After the bus trip from hell.
Saw plenty of family and friends in NZ. But not ready to live in manicured green paradise yet. (No, not going to relive the quake tragedy.) So, score cheapish, perfect flight Auckland-Cairns.
Need bus to Ingham. Enter Greyhound office. Omen: snotty child spilling juice all over floor. Two females with attitude booking rides without pausing cellphone calls (another omen).
Three hours to bus time. Steamy morning drags on.
Bus arrives 12.15 for 1pm departure. Driver steaming after hosing outside of bus in futile cooling effort. 12.30: Passengers mill around. Stressed driver flaps about getting fares and baggage in confused disorder. Passengers told to climb aboard, without being given seat numbers. Bad move. Anger later as shifts ordered.
Time drags on. So, too, late arrivals. Driver near meltdown. Some fares too. Incluing disturbed barefooted woman getting home after troubled night in police cell 'care'.
Bus hot. Fares hot. Driver sweating torrents. Counts heads. Loses figure. Recounts heads. Wrong total. Tries again. (Another omen).
Off, finally, and only about eight minutes late. Bus gains tiny draft to assist hopeless cool vents. Bigmouth teen starts first of five-hour series of drama-filled 'OMG - you're freaking me out' mobile shrieks.
Driver mops brow. Again, and again, and again. Hellish bids to amuse and inform begin. Radio blares. Changes. Driver frets. Tries DVD. No go. Then go. No go. Then sound only. Nobody tells him for 15 mins. More fiddling. Distorted picture. But we're free from his fiddling for a blessed hour.
Teen drama queen raves on. Drunken yobbo up back frets for nicotine. Tries to leap from bus to gulp a few drags during every one of many freight pickups made. And at all the dropoffs and pickups.
Bus trundles on, stop after stop. Finding first gear is a struggle but we're settled into the ride. More radio blaring and inane info from driver just roll off us. Inured to it all. Just get it over.
More detours, dropoffs and pickups.
Tully, nearing blessed end. Disturbed woman, another very heavy smoker, quits bus and folds arms around small boy who runs to her.
Woman's mother and another youngster approach. Family reunion. Which turns to nightmare.
Disturbed woman starts screaming at her mother. 'Get away from me! Get away from me.'Then attacks her. Both wrestling on ground under depot roof. Male with mother stands useless nearby.
Young woman on bus leaps out and stops the fight. Fragile peace sets in. But disturbed woman rejects mother's presence.
All on bus glued to events. Ugly cheering. Sick fascination and sicker comment. Little sympathy for the adults and not even much for the children so obviously at risk.
Just let this trip end! (I'm no better than any other on this ride).
Driver loses passenger count. Again! Recounts. Scribbles again. And again. Off at last.
Cardwell. Food stop. Change drivers. 20 mins late. Drivers lose count. Hunt for phantom passenger.
Idiot new passenger holding ticket to Townsville but lacking any money ponders choice of overnighting with friend and being flown ex-Cairns or being stranded penniless down south. Takes 10 minutes to quit bus.
Drunk smoker leaps back on. Fallen in love with it all, he slurs a request to buy further ticket and go all way to Brisbane! Proof that travel soddens the mind.
Ingham at last. Luck changes. New driver drops me right outside caravan park.
Friends. Caravan cleaned and aired. Home sweet home!
PS: Had great time in NZ. Spent almost all of 16 days with family and friends. Little nature watching and even less birding. So, just one 'oodle ardler' from inner city Auckland.