Through the weather to Sydney

I hate the anxiety I feel about flying. When I finally wake at the late time of 8.30AM after an earlier disturbance I don’t feel rested. I feel sick. I actually hear a Jetstar A320 fly overhead, but the skies are grey and there is the threat of wind and rain. It is fortunate that I don’t study the weather too closely or I would be even more nervous about flying.

We check out and drive into central Launceston with no better idea than to wander around and perhaps find some breakfast. Sitting down at a Banjo’s Bakery the other two order pies and myself a vanilla slice, a.k.a a snot block. I can’t even finish that, my tastebuds hypersensitive with nerves.

Returning the car right at the specified time to the airport we check in for our flight. With two bags of fruit and food we are returning heavier than we arrived.

Airside at Launceston Airport is surprisingly nice for a regional airport, with a large local produce and general goods store and cafes, including one with a James Boags bar. B purchases Alex a jelly slice. I don’t know why you can’t get the raspberry jelly covered cheesecake slices north of the Victorian border.

I feel a little better after a trip to the bathroom and my choice of music on my phone almost sends me to sleep. Soon we are boarding the plane. As we step on to the tarmac under overcast skies the wind is blowing a gale. I console myself that I have taken off plenty of times in windy conditions and the clouds above look flat rather than scary.

Once seated in the actual aircraft I feel almost relaxed. Our departure is delayed by the late arrival of a fuel truck, which seems to annoy the captain of the flight.

It’s spitting with rain as we align ourselves towards the north on the runway. Then we are pushed back into our seats as we take off.

I can feel the aircraft fighting against the winds, which are angled towards the runway. Our path twists through the sky. The views down across the wide valley between the ranges is spectacular, but there is little time to focus on them as we enter the many layers of cloud above us.

We bump and shake our way upwards, relaxation exercises forgotten as I sit stiffly waiting for this to end.

Eventually we are above most of the cloud layer and the seat belt lights are extinguished. I relax a little, though I can see high cloud ahead. Indeed, the white and grey masses reach high up into the stratosphere. Below us are bulbous cumulus rain clouds whose invisible hands touch us from below.

The shaking gets worse as we cross Bass Strait and the captain apologises for the turbulence.

“Unfortunately we are flying between two nasty weather systems. Hopefully the bumps should calm down in seven to nine minutes.”

In this case Bass Strait doesn’t just separate land north and south but weather east and west. A look at the weather map later shows us between two cold fronts. It’s fortunate I never looked at the synoptic or satellite charts this morning.

The bumps are more annoying than scary, but I don’t enjoy them. The crew still serve throughout and we accede to Alex’s request to purchase a model of our aircraft. He’s been busy sleeping since take-off. B has only just woken up herself.

Unlike the flight down glimpses of land and sea below are rare and I’m not certain when we have crossed Bass Strait, but the turbulence does calm down and eventually we are flying above a carpet of cloud rather than a mix of layers.

It’s when I see the edge of the carpet and spot land that our descent begins. We are southwest of Sydney and following the Hume Highway, but it takes me a while to figure out where we are, further inland than I expected.

The captain has already announced that we’ll be making a landing on the main runway from the south. We tend to descend into Sydney over my workplaces in the north and south, today it’s over the nuclear reactor at Lucas Heights and out to sea across the Royal National Park.

One more layer of cloud awaits us low over the Kurnell Peninsula as we on final descent. Then we are thrown forwards in our seats as the pilot applies reverse thrust. We have landed.

The Jetstar bays must be full, because we park at the Virgin Australia side of Terminal 2 and disembark via the forward air bridge. We collect our luggage and catch the train and bus home in the hot Sydney air.

My appetite has returned and my fears are gone. For now. It’s only a week until the next flights…

The best thing about being back? Fast(er) internet, automatic reservations at our dinner table and an excited dog. Welcome home.

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