JetStar has recently expanded to include daily “Happy Hour” specials for domestic Australian travel. These specials feature one way fares as low as $1.00 and are available for purchase each day between 12:00n and 1:00pm Sydney time. I don’t recall exactly when I purchased my ticket but when I saw that Virgin Blue was offering a one-way fare between Sydney and Adelaide for just $121.00 AUD all in (about 100.00 USD), I decided that the convenience of jet flight coupled with a chance to spend more time in the Adelaide area was worth the extra expenditure.

Virgin Blue operates out of the old Ansett Terminals in most – if not all – of Australia’s major airports. In its day, Ansett was a top flight airline and its terminals are generally modern and well laid out. When I entered the terminal at 6:00am, there weren’t too many people waiting in line so my check-in time was minimal. Although I was unable to procure exit row seats on either of my flights (I was informed that Virgin actually sell these seats in advance. Apparently at a premium, no less) I did manage to snag bulkhead window seat 1F for my both my flight down to Melbourne as well as my onward connection to Adelaide.

My aircraft today was winglet equipped 737-700 VH-VBO, also known as the “Tropical Temptress”. I love the idea of giving airplanes names. Ships have always had them of course, but when you’ve got a fleet of fifty or more aircraft, many of which are the same make and model, it’s easy to just let the registration number serve as the identification. I loved it when jets were first introduced in America. Pan American had its Clippers, American had its Flagships and United had its Mainliners. Here in Australia, Qantas still name their larger aircraft after cities, though I don’t believe this is done with the 737 fleet. Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Blue have always named their planes after women, if not by name then by reputation.

Virgin’s working hard to sway business travelers from Qantas and judging from all the suits and ties in the gate lounge, they appear to be achieving some measure of success. Boarding was announced only ten minutes before scheduled departure. It was an orderly process, expedited as always by the lack of bulky carry-on rollaway bags so endemic to travel on US airlines.

Based upon my three flights with them so far, the best thing that Virgin Blue has got going for it besides its low fares is its Flight Attendants. A more cheerful and chipper group would be hard to find. They really seem to enjoy their jobs and as a passenger, that alone makes a nice difference in the overall ambience of the flight.

And what of Virgin Blue’s onboard service? It’s called you get what you pay for. In each seatback pocket is a menu detailing the food and beverage offerings. Even water and coffee come at a price. Still, if selling even water and coffee help keep air travel affordable here in Australia, I’m all for it. Without Virgin Blue in the marketplace, I doubt very strongly that Qantas would be offering deals anywhere near as good as they do now. But of course, they’d make up for it with $8.00 worth of hot food on all their flights.

After my long night and short sleep in the Sydney Airport, I wasn’t all that interested in anything Virgin Blue had to offer, even if it were free. I needed sleep and I got it in one hour increments on my two flights over to sunny Adelaide. By the time I arrived, I was feeling much better. As an added bonus, my pack was amongst the first items to show up on the baggage carousel. Well done, Virgin Blue!

Last edited by Seat 2A; Apr 5, 2014 at 5:07 pm
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Old Apr 13, 2005, 12:28 am
  #7  
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ADELAIDE

Every time I visit the Adelaide area, I come to appreciate the city a little bit more. In fact, it’s fair to say that Adelaide has become my favorite city in Australia. I love the beautiful old buildings that grace the downtown district, the wide tree lined boulevards, the river that runs through the city and the many parks. Like Seattle, there are also a lot of cool little neighborhoods within the city that have their own happening collection of taverns, restaurants and interesting shops. Also, the Adelaide Oval is right up there with what I believe to be the best looking stadium I’ve ever seen, the beautiful St. George's Park Cricket Oval in Port Elizabeth, South Africa.

Then there’s Glenelg. I first discovered Glenelg by accident three years ago when I stumbled across the classic 1929 trams that transport folks out to this beautiful seaside community just 7 miles from of the city center. The Jetty Road that runs up the heart of Glenelg sports all manner of fine pubs, restaurants and shops, not to mention ice cream parlors on just about every corner!




The Glenelg Tram



The 1929 Interior



Dusk in Glenelg


I’m surprised that there don’t appear to be any FlyerTalkers living in Adelaide. Then again, I’m not sure there’s a Qantas Pub at Adelaide’s humble airport. The new terminal being built next door to the present facility definitely looks as if it’ll have the size to support a nice sized airline lounge. Or two.

I spent one night up in trendy North Adelaide along O’Connor Avenue and two more in Glenelg before heading out to the railway station for the long journey up to Australia’s Top End.


April 8, 2005
Adelaide to Alice Springs
Great Southern Railways Red Kangaroo Class
“The Ghan” Car R Seat 9
515p-1150a



In the nineteen days since I alighted from the little narrow gauge train at Ushuaia’s End of the World Station, I’ve traveled over 26,000 miles and am now positioned for the final portion of this journey – a trip aboard Australia’s famous streamliner “The Ghan” – the world’s only south to north operating transcontinental train. There’s an appealing symmetry to the fact that this report started with a train trip at the bottom end of South America and will now end with a train trip to the top end of Australia.




The Route of the Ghan


The Ghan got its start in 1929. Back then it was known as The Afghan Express and operated between Adelaide and Alice Springs. Service to Darwin didn’t commence until February of 2004. The train was named after the Afghan camel handlers and their teams of animals who helped open up Australia's harsh and arid interior. Prior to the arrival of the train, the Afghans and their camels provided the only means of land transport into what is unquestionably one of the worlds most inhospitable regions.

Australia is a continent well suited to train travel. I say this not so much from an economic standpoint but rather from the perspective of comfort and convenience. Sure, one can jet about the continent far more affordably these days than in years past, but if you prefer to remain earthbound, the prospect of driving across Australia’s vast desert expanses pales in comparison to relaxing in air-conditioned comfort aboard the Ghan or the Indian Pacific as you cross the Nullabor or the Great Sandy Desert. This is especially true now that Great Southern Railways will take your car along for the ride for only $99.00 AUD more. In any event, I am most thankful to be traveling up to Alice Springs and beyond to Darwin in air-conditioned comfort rather than atop a camel. It’s worth noting that while a few camels remain scattered about Australia’s Red Centre, I’ve yet to encounter any Afghans.

There are two train stations serving Adelaide – one for local trains out to the suburbs and one for interstate departures. Interestingly, the downtown station serving the local commuter trains is by far the more impressive of the two buildings. It’s a grand old structure, built in the classic style of train stations from the turn of the century. It really is quite magnificent – the kind of place from which great train journeys should begin. Unfortunately, in Adelaide it’s the place from which commuter train journeys begin. It’s also the Adelaide Casino.

The interstate train station, located in the suburb of Keswick, is quite modest by comparison. A low one story structure, I would describe it as architecturally bland but otherwise quite functional. This afternoon it was crowded with two large tour groups of elderly railfans, many of them bedecked in their special Ghan or Great Southern Railway caps. I weaved my way through them and up to the baggage check counter where I divested myself of fifty-one pounds of backpack. Then I headed over to the little station cafe for an iced coffee.

The Ghan departs Adelaide on Fridays and Sundays. The Friday departure is a roundtrip to Alice Springs. The Sunday departure goes all the way up to Darwin, 1,838 miles distant. I’ve decided to leave on the Friday train as this would allow me a couple of days in Alice Springs before continuing up to Darwin.

Boarding was announced at 4:45pm, one half hour before scheduled departure. I was told that the train would be completely full, so I wasn’t in any great hurry to join the masses as they surged out onto the platform. Besides, the caf was nicely air-conditioned and while waiting I managed to fire off a couple more postcards.




Boarding The Ghan at Adelaide



Red Kangaroo Class Car on the Ghan


Any of you who’ve ever received a postcard from me know that they do take time to create. From coloring in the borders to placing all the stamps to coloring in the greeting to actually writing out the card – I’d guess about 20-25 minutes per card, and those are the ones that I don’t color up. I know, I know – guys aren’t supposed to write postcards. Alas, the human side of me overrides the guy side and besides, a lot of folks I know back home never get to travel. Indeed, for some people I know my postcards are the closest they’ll ever get to Australia or Argentina. At the very least, it’s always nice to get a postcard from afar.

Travelers on the Ghan can choose between Gold Kangaroo First Class and Red Kangaroo Economy Class for the 1,838-mile journey between Adelaide and Darwin. I’d love to ride this train in First Class but the difference in cost between a First Class compartment and my seat is over $1300.00 USD! A Second Class sleeper, which differs from my seat only in that it offers a shared compartment for two and a bed, would set me back an additional $850.00 USD.

On the whole, Australian trains are very affordably priced for Economy Class Travel. Even First Class is reasonably priced on some inter-city routes such as Sydney to Melbourne. However, when it comes to the better known trains like the Indian Pacific or the Ghan, First Class is priced not so much for its transportation value as it is for its novelty value. High premiums not withstanding, there seems to be no shortage of folks willing to pay the extra cost.

As one might imagine, the scene inside a totally full railway car during boarding can be chaotic. I helped a couple of elderly ladies across the aisle from me stow their baggage, then took my seat and awaited the arrival of my seatmate. During this time, announcements were made advising visitors to leave the train as departure was imminent. Next, the conductor and his assistant, the beautiful young train attendant Sarah, stopped by to collect tickets. He checked off names while she collected tickets.

“You have nobody sitting next to you” she purred
“I’m sure somebody will show up” I groused
“No,” said the conductor. “Right now there’s nobody booked in that seat all the way to Alice.”

Amazing! The only empty seat in the entire car was next to me. I wasted no time in spreading out.




Economy Class Seating on The Ghan


Following a noisy jolt, we slowly eased out of the station and began the 850-mile journey north to Alice Springs. As we rolled past the station platform, there was lots of frenzied waving from both inside and outside the train and loved ones bid each other farewell. It was 5:15pm. Only eighteen and a half more hours until Alice Springs. Almost as long as Singapore Airlines’ nonstop flight between New York and Singapore.

Soon, the Passenger Service supervisor came on over the PA and, after a nice welcome aboard speech, commenced to launch into a recitation of all the rules attendant to a safe and secure journey aboard the Ghan. No sleeping in the lounges or on the floor. Feet and arms must be tucked in from the aisles at all times. A special area was designated for cigarette smoking, but no food or drink was allowed in there. Speaking of drink, no private stock allowed and no drunkenness either. Shoes must be worn at all times. Strict dress codes applied to the Red Kangaroo Lounge and Diner – neat and clean, basically. Access to these facilities may be denied at the discretion of any crewmember. In the meantime, the lounge and diner would be closed until all tickets had been collected. To insure that no pesky passengers tried to access the lounge ahead of time, the door between the lounge and the seating cars would be locked.

Hmm… There sure are a lot of rules on this train. Are the rules borne of an authoritarian approach to passenger service or as a reaction to past behavioral indiscretions by the Red Kangaroo crowd?

Once all the tickets had been collected, we were let out of our two seating cars and allowed to roam freely through the lounge and diner. The lounge is divided into three sections with wrap around seating and a few low tables. Food and beverages are available next car up in the diner. Hot and cold snacks are offered all day along with full hot meals available at breakfast and dinner times. Meals and beverages are ordered at the counter and then taken to a table in the diner or back to the lounge car. No food allowed in the seating cars. (This rule was routinely broken)

I wasted little time in heading up to the lounge car and cooling off with an ice cold VB. For those of you unfamiliar with Australian beers, VB stands for Victoria Bitter. It’s far from being the best amongst Australian beers but it’s certainly one of the most popular. On a hot day, I think those VBs go down quite nicely and if you drink enough of them they’ll make you good and dizzy. I only wanted three or four, however. At $5.00 each, I couldn’t afford to get dizzy. Besides, that would be against the rules.

From Adelaide, the Ghan heads north to Port Pirie, passing through what some call Australia’s “Wheat Belt”. I thought it looked a lot like Kansas. As we rounded a big bend in the tracks, I counted sixteen cars. This included two cars specially designed for carrying automobiles. They were both full.

I spent most of the evening in the lounge and had a fine time chatting with a couple from Winnipeg and a lady from San Diego. The Canadians had scored a good deal on their Air Canada tickets but were disappointed to discover that they could not now change their plans and take a stop in Vancouver on the way back without essentially forfeiting the price of their tickets and starting over. I suggested they call back and ask about standing by. The San Diego lady was a nurse who’d been working in New Zealand. She was traveling with her husband but was making the trip to Alice Springs alone since he was keen on doing some rock climbing somewhere down south. What! Ayer’s Rock isn’t big enough for him? No, No – not that kind of climbing. They’d been gone for over a year and were looking forward to returning home at the end of April.

In the morning, I was awakened by heat from the bright sunlight streaming in through my window. The car was comfortably air-conditioned and I was wearing an eyeshade, but the sun was still hot enough that I had to lower my shade and move over to the aisle seat. I wasn’t missing much in the way of scenery anyway – an endless tract of dry desert brush with the occasional small tree thrown in. I’d found a tour brochure in the lounge the night before and read the passage on what to expect this morning. The brochure ensured passengers that they’d be “mesmerized” by the wonders of the Australian landscape “from the shifting colours of the desert sand hills to the wild beauty of the outback plains and mountain ranges”. From my present vantage point, it looked pretty flat, dusty and red.




Desert Scenery Along The Route of The Ghan



The Route of the Ghan
Photo courtesy of Great Southern Railways


Breakfast was scrambled eggs and toast along with two cups of coffee. I shared a table in the diner with a retired couple from Eugene, Oregon. The man had seen my Denver Broncos T-Shirt as I was looking for an open seat and invited me to join him and his wife. Prior to moving to Eugene back in the 1960s, they’d lived in Oakland, California and he was still a die-hard Oakland Raiders fan. I quickly drew back, hissed and moved to another table. Actually, they were very nice people, as are a surprising number of Raider fans, and we had a good time discussing things to do and see once they got over to New Zealand. We also discussed Randy Moss’s potential impact on the Raiders’ offense next season, and how that might affect the balance of power in the AFC West.

The scenery improved considerably as the train neared Alice Springs. Interestingly, the approach to Alice is through a short narrow draw called Heavitree Gap. When it comes to transportation into or out of Alice Springs from the south, everything except airplanes must pass through Heavitree Gap. That means the railroad, the highway and the Todd River. Ten minutes later, we were easing to a stop beside a long concrete walkway. There was no sign of a station, but that’s because it was way up towards the front of the train. The temperature outside was a scorching 37 Celcius or about 98 Fahrenheit. Welcome to Alice Springs!




Welcome to Alice Springs!



ALICE SPRINGS

Alice Springs makes a wonderful base to explore Australia’s Red Centre. Everybody’s heard of Ayer’s Rock (Uluru to the Aboriginals) but there are also the MacDonnell Ranges, Palm Valley, King’s Canyon and a variety of spectacular desert parks. The best way to access these areas is to rent a car, although there are no shortage of tour operators offering one to three day tours through the region.

I first visited Alice Springs in 1989, and subsequently in 1991. I did it all back then – overnight to Ayers Rock, day trip to the many gorges and waterholes of the West MacDonnell Range. What I didn’t do was visit some of the places closer to town, such as the Desert Park, Anzac Hill and the Alice Springs Cultural Precinct.

Truth be known, I’d love to have returned to Ayer’s Rock but day trips started at $150.00 and didn’t arrive at the rock until mid-day, when the desert heat is its most oppressive. The best way to see and enjoy Uluru is to stay overnight in one of the nearby motels and then head out to the rock in the early morning or early evening.

On the train ride up, I’d met one couple who wanted to go hot air ballooning. That sounded like a magnificent idea! I’ve never been up in a balloon and the idea of a sunset trip over the red desert and mountains sounded like a lot of fun. I even would have paid $100.00 for such an experience. Imagine then my shock and dismay upon wandering over to the AYH Hostel to look into a discounted booking only to be told that half hour flights start at $175.00 AUD plus an extra $20.00 for insurance. Wow! Oh well, maybe next time I’m in Albuquerque…

Even though it’s now autumn, temperatures in Alice Springs were well into the high thirties or close to one hundred degrees for you fans of Fahrenheit. Even the locals were complaining since the cooler temperatures this time of year represent a welcome break from the searing heat of summer. For me, the hot weather provided a good opportunity to visit some local attractions in Alice Springs.

The Alice Springs Cultural Precinct was a worthy way to spend a hot afternoon. It includes the air-conditioned Museum of Central Australia, the Aviation Museum and the Araluen Arts Center. The latter has beautiful examples of Australian Aboriginal art including what surely must be the worlds largest caterpillar sculpture – over thirty-five feet long and about nine feet high. Entrance was only $8.00

At about 6:30pm, I grabbed a bottle of water and hiked up Anzac Hill. The hill is located just on the edge of town and it took only about ten minutes to walk up the path to the top where I was rewarded with a superb view of Alice Springs and the surrounding mountain ranges.

Later, as I strolled down the tree lined Todd Mall, I passed the Outback Bar and Grill. A sign indicated this establishment served the “Coldest Beer in Town”. Mmm… that sounded mighty good about now. I tossed back a couple pints of deliciously cold Cooper’s Pale Ales before moving down the mall for an excellent pasta dinner at the Red Ochre Grill.

Although Alice Springs has no shortage of backpackers accommodations, from my experience the air-conditioning could be better. Instead, I opted to splurge and stay at the Desert Rose Inn, a good looking budget motel that offered quiet, air-conditioned rooms with refrigerator, ensuite shower and television for just $37.00 USD per night. Also on site were a swimming pool and a communal kitchen.


April 10, 2005
Alice Springs to Darwin
Great Southern Railways Red Kangaroo Class
“The Ghan” Car R Seat 18
410p-430p


Normally, the northbound Ghan arrives in Alice Springs at about noon and departs at 4:00pm. The four hour layover allows passengers a chance to get out and explore Alice Springs either on foot or via a couple of pre-booked tours that will whisk them around town in air-conditioned busses.

Today, due to a mechanical malfunction with one of the locomotives, the Ghan didn’t even arrive in Alice until 2:45pm, so departure to Darwin was delayed until 5:00pm. Unfortunately, I didn’t find this out until I arrived at the station at 3:30pm. Fortunately, the station was air-conditioned.

At one point, I stepped outside to take a couple of photographs of the train. Today’s Ghan was incredibly long! I later found out that there were thirty-four cars making up today’s train. The Darwin service operates only once a week and is extremely popular with tour groups. A crewmember later told me that the Ghan had forty-six cars on its inaugural run to Darwin! That may well be a record for lengthy passenger trains anywhere in the world. For sure, today’s Ghan was the longest train I’d been on since the early 1980s when I rode a twenty-two car Mexican train between Mexicali and Guadalajara.




The Ghan - Looking Left



The Ghan - Looking Right


Interestingly, one of the major differences between that Mexican train and today’s train was that the numbers of premium cars were reversed. Whereas the Mexican train had just five or six First Class cars including a lounge and diner, today’s Ghan sported twenty-four Gold Kangaroo sleepers, lounges or diners. The rest of the train included five cars dedicated to Red Kangaroo or Economy Class service along with two auto carriers, two baggage cars and a crew car.

When the boarding announcement was made at 4:45pm, I noticed that the train was announced as “The Legendary Ghan”. The term “legendary” is used regularly by the Great Southern Railways in describing this train. It’s on all promotional material such as brochures and posters and now this boarding announcement. I was curious – what’s the legend? I mean, I knew about the train’s name having come from the Afghan camel drivers of yesteryear, but that seemed to be more historical fact than legend.

During the course of the trip up to Darwin, I asked three different crewmembers about this legend. Is there some legend associated with the train? None of them could explain it except to say that the Ghan was named after the Afghans.

My seatmate for this portion of the journey was an elderly lady from Perth. Her name was Pauline and she’d taken advantage of a great deal for seniors that included train travel from Perth to Adelaide and on to Darwin, two nights hotel accommodations in Adelaide and one night in Darwin along with return air from Perth to Darwin. Total cost: $800.00. Interestingly, this deal was advertised on the back of a grocery store receipt. Pauline had no real business in either Adelaide or Perth. She just wanted to go out and see the center of her country. Good on ya, Pauline! I admired her moxie.

From Alice Springs, The Ghan journeys north through country that looks a lot like Northern Arizona. There were arid desert mountains and a myriad of rocky outcroppings amidst low desert scrub brush that all combined to look quite attractive in the late afternoon sun. The rocky ranges soon gave way to the dry spinifex and ti tree dominated landscapes that comprise the vast Tanami Desert. I enjoyed a warm golden sunset over a cold, golden Victoria Bitter in the Nullabor Lounge before heading up to the diner to check out the dinner options.




Desert Scenery North of Alice Springs



The Economy Class Diner on The Ghan


In addition to the usual array of hot and cold sandwiches and snacks, tonight’s hot dinner entrees included lasagna, barbecued beef or a broiled chicken thigh with pumpkin, potatoes, squash and rice. I availed myself of the chicken entree, along with another ice cold VB and returned to my seat in the lounge.




Sunset From The Nullabor Lounge


The Nullabor Lounge was a happening place on this night, far more so than on the trip up to Alice Springs. In one corner of the lounge, two couples engaged in a rowdy game of Scrabble. (Noisy challenges and shrieks of protest made it about as rowdy as things could get without moving into the realm of Full Contact Scrabble) Lots of people were chatting and having a good time and the beer was flowing right up to the limit of the railroad’s rules on alcohol consumption. Nights like this make long train journeys blissfully pleasant. The bar closed at 10:00pm and over the next hour most of the loungers headed back to their seats for the night.

Movies are shown aboard the Ghan but, like the airlines these days, every effort is taken to ensure that the movie contains absolutely nothing that might offend anyone onboard. The result is a collection of children’s and family oriented films that are fine if you have children in tow but otherwise pretty bland. Tonight’s choice was Toy Story.

I just happened to be carrying a copy of Fargo, the Coen Brother’s wonderful cinematic rendition of a kidnapping gone horribly awry. The lounge had a couple of electrical outlets available, so I plugged in my laptop and four of us watched a late night screening of this classic. Everybody had a good laugh over the exaggerated Meenesotah accents, don’t cha know. Yah!

The next morning I awakened to the good news that we’d crossed the Tropic of Capricorn overnight and, as an added bonus, the Ghan had made up its delay overnight. We’d be arriving in the town of Katherine on time, at 8:00am. In fact, we arrived five minutes early.

The Ghan spends four hours in Katherine and once again, a variety of tours are available for those inclined to spend anywhere from $60.00 for a bus trip out to Katherine Gorge to $200.00 for a helicopter flight around the same. For the rest of us, a shuttle bus provided transport into the town center for just $9.00 roundtrip. Pauline thought this was absurdly expensive and I was inclined to agree that many Australian tour operators along the route of the Ghan seemed to assume that if you could afford to ride the train, you could also afford to pay premium prices for everything from bus transfers to local tours. Given that three quarters of the passengers were traveling in $500.00 per night accommodations, this may well have been true.

Pauline, myself and about one hundred and fifty other passengers piled into one of the four waiting shuttle busses that took us into downtown Katherine and dropped us off at the BP Roadhouse. We were told that the forecast called for temperatures in the mid-thirties with the usual high humidity but at 8:45am, I found the temperature still pleasant. As such, I walked the length of the town – about five blocks containing the usual variety of shops and restaurants found in most any small town – and settled on a table in the air conditioned Jade Caf where I enjoyed a full bacon and egg breakfast that included tomatoes, mushrooms and something that looked and tasted suspiciously like Spam. Spam! Maybe there was a Spam ranch nearby. I’d always wanted to see what those tasty little critters looked like!

By the time the busses were scheduled to take us back to the train at 11:30am, the day had become a typical tropical scorcher. It is said the human body is comprised of 70% water and I figure I’d shed about 5% of it just walking back to the BP Roadhouse. It was a wonderful relief to climb back aboard the air-conditioned bus and later settle back into my seat aboard the air-conditioned [/I]Ghan[/I]. Given the hot lands that this train travels through, maybe the railroad would gain more public relations mileage out of referring to the train as [/I]The Air-Conditioned Ghan[/I] rather than The Legendary Ghan.

From Katherine The Ghan spends the next four hours rolling through lush green tropics over surprisingly bumpy tracks. Lightning flashed in the northern sky was we crossed over the Adelaide River and ever so slowly eased into Darwin Station. A light rain greeted us as thunder rumbled in the distance. After three weeks and 28,000 miles of travel via planes, trains, boats and busses, I’d finally arrived at Australia’s Top End.




Welcome to Darwin!


*** ***** ***

Finally, to all of you who’ve also arrived at the end of this Trip Report without nodding off twenty pages ago, you’re real troopers! ^ ^ My Trip Reports are pretty long and given the nature of my reporting style and the fact that I refuse to post these reports in shorter weekly installments, it's quite possible that only a comparatively few, truly hard core readers actually manage to completely read the entire report. Alot of time and effort goes into not only the writing of these reports but also finding and posting the various links and photos so again ~ if you've made it this far, thanks for hanging in there! I hope you've enjoyed reading about my trips at least half as much I've enjoyed traveling them.

Happy travels, All!

Last edited by Seat 2A; Apr 5, 2014 at 6:26 pm
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Old Apr 13, 2005, 12:30 am
  #8  
FlyerTalk Evangelist
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Join Date: Apr 2001
Location: East Ester, Alaska
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Posts: 12,124
Ive been receiving a number of requests of late for directions to more of my Trip Reports. Here they are with a brief description of the contents. Bored? There are over 1000 pages here. Just click on the highlighted title. Happy reading.


TWA FIRST CLASS DEN-JFK 1972 ~ The Good Old Days

What started out as a simple post of a menu from a TWA flight of 30 years ago evolved into a forum for many flyers to reminisce about their experiences from the Good Old days of commercial aviation.

FIRST CLASS ON AMTRAKS COAST STARLIGHT

The Coast Starlight is the finest train in Amtraks system. Heres my first ever report about riding this train from a First Class perspective

DENVER TO HONOLULU VIA CANADA IN 1976 (On a trip that was supposed to go to Mexico)

I thought I was going to Mexico and had the tickets in hand to do just that. Two hours later, I was booked into a First Class seat aboard a Qantas 747 on my way to Hawaii. But thats only the beginning. The journey continues on to Alaska, New York and back to Hawaii before finally returning home to Colorado at Summers end.

DENVER TO ALASKA ROUNDTRIP via SO, TI, DL, AA, AS, WC, CP, PW and UA

Travels between Colorado and Alaska aboard a wide variety of airlines and aircraft. Five of the airlines no longer exist and most of the aircraft have long since been scrapped.

EP's MILEAGE RUN ~ AN AMERICAN ODYSSEY

My first ever Flight Report. A pretty typical jaunt around the country a few times, all in the pursuit of miles. I had lots of fun writing this in the early days of Post-911 travel.

ALASKA AIRLINES FIRST CLASS ~ SEA-ANC

This is a continuation of the above thread

SEATTLE TO ANCHORAGE ~ Detailssss

My spoof on some of the incredibly detailed Trip Reports Id seen published at FlyerTalk three years ago.

14 Flights, 17000 Miles FAI-SFO-MCO-SEA-MCO-FAI in First and Coach on AS & UA

My last Mileage Run on United before many of Uniteds nicer First Class services disappeared for good.

ALASKA TO NEW ZEALAND ~ THE LONG WAY

One of my all-time favorite trips ~ First Class aboard British Airways for the first time, across to London, Singapore and on to Melbourne before connecting to Air New Zealands excellent trans-Tasman Business Class to Auckland and on to Christchurch. Over 20,000 miles in four days.

NEW ZEALAND TRAIN ADVENTURE ~ Christchurch to Greymouth Aboard The Tranz Alpine

Travel via New Zealands Tranz Alpine from Christchurch across the South Island to Greymouth.

CHRISTCHURCH TO MELBOURNE WITH NZ & UA

The title says it all. This trip included an op-upgrade to Business Class on Uniteds 747-400 between AKL and MEL.

FROM THE NORTHWESTERN PACIFIC TO THE SOUTHWESTERN PACIFIC

In the middle of my trip to New Zealand, I made a quick trip back to Alaska. Now I had to get back to New Zealand. Travel aboard Alaska Airlines, Amtrak, United and Qantas are highlighted.

TE ANAU to TASMANIA via DC-3, 737, 767 and 717

A surprise flight aboard a DC-3, hitching a ride with some crazy Germans, being mistaken for a famous marathoner, Business Class meal service aboard a 25 minute jet flight from Queenstown up to Christchurch, and fine inflight service aboard aging 767-200 aircraft across the Tasman Sea to Australia where a shiny new 717-200 awaits to get me down to Tasmania.

TASMANIA TO ALASKA - via FINLAND!

My first ever visit to Finland, but first I must get there First Class aboard British Airways via Singapore and London, then an SAS MD-90 and an Air Botnia Avro RJ-85 (Bae-146-200) into Helsinki. Travel back to Alaska involves First Class Suite aboard GE powered 777-200 to Washington, DC, followed by first experiences with Alaskas First Class trans-con over to Seattle. Finally, a flight aboard the 3000th 737 ever produced back up to Alaska.

VANCOUVER TO LAS VEGAS via Plane, Train, Bus, Boat and Newfoundland

Starting in Vancouver aboard an ancient ex-Canadian Airlines 767-300, the journey continues across Canada via Toronto and Halifax and on to St. Johns, Newfoundland - the easternmost community in North America. Travel from St. Johns back to Montreal takes 51 hours and incorporates a bus across Newfoundland, an overnight ferry over to Nova Scotia and a First Class bedroom aboard ViaRails crack streamliner The Ocean for the twenty hour journey into Montreal. As if that werent enough, I then head out to the Montreal airport for Economy class travel aboard Continental down to Las Vegas.

SIX DAYS OF WINING AND DINING ABOVE AMERICA AND CANADA

Seventeen flights on five airlines all over the continent, including one with Mary Tyler Moore. Lots of First Class.

NOTES FROM THE OVERFED ~ What's Cookin' at AS & NW This Month

Weekend breaks from my job in Alaska to take advantage of really cheap Mileage runs down to Houston and one Airline Collectibles convention down in Los Angeles. Mostly First Class.

THE GREAT AUTUMN MILEAGE RUN OF 2002

The first of the big Autumn Mileage Runs ~ 34,880 miles around America on Northwest, Continental and Delta. Total cost to me for the airline tickets: $852.00. Total mileage accrued: 140,610 miles.

ON THE ROAD AGAIN ~ 2 weeks, 23 flights and 19790 miles around America and Alaska

Twenty three flights on six different airlines, including many dinner flights aboard Alaska Airlines First Class when the catering was so good that even other airlines talked about it!

SEATTLE TO HELSINKI AND BACK FOR ONLY $95.00

Back in November 2001, British Airways offered either by design or accident a $20.00 round trip fare between any of its western US gateways to any city in Europe. Heres what how I discovered the fare and the trip that followed.

Further Ruminations on the BA World Traveler Plus Experience

A continuation of the above report

A WEEKEND JAUNT WITH NORTHWEST ~ DEN-LEX-DEN

A short Mileage Run taking the long way from Denver to Lexington. Lots of First Class upgrades and very nice service made this a memorable trip.

Further Thoughts on Coach Passengers Using The First Class Lavatories

What started out as my response to a debate at the Alaska Air Forum regarding whether Economy Class passengers should be allowed unfettered access to the First Class lavatory became fairly spicy with many weighing in their views.

DENVER TO SACRAMENTO ABOARD CALIFORNIAS CALIFORNIA ZEPHYR

If you like riding trains, especially around the American West, you might like this report. I even get to stay in a mansion in Sacramento

ON THE ROAD AGAIN ~ 106,000 miles via plane, train, boat, bus, truck and thumb

106,000 miles, 110 pages and 65,918 words about traveling via plane, train, boat, bus, truck and thumb through America, Canada, Alaska, Australia, Finland, a music festival in Florida and a Red Sox game at Fenway Park in Boston.

FROM TUNDRA TO TROPICS ~ FAI - MIA in First Class Aboard Alaska Airlines

A weekend with nothing to do in Alaska turned into a round trip First Class jaunt down to the Florida tropics courtesy of a bump ticket from Alaska Airlines.

ON THE ROAD AGAIN ~ In Pursuit of Bonus Miles

Back in Autumn of 2003, Alaska Air Group offered its Mileage Plan members a chance to earn 100,000 free miles. The catch? You had to fly at least thirty-five separate flights between October and the end of November. I did that and then some. Lots of flights aboard smaller propeller and regional jets.

FAIRBANKS TO KALGOORLIE - THE LONG WAY

Describes my First Class trip from Alaska to Australia via Los Angeles, London and Singapore, including a bump from British Airways flight out of LAX that resulted in my getting to sample Americans First Class Flagship Suites aboard its new 777-200 between Los Angeles and London. From Melbourne, the journey continues across to Perth aboard a Qantas A330-200, followed by a rail journey across the Western Australian hills and desert to the gold mining center of Kalgoorlie.

FROM TASMANIA TO SOUTH AFRICA In A Roundabout Way

Description of an eleven day journey that began with First Class travel from Tasmania back to Alaska via Singapore, London and Los Angeles, then on to San Francisco and New York-JFK for a turnaround into a First Class seat aboard Cathay Pacifics 747-400 back across the continent to Vancouver. A flight on Canadian low fare success West Jet into Edmonton is followed by a First Class rail journey aboard ViaRails famous Canadian back across the Canadian Rockies to Vancouver. Six hours later Im back in Seat 2A aboard Cathays long range A340-300 for the thirteen hour flight across the Pacific to Hong Kong, connecting to another thirteen hour flight across south Asia and the Indian Ocean to South Africa. A flight aboard Kulula Air down to Durban is followed by First Class journeys aboard the South African Railways Trans Natal back up to JoBerg and the Alcoa down to Port Elizabeth.

WINDHOEK TO SWAKOPMUND ABOARD THE DESERT EXPRESS ~ Luxury Train Travel Across Namibia

A First Class all suite luxury train trip from the Namibian capitol city of Windhoek across the Namib Desert to the Atlantic coast town of Swakopmund.

FROM NAMIBIA TO NEVADA

Travel from Namibia by train down through South Africa where I fly my first ever A340-600 with SAA before returning to Cathay Pacifics First Class from JoBerg back to New York via Hong Kong and Vancouver. A pair of American DC-9-80s deliver me to Nevada.

DENVER TO ALASKA ROUNDTRIP via SO, TI, DL, AA, AS, WC, CP, PW and UA

Memories from a 1979 trip involving a lot of airlines, aircraft and service standards that no longer exist today.

ON THE ROAD AGAIN - 108,000 Miles Around America on Planes, Trains and Automobiles

A bunch or Mileage Runs with Northwest, Alaska, Horizon, and American wrapped around a drive from Alaska down to Montana, a First Class rail journey aboard Amtraks Coast Starlight and a music festival in Florida.

ON THE ROAD AGAIN - Three Weeks of Mileage Running around America

Life aboard American, Alaska, Northwest and Continental Airlines during a mega-Mileage Run back and forth between Denver and Florida

FROM LARAMIE TO LONDON (and on to Melbourne) ~ First Class on AS & BA

Spur of the moment travel in First Class luxury aboard British Airways 747s from the US to Australia via London and Singapore.

MORE CHAMPAGNE, SIR? ~ Life and times in BA's First Class Between Australia and California

This trip starts in Perth with a flight aboard Virgin Atlantic to Melbourne. The journey continues from Seat 2A aboard British Airways from Melbourne to London to San Francisco.

ON THE ROAD AGAIN: From the Top of North America to the Bottom of South America

Travel from Alaska all the way down to the very tip of South America via First and Business Class with Alaska and LAN Chile. Also included are accounts of luxury bus travel around Argentina along with a four day ferry trip down through Chiles Inside Passage.

THE JOURNEY CONTINUES: From the Bottom of South America to the Top of Australia

Continuing from Ushuaia, the southernmost city in the world, I fly fly a variety of LAN Chile aircraft (Business Class) through six South American cities back to Miami. On to Alaska for a change of clothing, then down to Vancouver Island for a 24-hour ferry trip up to Prince Rupert, BC. ViaRail's "Skeena" provides the transport over to Prince George, AC to YVR, then First Class aboard Cathay Pacific daytime flights to Hong Kong and Sydney. Virgin Blue to Adelaide is followed by a ride on the world's only South to north transcontinental train trip aboard "The Ghan" up to Darwin.

FIRST CLASS TRAVEL FROM AUSTRALIA TO AMERICA (via HONG KONG)

First Class on Cathay Pacific ~ twenty one hours of life in the lap of luxury.

FROM FLORIDA TO ALASKA via Planes, Trains, Cars, Ferries and Churchill, Manitoba

The title pretty much says it all. Included are roundtrip travel on ViaRail's train from Winnipeg to Churchill and three days "driving" the Alaska Marine Highway between Prince Rupert, BC and Skagway, Alaska

British Airways First Class Inflight Dining The Trip Report

Descriptive account of First Class travel between Phoenix and Melbourne, Australia on British Airways. This means travel via London and Singapore. Lots of pictures of fine BA inflight cuisine.

FOUR DAYS AND 25,610 MILES FROM NEW ZEALAND TO HAWAII (via BA FIRST)

First Class travel from the South Pacific to Hawaii the long way via British Airways through Singapore, London and Los Angeles before connecting on to Hawaii via Northwest

Planes, Trains and Automobiles Around North America

Starting with a drive around the Desert Southwest, continuing on to Florida, Nova Scotia and on down to Mexico with First Class train travel through three countries and some flights on obscure airlines. A fun trip.

Dear Diary ~ Random Thoughts and Observations From Three Weeks of Flying Around America

The title pretty much says it all. This was a mega-Mileage Run

From One Extreme To Another ~ Adak, Alaska to Ushuaia, Argentina

Travels by plane, train and bus (Business or Executive Class most all of the way!) between Adak, Alaska (Located way out in the western Aleutian Islands) and Ushuaia, Argentina (Located way down at the bottom of South America)

LAN Business Class From Argentina to Miami

The title pretty much says it all. The highs and lows of Business Class travel on LAN Chile

Fast As Freedom On Good Wind ~ Travels Around The West via Air, Rail & Road

What could have been a simple round trip from Alaska to Colorado turns into a 10,500 mile adventure including a First Class ride aboard Amtrak's California Zephyr.

Further Tales of First Class Decadence as Experienced On British Airways

Good evening, Sir. May I offer you something to drink? A glass of Champagne, perhaps?
Welcome to the world of International First Class travel as practiced by British Airways. With all the attention being given to the next generation of First Class suites and services as offered by airlines like Singapore, Emirates and Indias Jet Airways, how does BAs service stack up? Is it still worth paying the big bucks for? Ill report on my recent experience and let you be the judge.


ON THE ROAD AGAIN ~ From Alice Springs, NT to Tecopa Springs, CA

Travel continues via plane, train and automobile from one remote corner of the planet to another.

MY 1000th FLIGHT ON A 737 (And Other Aviation Milestones)

Have you ever wondered how many times you've flown? Or how many of those flights have been on a particular type of jet or airline? I've logged all of my flights since I was just six years old. Here are some of the more entertaining statistics.

Winter Wanderings Around America by Plane And Train

The title says it all... Eight airlines, one national railroad and a variety of First and Coach Class travel

ON THE ROAD AGAIN ~ Spring Travels Above And Around North America

Seven airlines, a couple of trans-con mileage runs and a nice mixture of First Class and Coach travel

Miles and Milestones from 2 Weeks of Flying Around America

From the Desert Southwest to the shores of Tampa Bay - and many points in between - this report covers flights on a variety of airlines along with certain milestones such as flying my 169th flight on Northwest, which just happens to also be my 250th flight on a 757 and my 4000th flight overall.

Tales From The Troposphere ~ Random Thoughts & Observations on 3 Weeks of Air Travel

Tales of travel all over America interspersed with schedules and reminiscing from flights forty years ago

6 Trains on 6 Continents ~ Connected by 44 Flights on 14 Airlines ~ PART 1

A fantastic journey incorporating primarily First and Business Class travel with premium class train travel. Part 1 covers First Class train rides in the United States, Scotland and Africa along with First Class air travel on Cathay Pacific. Flights with American, flyBE, Aer Lingus, Mango and 1Time are also covered

6 Trains on 6 Continents ~ Connected by 44 Flights on 14 Airlines ~ PART 2

The journey continues from Hong Kong down to Australia with extreme budget accommodations in Singapore and Australia contrasted with Premium Class train travel through Western Australia and Malaysia. Cathay Pacific First Class gets us back to North America followed by LAN Airlines Business Class down to Argentina where a ride aboard the third highest railroad in the world awaits.

Dispatches From The Railways, Roadways, Runways and Marine Highways of North America

ON THE ROAD AGAIN: Traveling From -23F to +27C in Style

First Class all the way from the chilly climes of Interior Alaska to the warm and sunny city of Cape Town, South Africa. We'll fly from Alaska to Johannesburg via Hong Kong on Cathay Pacific, then relocate to a room aboard South Africa's Premiere Class train for the 25 hour journey to Cape Town.

ON THE ROAD AGAIN: From The Bottom of Africa to The Top of Alaska

It's a long trip, one best appreciated from the comfort of a First Class suite.

AUTUMN PERIGRINATIONS - 50000 Miles of Air and Rail Travel Around America

Wintertime Travels & Tribulations ~ Through The Last Frontier by Air, Land and Sea

Not For The Faint Hearted ~ 82 Flights and 87830 Miles of Mileage Running

ON THE ROAD AGAIN: Another Boring Trip Report on Cathay to South Africa

Cookin Up An Adventure: Traveling From Cape Town to Chicago in Style

THE GREAT AFFAIR IS TO MOVE - Travels by Plane, Train, Boat & Car Around America

MY WEEKEND JAUNT TO CALIFORNIA - All 23000 Miles of it!

ON THE ROAD AGAIN: Orlando to Ft. Lauderdale on a SAAB 340 and other great flights!

ALL ABOARD: A Photographic Rail Adventure Through The American West

ON THE ROAD AGAIN: Spending My Hard Earned Miles on The Suite Life

ON THE ROAD AGAIN: Strolling Down Memory Lane Between London and Sydney in 1969

ON THE ROAD AGAIN: Alaska to Singapore and Back via Argentina and Dubai

ON THE ROAD AGAIN: Seeing America from "See Level"

ON THE ROAD AGAIN: Goin' Where The Climate Suits My Clothes

Last edited by Seat 2A; Jan 11, 2016 at 3:57 pm
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Old Apr 13, 2005, 12:54 am
  #9  
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Just saw this report by Seat 2A, and having read a few you can guess what I will be doing today.


Thanks for yet another great report ^^^

Last edited by Kiwi Flyer; Apr 13, 2005 at 1:39 am
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Old Apr 13, 2005, 1:30 am
  #10  
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Originally Posted by Seat 2A
The bottom line is that Sydneys Kingsford Smith International Airport is a horrible place to have to spend a night. I know, I know its an airport, not a hotel - but most international airports serving cities of Sydneys size are open twenty-four hours and offer much better options for the not uncommon phenomenon of International passengers having to stay overnight between flights.

In Sydney, all those wishing to remain overnight in the airport are herded into a small, brightly lit waiting area that has plenty of seats but very few upon which one might be able to lie down. The floor is hard, cold linoleum and the airport cleaning staff are headquartered right across the hallway so theres plenty of noise as they trundle about throughout the night with their cleaning carts and conversations.
I'm kinda surprised you were able to stay at all given SYD airport closes down for curfew.

Originally Posted by Seat 2A
The next morning, I headed downstairs to the International Airport train station and hopped on the convenient suburban train that made its next stop at the Domestic Departures Terminal. The fare for this two minute ride was $4.00 AUD or about $3.00 USD. I hope fares around suburban Sydney arent so expensive for such short distances!
Fortunately no, but that fare is a rip off. If flying Qantas you can take free bus between terminals.
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Old Apr 13, 2005, 1:53 am
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Originally Posted by Seat 2A
Tierra del Fuego translates into the Land of Storms and most of our trip was made in wind and rain.
Great report!

'Tierra del Fuego' means 'Land of Fire'. I only mention this because when I was in Chile in March (at almost exactly the same time you were!), I heard an interesting explanation for the name: European explorers saw fires lit by the Ona people, and promptly came up with the name for the tierra. Not as dramatic a story as I'd hoped for, but enlightening nonetheless.
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Old Apr 13, 2005, 2:18 am
  #12  
 
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Seat 2A, damn you should have placed a disclaimer at the start of your TR.

*** Warning, this report will result in inexplicable loss of time differential. Please do not commence review unless one has alloted considerable superflous time. ***

I now have to complete my work report after hours to makeup for the hour I lost reading your TR.

A brilliant read!!

Rgds
Tim
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Old Apr 13, 2005, 2:20 am
  #13  
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Originally Posted by ylwae
Great report!

'Tierra del Fuego' means 'Land of Fire'. I only mention this because when I was in Chile in March (at almost exactly the same time you were!), I heard an interesting explanation for the name: European explorers saw fires lit by the Ona people, and promptly came up with the name for the tierra. Not as dramatic a story as I'd hoped for, but enlightening nonetheless.
How right you are, ylwae! Thanks for the correction. I can't believe I've been thinking it meant Land of Storms all this time. Especially since I've been passing myself off as one who speaks passable Spanish. I guess I haven't had much need for the word "Fire" in my day to day conversations or I would have known this somewhat earlier.
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Old Apr 13, 2005, 2:23 am
  #14  
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Seat 2a:
:-: Brilliant as ever. Read the first 10 or so pages, but have work to do !! Printed out all 64 pages for reading tonight on the train going home.

Links to the old trip reports are great ^
====
OK-- 2.5hrs after the post above. Read the complete report. Looking forward to next installment
.....I suspect only a comparatively few, truly hard core readers actually manage to completely read the entire report. Alot of time and effort goes into not only the writing of these reports but also finding and posting the various links and photos so again ~ if you've made it this far, thanks for hanging in there! I hope you've enjoyed reading about my trips at least half as much I've enjoyed traveling them.
I would think many FTer's would read the complete report. Always compelling reading

ADL does have a QF pub. Up some some stairs on the left not long after security. The guys in in BNE and SYD have been know to have a beer or 2 or 20 at times in there QF pub, if you pass that way on your journey back to MEL for the footy (Pies vs St Kilda). But the real game that round is the mighty Demons against Freemantle.

Last edited by Mwenenzi; Apr 13, 2005 at 5:31 am Reason: 2nd part added
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Old Apr 13, 2005, 1:29 pm
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Seat 2a:

Great report!

I lauged out loud reading about your ailing cabin mate on the CX flight.

On a SFO-LHR BA flight, a very famous British director and I were the only ones in FC, both in row 2. I swear to GOD that he couged the ENTIRE way to London! After a while I moved to 4K to get a good night's sleep. It does make you think twice about all the reports of or poor air inside an airplane!

I look forward to hearing of your future adventures!
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