Setting off to Berkeley

Trip Start May 25, 2005
Trip End Ongoing

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Where I stayed

Flag of United Kingdom  , England,
Tuesday, August 30, 2011

At 1:20am, mum, dad and I gathered my things (one average backpack, and one small daysack) and walked down the road to wait for the National Distress (Express) bus to London Heathrow. And so began my adventure. It arrived late of course, and we proceeded to wind our way around the countryside on our way to Birmingham coach station - which is remarkably nice now compared to days gone by! But by now, it was 3am, and I was in danger of missing my bus to the airport - they called ahead to prevent my next bus leaving - but in the end there was no need, as that too was late.

Bus number two was packed with passengers that had entered in Liverpool, but after one seat swap due to the man behind singing drunkenly, and hitting my head, I managed to get some sleep. Soon enough I was in the ND/S garage at the airport, with only a short way to go. With 7 hours to spare before my flight, I wasn't sure I would be allowed to drop off my bag - something I wouldn't consider doing in South Africa, as stuff would surely go missing. But, as I had checked in online, the airline staff told me to go ahead and leave it with them, which freed me up to go and explore the rest of the airport. Sadly, Virgin Atlantic staff were most rude during this whole process, when I was one of two customers for 15 open desks - so there was no reason to be stressed by this point of the day. I was really surprised how badly this was done, especially as I had done all the hard work myself, and checked in online!

Anyway, once through security, I decided to try and find a place to sleep for a while. No such luck in Heathrow Terminal 3! What a mess! People are herded into increasingly small areas, with boarded up planks stopping any sense of light or fresh air. Finally, I walked halfway to the boarding gates least in use, and found a couple of seats without arm rests to kip on. I think those people travelling along on the moving walkways must've wondered what I was doing, but by now I had been awake for 28 hours, and needed a little rest and horizontality!

Finally, we boarded the flight at 1pm. My seat was different from that which I had booked when checking in online, and a lady had decided to sit in the one which i had been allocated....eventually everyone was in the correct seats, sweltering in the over-heated cabin. Then the crew began to let us know that in our section of the plane, no entertainment would be available as the system was broken! Just what you want to hear when you have 11 hours ahead in a confined space. Knowing there was nothing that could be done, I resigned myself to getting some sleep - and put in my earplugs to drown out the complaints of the more disgruntled passengers.

A few hours later we were flying over the rocky mountains, and soon we had landed at San Francisco Airport. After some questioning, finger prints and photographs at border control, I went through and found myself at the BART station. BART is the Bay Area Underground - and is pretty functional, if small and quaint compared to London. A quick change in Oakland, and then on to Berkeley Campus. Walking up hill with all my stuff, I was glad that I had decided to travel light. With only an elevator ride to a floor it wouldn't stop at, three corridors and then a car ride - I finally made it to my place for the night.

That's quite a journey....we'll see what happens next. Hello Berkeley - my new home for the next few months.
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