Back in the Southern Hemisphere
Trip Start May 18, 2003
272Trip End Ongoing
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Duty free at LAX was really pathetic, don't waste any time here as there really isn't anything to buy (other than cigarettes, alcohol and perfume). Surprising really, considering how many potential customers pass through this airport everyday.
The flight back to the southern hemisphere from Los Angeles was fairly comfortable. Getting two economy seats to myself all the way from LAX to SYD and then again from SYD to MEL was very lucky, and enabled me to sneak in some sleep en route; sprawled out over two seats. Predictably the air conditioning was pretty fierce but I was quite snug in my super thin sleeping bag. The landing in Melbourne was very rough though, the wind throwing the plane around as it touched down. I could hear most of the passengers gasping as the wheels screeched on the tarmac and the nose swung from side to side. Of the dozens of landings I have ever experienced this was the dodgiest!
On arrival at Melbourne I picked up my bags and went through to customs. As I had nothing to declare I was "randomly" selected to do a full bag check, where they go through all your things. I was not at all concerned except for the fact that my bags had already been rummaged through and repacked by somebody, somewhere between checking in at Los Angeles and baggage collection here in Melbourne.
"My bag has been opened and rummaged through between LAX and Melbourne" I told the security officer as she asked me to open my main backpack. She did not seem to be concerned by this statement, but I thought I should say it in light of recent smuggling cases.
"Bron" at customs started going through my stuff, bit my bit. This is the first time it has ever happened to me, and I was surprised at how thorough they are. She even went through all my smelly clothes that needed washing, scrunching each sock individually. Rather her than me, especially since she wasn't wearing any gloves! Bron did mention that I was "very organised" but was intrigued by my packing technique and did ask, "What's with all the plastic bags?"
As well as visually inspecting everything a swab was wiped on the inside of my bags and analysed by a machine. The swab test returned positive for amphetamines (which was a very bizarre) and prompted me to ask the question "Is the swab test ever wrong?"
"No, never." was the curt reply.
After a thorough search of all my bags there was of course nothing suspicious there. A second swab test was done and returned negative. I asked why the first test was positive and the official response was that there must have been some residue left on the probe they use to hold the swab. Finally, after forty minutes wasted in customs and repacking my bags I was able to walk through to the arrivals lounge.
Whilst looking at the hostels information board I was met by the hostel touts, three in total were working the airport that day. I opted to go to All Nations in St Kilda, as they were reasonably priced and I'd get a free ride there if I waited an hour. The journey into Melbourne and then onto St Kilda felt really nice. Although I had previously only spent a couple of days in Melbourne, seeing the familiar sights (Melbourne skyline, the Espy, Luna Park & St Kilda beach) was very welcoming.