A hop to Hobart

The flight to Hobart was delayed. Of course, I only read the message after we’d rushed to the bus stop. Too late now, we’ve got our bags and the house is all locked up, so let’s go.

As we approach the airport station B suggests that we continue on to Town Hall, do some shopping, have an early lunch, then return to the airport. I offer to check in while she waits, but somehow we all end up on the other side of the railway gates. Then we head up to Terminal 2 to check in.

There are huge queues in front of the Jetstar counters. I know it’s holidays but it is obvious that something is wrong. The first few automatic kiosks are down, perhaps a booking system failure?

The queue moves and I come across a working kiosk. It spits out a bag tag for us, but no boarding passes. Or maybe it was so slow to print that I missed them as we are swept up by the flow.

We hear our flight being called and skip our way to the front of the queue. The check in attendant confirms that, despite the delay, we still have to check in at the original time. Very silly, and it is fortunate that we didn’t go to the city.

There are colouring in pencils and a picture for Alex. That’s nice.

Now we have plenty of time to waste air side. Alex complains that he is hungry, so we investigate the plethora of fine dining options. In other words, the likes of Krispy Kreme Donuts, McDonalds and Red Rooster.

Oh, I am unfair. There is actually a reasonable choice, but somehow it just seems to be more expensive here. Alex has Subway, B Maccas and I one of the few pieces of sushi without avocado. I am not an advocate for avos. Or guacamole.

It’s a wonderfully bright blue day outside and I enjoy watching the shuffling of the Virgin, Tigerair and Jetstar planes out of the food court window, the powerful take-offs of their widebody cousins on the main runway, racing towards us and leaping upwards at the last moment.

Still time. Let’s go browsing. We get stuck at the newsagent.

“No Alex, that’s too expensive.”

“No Alex we are not buying you that.”

“You never play with them anyway.”

No, no, no. It’s no wonder he gets frustrated sometimes. And then doesn’t play with them anyway, preferring his own imagination.

Like the desk outside and the food court, the gate lounge is overcrowded. People are sitting on the floor, standing around the windows. B and Alex share a seat.

I wander around like some annoyingly demented camera wielding nut case taking photos.

Then even I get sick of it and join the crowd on the carpet. Suddenly I get a phone call from work. I’ve gone and accepted a meeting request for today. Whoops. No, I’m not going to discuss migrating websites today. I’m having a holiday.

It’s the rescheduled departure time of 12 pm and nobody is even in the aircraft cockpit doing check lists. We are definitely not departing.

Eventually the crew make it from their own delayed flight and we are asked to board by sets of row, rear people first. When our turn comes we wander down the jetbridge and into the silver and orange Jetstar Airbus A320.

Just like the last one I flew, back from Cairns to Sydney, this one has sharklets on the wings. This time our whole row is full, me at the window, Alex in the middle, B in the aisle. I tell Alex, if you are going to play on the iPad then I get the window because I’m looking out.

The cabin is crowded. I’m not sure if there are any spare seats. Those few with missing heads poking over the top could be children. It is, as I have said, school holidays.

One of Alex’s best friends at school had driven past while we waited at the bus stop. She messaged B asking if we were going on holidays. I guess the big bag made it obvious!

Almost two hours after our originally scheduled departure we finally back away from the terminal and begin our taxi out to the third runway, while inside the crew do a safety demonstration. We are one row from the over wing exits. The flight attendant’s rendition of the emergency tasks for those passengers in the exit rows is perfunctory and unlikely to be remembered.

It looks like the gentle conditions mean that aircraft are using the parallel main and third runways in opposite directions today. As soon as we reached the third runway we align ourselves then race off towards the south, that so familiar feeling of being pressed back into the seat.

A small turn, then we are heading out towards the entrance of Botany Bay, the defunct refinery, now fuel import terminal of Kurnell clearly visible out of the window as we fly past the peninsula and out across the open ocean.

I had thought that we would probably overfly Melbourne en route to Tasmania, a familiar route of crossing the coast at Wollongong, over Canberra and then following the Hume Highway until we reach the coast.

Looking at the map made me realise that would have been silly. We still cross the coast at Wollongong, but then we seem to follow it, staying close to the edge of the continent.

There are a few bumps as we fly over the escarpments of the Great Dividing Range, but nothing much really, This is good. I am not in the mood for turbulence.

While Alex and B sleep the cabin crew come through with the food service. We have $15 credit thanks to our Starter Plus fares.

Jetstar has a reputation as being “Bogan Air” and the serving flight attendant’s name is Cahli (Carly, geddit?). It’s not her fault, I know. Blame the parents.

Instead of the usual banana muffin and hot chocolate I order two kids snacks, Smartie cookies with soft drink. Yep, I’m just a big kid. I keep Alex’s for when he awakes.

B wakes up and requests Nissin chicken cup noodles, just like at the museum at Yokohama. I don’t know why you can’t get them in our supermarkets. Flavours like chicken and prawn. Only laksa or tom yum. Not Japanese at all! The flat egg noodles are better than the usual “Maggi mee” you get out of the packets.

I’m surprised how quickly the southern coast of the mainland appears, long beaches and lakes. Now we are over Bass Strait, so named after Nsync’s Lance Bass (or was it the bass player in Dire Straits? I get so confused!). The sea is dead flat, much like their abilities.

An island appears, then another much larger island. Initially I believe it to be King Island, named in honour of talk show host Larry King. Apparently cheese was invented on King Island, a fact disputed as usual by the Kiwis, who produce Mainland cheese, itself confusing because we have just flown from the mainland and I’m certain it wasn’t New Zealand.

So now the first officer Sebastian Pierce decides to speak up and name it Flinders Island. Flinders keepers is what I say. He also gives us an update on the route and the weather. And sure enough we are starting our descent.

We are now over what was once called Van Diemen’s Land. Before the invention of the motorbike the Crusty Diemens performed their stunts in panel vans. In honour of their unsuccessful attempt to jump Lance Bass Strait the southern island of Australia was named after them. However, historians discovered an earlier attempt by Unable Tasman and so the name was changed.

As we approach Hobart there are a few more bumps as we fly over more hills, then out across the water to swing around into the grandly named Hobart International Airport from the south. The only international flights are charters, but the point is that it could be an international airport if it really wanted and anybody actually wanted to fly there. Or Tasmania could institute passport control for Mainlanders. And their cheese.

So here we are, taxiing off a lonely looking runway, past a small control tower who’s height has been increased by sitting it on a hill. It’s a very rural scene, but quite pretty.

We disembark down the stairs. It was a really nice little flight. I thoroughly enjoyed it, despite the lateness.

There is only one measly little luggage belt inside that airport terminal. Fortunately, it’s not long until our luggage appears on it. Then we are off to the car hire.

Car hire is such a slow process, even if you have prebooked. An Asian family ahead of us is being picky about their model and there is only one attendant at the Avis desk. While the availability of Rav 4’s is being checked the lady serves us.

Despite popular belief, it is not true that Tasmanians have two heads. However, rumours of a third leg are unconfirmed. After all, they were a penile colony.

One Tasmanian, Federal Senator Brian Harradine worked hard during his time to stop the rest of Australia from discovering the penile truth. His work has been somewhat undermined by another Tasmanian politician, Jacqui Lambie, who, despite her gender, is proving that the appendage can grow on the skull as well.

Once out at the car we have to check it for paint chips and other damage. We watched The Checkout. Then we need help installing the booster seat. Finally we are off, my phone acting as a GPS to guide us to the hotel. That’s the nice thing about a domestic holiday. No worries about data for your phone, no need to worry about transporting unwieldy luggage or special adaptors or where to buy things from. It’s all so familiar.

But not entirely familiar. We had forgotten how beautiful a city Hobart really is. Even Alex was saying how much he loved Tasmania as we crossed the Derwent Bridge. I saw a train line hugging the river and wondered why tourist trains didn’t run along it regularly. It would be such a pretty sight.

After checking into our apartment, we headed down the hill and out into the gorgeous late afternoon light to explore Salamanca Place. It was too beautiful to stop there. The docks called to us and we wandered the wharves, photographing the wooden boats. I could also see the Investigator out there across the flat waters, the CSIRO run Marine National Facility which I had so recently toured back in Sydney. The CSIRO offices beside it would have to be the most scenically situated of all their branches.

I am always sad to see abandoned railway tracks, but they follow and interesting path around the docks. They run across the fascinating Constitution Dock Bridge, which looks like it rocks upwards to allow access by boats. Once upon a time trains would have crossed it.

Besides it is a tall crane, now there only for display.

The winter Sun sets early this far south. The silhouette of the city with a backdrop of massive Mount Wellington, its top thinly streaked with snow makes a beautiful sunset scene. So do the pink and orange reflections off the so flat waters of the dock.

Alex races around with his camera snapping here and there, just like his parents. So much so that his battery is running flat. He’s hungry, having eaten brunch, not lunch. We plan on visiting an old favourite, the nautically decorated Drunken Admiral. Along the way we pop into the old merchant houses, are entranced by the haunting voices of a choir visiting for the Hobart Voices Festival.

The Drunken Admiral doesn’t open until 6pm, so it’s off to another favourite, Mures. Fish an chips. Not just any fish, but the wonderful blue eye trevalla, rich seafood chowder and a huge range of ice cream. It’s so, so good.

It’s dark and it’s cold. Time to walk back. The trees outside Salamanca Place are lit with fairy lights and there’s still plenty of life. Back up the hill to the hotel, but a quick drive up to the Woolworths at Sandy Bay for food supplies.

“Every planet celebrates the passing of the middle of winter.” Or something like that. The sentiments of Doctor Who’s “A Christmas Carol”might be appropriate for now, especially with the Festival of Voices and lots of fish, but it’s not Christmas. Still, we first saw this episode in a hotel room years ago.

Now, the sad story of Abigail makes Alex cry. Growing up, growing old. Death is sadly a part of life.

But hopefully not for now. Time to celebrate living and have a fun holiday.

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