To Cairns from Sydney

The Golden Hour, the Traveller’s Time. The powder blue sky, horizon tinged with the orange brown of haze. Late day sun reflecting off flat white clouds, shining into my eyes, dreamy music making me sleepy. Serenity that belies the journey’s beginnings.

That crippling anxiety of approaching travel.

I wake early. The sky is a brilliant blue, clear and fresh, perfect for flying in. I regret not booking an early flight.

A fitness session, the last before the teacher moves to Coffs Harbour. An hour of boxing exercises and planking. Then straight off to karate. Kumite. In the sports hall below the dojo, a Kendo competition. The flags of Australia and Japan hang on the wall.

I arrive home. There is washing to do, the smelly gi from karate, cleaning, packing. I wish that is was all done already. Last night I was vacuuming until 10 pm.

I learned a lot last year what triggers my anxiety. It’s not just a fear of turbulence. Unfinished business has a lot to do with it.

To avoid it I need to complete my tasks and have that time to centre myself and relax before travel. There was no opportunity for that. Work is crazy, sport was crazy, the number of tasks endless, from travelling to the city for new glasses to digging mud from under the house.

It’s getting late as I drive the others and our luggage to the nearest bus stop.

“Catch the next bus,” I tell them, “Drop off the two bags. I’ll catch up.”

They do not catch the next bus.

I lock the house and fast walk with my backpack to the bus stop. They are still there. It is half and half hour until the next late bus, hot and sweaty waiting.

Will the big clouds that are passing over interrupts our flight, or will they pass. It worries me.

This is the first day of school holidays. Somehow I found return-for-free sale fares, but they’re from Cairns with Jetstar. I use points and credits to book us flights with Qantas up from Sydney to Cairns.

The bus takes us to Padstow and then a train to Domestic Station. I close my eyes.

Terminal 3 feels empty. We print bag tags from the kiosk, but one item of luggage refuses to get processed by the bag drop. A Qantas staff member comes over to help us and it is resolved.

We still have half an hour before boarding. Enough time to take advantage of my mostly useless Qantas Club membership to use the lounge.

I’ve only eaten a quarter of a banana and none of us have had lunch. There are corn and manchego cheese empanadas, a Mexican soup and salads and cold cuts for wraps.

I just have some salad and a couple of empanadas. The kind of food I haven’t been eating much lately.

Thankfully there’s no longer any Sky News on display in the lounge, but they display The Australian having fits about trans people. Same owner, same shit.

Then it’s time to board. Let’s do this.

It’s an older Qantas Boeing 737-800. Thankfully not a Max, though we see a Virgin Australia Max taking off as we taxi out to the main runway for a southerly take-off.

The aircraft is equipped with WiFI and some fold down overhead screens that are used to show the safety video and the news during the flight.

We haven’t caught many 737s lately. There was the trip to Darwin. I’m determined to make this flight better than that one.

Ambient music playing on my earbuds, it is only a short distance to the main runway. Then we are racing down, there pressure hard on my back.

Over the bay, turn early over the Kurnell Peninsula, a steep ascent. I can see myself below, watching the planes take off overhead.

Cloud over the coastline crossing as we turn over Sydney’s southern suburbs. Will we pass over our house? Maybe to the south. But we are passing high over the cloud.

It’s beautiful outside. I can relax.

Alex and B have both fallen asleep. I just look out.

I’ve been on an exercise and diet program over the past three months. I exceeded my target this morning, so when the meal service happens I indulge myself. Portuguese chicken with mango lime jam ciabatta. And a Coke Zero.

We cruise high over the clouds. Now and then a little shake, but it’s okay. I know how to relax. That’s the lesson I learned.

I try to watch the Dungeons and Dragons movie in the Qantas Entertainment App, then Sunshine on my phone, but I just cannot focus. Instead I switch to my flying music playlist and that works. I check out our path on Flight Radar. There are worrying clouds near Cairns.

The sun on the horizon, our descent begins. I feel it before it is announced.

Down into the grey clouds. One layer. Another layer. Turning. It’s not bad.

We cross the coast north of Cairns. Rain showers off the coast, water streaking the window. But it’s still okay as we sink towards the ground.

A good landing.

A good flight.

We have arrived.

Luggage collected from the belt. A taxi through the night into Cairns city centre. The driver plays subcontinental hits and with the palms, the tropical humidity and the music it really feels like we are in another country, a tropical land.

Our accommodation is a quiet boutique hotel in the middle of Cairns.

Everyone is hungry, so we head out towards the Cairns Night Markets. It is sprinkling with warm rain which feels pleasant on the skin.

The markets are bustling but full of souvenir trinkets of no interest, massage parlours and a food court of dire fried Asian food. But it does feel tropical.

Alex wants Vietnamese food. I was hoping for laksa, even if it isn’t a Malaysian one.

A few blocks away is Vietnamese Fresh. They have pho and beef stew soups, I have sate chicken and rice. The beef stew is nice, but the food is a bit oily. It’ll do.

Some drinks from the nearby Woolies, then we return to the hotel.

Tomorrow’s flight isn’t until the middle of the day and we are packed.

Now I can relax.

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