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Australia - just so far away from everything else…

So here I am in Nicaragua. Odd choice, some say. Not your usual travel destination, some say. “Why the hell are you going there?” Enquired the customs guy at LAX. “Are you scientists or something?” I wanted to say “Who are you to question me, when the first thing I see when I get off the plane into your airport is framed photos of Georgie and Dick glowering down at me from the wall dictatorship style?” But of course I didn’t, because when you are trying to get into America it is generally acknowledged that you just allow the guys in uniform to say whatever they want.

Otherwise all kinds of unpleasant things can happen. Particularly since we had just been photographed and fingerprinted. And before that frisked. And then searched for explosives. (Who would have thought a loaf of bread, a tube of hand cream, a plug for a battery charger, and two packs of T-box tanktops would form to look like explosives? However that’s what the nice man said formed the suspicious foursome that caused me to be pulled out of line.) So feeling like complete reprobates who had been violated we slunk into LA. Just in time to miss our connection to Miami.

Qantas were very kind about this. Put us up in a hotel for the day and all, with meal vouchers and the promise of rest. We lugged our packs over to the free shuttle to the hotel. Hah! After all that uncomfortable searching, they had let us loose on LA. We could have disapeared, become illegals, pursued the American Dream! Yes, we were delerious from sixteen hours in a plane. We wandered out into the cool clammy filthy Los Angeles air, packs in hands, eyes hanging out of our heads. After several aborted attempts at boarding the correct shuttle (all the others were going to the car parks), we managed to get ourselves to the hotel. A much prettier hotel than we were anticipating. Our room on the seventh floor had crisp sheets, wireless internet, little soaps and shampoos, complimentary coffee, fluffy towels, and no temptation in the form of a bar fridge. From the balcony we could see the airport (well, technically we were still in the airport), the palm trees, and nothing else - there was still fog. We grabbed our lunch vouchers and headed to the restaurant.

We were so exhausted that we were both experiencing the feeling that the floor was coming out from under us. We were seated in a booth (hehe! a booth!) and presented with a bad paper photocopy of the menu. The restaurant was filling up fast (it looked like some kind of conference was happening, lots of fat people with name badges whinging around). And suddenly, the nausea hit us. We were literally surrounded by Americans. They were everywhere. WE were now the odd ones out. No more supercillously staring down my nose at the stupid American that had ended up in Ginos and I was forced to serve. They were everywhere… TALKING. Nasally. Good grief.

So we ate our lunch (which was excellent) quietly, in a sort of overawed fashion… I could see Dave’s eyes darting nervously about every so often, looking at the strange beasts we were surrounded by, and I knew that was what I was doing too. I felt like David Attenbourough sitting in the middle of a watering hole, surrounded by carnivores. I assume if any of them had looked at us we would have looked people we had been dumped somewhere by a vindictive time machine who couldn’t quite believe were they were. Then Dave muttered that all we needed was a couple of sheets of high grade acid and some mescalun and it would be fear and loathing all over. I thought that if we did anything to do with acid at this point I would probably require a high security mental institute for several years.

So we escaped from our little fear and loathing experience and crawled upstairs to get in our four hours sleep. Then we braved the restaurant again (more sleep + less Americans = sane dining experience) then went to catch the shuttle back to LAX… so we could get to Miami, and then our destination. We got to LAX two hours before the flight left - as they had told us to. I have vowed never to complain about the 45 minutes they tell you for domestic flights in Oz again. We stood in several queues before being shunted to the next one, recieved a billion boarding passes, most of which were wrong, and stood in a line for HALF AN HOUR just to hand our luggage over to the xray people. Then once again searched. Got to our gate in good time to catch the plane, boarded, moved off down the runway, stopped, went back to the terminal because, as the pilot ominously pointed out, there was ’something wrong’ with the engine. Waited on the tarmac for an hour. Got off the plane. Went to wait for replacement plane. Sat for two hours while all the other members of the plane stood in a line. Well obviously. Got on second plane. Second plane took off. Sigh. Arrived at Miami with forty minutes to get everything to the plane to Nica. Managed. Got on plane to Nica…

And it took off and all.

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You’ve obviously not watched enough episodes of MacGyver. As our Amercian pals in uniform well know, an unholy mess is the inevitable outcome of mixing a battery charger, half a loaf of Buttercup and a strategic squirt of jojoba extract. Afterall, Richard Dean Anderson once built a supersonic light aircraft using nothing but a piece of bamboo and a wodge of denture cleaner. That’s why America rules the world.