Sunday, March 4, 2018

In Sydney - 2 March 2018

As the flight was landing magnificent views of the Pacific Ocean, green cover over the city of Sydney, awesome infrastructure of road and railway and cleanliness make for most welcome sights. A full flight meant that I had to wait a while before exiting the aircraft. The airport looked bare and bereft of any gloss. Many flights had landed at the time and the queues were very long at the Immigration. I expected a long amble, but was pleasantly surprised at the speed with the passengers were serviced. And when the riot act needed to be read out, it was; guys using mobile phones were sharply told to follow rules or face consequences of even being denied entry into the country. A strong assertion of a no-nonsense approach to following rules, regulations and the law of the country. As I approached the counter assigned with printed e-visa, I was told to handover just the Passport and Customs declaration. No questions were asked and in a very short while the documents were handed back to me; I don’t even know if the passport was stamped!

The first stop, naturally, was at the Duty Free to pick up a couple of bottles of liquor. The free allowance for hard liquor is 2.25 litres. The girls tending to those looking for deals were quickly ‘tutored’ by them on the ‘virtues’ of every spirit. Besides my personal favourite single malt, Talisker, I decided to try out a new gin, The Botanist, the only gin made in Islay; it is described as an artisanal gin for the distinctive augmentation of the classical gin aromatics and a further 22 wild Islay botanicals, which gave the gin its name. The girl was ready for more information; but I was convinced enough to pick it up. The Duty Free prices were very competitive. The baggage was already on the carousel by the time I reached there with the trolley.

Now came the most important moment of the day, picking up the booked car from Hertz rental. Kevin was at the counter and he quickly told me how to get the best insurance cover for the long rental; 10 days would cover me for a month and a further 7 days would give me complete cover for the trip. Full protection, on-road assistance and rental for the medium SUV cost me about USD 2300. Kevin told me that the tolls and fines would be added up to give me the final bill within two weeks of returning the car. He smilingly told me that my credit card would be automatically charged. I did not think too much about it till I learnt later that road fines could be as high as AUD 300 for traffic violations. I asked Kevin for a relatively new car with good tyres to last me the 16,000 km. He checked with the parking assistants and reverted with information that a Mitsubishi Outlander that had done 34,000 km would suit my requirement. I took leave of Kevin as soon as I was given the document and invoice and got to the Hertz office in the car parking bay, which was just a short walk from the arrivals gate.

The lady in the office went through the document with me and nonchalantly picked up a key from the key rack and handed it over to me with the statement, “there you go, it’s in Bay 9”! I asked if she would like to explain something of the car to me. She pointed out to a couple of guys in the yard and told me that I could speak to them if I had any problem with the car. That was that. I took the baggage trolley to where the Grey Outlander was parked and took time to arrange mobile holders and the like inside the car. 

Google maps indicated that I would take over an hour to Kellyville, the suburb of Sydney, where my cousin, Praveen Tomy, and his family were staying. The traffic just after leaving the airport was very slow moving and that gave me the opportunity to adjust, as it were, to the new environment. The advantage was the right hand drive car on the left side of the road. The flight had landed earlier than I had informed Praveen. Nevertheless, I intended to surprise him. The surprise was on me. He had scheduled his meetings to meet me at home during lunch break and I landed up just after 9.30 am! I made use of the time to shuffle luggage, set up the car in all respects and get to know the car better.

By the time Praveen returned I was done with what I had wanted to do with and in the car. After a huge portion of lasagna I went with Praveen to pick up Elisha and Isaac from school. We had been late and the kids had been waiting; they are expected to till parents turn up to fetch them. Parents are involved with every activity of the child, be it academics or extra-curricular activities. Rose and Praveen have a huge scheduling task to tailor their daily professional engagements with those of parental responsibilities. It was indeed a pleasure to experience the togetherness of the entire ‘exercise’.

After a few minutes at home Elisha was ready for her netball practice session. The indoor stadium was like a beehive; netball sessions for most age groups were in progress with parents goading their children on. I was fascinated to be there, learning the rules of the game, which looked like a remix of basketball. I was told that Australia and New Zealand are the foremost champions of this women’s game. After the game Rose took the kids back home while we shopped at Woolworths for a barbeque dinner. Praveen is an avid chef and, as if by magic, he produced a feast of Broccoli, zucchini, asparagus, lamb and kangaroo meat. The meats had been marinated to perfection and the kangaroo meat was a revelation. It is considered to be one of the most fat-free meats in the word with less than .5% of fat in it. The Australian discovery for me had to be the chilled Canadian Club - carbonated premix of whisky and ginger ale; with just 4.5% alcohol and just the right mix of ginger ale, it was way out of the world.

I had a lot of lessons to take from Praveen the next day about utilizing the GoPro camera better and handling a drone, the dji Spark. That would be critical for documenting the tours to the beautiful countries of Australia and New Zealand.


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