My first sensation upon waking, wearing my airline blindfold, was the aroma of the hot, spicy Hindu breakfast I had special ordered. It was brought out before the regular meal cart and every hungry passenger around me was enveloped in the scent as I gobbled it down.Below us were clouds like lumpy mashed potatoes splashed with buttery morning sunshine. Here and there peeked through a desiccated seacoast. The live flight map showed us west of Adelaide. I leaned toward the window and passed some gas.
After landing, the customs and immigration process was incredibly swift. I put my passport into a scanner, and then stood in front of a camera, hat doffed, while an algorithm decided if I was worthy to enter this grand country. A green light, a gate opened, and I was in. A live customs lady simply said "hello" as I passed her with nothing to declare.
In the arrivals lobby I worked a machine to buy a SIM card and suddenly felt arms enfold my from behind. A bushy beard tickled my neck. The Fireman! I spun around and hugged my friend, who I'd met almost thirty years ago in Marrakesh. "Jimmy Wiggy! Welcome!"
Julie was waiting in the car and we hit the road for Mooroopna, the "Fruit Salad City", up in the farm country around Shepparton. Cows in pastures looked downcast in the dreary drizzle of Australian winter. But we were all laughs and stories in the zooming car.
The rest of the day at the Fireman's place was catching up on the dozen years since I'd been here and checking out the road trip camper van and equipment for our upcoming adventure.