Travel Editor Richard Holmes is trying to be a modern-day Phileas Fogg, flying around the world in a little over 80... hours. He left South Africa at lunchtime on Sunday (March 25th) and jets back into Cape Town on Thursday. Flying via Hong Kong, Los Angeles, New York and London, he’ll be posting globetrotting reports wherever and whenever he finds a web connection.
Although his tickets have been sponsored by Cathay Pacific, American Airlines and British Airways – members of the Oneworld alliance – he’ll be giving both the highs and lows on four days at 35 000 feet.
Well, it seems that I have discovered time travel.
I left Hong Kong at 4pm on Monday, right. I flew for 12 hours against the time zones, so I was ‘losing’ time as I flew. According to my plans I’d then land at 2.25pm on Tuesday, with plenty of time to catch my flight to New York on Tuesday night.
I’d forgotten one tiny little player... the International Date Line. It’s the first time I’ve flown across it, so it didn’t occur to that you can travel back in time that easily. Turns out, after my 12-hour flight from Hong Kong, I arrived in LA two hours before I left, at 2pm.
It was all rather confusing, and I have to say it’s the first time I’ve had to ask someone what day it is. The American Airlines clerk did chuckle a bit when I was surprised it was still Monday. Seriously; this Monday has been going on for over 36 hours now. Whew.
Anyway, the upshot of all this is that I have a day in Los Angeles; a city I’ve never been to before, but that I’ve seen in a thousand movies.
A room at a Best Western near the airport set me back $90, and I’m getting to enjoy all the motel-style pleasures of the US: vending machine downstairs, ice machine down the passage, a slightly-odd hotelier downstairs...
Getting around isn’t as easy as I’d hoped, but it looks like a bus to Santa Monica beach will be on the cards for first thing in the morning, and then we’ll see where the day takes me.
Happily, tomorrow is allegedly Tuesday at last, so I’ll get back in the air at 9.20pm. New York for two hours, then London and home.
Oh yes, and the flight across the Pacific? Uneventful, with more great service and food from the Cathay staff. This time we flew in a Boeing 777-300ER (the same as British Airways will use for their forthcoming daylight flights out of Johannesburg), and it was great. The window seats were more spacious than on the 747, and offered good views… awesome for when you’re cruising into LAX down the Pacific coastline. This is definitely a corner of the country I want to come back to, but right now I’m just waiting for this Monday to end.
Flight highlights: Five glorious hours of sleep. The most I’ve had since Saturday. Whenever that was.
Soundtrack: Bruce Springsteen’s gravelly musings on California
Gripe: The visitor information people at LAX could do with a dose of enthusiasm and customer service training. The bare minimum service, offered with a side-order of grumpiness.