Welcome to Oz! (I)
Trip Start Sep 08, 2011
85Trip End Jan 08, 2012
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If leaving Bangkok seemed at one point to be impossible, getting into Melbourne was almost as bad. First you have to fill out your visa application then join your first queue to pass through passport control. I’d heard so many horror stories about not declaring exactly what you had with you that I felt compelled to declare my three months of medication. The only problem with that is that it’s lumped in with illegal drugs and weapons – as innocent as my luggage was, I was sure that would sound alarm bells with the immigration officers.
The queue at passport control seemed interminable, basically because it was. Usually, the passport officer looks at your passport, looks at you, takes your photograph and moves you on. Here, however, they give you a mini interrogation. I overheard a clearly infirm, old English couple trying to explain why they had so much medication with them to a stony faced official. I thought if that’s how they’re treated – drug runners, they were not – then what would happen to me?
When it came to my turn, I was asked about my medication, but when I told him what it was for, I was surprised to see that the official just stamped my passport and waved me through without so much as a second look. This was going to be easy! Next stop, baggage reclaim. On my way, I was stopped by another official who was just hovering in the corridor, "Morning, Sir. Where have you just come from?" – “Bangkok.” – “Oh, lovely! And have you got anything interesting for me, Sir?” – “Sorry?” – “What have you got in your bag?” – “Uhm,... medication. Do you want to see it?” – “No, that’s alright, Sir. Have a good trip.” It had been surreal, especially on such little sleep.
Anyway, I got myself over to the carousel to wait for my luggage. Considering the kind of 2 days that I’d had, why was I surprised that my case was one of the last to come out? Silly me for expecting anything different. When my case did come, I collected it and promptly proceeded to customs only to hear calls of, “Oi! Where do you think you’re going?” That’s when I suddenly became aware of a huge queue, waiting to go through customs. I had never seen the like before and it took what seemed like forever.
In the queue I got talking to a couple of Italians who had been on my flight and we were all astounded by this queue. Not as astounded as I was to be when we arrived at the front. Another official was checking our passports and visa applications again. While my new-found Italian friends were waved through, I was sent to another part of customs where there was hardly anybody. I was taken to yet another officer who proceeded to interrogate me: origin, reasons for coming to Oz, where I was going to stay, how long etc, etc. I tried my best to be upbeat, but it was difficult, as we’d been on the ground for over an hour now and I’d only had four hours sleep in the air. In the end, I spent about 20 minutes with the official before he allowed me to leave. It had taken forever but I was finally in Australia!
While this was going on I was feeling sorry for Alan, who must have been waiting for close to 2 hours for me. So I rushed through hoping to meet him quickly and get out of there, but there was no Alan. I made my way along the arrivals gate and found that there was another gate, so I hurried over there, but again, no Alan. I couldn’t believe that he hadn’t arrived yet, as it had taken me so long to get out, so where was he?
I tried calling him but it went straight to voice mail, so I left a message, telling him where I was in the airport and then I waited... and waited.... and waited... Eventually I decided I’d had enough and went off to buy a SIM card. There I met my Italian friends again, who were also waiting for an Aussie friend to come and pick them up (are Aussies unreliable?). We all settled on the same SIM card and I made my phone call to Alan. It turns out, he’d never been at the airport. He had a function on at which he was doing the security, so that’s where he was. He told me to get a cab and meet him there...