A Train Crawl to Canberra

Over the weekend I was part of an amazing AFF event, invited along to two private train carriages on a cross country adventure between Sydney and Canberra.  I had to wake up exceptionally early and catch a Jetstar flight to Sydney, stayed overnight in Canberra with Mark and Drew in the Hyatt, and took a leisurely flight back to the Gold Coast via Sydney on the Sunday.

Where to begin though?  Well a member by the handle of BAM1748 on AFF offered the journey to anyone who was interested, and weeks ago I booked my flight and committed myself, along with 34 others as it turns out.  This lead to the organiser having to source another (private) carriage, but it was a wonderful one at that.

Each contained their own bar and couches, tables and chairs, as well as the original sleepers.  I did actually end up sleeping for a part of the journey, as recorded in a candid photo along the way.

The “crawl” was to take us via a few stops where we’d sample local pubs, drinking along the way too of course, before arriving into Canberra in the evening.  Due to a few issues, what was meant to be a 10-hour trip actually became 14-hours… but everyone had a good time, so you can’t complain about that.

The group along the way

AFF7 in Hobart

As this week starts, my weekend in Hobart comes to a close.  It’s been a great event, another wonderful AFF gathering, and already attention is turning to next years event, where it looks like the front runner is Cairns.

Dad seemed to enjoy himself too, though did fall asleep twice, once at an after-drinks special in someones room, and once at the main dinner, where I think he simply had too much red too quickly, but it was enjoyable, and I think he’d be happy with the weekend and activities.

Dad on the lawn

Undoubtedly, the highlight had to be visiting MONA, that museum is so amazing and I’m definitely going to have to go back to see more.  I especially want to be there when the ‘poo machine’ takes its dump.  Just for the novelty factor.

Josh on the MONA boat

The Cascade Brewery tour could have been better, but the drinks by the bar, and free tasters as part of the tour were good.  A better tour (if you could even call it that – more so experience) was the Lark Distillery in town.  For $15 we expected to get 3 samples, and actually had the whole bar, and they did have some very nice, if not very expensive, products on offer.

Dad at the Cascade Brewery

Throughout this post I’ve included some of my better photos from the weekend, posted to Flickr.  Some also ended up on Facebook.

The gang at Smolt

Something else also worth mentioning is making new friends and seeing old friends.  This event was the same as any other in that regard and I’m happy to expand my friends list!

Kate at Hadleys

Status Runs

Status runs are enjoyable to me, they’re something that I enjoy as I like the experience of flying, and I like having status… in fact, status is great. That said, I’m not a vocal person, I don’t push to the front of the queue and demand service first because my card is the shiniest, but I like to have the shiniest card, just because. World we live in?

So tonight I’ve been struggling with a dilemma. There’s a status run I can do, it’ll get me to the next tier: Platinum. At that tier I’ll be able to dine in the First Class Lounge whenever I want, I wont need some other Platinum to fly with me and guest me in, yet it comes at a cost.

I like saving, and I don’t like spending. I’m a bit of an impulsive buyer though, I see something I want and have to have it, before fully realising the damage. Sometimes I give myself time to think and all I end up doing is swinging backwards and forwards talking myself in and out of the item in question. That’s what I’ve been up to tonight.

I think the best way to let others help me is to lay it all out. I need you to know exactly what this will cost me, and you need to come into this with an open mind.

The status run in question starts and ends in Townsville. So I need to get there and back first. There’s a sale on that ends tonight. At those prices I can get there and back for $250. If I wait and book outside of the sale it will be an additional $88.

The next step is the actual status run portion. In one day I would fly TownsvilleBrisbaneDarwinBrisbaneTownsville. I’d leave at 0555 and get back at 2135. My entire day would be spent in a Business Class seat in the air, or in a Business Class lounge on the ground. There’s a fair chance I’d get a few drinks in and I’d be heartily fed through all 4 flights and all 4 lounges on the ground (counting Brisbane twice).

The total cost of this day in the air and on the ground would be 48,000 of my valuable points earned through other flying and shopping endeavours, and $239.49 of my hard saved cash.

The very next day I’d do it all again. And yes, that’d be another 48,000 points and $239.49.

Between all this flying and lounging, in fact every time I ended up in Townsville, I’d be spending the night in the airport, as there’s no money left over for hotels. That’s 3 nights on an airport bench in the tropics in summer. It’s also quite possibly, 4 days in the same clothes.

By the time I get back to Brisbane (for the 5th time) I’ll have barely 1000 points to my name and have used the money I’d saved for just such an occurrence (but that I still don’t want to let go of), however by February I’ll have made nearly half of the points back.

It is an addiction, but isn’t everything in life? At least I can be proud I don’t smoke or do drugs, right?

For all of that, Platinum probably wont give me much above Gold, I’ll undoubtedly not get any free upgrades and receive the same level of service I have done as a Gold. Unless I travel far and wide, which isn’t very likely for the next couple of years, I probably wont notice anything different. I will earn 25% more points, and I will have access to a slightly better lounge, and yes, I will have access to the beloved First Class Lounge should I fly alone.

I realise I wont be happy if I get to Platinum, but I also wont be unhappy, in the grand scheme of things a plastic card wont change my outlook on life and be a magic fix that solves all my problems.

And the bottom line is, the longer I go on and try to justify things, the less sense I make.

So I’m damned if I do and I’m damned if I don’t, exactly what do I do?

P.S. I’m probably looking at that extra $88 already!

AFF Christmas Party

Tonight was the AFF Christmas Party at Brett’s Wharf in Brisbane. It had been organised months ago when the restaurant was to be closed due to road works along the Brisbane river, but only recently it has been revealed it will continue operating till 2015.

I wasn’t able to confirm my attendance until just recently, so I was almost a surprise guest this evening. It was good to see a few old faces at the event and even some new ones, who came from far and wide, though I think only within Australia.

Andrew and Tahia very kindly picked me up from the Gold Coast, as they had dropped their kids off at a friends place in Oxenford to be looked after.

Dinner ended up being pretty good, and the company was great, but I’m not entirely sure the food was worth the $85 that was paid. I guess it was a private dining room, with a nice view, but only 3 courses and no drinks included. Luckily they allowed BYO, so I went across the road to Dan Murphy’s and paid the $6 corkage on a bottle that was far cheaper than what was offered on their menu.

Towards the end of the evening there was even a bit of excitement in the air as the Queensland Parliament voted on a civil unions bill, which eventually got passed, and now Queensland, the most backwards state for gay rights in the country, joins NSW, ACT, VIC and TAS in recognising and granting same-sex civil unions.