Across the pond the long way

Firdose Moonda journeys across the Indian Ocean to follow her team, who start the series down under with a bang

Firdose Moonda
Firdose Moonda
The view when landing in Hobart, November 2016

Hobart: don't let the sun fool you - it's chilly down there  •  Firdose Moonda/ESPNcricinfo Ltd

October 28
Welcome to the world of modern travel, where everything goes via the Middle East. Even the route from Cape Town to Perth. On a map, it seems the best way to get from one to the other is along a straight line through the southern hemisphere. On an airline schedule, that's not possible. Instead, I will spend nine and a half hours going up to Dubai and then ten and a half hours going down. Add the changeover in Dubai and it means a full 24 hours of travel, and with the time differences, I will arrive two days after I left. Say what?
October 29
I think today is Saturday but I'm not really sure. I feel trapped in a time warp I don't understand.
October 30
Touch down in Perth around 2am. Decide to normalise by sleeping and then force myself to get to the series launch around midday. It's a public event, at Elizabeth Quay, which is also set-up for Diwali festivities. A decent-sized group of people has come to see the Australian and South African teams, and the players are introduced individually. Most get a cheer - David Warner and Dale Steyn louder than the others - but when Dane Vilas walks out, there is complete silence. Poor guy.
October 31
Welcome to the world of modern sports media, where the press conference is the most common method of communication. We have no fewer than nine interviews here. Australia put up six players in an open media session, South Africa three. Our heads are swimming with quotes. The most interesting things to come out of the day are Usman Khawaja's views on diversity and the Australian fascination with Temba Bavuma. At 1.61 metres, Bavuma is among the shorter sportsmen around and has to field several questions about how he has adapted his technique to his height. Bavuma seems a bit bewildered by the attention but answers the questions as carefully as he can.
November 1
The race that stops Australia will be run today, and though I'm not in Melbourne, it's still a big deal. I'm familiar with showstoppers like this - we in South Africa have the Met in January and the Durban July (you know when) - but the Melbourne Cup is a little different. Across Australia, people dress up as though they are at the venue itself, and at 3pm Australian Eastern Standard Time, time stands still. I haven't quite got used to the time zone yet, and around noon I'm heading to the WACA, wondering why the streets are deserted. When I realise the gun is about to go, I get a move on and get there just in time to pop my head into the guard's hut and see the end of the race.
November 2
The day before a big Test series is a usually a frenzy of last-minute previews. We wind down with a traditional barbeque at a local journalist's home. Our hosts' daughter is doing a project on the Democratic Republic of Congo and I offer to help. "How often do you go back to Africa?" she asks me. "I live there," I tell her, as her eyes widen in disbelief.
November 3
South Africa stumble through the first day on a pitch with better bounce and carry than I have seen in months. Later we all stumble around on a walking tour, organised by Tourism Western Australia. The idea is to roam the laneways to discover how Perth is Melbournising, and stop at bars along the way. Our guide has the remarkable ability to talk to us while walking backwards. She doesn't lose her step once, not even on St George's Terrace, said to be the windiest street in the southern hemisphere. At our second and last stop, our holiday-making UK colleague Andrew McGlashan joins us.
November 4
There's an awful feeling when Steyn goes down, clutching his shoulder, with a look on his face worse than when he left the field against India and England last summer. I suspect it's serious but first need to turn attention to the remarkable comeback the rest of South Africa's attack are staging. At the end of the day we discover Steyn will be out of action for at least six months.
November 5
It is due to be 37 degrees today, so I choose a simple T-shirt-style dress to wear. When I arrive at the WACA, at the gate the media use (which is also the members' gate), security staff stop me. My dress is too short. The members' dress code dictates that dresses must sit no more than 5cm above the knee. I'm quite sure mine is not shorter than that, but they disagree. After a protracted discussion - during which one woman is told she isn't allowed in because the straps on her top are too thin - I am admitted but told not to leave the press box through the day. Inevitably I have to and am warned a second time. Another journalist tweets about it and a social-media storm erupts.
That evening I see Steyn waiting for an Uber in the city centre. He has just got off a train from visiting his uncle in a suburb about 40 minutes away. He admits his shoulder is "very sore" and says he is resigned to a lengthy period on the sidelines and that he is not going to try and rush back. He will leave Perth tomorrow night, so won't see the result, which looks headed South Africa's way.
November 6
I pick a dress that extends to my ankles today, but my colleague Melinda Farrell doesn't. She also bares her shoulders. She is reprimanded at the gate, and now that the rest of the press pack know about the issue, another social-media storm erupts. To the WACA's credit, their stadium manager visits us and apologises profusely. He assures us we both look fine.
November 7
I wear pants today but am stopped at the gate yet again. "No thongs allowed," says the staff member. I present the media argument again. I am let in. This time, both Melinda and I receive an email apology from the WACA CEO. She says the members' code will be reviewed and the ground wants to bring about change. We didn't enjoy the attention over our choice of clothing but we're pleased we've achieved something. South Africa have too - the series lead. Given how far they had fallen last summer, their dominance is unexpected.
November 8
Hobart is the only destination on this tour that I've not been to before, so I am particularly looking forward to being there. It's Australia's second oldest city and one with an extensive convict history. I've just finished reading Alex Haley's Roots, and I want to find something similar but Australian. I've been recommended For the Term of his Natural Life by Marcus Clarke and I make it my mission to track it down - if I can ever feel my fingers again; it's cold in Hobart.
November 9
I was warned to expect less than summery conditions in Hobart but I didn't anticipate a wind so icy it threatens to freeze the blood in my veins. Not to make this all about my wardrobe but I need more clothes. Cricket Tasmania's digital-media manager, Michelle Cooling, offers to lend me some. Among them is a Hobart Hurricanes hoodie. She's got a fan for life.
November 10
Still haven't managed to get to a bookshop but I am enjoying learning about the local food. Melinda takes me to Mure's, a seafood establishment on the harbour, where we splash out on all the region's delicacies. Oysters done four ways, scallops, white fish, even a dessert of chocolate tarts. It's definitely among the best meals I've ever eaten.
November 11
A cannon being towed by a Ute rolls past on my morning run, headed to the Anzac Parade. It's Remembrance Day. The colonial history is more marked here than anywhere else in Australia I've seen, especially in the architecture. The Queen Victoria Clock Tower, now home to the General Post Office, was built by public subscription and has become one of my favourite landmarks.
November 12
There's no rain yet but Australia are drowned anyway. Vernon Philander rolls back the years and takes 5 for 21. It's an even better performance than on his debut. After suffering torn ankle ligaments last season, he seems to have regained confidence and become even better than what we thought was his best. As I leave the ground, I see the Australian team bus, driven by Nathan Lyon, pull up next to Philander, who is walking to the South African bus. Lyon rolls down the window and congratulates Philander. Sportsmanship is still alive.
November 13
The expected rain is finally here, and as the day progresses, it only gets heavier. When we arrive at the ground, the teams have not even turned up. We know it's only a matter of time before play is called off. It happens at 2pm. I squeeze in a trip to the Hobart Book Shop and pick up a copy of Clarke's book. I'm reminded that this time last year I was in Bangalore, covering the washout that was AB de Villiers' 100th Test. "Nothing lasts forever, even cold November rain."

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent