Usain Bolt, The Bird's Nest, Hong Kong and Australia!
I flew direct London Beijing in 9 hours, I remember being so delighted when I realised the flight was only that long. I thought it would be more like 12, and had agonised about what I was going to do alone on a 12 hour flight, the most I'd flown in one sitting was 6 hours. Which was already more than enough in my mind. I wanted to fly with my cousin but he was going via Dubai, to meet his brother flying in from Lagos, Nigeria. The whole group of us, me, my cousins and some of their friends all flew into Beijing, China at different times! The organisation, which I think my cousins did most of with the help of Alex, my cousin's best friend (or one of them) from Hong Kong who always goes with them on their Olympic adventures, (they have been to every Olympic Games since and including Atlanta 1996) was hard work!
After 9 hours, we were landing I couldn't believe it, I can't remember what I did in those nine hours but I think it wasn't nearly as boring, tedious as I had imagined. I hate flying unfortunately, so boring and uncomfortable but I suppose I should be thankful that I don't feel sick flying, that would be awful.
Beijing airport was huge, new and bright! My neighbour had given me instructions to take a bus (he spent a year in Beijing studying Chinese Herbal Medicine) so I thought I'd give it a go. A bit of a pain with a suitcase but I managed and got to the really nice Novotel hotel and bedroom just before the rain came down! It poured, talk about raining cats and dogs (English saying)! I stood at the large expanse of glass windows on the 20th floor, or which ever floor it was, high up anyway; watching the people in the street run, hide or struggle through the rain. I made it just in time.
I was amazed by the cyclists, who looked as vulnerable and in danger as they would back home in the developing world! No helmets nothing but I guess that's one of the things one notices. The amazing sky scrappers everywhere, next to the ordinary, unsophisticated, like cyclists cycling around in real danger of getting knocked over. Beijing is like the West (better than the West in many ways actually) but not, it's full of contrasts. They couldn't believe the sight of black people and our one very blond friend, they wanted photos with us, next to us, with their children! Of course it occurred to us that these could be folk from other regions of China, just in the capital for the Olympics as we were but still quite interesting.
The Bird's Nest Stadium was amazing and where we spent most of our time. We went to see athletics and we had tickets for every single night of that exciting, inspirational atmosphere that was Beijing; in the stadium for that week or two. We had good seats and watched Usain Bolt, a Leo I hear (in fact as I recall he celebrated his birthday on the day he broke the world record for 200m) run the 100m and 200m effortlessly, while smashing all records along the way! Not surprisingly he got the nick name 'Lightening Bolt'. We saw it all and usually at night when the stadium looked it's majestic best lit up in red and gold. I was so inspired that I used the picture as my Xmas cards that year.
I was sad to leave Beijing and travel alone to Hong Kong to see Alex (my cousin's friend) who used to live in London, before he moved back home to work. I went to Hong Kong to see him and was amazed by the sights, namely the harbour. Spec-tac-ular! My first evening was spent at the harbour after a warm, bright blue skied afternoon, wondering about. I and many others watched afternoon turn to evening and evening turn to night and then a fire work display. Against a back drop of sky scrappers surrounding the harbour and lit up first by the setting sun and then by lights on and around them which showed them in all their splendour.
It was 9 hours from Hong Kong to Sydney. Another nine hours sleep lost just like that, I can never sleep on the plane so I arrived in Sydney a bit of a wreck, tired and in need of sleep! But the Quantas flight was good and the hostesses more attentive than most on flights I've been on.
Australia was a dream come true which proved a bit bitter, sweet! I was in Sydney for about a week and the weather was horrendous. More like London than Sydney and I was cold most of the time, I got a bad cold too! I had Spring/Summer clothing with me, not good. I gave my cousin my one pair of jeans to take back to London with him, shame! Ayers Rock was a bit warmer but quite overcast at times. I also felt racism in Australia and racism of the past which is scary, racism of say London in years gone by, in the 50s and 60s.
The highlight of my trip to Oz, was snorkelling in and around The Great Barrier Reef. My first time ever snorkelling and it was out of this world, another world in fact. A fantasy world of colour and magic, I could have stayed there forever! I even saw a baby shark, someone saw it's mother we think. But no one was bothered?! We were all lost in wonder, the variety of fish, colour and landscape down there. It was humid in Cairns but cloudy most of the time so the reefs were not as bright in colour as they could have been but good enough to get me hooked! I snorkelled on all the days I was there.
Cairns, Queensland near the Great Barrier reef was interesting, I didn't know what to expect. It was like a Caribbean island, full of plantation houses (made of wood with lots of terraces) and palm trees. It was here that I saw some of the indigenous folk, the aborigines. I thought they would be everywhere but hardly saw any in Sydney or Ayers Rock, which says a lot I suppose.
I was sad to return home after my trip of a lifetime but as far as flying here there and everywhere, I was so sick of that! They were also really horrible to me at Cairns airport on my way back. So all in all I guess I was relieved when we touched down in London, home again! I will never forget my trip to the other side of the world. Roll on 2012, I can't wait for London to host the Olympics (I pray they do a good job and that I enjoy my volunteering experience.) and let's hope I have a bit of money so I can go to Rio for 2016!