The first leg of the flight from Perth to Athens is 11 hours to Dubai. We were flying in an ageing 777-200 on a path almost due Northwest over Sri Lanka and the southern tip of India before veering slightly west into the Persian Gulf. From there Dubai is the second city on the left.
Flight information showed Mecca at approximately 11 o'clock to our flight direction, which meant you were only slightly askew in the isle when praying that the plane would not crash into ocean. The only comforting thought was that there was 11 of us who might stand a chance of surviving, if we only knew the direction to the nearest Dome. Why is it all about 11?
As it was a Wednesday, two hours into the flight we knew Graeme and anyone he could find to go with him would be braving the cold water at Doddi's. Bearing in mind (pardon the pun), had we crashed early into the flight, we also may have been swimming towards Halls Head Dome.
Someone must have tipped off the airline of the potential disruption to other passengers if they let our group sit together, as they had strategically separated us across economy class as far apart from each other as possible. Nevertheless, just when you were trying to get to sleep Glenda and Deb would appear and wake you up under the pretext they were looking for the toilet or Linda would jog past on her way to do calisthenics with the aircrew at the rear of the plane. Was it my imagination, is her skin looking a little dry?
We arrived in Dubai on schedule only to find our connecting flight to Athens had been delayed by 2 hours, thereby increasing our stopover to 5 hours. Jim headed to the QANTAS lounge with Deb in tow once she heard there was free champagne to be had. The rest of us caught a Bus to Terminal 1 to look for somewhere to enjoy a beer or two.
Time passed slowly until eventually we were called to board. Where's Jim and Deb? Sue was worried as somehow she had Deb's boarding pass and vice-a-versa! At the last minute, with nearly everyone through the gate, along comes Deb looking slightly unsteady on her feet. By the time we boarded our flight to Athens, fatigue was taking its toll on us all. There were no shenanigans on this leg - we were all too buggered. Fortunately, the flight time to Athens was only 4 hours 20 minutes much of which was spent trying to sleep.
We landed in Athens at 9:20pm local time or 2:20am Perth time. The VP with his ‘secret passport’ went straight through the almost empty EU immigration queue leaving the rest of us (incl. wife Ann) to queue with hundreds of other foreign tourists. After collecting our luggage, amazingly the Mini bus Hazel had booked was still waiting to pick up 11 weary swimmers and take us to our hotel.
We arrived at our hotel in a heap! During checking in, guess who wandered in the door? None other than a very relaxed looking Steve, Jen, Kirk and Deb who were returning from dinner out. 11 became 15. After hugs all round, we checked in, a quick trip to the 7th floor to see the Acropolis under lights and then straight to bed. By then it was 11:00pm, or 26.5 hrs after leaving Mandurah of which only 15.5 hours flying time.
Greek Swim Team