All was on schedule after much preparation, careful packing, consideration to weight, and overall ease of handling, we were ready to be picked up by our friend, Urs in Wollerau who volunteered to take us to Zürich Airport. After a farewell sandwich and an exchange of our upcoming travel schedules, we said good-bye for the next 4 months. We were well ahead of schedule and had an extremely expedient and courteous check - in at British Airways – first layover, London.

 The new facilities at the airport were enjoyable - even had the pleasure of taking the new train to terminal E. A new feeling of openness from the older terminal was a refreshing sight. Boarding with plentiful carry on luggage was no problem and the cabin staff was most helpful in getting everything stowed away in an orderly fashion. About half way to the run-up area, the pilot executed a quick u-turn and advised us that by accident, a pair of skis had been loaded which were meant to accompany their owner on another flight. After a 10 minute stop at the gate, skis pulled, we were on our way.

 We enjoyed delicious tea sandwiches, scones, a light dessert and of course, afternoon tea, which we decided would serve for dinner as well. An hour later we had to hold - and hold over East London. We timed the holds and found that we were doing one minute legs. After about the fifth hold, the pilot simply did a 360 degree turn and then got his clearance for the approach into Heathrow.

Joan and Ueli with Hand Luggage in Zuerich

After packing, we relax at Zürich Airport ready to board with the limit of carry on luggage.

The new terminal at Heathrow under coinstruction

London Heathrow is busy building a new terminal.


Diner over Norway

A long flight of 11 hours lie ahead and we settle in with an excellent dinner from British Airways.

The weather was balmy with an occasional drizzle. We tried calling the hotel to ask for the courtesy bus but the phone in the main terminal did not work. Nobody could tell us whether to dial a “0”, a “1” or simply “nothing” in front of the number. After much frustration, information directed us to bus stop 8 and bus # 4. First however, we had to take the train to another terminal. As we were just about to get lost in the subway system our Guardian Angels (nobody else was around) came walking straight towards us and directed us to the train. “Go all the way to the end. That is closest to the exit”. After a four minute ride we got off and another Guardian Angel called us: “I think you should not leave this behind.”  It was our note book with all the vital data recorded.

The hotel was very British with a well worn appearance. Our room was small but comfortable - good enough for the night. The bar where we had a nightcap was smoky and noisy; however, the staff and service, excellent. We asked for a beer coaster for our friend, John in Kansas who is a collector, then fell into bed and slept very well.

South Norway

South Norway in its winter blanket.

Frozen river Syberia

Frozen river in Siberia at the crack of dawn.

Sunrise over Mongolia

Mongolia showing the first rays of sun to begin the day. There is no sign of  visible life.

We had a fairly good sleep and too much breakfast, something we never do when traveling – too much sitting and too much eating add up to one thing – unwanted pounds. The bus trip to the airport was easy and we soon found ourselves in the First Class Lounge, a luxury to say the least, after many years of being banged around and injured just waiting for departure. E-mail cubicles were available to check the latest messages. We sat side by side with an espresso and a cappuccino; checked our mail and did a little ourselves.

 The flight on British Airlines was delightful. The plane was comfortable, clean and the food, excellent. The initial climb out of the London airspace was followed by a spectacular flight across the Norwegian Mountain Range and Fiords. The further north we went, a cloud layer began to blanket the western coast. Soon darkness took over giving us a sign to take a nap. Instead, we opted for some reading, a movie and some writing. The morning of the 11 hour flight again greeted us with a spectacular view of eastern Siberia and Mongolia, particularly Ulum Bator. The snow covered planes were etched by frozen rivers and larger streams. The east facing cliffs and river banks were cast in a very faint orange of the morning sun giving some warmth to the white and black land that showed no sign of human interference. Occasional fog banks filled valleys between low mountain ranges.

 Further south towards Japan brought signs of development, roads and foresting patches. Bridges became visible in the white cover of the ground. Unfortunately most of Japan was covered with clouds, giving us no chance to see Mt. Fuji.

Ueli waiting for Mt.Fuji

Ueli waiting for Mt. Fuji to pop out of the cloud cover.

First view of Japan

First glimpse of Japan shortly before landing.

Joan at Cairns

Joan checking the float plane operation at Cairns.

Collecting our extensive heavy carry-on luggage and clearing customs posed no problems. Another one of those special stamps in our passports serve as a souvenir of our travels. Once again, another futile attempt to use the public telephone arose in trying to contact the hotel. As usual, people were more than eager to help and soon we were picked up and taken to the Day Rest House where we would spend the next 9 hours in a comfortable hotel room. It was a good size by Japanese standards, with all the amenities and gave us the chance to sleep for four hours, take a shower and get ready for the next leg of the trip.

 By 6:00 PM, once again refreshed and packed (the main bulk of our luggage already checked and hopefully on the way to Cairns), we were ready to go. Checking in posed no problems. After waiting in the lounge and finding a beer coaster for John, we were courteously directed to our gate by gracious Japanese ladies. We were the only ones in that part of the cabin and the flight attendant spoiled us in a friendly Australian way.  The flight was uneventful and throughout the night we could not see more than our position lights at the tip of the wing. A red band at the horizon announced the morning. The captain started the descent from a cruising level of 39000 ft. It was now April 3rd, 5:55 AM.

 Customs at Cairns was no problem. The electronic system seemed to work flawlessly. We then had an amusing and enjoyable discussion with the quarantine officers about whether chocolate, tea bags and leather belts fell under quarantine restrictions. Great, we could keep them all. We hailed a maxi-taxi to take us to our motel in the southwestern corner of town.

 First thing, sleep, despite persistent requests from room service knocking on the door wanting to makeup the room. Several hours later we arose and took a short walk to the local Mall where not much was open, since it was Sunday. Next, a taxi ride to the waterfront area called the Esplanade, a beautifully restored area in the old part of Cairns. We enjoyed an early seafood dinner, snatched another beer coaster for John and took a stroll along the boardwalk. A seaplane and helicopter were busy giving scenic rides and we went over to check out the operations. The air was warm and we were finally out of cold man made air. It felt good to simply stretch our legs after being confined in seats on the long flights.

River over NE Australia

Rivers through the desert in NE Australia.


The great Oglas close by to Ayers Rock.

Our luggage

Our luggage being collected to transfer to the next flight - relief!

After a long night, sleeping on and off, we packed our bags for the last leg of our journey to Perth. Checking in was a breeze and we even had time to slowly sip a cup of coffee. Once on the plane, the crew worked hard to spoil us again on the almost 3 hour trip across half of Australia to Ayers Rock. Many memories passed through our minds from the visit made 7 years ago. We touched down in a place we had landed in ourselves years before. There was the tie down area, the fueling area and many other facilities we had walked around. In the distance we could see the outlines of the Oglas and to the left, Ayers Rock baking in the midday sun.

 We finally boarded a slightly smaller aircraft for the last leg of the five day journey to Perth. Only three more hours to go! Most of the time we flew across rolling hills of desert covered with varying vegetation. Occasionally a dried out lake or even an algae covered pond. Shortly before reaching Perth, houses and businesses stared to appear and in the distance, the international airport finally came into view. The large City with high-rise buildings spread out to he Sea.

Perth airport

Perth International Airport, our first destination coming into view.

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This page was last modified on 22. April 2005