Sydney to Cairns: Faded Glory

I stir at 2 AM. The alarm is set for 4.05 AM. I should get up at 3. Then there will be no rush.

I end up only getting another 45 minutes of sleep.

It doesn’t take long to get ready and I am out of the hotel at 4, walking to the airport in the cool dark. Road workers have blocked off lanes and are continuing the massive construction going on for the Sydney Gateway project.

The airport is already stirring as passengers arrive for the first flights of the day. I check in using the Jetstar kiosk and go straight through security, no bags to check in.

Only a couple of cafes and the McDonald’s are open. I forgo breakfast as I think my ticket includes food.

Gate 49, in the corner, is quiet. I sit and attempt to rest, even to sleep if I can.

It is to no avail. Though nervous, I am glad when boarding time arrives

Both the jet bridge and rear stairs are in operation. Seated just forward of the wing, I use the bridge.

The black leather seats of the Jetstar Airbus A321 look flimsy and thin. I miss their heavily padded original seats.

I stow my bag overhead and just keep the small bag on the floor, along with a camera, phone and MP3 player, a Sony Walkman. Yes, I still use a Walkman. It’s good if you just want to listen to your own music rather than streamed stuff.

We taxi out under clear skies, turning blue with the arrival of dawn. The waters of Botany Bay are glass, no breeze to speak of.

Perfect weather for flying.

Our take-off is southward, on the shorter north south runway. Meanwhile other aircraft are landing in the opposite direction along the main runway, heavies at the end of their journeys from distant lands.

We are thrust back, then rise into the skies, continuing southwards past Kurnell, the Royal National Park, before turning out to sea. Are we heading towards that offshore cloudbank?

No, we turn inwards, cross Sydney heads, past Manly and the Northern Beaches.

As we leave the city, the valleys below are filled with cloud, the rest of the landscape is hazy. It turns to yellow fields and the odd mine. There is a disturbing sameness and familiarity from so many other flights.

I’m so tired from the early morning. I close my eyes, listen to calming music and attempt to sleep.

I guess I do nod off a few times, maybe half an hour’s sleep in all.

The crew come through the cabin with the food and drinks cart. I select a fairly dry apple and cinnamon slice with an orange juice. I still have money left over and choose a chocolate cake slice which I keep for later.

As we near Townsville, where we cross the coast again, the captain announces himself and our location. We are early!

There are a few little bumps as we descend over the dark green mountains around Cairns. There is cloud, fairly flat to be sure, and I am a little nervous about it, but instead we head further north, descending, turn south above the cloud, then find a break as we return south over Port Douglas.

I’m normally sitting on the left of the plane, but this time I have views of Port Douglas resorts and green cane fields.

We land, reverse thrust hitting hard as we pass the old white Shorts Belfast abandoned here.

First leg down, not too bad!

I call B and Alex, but she’s just dropped him at school. I’ve no luggage to collect, so I can keep talking to her as I walk out of the terminal and into the humid tropical air of Cairns.

The International Terminal is a little bit of a walk from Domestic. Neither the Jetstar Tokyo or Osaka flights are yet available for check in. There’s construction going on inside the terminal, but at least there’s one tiny shop selling coffee, snacks and a few travel items.

Eventually the desks open and passengers begin to queue, first for Narita and then, an hour later, for Osaka.

I check in, they don’t even check the weight of my backpack and extras. Then through the Smartgate at immigration and security.

Airside at Cairns is pretty much unchanged from our last visit in January. One cafe/bar, duty free, two souvenir shops and a newsagent.

I look for a book in the newsagent. Due to weight restrictions I haven’t brought one from home. All I want is a small lightweight science fiction story, my brain is too addled for anything else. But there’s nothing suitable, maybe two sf books in all.

Looks like I’ll just have to stick to e-books.

Everything is overpriced airside. $8.17 for a bag of lollies? All I get is a drink. And now to wait the hours before my next flight.

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