It was very eerie arriving at Sydney airport.
Our plane had to circle around the city for 45 minutes due to delays caused by the bushfires.
There were fires raging furiously all along the eastern coast of Australia and Sydney was surrounded by them. Apparently only two roads in and out of the city were open.
The temperature in Sydney was 44 degrees that day and the whole state of New South Wales was braced for the mayhem that the lethal combination of high winds and hot temperatures would wreak on already out of control bush fires.
As we disembarked the hot wind whistled loudly through the passenger boarding bridge and the smell of smoke was instantly palpable like a fire was burning very close to us. Which of course it was.
We were the last flight to land and by the time we got through immigration the airport was deserted. Our complimentary transfer (care of my dear brother) had not waited – thanks Emirates! So, we had to make our own way by taxi across the smoke shrouded city. The half-moon was the same one we had left in Glasgow the day before, only here it glowed red from the smoke of the fires.
This part of Australia is currently experiencing its worst ever drought combined with the hottest temperatures on record. It’s been an environmental disaster.
To give you a bit of perspective, there were 2 million acres of land destroyed by the 2018 Californian wildfires. Last year 2.2 million acres were burnt in the Amazon rainforest.
So far this summer bushfires have devastated nearly ten million acres of land in the state of New South Wales alone.
A billion animals are estimated to have been killed. More than a third of the Koala population has been wiped out making them now an endangered species. The iconic platypus is now thought to be on the brink of extinction.
It’s really ironic that I’ve come here to this apocalyptic environment seeking salvation!
I have a few days to acclimatise before meeting up with the trial team and being screened for entry to the trial.
Waking up in my aunt Jan’s house in the suburbs of Sydney is something I have very fond childhood memories of so I’m indescribably happy to be back here as I didn’t think I would be. It gets light about 6am and the amazing cacophony of birdsong starts from 5am. Cockatoos, galahs, lorikeets, rosellas, mynah birds and currawongs are all frequent visitors to the beautiful gum trees surrounding my aunt’s garden. She is a massive nature lover to the extent that she picketed her next-door neighbours after they illegally chopped down a native tree outside their house. Indy loves her. Every evening they feed the birds together.
Even though it is like a second home to me here, it will take a while to get used to the exoticness of everything again. A run around the block and this country is so different. There are lizards scuttling along cracks in the walls. Kookaburras cackling in the near distance, huge spiders nestled in huge webs and the trees and flora are so stunning and colourful. And every race and creed are present here in this land of immigrants. An Asian couple are ballroom dancing to Simon and Garfunkel in the park. A group of elderly Chinese are doing fengshui next to the war monument. Indy and I are very much in the minority with our fresh-off-the-plane white skin.
I’m trying to run every day as I’m a big believer in ‘prehab’ ie getting as strong and fit as possible before treatment in the hope that it will improve my outcome. Unfortunately the air quality here is extremely bad for someone like me with metastatic cancer in my lungs! Depending on which way the wind is blowing some days the air is full of ash and people are being advised to stay indoors. A spike in lung cancer is predicted in the next decade.
Fortunately within days of our arrival it rained after 4 months of drought. I’m telling Indy that she is a rain goddess.
My next step is to get physically screened before I am accepted onto the trial. In theory this just means assessing my condition to make sure I am going to live for at least 12 more weeks. But I’m terrified that a curve ball will hit me, and I’ll be kicked off before I even start for some unthinkable reason. Next blog I will let you know how the screening goes…