Day 1, China time

The LED readout at the check-in counter reads 23.0kg.
Luckily, my bike box weighed exactly 23kg!
Day 1 of 298
Sunny12-14°C
Distance ridden (today)0 km
Trip progress0%

After a frantic bout of packing-up at my parent’s house, I say my final farewells before my flight to China.

At the baggage counter, I waited nervously as the airline staff weighed my luggage.

I only had two ‘pieces’ of baggage, but I was flying with two different airlines, who had completely different interpretations of ‘baggage’.

Qantas was the carrier for the shorter leg, from New Zealand to Melbourne. They allowed for multiple pieces of baggage, with a maximum combined weight of 30kg.

Air China, on the other hand, was the carrier for the longer leg, from Melbourne to Beijing. They allowed for only two pieces of baggage, with a maximum of 23kg each.

My bike box was my first piece of baggage. It contained my bike and some bike accessories, such as my lights, frame bag and ‘feedbags’. I knew from my return flight from Australia, that my bike weighed around 23kg. It had, in fact, tipped Air New Zealand’s scales at 24.5kg! That was, however, until I pointed out that the scales read 1.1kg, even when there was nothing on them..

I had stuffed the rest of my baggage, four panniers and a tent, into a cheap, striped ‘Chinese’ laundry bag. I’d read that this was a good way to give the illusion of ‘less’ baggage, without actually bringing any less baggage.

Both I and my travel agent had double, triple checked the rules. But the flight was one of those cheap deals, with the type of fine print designed to weed out budget travellers.

Somehow, luckily, fate was on my side. My two pieces slipped in under the Air China limit, with the bike box weighing exactly 23.0kg. Phew!

With my stress-making gear gone, I was a man of leisure.

I sat down with my mother, father, and sister Pip, to enjoy a leisurely, relaxing airport lunch.

Well, almost. A few days earlier, I had realised that my rear light didn’t work as advertised. When I stopped, it stopped. The light was a small thing, but I was worried about being mown down in a busy foreign city. Plus, then I’d find out if my not-so-expensive travel insurance actually worked, or not.

The bike shop in Melbourne had sent an urgent replacement light on Sunday. But it was now Wednesday and I hadn’t received it yet. I rang NZ Post and discovered that the courier had tried to deliver the light twice, to who-knows-where. My sister would pick it up from the depot on her way home. But as my plane left in several hours, I would have to make do with the faulty unit.

Chance also had it that my recent-ex-flatmate Hamish was sitting a couple of seats away, with an old friend. Both were keen surfers, and about to fly to Indonesia to catch some big waves. For Hamish, it was a well deserved break before settling down to the serious business of child-raising.

I said Hi, in the way that you greet someone who you used to see everyday. We had shared an amazing house and the extreme highs and lows of life. And now each of the flatmates had gone their separate ways, to do something amazing. It was a positive ending, but it was strange to see him now, as no more than a passing acquaintance.

Inevitably it came time to board the plane.

My sister gave me a big, teary hug, and said some strange words that she had never said before. Mum and Dad came over to the departure gate, and I cried as I said farewell to them. My parents were getting old and I wondered if they would be still be around, when, and if, I came home.

And then I was through the gate and we were off.

The flight to Melbourne was smooth, but cramped.

The Qantas crew played the aisle equivalent of flying faders or Alexei Sayle’s. Their trollies teased from afar as they attempted to juggle meal delivery with their clients’ need to ‘freshen-up’.

It seemed that no matter how much airplane technology evolved – bigger wings, quieter engines – any increase in leg room would remain just out of reach.

Melbourne Airport was pretty boring after so many recent visits.

I skipped Duty Free and headed over to the music shop. The salesman there managed to sell me a bassy Bluetooth speaker, which I hoped to affix to the front of the Troll. It was pretty heavy, but I hoped it would do double duty as a cache battery. And I imagined the traffic parting like the Red Sea, as I fired shots into it from my bass cannon.

I sat in the departure lounge for a while, sure that I had forgotten something, but not sure what. When it finally became time to board my plane, I suddenly realised that I didn’t have any foreign currency! Luckily I found an exchange counter a few metres away and boarded the flight with a thick wad of Yuan.

A young musician sat down next to me on the plane.

She was friendly and rocking a big axe, and I hoped that we could be rockstars together. But she was clearly tired from all the after parties and soon passed out face-first into her meal tray.

The TV screen in front of me played some corny nature scenes, watermarked with the CCTV (China Central Television) logo. Thankfully the images were accompanied by smooth jams, Hardcastle-esque. It was a relaxing combination and I made myself as comfortable as possible for the 11.5 hour flight ahead.

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