Sunday, April 8, 2018

5 April 2018 - Day 33 - Brisbane to Sydney

The Commonwealth Games was inaugurated in the Gold Coast yesterday. My friends in Brisbane felt that, with all the activities scheduled for the week, traffic would be heavy and transit, at least till Gold Coast, would be slow and time consuming. The bags had been packed overnight and they were arranged in the car early in the morning. The excitement of yet another expedition coming to a successful end certainly hung in the air, but as is said in cricket, “No game is over till the last ball is bowled”. I had the last 920 km to go to reach Sydney.

Daylight had started grazing the skies when I set off on the last leg, 10 minutes ahead of the scheduled 6 am. Traffic was busy, but did not impede the flow and speed much. At that hour even the traffic for the Gold Coast was light. It took me over three and half hours and 300 km to reach Grafton. I parked at a fuel station for over half hour and slept. The eyes had been weary and heavy. The next stop was for a cup of coffee and fueling in Coolongolook with about 250 km to go for the conclusion of the expedition. With just about a 100 km to go for Sydney I fixed the GoPro camera and readied for the ‘arrival’ into Sydney.

As I was nearing Sydney I contacted Praveen Tomy, my cousin in Sydney, to check out where I could suitably conclude the expedition with an iconic landmark of the city in the background. He suggested Kirribilli as the first option and Blues Point as the second. He had taken me to the latter when I was here the last time. From that location the Opera House and Harbor Bridge looked distant. Hence, I opted to go to Kirribilli. What a choice it turned out to be! I found parking facing the Opera House with the Harbor Bridge on one side. With me to savor the occasion were my batch mate, BN Shukla, his wife, Shakuntala, and my friend Hetal Shah. Hetal had made a banner of Record Drive – a beautiful Madhubani painting. Holding that aloft and taking photographs signaled the end of the wonderful expedition. Having the three good friends with me at the time was a matter of deep satisfaction.  I had done 17023 km, through the 7 States of Australia and their capital capitals, consuming 1326 liters of petrol. Truly, at that moment in Kirribilli I was bathed in a remarkable emotion of achievement.

I had booked, as early as mid-October 2017, an apartment complex with two bedrooms for me and my friends to stay. The Melrose City View Apartments seemed quite proximate to the attractions in the city. A few days back I had reconfirmed that I would be checking in to the accommodation before the ‘late’ check in fee of AUD 110 kicked in after 1900 hours. After the half hour stay in Kirribilli we set off in search of Bourke Street, with Google Maps leading the pack. We did get to Bourke Street, but could not quite locate building number 148. I was foxed. I left my friends in the car and went on foot in search of the elusive address. After a lot of back and forth I managed to locate the address thanks to two girls in a Vietnamese restaurant nearby. The problem with the apartment was that the main door was secured and I had no way to get in to it. The telephone number I had of the accommodation went to sharemyroom website and was not at all helpful. After a lot of anxiety and some fretting i was relieved when I found a young Chinese couple opening the door of the apartment complex. He told me that there is no reception in the building and that the accommodation is just okay and nothing to write home about. Anyway, it was confirmed that we would not be able to stay there that night.

I had to quickly change strategy and find someplace else to park ourselves for the night. I was also anxious because Hetal’s daughter, Janaki, a student in Melbourne, was also to stay with us in Sydney for the time that we are here. Fortunately, threw up a good option opposite the Hyde Park, the Hyde Park Inn. Instead of booking it straight away I decided to go to the accommodation and check it out. We had time. It was only a bit after 7 pm. We found the hotel to our liking and booked two rooms for the night. I was in a quandary – do I book it for three nights or wait for the morrow to sort out the matter with Melrose Apartments? In the period of indecision Hyde Park Inn became unavailable for tomorrow. I had no option but to wait out the night. My worry was also about the money that would be lost in cancelling the already booked accommodation. However, the excellent accommodation in Hyde Park Inn soothed most of the worries for the night.

After offloading the luggage we needed for the night I took the car to a secure parking lot that the hotel had arrangements with. It was just a couple of blocks down the road. Janaki had joined us and we got comfortable in the room. She had brought a huge boxful of Koko Black chocolates to ‘celebrate the event’ of successful completion of the expedition. A bottle of white wine, which was gifted by Jalgin so thoughtfully in Brisbane, slaked my parched throat. Dinner was in-house; noodles and baked beans. Finally, it was resting time after nearly five weeks on the road in Australia ‘exploring’ the longest highway in the world.

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