Day 01 Tuesday (Australian time) – 12 April 2016 Mildura to Singapore

Well, we are sitting in the International Terminal at Tullamarine and it is 8:30 in the morning. Our plane to Singapore boards at 11:00am so it is a good opportunity to record our early morning adventure so far.

The alarm awoke us at the ungodly hour of 4:30am. We had made sure everything but our phones were packed the night before and waiting for us by the front door. Brett, (thank you kindly) drove us to the Mildura airport at 5:20am. Our paperwork had specified that we needed to be there no later than 5:45am, and I was feeling very toey, so the guys let me get my own way this time.

As we did a final check on our baggage last night it was determined that I had packed too much as I could not close my suitcase. I had to remove my bedsocks (heavens forbid if I get cold feet), and a few other items before it would close. Then we re-weighed them one more time. I came in just over the 23 kg I was allowed, and Russ weighed in at 22.5kg. Just wait until he starts buying a mug or two as souvenirs and that will change.

We had no problems at the baggage counter, and the very kind gentleman, Chris Moore, advised us that we could pick them up again one we landed at Changi Airport in Singapore later this afternoon.

Russ bought some water on the way to the departure lounge, poured it into his own water bottle, then proceeded to have a very big anxiety episode, to the point that I wondered if we might need to cancel the trip altogether.

He had been so excited for the last few days that I think it had caught up with him finally. I talked him through the attack and he insisted that he was too stubborn to give in to IT, so we waited to be called for boarding.

As we boarded our aircraft he again experienced a panic attack, and once while we were in the air on our way to Melbourne. Some deep breathing and severe talking to himself managed to put it at bay, and once we arrived in Melbourne he felt much better. There is never any rhyme or reason to these attacks, and it is usually the smallest things that set them off. I am sure there will be some of you reading this who will be able to identify with him.

We continued on our way, and had to throw out the remaining water in his bottle, so that we could go through the metal detectors and Immigration control. We had completed our departure form before we left Mildura so didn’t need to stop off and do this, as we did last time.

I did not think my wardrobe through very thoroughly other than to make sure I would be warm/cool and comfortable. I am wearing a gorgeous ¾ sleeve t-shirt with a kitten on the front. It is in iridescent silver and turquoise, with metal sequins dotted over the front. Needless to say I was chosen to go through the new full body metal detector, and had to be patted down by the female immigration officer to make sure I wasn’t hiding anything underneath the shirt.

Russ asked if he could go through it also as he had read about it previously and wanted to experience it. It was quote funny as you stand with your feet on the floor motifs and your hands and arms raised above your head. Russ couldn’t manage that as the compartment is too shallow. He didn’t need to be patted down, but then I breezed through the passport face and eye scan and he didn’t as he was too tall to be able to be read by the scanner. He was directed to go to the side and was handled by a manned counter, before he was cleared and was able to join me out the front.

We proceeded further into the terminal to the departure gates, buying bottled water now that we were through the rigmarole of scanning. The number of opened bottles of water that were removed from baggage and discarded as they went through the scanners was amazing. They have large signs all over the place and people still try to take opened bottles through.

We made it to Gate 16, after I bought another set of Ear Planes. I know I packed them into my backpack, but have been unable to find just where they are. I don’t dare get on the longer Singapore flight without them, or am likely to get ear ache.

Sorry, Chris, the food aboard Qantas flight from Mildura was a small apple, a smaller muffin, and some water. It wasn’t worth the effort to take a photo.

Made our way to our gate and found good seats to wait for boarding. After we had been sitting for some time one of the Australian Federal Police arrived and asked for volunteers to stand in a line so the trainee sniffer dogs could do a workout. We were in sight of our baggage at all times, and I had my backpack with me.

About ten people volunteered and he set us up in a loose circle so the dogs could meander through us all with their handlers. Another of the AFP in casual clothes had drugs in his back pocket and he was to step in line with us after the dogs had made a ¾ pass. The handlers were given instructions not to mollycoddle them with signs but to let them go and see how they managed with minimal input.

The first three dogs (one at a time and not in the other’s presence) came through the circle and found the suspect without too much trouble. The next dog decided that Russ was really a suspect in disguise and sat at his feet. He didn’t get a reward and went back to the last of the pack. The next dog did well but did need some assurance from his handler, and then the failed routine was run again. The dog still insisted that Russ was the target so he didn’t get any reward again.

The main Trainer asked Russ to leave the group and he re-assembled the rest of us. The next to last dog came through and was rewarded, but the failed test stopped at the lady who had been put onto the spot Russ had stood in. The trainer explained that the dogs were only 18 month old black Labradors, and that they often stopped to see if they could get a treat at this stage. It was a very interesting experience all up.

We finally boarded our plane around 11am without further incident. Russ was very toey and I was wandering how he was going to get through the lengthy flight ahead. He had spoken with his Mum while we waited in the lounge, and that had seemed to help also.

Once we were on our way the Qantas crew seemed to think we needed to be eating a lot of the time so there were snacks to go with the drinks of water, tea and coffee. It was halfway decent and plentiful. You will be amazed to read that I even ate my vegetables with condiments – crikey!

Russ again experienced anxiety and he used my MP3 player to listen to his meditation music. This helped also.

While he had his anxiety attacks I chewed my fingernails – no rhyme or reason to that one either.

After a very long eight hours and ten minutes we landed at Changi airport at 5:55pm Singapore time.

I should mention here that our travel agent at HelloWorld Mildura is Lee Brodie. Many thanks to him for a thorough itinerary and the little extras he added along the way. It has made the trip so far delightful. Thanks, Lee.

We sailed through Singapore Immigration without any worries. The staff were serious but polite.

Lee had arranged a seat for us in the Tour East Singapore coach transfer from the airport to the Grand Pacific Hotel. As we cleared Customs their representative was waiting for us with our names on a sign. He very quickly collected our luggage and we went to the pick-up point.

The Tour East representative is Mr Hoon. I can recommend the company with a clear conscience and gratitude for a courteous, well organised performance. The vehicle was clean, the driver was welcoming and very efficient, and a female – a vast difference to the last time we were here.

As our plane did not leave until the following evening Lee had arranged a late check-out for us at 6:00pm, and the East Tour driver would pick us up from the hotel at 6:15 for the trip back to the airport.

Russ and I had spoken to Lee earlier in the piece, and told him we intended to see the Gardens by the Bay. In Lee’s efficiency he had already booked and paid for our ticket to the Cloud Dome and the Flower Dome, with a pick-up from the hotel by Tour East the next morning.

We arrived at the hotel about 30 minutes after leaving the airport. I had been glad of the extra layers I had made available to myself in the plane (the temperature outside the plane drops to minus 52 degrees and Russ had put a blanket around his shoulders), and I had been steadily dispensing layers as we went towards our ride. The temperature outside was 35 degrees and the humidity hit us like a wet blanket as we stepped outside the airport building.

The doorman at the hotel was quick to welcome us when we arrived, and the top handle on Russ’ suitcase broke! The Reception staff were courteous and pleasant – a special mention of Marcel and Albert. Marcel in particular was terrific.

Once we finally got to our room Russ had a minor panic attack. Not unexpected as it was already after 8:00pm Victorian time so we had had a very long and tiring day, and IT attacks much harder when he is very tired. We discussed alternative that were available to us to help him and he explained that the panic caused major nausea unless he kept munching. I suggested he take a Travel Calm after a shower to cool down to see if that would help him, and it did.

We decided that he will take some Travel Calm tomorrow before the flight, and can take another once he boards the plane if it is needed. Time will tell.

We rang for Room Service as the easier option before sleeping. Russ had Spaghetti Marinara followed by Rainbow Delight (multiple ice cream flavours with sauces). The Spaghetti was nothing to rave about, but it did fill a hole. I had fried rice followed by a small tiramisu with mango sauce. Sorry, Chris, too tired to take photos. Will try to do better.

East Tours will collect us from the hotel tomorrow morning at 8:30am so at 8:00pm local time (10:00pm Victorian time) we set the alarm for 6:45am and quickly dropped into a deep sleep.

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