The long trip south

The move from Switzerland to Australia approached with an accelerating flurry of administrative tasks, packing, and farewells, and when, suddenly, we were all strapped into airline seats, the idea of a 13 hour plane flight was a welcome excuse to sit still for a while. In the weeks before we left Bern we arranged a metric Gantt-chart-worth of tasks: we gave away as much as we could, informed Kanton Bern of our departure, ended contracts while respecting notice periods, and went through the frustrating process of getting an Australian passport for Felix.

Getting a passport required a trip to Geneva to visit the consulate.

One cold January morning I used a friend’s pressure hose to clean our bikes to Australian-customs standard, and the water froze to the concrete around me. We maxed out our luggage allowance in duffle bags and cases and arranged for the CFF to pick them up and take them to Zurich airport for us in advance. Expecting a van, I was surprised when the luggage pick-up was by a lone bike rider who cheerfully loaded up our six giant bags onto his (not electric!) cargo bike and rode off into the winter night.

Our container being quickly packed.

Moving day arrived, and we threw open our apartment to a group of burly movers who made unbelievably short work of packing our things into the 20-foot container that sat five floors below on the street. Tanya and Felix wandered Bern while I drove multiple car loads of remnants to the recycling depot. Then we watched as the truck drove away with all our things to be put on a ship and sailed to the other side of the world. We were left with an overnight bag each, a stroller and a portacot. I went back for a last look at the apartment and all that was left inside were clumps of dust, a small rock Tanya picked up somewhere, and one baby’s dummy. I put the dummy and the pebble in my pocket and left.

A dusting of snow on a market in Zurich on our last morning in Switzerland.

We took the trip one step at a time. The first night we stayed in Bern so that we could get the apartment cleaned and returned to the real estate agents the next day. That evening we caught a train to Zurich and stayed the night near the airport. Exhausted already, Tanya and I sat on the kitchen floor of the studio we stayed in and drank alcohol-free beer. The morning came and we caught a last train to the airport to collect our bags, get them checked in, and get onto the plane. Felix was a champion traveller, although he declined to spend a lot of time sleeping in his little cot. The trip passed in a blur as these long plane flights do.

Felix had the best deal with a fully lie-flat bed.

We chose for our break in Singapore between flights to be extra long, so we could have a sleep and recharge. We also had the opportunity to take the shuttle train between terminals, that runs through the Jewel Changi Airport and past its enormous and impressive indoor waterfall. Soon it was time to board our flight to Sydney and we were on the home stretch.

Selfie on the plane.

Arriving in Sydney was a very strange, bittersweet experience. The early morning skies were murky as we descended, and when the aeroplane doors were opened warm air tinged with bushfire smoke came into the cabin. Although we didn’t realise it then, our timing was fortunate in the extreme. We arrived after bushfires had ravaged the east coast of Australia, and we left Switzerland just before the coronavirus ravaged Europe. On the morning we landed in Sydney, though, our priority was just to rest and try to process what just happened.

An appropriate first lunch back in Australia.
September 12, 2020

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