POPMART Leg 1: 1997, North America


'Let the games begin...'

20 November 2010
'Let the games begin...'
Travel day.  London to Auckland (day 3)

Singapore to Sydney passed uneventfully, which is all a man can hope for in a flight.  I watched Shrek again, well most of it, which helped the mood.  Slept again, ate again, reading eluded me a little, so I even did a little work as I was feeling vaguely inspired.

At Sydney airport we were reunited with the crew guys who had come via Bangkok.  I found some of them in an airport Chinese restaurant, and some others in a bar but I was in more of an omelette mood, so left them all to it.  It felt more than a little surreal to suddenly be in Sydney (I saw the Opera House on our descent, which rather hammered home the point).   Having left grey autumnal chill behind in London, a couple of long naps later all is blue skies and sunshine.  Walking back to the gate I had the first wave of that feeling where the carpet feels like it€™s turning into sponge.  Hoards of people walking, pulling rolling bags, backpacks, cases €“ another take of the Moment of Surrender video.  Kids acting up by gate.  Surely they could travel as checked baggage?

The final leg was fine, though the novelty of aviation was certainly wearing off at this point.  I did, however, finally get into my book, The Elegance of the Hedgehog, and snorted through a hundred pages or so.  It€™s a strange and circuitous story, being the ramblings of an apartment building concierge in Paris, but it€™s got me now.
A couple of hours later, I looked away from the book and out of the window.  I was quite taken aback by the view €“ down below was endless, unbroken, deep blue sea, whilst up above was endless, unbroken, deep blue sky.  The two vast planes both stretched beyond my peripheral vision and were of almost identical colour, the sky perhaps becoming darker as it stretched into deep space.  Their only separation was a line of fluffy white clouds way in the distance, rather appropriately smoothing away the line of the horizon.   The emptiness of both is what was so startling, brightly lit in sunshine, everything so intensely crisp and clear.  I was looking down at a planet entirely of water, it seemed, and the curve of the earth was clearly apparent.  Does this mean that the water is curved?  Obviously it does, relative to my viewpoint anyway, which I suppose means that every €˜flat€™ body of water is also curved, albeit ever so slightly.  I know, I know€¦ I€™d been up a long while at this point.
Finally, finally we descended into a cloudy Auckland, completing what I€™m pretty sure is the longest flight I€™ve ever undertaken.  (Regular readers may remember the fantastic debacle of getting from Santiago to Perth on the PopMart tour €“ an epic saga of missed connections resulting in a four day journey, but that at least involved a couple of hotels, as opposed to today€™s straight shot.)  Auckland airport was conveniently empty so we coasted through immigration and to baggage claim (at which point I noticed that my flies were undone and presumably had been for whole of the last flight.  I recall thinking that the chap sitting next to me had looked a little twitchy, but I€™d put it down to being a nervous flyer.)

Picked up my bag (always a relief) and found a driver waiting for me, so we drove into the city, passing the familiar wooden, tin-roofed bungalows popular in these parts.  It€™s a gloomy afternoon but I€™ve rarely been so glad to be on terra firma.  It€™s 4pm and somehow I need to stay up until 10ish to stand a ghost of a chance in the great hand-to-hand combat with consciousness that is jet-lag.  Let the games begin.

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