Day 724: Special Delivery

Xmas Day 2010:

After a couple of hours kip I was up an’ at ’em, ready to TAKE ON THE WORLD!!! My only problem was that I had spend the few remaining dollars I had on beer last night (you WOULD NOT BELIEVE how expensive Australia has suddenly just become: we’re talking a UK fiver for HALF a pint… seriously!!).

I scraped together what I had and hoped it would be enough for a taxi to the airport. I would be taking the 11.30am flight from Cairns to Melbourne. I didn’t quite have enough to pay the full fare, but my lovely taxi driver (from my fav Indian state of Kerala) let me off a couple of dollars – hell, it was Christmas day and I did spend the entire journey telling him how cool I thought his hometown was!

So in the airport I changed my left over PNG dollars (which I was planning to keep for when I went back, but when readies are short…) into Aussie dollars.  They’re both made of that weird plasticy material.  So are the new Bangladesh Taka, incidentally.  I’m a luddite when it comes to money – I like the paper stuff, it feels more real.  Although to have a paper note worth less than a fiver is just bloomin’ stupid.  As such, some of the money I’ve collected on my travels is breathtakingly filthy.

With my ill-gotten gains I bought a copy of Australian Empire Magazine (half the size and twice the price) and while I waited for the boarding queue to die down I indulged my baser instincts with a real Christmas treat – a Burger King Whopper Meal.

Yum yum!

Happy to have a window seat, and even happier that nobody sat next to me (three seats just for my fat ass! Yey!) the plane journey passed in a sleepy haze – a haze in which the contrast levels of my life had just been turned up a notch.  Or maybe that was the bright midsummer sunshine streaming through the window.

The plane touched down in Melbourne at 4pm.  While the other passengers were fannying about waiting for their luggage, I went outside and bought a bus ticket to the city centre.  I then went to the carousel, picked up my backpack, laughed at the massive queue which had just formed for bus tickets and jumped on the waiting bus which promptly departed leaving my fellow travellers behind.  Experience baby, that’s what I’m talking about YEAH!!

The bus slid into Spencer Street Station in just twenty minutes (take THAT, Heathrow!) and there was a little bit of a worry caused by the fact that Mandy was not in Melbourne today, but in her home town of Ballarat, a 112 kilometres to the north-west.  Would I have the money to get the train, or would I have to hitch-hike.

As if to prove that, if not Poseidon, then at least Santa was fighting my corner, I was told by a wonderfully cheery Aussie lady that all the trains across the state of Victoria were free today (it being Christmas an’ all).


Australia, you ROCK!!

So I boarded the 5pm train to Ballarat: with any luck I’d be back in Mandy’s loving arms before 7.

The Train To Ballarat
The Train To Ballarat

I arrived at the lovely old station of Ballarat at 6.30pm.  Brilliantly enough, Mandy and her sister Tam had spent the afternoon at their auntie’s place, and I arrived JUST AS they were jumping in their separate cars and heading back to their mum’s.  So Tam, her husband Ian and their three month old son William came to pick me up from the station: shh… not a word to Mandy…

It was great to see them again and to meet little William, the newest edition to our clan.  Mandy drove back to her mum’s in her own car and didn’t suspect a thing.  Around the corner from the house, I got Tam to stop the car and she and Ian to bundle me into the boot (the trunk) and covered me in towels and blankets: all wrapped up for the surprise.

When Tam arrived at her mum’s place, she went to get Mandy.  “Your Christmas present has arrived from PNG” she told her.  Mandy wasn’t interested – she was too busy trying to get me on Skype(!)  Tam practically had to drag her out to the car.  And then…


Graham Hughes

Graham Hughes is a British adventurer, presenter, filmmaker and author. He is the only person to have travelled to every country in the world without flying. From 2014 to 2017 he lived off-grid on a private island that he won in a game show, before returning to the UK to campaign for a better future for the generations to come.

This Post Has 6 Comments

  1. Chris

    Lovely video, really enjoyed seeing the look on Mandy’s face. Made up you both got to spend Xmas together. Now, pop quiz, hot shot: where are you guys gonna be Xmas 2012? Enquiring minds wanna know (if they should start looking at the prices of tickets to Oz).

    1. Graham

      Christmas? Jeez Chris, you know we are so the wrong people to ask these kind of questions!! I don’t know where I’m going to be next week, never mind Christmas. Come to Oz it’s lovely… but whether Mand & I will be here is probably about 50:50.

  2. Chris

    I mean Xmas 2011, we’re not THAT organised.

  3. gavinmac

    Oh, no. This is what the expedition has come to now? A sappy suburbia “Christmas surprise” video?

    You’re supposed to be an adventurer. I want to see footage of you back in Papau New Guinea, getting tied up by angry natives, and then preferably boiling in a pot of some sort.

    This extended visit to Australia is an outrage. Biscuits, fluffy bed, cute dogs, loving girlfriend. I used to think you were a modern day David Livingstone. Now you’re more like David Gest.

    1. Graham

      Hee hee! I love the moral outrage… but… but… you’re supposed to be boiling in a big pot!!

      I’m getting a bit miffed about this too: I was only expecting to be here for a couple of weeks, but the arrangements I made to get around the Pacific are delayed (not my fault!), so I’m just sitting on my hands until then which for a modern day Henry Stanley (travelled way more than Livingstone and was at least twice as evil) like me is PAINFUL. If you like I’ll do something to get me thrown in jail here in Australia: like drop litter, jaywalk or pretend to be Aboriginal.

      1. gavinmac

        Still sitting on the sofa in Australia? I was in Libya this week. This is not how our relationship is supposed to work.

        In London now, watching the press criticize your government for failing to do more to get British nationals out. Imagine if the press knew that, despite the mobs at the airport, my flight from Tripoli to Milan on Air Afriqiyah yesterday was 75 percent empty. An Airbus 320 with 100 empty seats. Surreal. I guess people don’t like Italy.

        “Milan? No thanks. I’ll wait here in Tripoli for a flight somewhere nice.”

        Or maybe Western embassies may have a blacklist against booking tickets on Air Afriqiyah because it crashed last year. Time to break that rule, since it is one of the only airlines flying out of Tripoli at the moment.

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