October 7-8: Singapore to Melbourne
Oh what beautiful, hot, sunny days we’ve had in Singapore, with dazzling blue skies and splendid, oven baked heat. Oh the time is so recent, yet the feeling has swiftly departed. We left Singapore in sunny 31C weather and arrived in Melbourne to 9C, wind and rain. Thanks for the welcome Oz!
With just a bit of time left before catching the train to the airport, we went for a brief stroll around the streets of Singapore again, for a final look. It really is a lovely place to be and I was again struck by how green it is, with even high rise buildings or concrete facades, that could be an ugly blot on the cityscape, being given the green makeover and it makes such a difference. The focus on bringing nature to the city is wonderful. It is uncity-like in many respects. We’ve noticed the absence of sirens and car horns, so it’s relatively quiet even with traffic and we always notice how calm, unhurried, polite and kind the people are. Even the notices and signs around, give that impression. The signs on trains for the reserved seats, that would normally say something like “reserved for…” and have a symbol of an elderly person or someone with a disability, are quite different in Singapore. The signs there start with “Show You Care”. Even that is a shift in how things are approached, with the focus on caring and your action showing you care, rather than begrudgingly giving up your seat. I’ve also noticed on trains, no one sits in those seats unless it’s absolutely packed. On every other train or bus we’ve been in, in other countries, people just sit in the reserved seats as if they’re regular seats, but in Singapore they’re a different colour, red to the yellow of the other seats and people seem to respect that they are for particular passengers and stand rather than sit, even if the seat is empty. Then I saw a sign about kindness and celebrating it. So, Singapore has really stood out as not just a lovely place to see, but a lovely place to be, with a beautiful atmosphere of kindness, respect and harmony.
After a final stroll, we choofed off on the train to the airport, waited for check-in and then approached with that slight feeling of trepidation again, wondering what the scales would say. After our experience from London, with an airline that was very on the ball about weighing everything, starting with our hand luggage, then bikes and bags and not wanting it to be over weight, we waited to see what the next experience, on a different airline, would be like. The answer… not the same at all. They didn’t weigh our carry-on at all and didn’t even weigh the bikes, just asked us how much they weighed. We told them what they’d weighed when we left London but really we could have said anything and knocked a few kilograms off if we’d been so inclined. The whole check in process was not what I’d call top notch. Still, we were through and ready to go.
The flight itself was long, cramped, uncomfortable, loud (I had a very loud and talkative group of seat neighbours, in surround sound, front and side) and sleepless but we eventually touched down, got through all the necessary entry checks, the bags and bikes arrived unscathed and we were once again on Australian soil. We found a quiet corner of the terminal and Steve got to work reassembling the bikes while I unpacked panniers and got things sorted, got our phones working again for Australia and everything was going to plan. Then we had a lovely surprise. After sending messages to family to say we’d arrived, we got a call from Steve’s mum to say his dad also just happened to be on his way to Melbourne. So we waited for him to arrive and had a little reunion at the airport, then a cuppa and catch-up before going about our separate business for the morning. It was an unexpected meet up that was a lovely surprise and arrival treat.
Our business was to ride into the city where we’ll stay tonight. We could have returned the way we left and just kept flying to Tasmania, but we’ve decided to include the bikes right up until the end, so tomorrow we catch the overnight ferry and will pedal from the ferry back to our little home among the gum trees. First, getting from the airport to the city. Just as we left the airport and put foot to pedal, it rained. Of course it did.
We stopped to put on coats and then set off again. Then we took a wrong turn. Of course we did. We turned around, went back the way we came and tried again, only to have another navigational clanger. We had a route to follow on the GPS but where it told us there was a path, was actually a car park behind a gate and a fence. Not going that way then. We rerouted ourselves and followed a footpath beside a highway, then a bit of a bike path before having to get on footpaths again, apologising to the occasional pedestrian. We also had to stop three times for Steve to make adjustments to my bike and tighten different things because it was feeling very wobbly and unstable. It obviously hadn’t enjoyed its flight either.
On we went, beside the busy road, when Steve stopped under an overpass.
“I don’t know!” he shouted in frustration. Our route was telling us to go up onto the M2 which we obviously weren’t going to do and wouldn’t have been allowed to anyway. After that first hiccup with the nonexistent path, we were now ridiculously lost from our original route. I began Googling how to get from the airport to the city and a site mentioned the Moonee Ponds Creek Trail, so I Googled that, got a map of how to get to it, showed it to Steve, who at a glance could tell where we needed to go and we were off again. In no time at all we were back on track, back where we should have been, on a traffic free bike path. Yay team! But…seriously, do we have to continue to be navigationally challenged after all this time!
The path was great, but we had a blinder of a headwind. It was truly blowing and knocking me this way and that and making forward progress very slow and sluggish indeed. It was also freezing and Steve even stopped to put on gloves. The wind was biting and the rain was stinging cold when it came down, in between spells of respite. Added to those challenges, was the unfair disadvantage I had. You see, before we left England, Steve couriered a lot of his load back home because it was cheaper than the excess baggage fees we would have had to pay at the airport. The result was, Steve riding with only two back panniers. As we rode into that stinker of a wind, Steve was whizzing along on his light, almost weightless bike, while I ploughed along behind in fully loaded packhorse mode.
“It’s so much easier with twenty kilograms less,” beamed Steve after stopping to wait for me to catch up.
“I’m sure it is,” I deadpanned.
We wheeled / slogged, depending on your perspective, along the path, through parks and beside the creek. I saw a man on the opposite bank and he looked at us and gave a big windmill-arm wave to us. I waved back with a smile. Nice to see those friendly people at home too. We passed under a viaduct which was a very poor cousin to the magnificent, towering brick structures we’d seen in the UK. This was the Moonee Ponds Creek Viaduct, built in 1929 to provide a goods line over Moonee Ponds Creek. It also carried troop trains during WWII and today it carries the Melbourne to Sydney train. It didn’t look mighty or amazing or impressive, it looked a bit like a colonial outpost version of a viaduct, trying to be modern and ending up a bit of a blot on the landscape. I guess those amazing engineers didn’t make it this far!
We blew into the city and arrived at our hotel at precisely the same time as Steve’s dad, who’d also completed his business and arrived to meet up again. After a quick restorative cuppa and shower to feel a little less feral, after more than twenty four hours on the go, we set out to enjoy lunch and a longer catch up, after six months in different hemispheres. Another lovely treat.
After farewelling again and going our separate ways, Steve and I gathered some supplies and headed back to our room, because it was still freezing and that wind was bitter. Steve had a long, and long awaited, snooze while I continued to hold out, crazy tired from no sleep, but convinced it would help me zonk out completely later.
So that was our leg Down Under, some wings and some wheels, plus some unsurprising weather events given our history and unsurprising navigational “specials” given our history once again! One more leg and we’re home. A day in Melbourne, then the ferry overnight and then a pedal home. We’re on familiar ground there so we are confident beyond cavalier that we WILL NOT get lost! As for the weather though, sorry Tassie, it’s us, we’re coming home, we have powers beyond our control, it just might snow!
Distance ridden: 28 km
Time in the saddle: 2 hours 8 minutes
Weather: COLD! 9C and very windy. Got to 11C after a while