Too early to Cairns

Awake at 3.30 am after a disturbed sleep. I feel sick, but the only infection is via the mind. I switch off the alarm for 4 am and start to get ready, waking the others in the process.

Outside, the crane has been operational all night.

Everything is repacked. We check out and cross the dark, yet already busy, streets across to Domestic Terminal 2. We’ve done it before, but for the 7 am flight.

Leaving the Stamford.

We quickly check-in at the kiosk and are ushered to the closing flights. Ours is amongst the first to depart for the day.

Security, some juice for breakfast. A visit to the bathroom where I end up dry retching and feeling a bit better for it. Then it is time to board our aurcraft at Gate 53.

Looking out from the food court

I’m going through with this.

We board the Jetstar Airbus A320 via a jet bridge to the forward entrance. The aircraft doesn’t look new, but newer than the previous hand-me-down Jetstar A321’s I’ve flown before. Old wing fences, for instance, but new slimline black leather seats.

I take my seat by the window, 13, B in the aisle, Alex the centre.

It is still dark outside, our view another Jetstar A321, but the sky is rapidly getting lighter. I listen to music and shut my eyes periodically, trying to relax.

Soon the doors are closed. The names of the captain and first officer are given, but I only remember them as a male and female respectively. No briefing is given. I’m not certain if this is a good or bad thing.

We begin our taxi out to the end of runway 34, the main one, jutting out into Botany Bay. A distant sunrise backlights a bank of cloud making a line out in the Pacific.

A Batik Air 737 lands. I don’t think I’ve seen them in Sydney before.

The engines spool up and we begin our race down the runway. Up we lift into the morning sky, the International Terminal disappearing beneath us, the solar panel roof of IKEA

The skies are clear. We bank, pass over the apartments of a suburban centre, then the stadiums of Olympic Park in Homebush. Crossing over the Nepean River, we fly over the dark green rippled landscape of the Blue Mountains, the east facing sandstone ridges standing bright and reddish with light from the early morning sun, the rest of the landscape still in shadow.

There are a few minor shakes, but nothing major. White morning fog clings to the valleys as we continue on to the northwestern plains of inland New South Wales.

The cabin crew walk through taking food orders. We have nothing included in our tickets.

I drift off to sleep, as do the others, all of us exhausted by the early morning wake-up.

Without a flight map I don’t know exactly where we are. Somewhere over inland Queensland the cloud below increases. There is the odd shake as we pass over one lot of cloud to another.

Then the cloud gets higher. We skim the tops, our speed apparent as the streams of white pass by. High still and we enter it, a fog of white outside

There are shakes, then calm, then more shakes. I am okay. Relax. I remember my course. Relax and you can’t be tense. Relax.

When we finally emerge from the cloud I spot glimpses of coastline below. We must be near Townsville.

Good! That was my scary spot of storms, looking at the weather map.

The first officer announces that we are about to begin our descent and that Cairns is cloudy. Okay, I’ve done that before. I can cope with this.

But it isn’t cloudy. Instead, the bright green farmlands, the sharply pointed hills are in stark relief.

We overshoot the city, then begin our turn across the ocean until we are facing south. The sun shimmers off the Pacific, which is living up to its name, gentle waves across the surface only rent by a couple of boats.

A few bumps, but it is slow now. Over land, housing estates separated by muddy brown creeks and mangroves until, at last, we touch our wheels to the runway.

Leg one done!

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