Hello again! Time for part two of the tale of my trip down under.
So, when last we left each other, I was shuffling aboard the 787 from Edinburgh to Doha. I was sat in 17K, a window seat looking out onto the starboard wing, and had a free seat between myself and the passenger in the aisle seat. I have no recall of who my seatmate was on this flight. I think it was a dude. Obviously not that memorable, unlike my seatmate flying back to Perth from Sydney, but I’m getting ahead of myself….
The feeling of taking off for the first time was something that will stay with me, but what will stay with me even more was how I was feeling from an emotional standpoint as the plane took off and Scotland fell away from me. I was pretty emotional at that point, a bit glassy-eyed to say the least. The trip I’d been planning for the best part of two years was properly underway now. No going back, and I was leaving the UK for the first time in nearly 25 years, since I went to France on a primary school trip.
The seat was okay. I kinda knew going in that of my two Qatar routes, the EDI-DOH/DOH-EDI flights on the 787 were going to be the least spacious in terms of legroom, compared to the DOH-PER/PER-DOH legs on the 777. The electronically-dimming windows were heavy nifty though. No blinds, just a wee control that darkened or brightened the windows using chemistry or magic or advanced home nucleonics or some stuff. In flight entertainment was pretty good – swanky touchscreen job with the hand controller unit being another touchscreen device, basically like a smartphone. I watched Star Wars: The Force Awakens, listened to a Foo Fighters album and used the in flight map to track where I was in the world the rest of the time.
The only downside was that the two-pronged headphone socket was a bit flaky for plugging in my noise cancelling headphones using the adapter that came in the box, so for a fair amount of the flights I was listening to podcasts on my phone and just had the IFE on the mode that flipped through the different in flight map displays. I was hoping there would be some sort of external camera function as there is on the Airbus A380, but no dice. The only external view was the one out of the window, and it wasn’t great given that we were flying into the night terminator line, I was sat beside the starboard wing, and the altitude the 787 flies at meant that there wasn’t all that much to see of the ground anyway.
Food on the plane was fairly decent, for Economy. No major complaints from me. Not a gourmet taste sensation, but tasty enough. We got a full meal about an hour or two in and a snack of a chicken panini thing and a wee cake before landing.
My plan to sleep on this flight? Yeah, didn’t really happen, unfortunately. I tried to sleep, and maybe did nod off a wee bit here and there, but never really any more than a light snooze.
TGhe flight itself was pretty smooth, with only a couple of periods of chop and the odd bit of seatbelt-fastening required. Having the empty seat next to me was definitely a bonus, as it allowed me more room to access my backpack, which I had under the seat in front of me during takeoff and landing. It also allowed me to stretch my legs out a bit, which was a lifesaver as my knees get a bit ‘clicky’ and I need to straighten my legs out every so often to ‘click’ them, if that makes sense. As far as I know it’s nitrogen buildup in my knee joints or something.
Anyway, after about 7 or so hours, we touched down in Doha at just before midnight local time. Off the plane and into the impressive Hamad International Airport, a far bigger shed than the comparitively dinky EDI. The walk from the gate to the security/arrivals hall was a fair old trudge, and even at that time of night, in an air conditioned airport, it was pretty warm for a dyed-in-the-wool Scot like me. Security was pretty swift and not majorly intrusive. Don’t think I even had to take my laptop out of my backpack, but I could be misremembering. I did have to take my hoodie off though, I remember that much.
After I got through security, I bumbled around the shopping area trying to get my bearings. I knew if I could find the big teddy bear sculpture that serves as the centrepiece of the main duty free hub area, I could figure out the rest, but it took me a while to figure out where to go, and at one point I was even going around in circles a bit. I eventually asked a member of airport staff and they pointed me in the right direction towards the big bear. During this time, I also had a close encounter with an animatronic velociraptor. After that I headed off up to Concourse C to find my gate in plenty of time (I had about 3 hours between flights). After getting my gate-bearings, I doubled back to the food area for a sandwich, an iced cofffee and a water. After filling my belly, I scooted up to the gate, parked my arse and hooked my phone and headphones to my battery bank to juice them up for leg two of the long trek to Oz – QR902 aboard a Boeing 777.
When I sat down in 21K (another seat over the wing and by the window, which turned out to not be the best idea, but more on that in a bit) I noticed the difference in room immedately – the chair was a bit wider and there was a good wee bit more leg space. I didn’t have an empty seat next to me this time, however – the flight was pretty full. Wasn’t a totally full load, but there was plenty of folk on the plane.
Getting the window seat on this flight was a mistake, for the most part. My two seatmates pretty much fell asleep as soon as the plane took off and I was, for all intents and purposes, stuck in my seat for a good chunk of the flight. Thankfully I’d made sure and emptied myself out (ahem) before getting on the plane, and I stayed off the booze for the whole trip so I wouldn’t be running back and forth to the head the whole time. Still, would’ve been nice to have been able to get up and stretch my legs a bit better than I was able to at that time.
There was nothing else for it, though, so I just kept rolling through my podcast backlog, watched a couple of Marvel films, ate some inflight food and tried my best to get a bit of sleep (which I pretty much failed at, again). Outside the plane was dark for a good portion of the trip, so I was using the IFE to figure out where on the journey I was. Not that I could’ve seen much anyway – there was nothing but Indian Ocean beyond the starboard wing for the vast majority of the flight.
Eventually, my seatmates stirred, I was able to stretch my legs and empty what needed emptying, and after 10 hours or so in the air, we approached Western Australia, flying almost directly down the coastline, headed south of Perth before pulling a U-ey and coming in to PER for a landing.
The one regret I have about the experience of the landing was that I wish I’d had my camera out – as we were coming in towards final, the sun was directly off the starboard wing, and the most incredible sunset I think I’ve ever seen was happening right before my eyes. I wish I’d taken some pictures of it – I’m still kicking myself for that one.
So, the plane landed at T1 pretty much on time (about half past six local time), got my case – which had somehow acquired a small padlock on the zips somewhere along the way. Thanks to whoever took the time to make sure my stuff wasn’t going to spill all over the shop, but we had to break the padlock off with a pair of needlenose pliers once I got to my Uncle’s gaff – and went through customs, which was pretty painless. I stepped through the doors into the main bit of the arrival area, and there was my uncle Gordon to greet me. He’d literally just got there a few minutes previous, so I guess I must’ve got through all the post flight shenanigans a lot quicker than he was expecting. We loaded my stuff into his Land Rover Discovery and set off down the brand new freeway from the airport to his house in Yokine, a suburb in North Perth.
Must’ve been about half past 7 by the time I got there. Had a quick bite to eat and chilled out with a couple of beers with my aunt, uncle and niece. After travelling for the best part of a day solid and being pretty much awake for the best part of two, after a couple of James Squire One Twenty Lashes (a fine example of Aussie beer) I was gubbed, but I managed to stay up until about 22:00 and crashed out for the night.
And that’s where we’ll leave our story for just now. Join us again soon for the next bit where I’ll talk about the first couple of days in Perth.