Where we fly in the shadows

The cloud has cleared over Cairns and I am ready to fly!

The Jetstar Boeing 787-8 is at Gate 5, down the empty corridor that seems to have a lick of white paint to cover the hospital mint green from before. I board early so I can put my big bag overhead.

To my surprise, the two adjacent seats stay empty. I could have an economy lie flat bed, except I don’t want to lie down. I picked the window to look out.

With my short legs and only a small bag under the seat I have enough legroom and am comfortable enough. So comfortable that, while we sit on the tarmac, I fall asleep, only waking when the doors are closed and we begin backing away.

There are a few other services to take-off and land before it is our turn. The skies are clear and I’m feeling good about this.

Finally we do our little turn at the end of the runway, full thrust is applied, and we race down the runway and up into the skies, turning hard so the airport is visible below through the left windows.

We head out to see, following the edge of the Great Barrier Reef, its threatened atoll outlines visible beneath the flat sea.

I listen to music on my Walkman. Unlike parent Qantas, Jetstar retains audio entertainment and there are a couple of soundtracks on the seatback system: A John Williams/Spielberg compilation and a new one, Sea Monster, from Mark Mancina. But I feel like neither right now.

Meals are served. I have somehow ordered the butter chicken option. Don’t ask me why, but I’ve been dreaming about it since during the pandemic. It’s not terrible, but at $13 for a small cardboard box it’s pretty disappointing. For $5 I can get a larger and tastier version at the local supermarket.

I know when we are approaching Papua New Guinea without needing to see the map. It is the land of the huge white cloud, storms embedded and connected by a wall of white. We turn and dodge some localised storms and their activity seems less than usual, with quite a lot of the land below visible on this trip. Still, it is nice to cross to the other coast, where the clouds suddenly stop, preferring to hug the land.

Now I feel that I can watch some entertainment. Something I learned over the past few trips is that it’s a good idea for me to distract myself so I don’t focus on all the constant niggles and bumps along the way.

The movie selection is quite similar to the Qantas Korean flights and I don’t feel like watching any of them or haven’t seen the prequels.

Fortunately, the TV series have a couple of options. I start watching the acclaimed The Last of Us, but that is too serious, especially being away from family. Instead I switch to the New Zealand/US comedy What We Do in the Shadows and end up watching eleven episodes straight. I’m a huge fan of the movie it was derived from and the related Wellington Paranormal.

When I think about travel I imagine watching one of my “flight movies”, a visually spectacular epic. But maybe a simple distraction really is better, even if it doesn’t make the flight memorable.

I still kept an eye on the sea and skyscapes outside. The narrow towers of clouds reaching for the sky, products of tropical heat. There was a lot fewer thunderstorm complexes than on previous trips, though there was still one patch of high cloud and bumps near Guam, as there always is. That’s the thing, I have done this route so frequently that I know the cloudscapes associated with each area. And they do differ by area due to the heat of the waters, the nature of the winds, the coriolis effect of the Earth’s spin.

Late in the flight I use my remaining $15 meal voucher for a hot pumpkin and feta quiche and spinach roll, along with a mineral water. I have to say I think the quiche is the winner for the Jetstar meals so far.

As the sun sets I can tell it’s almost time to begin our descent by the cloud bank to our left. I don’t like passing through this. It’s often a bit rough and today is no exception. There is more cloud as we wind between Shikoku and Awashima Island on our final descent in darkness, but that is soft cloud, not the heavy shower clouds I had feared.

We turn around the bay to approach the artificial island of Kansai International Airport from the north.

Landed! I’ve done it! Survived both trips. Almost enjoyed them!

Now a long taxi to gate 1R, the furthest away.

We disembark and I am eager to get out. I feel sticky and humid.

I have the shortest trip through Kansai immigration yet. No checked in luggage and I pre-filled in the forms online. I think I was the first of the gaijin out.

Even getting a JR Pass was fast. Then it’s just a short ride an the Nankai line to Rinku Town station.

I have to recharge my IC card first before I can get out. I thought there was more on it.

After talking to B and Alex by phone I go to the Joyfull Restaurant for a late dinner. I really just want to eat their salad and use the drinks bar. Then over to the convenience store for a couple of items and check into my hotel, the familiar Hatago Inn.

The wood and designs of the hotel feel restful. But best of all is a soak in the hot public bath, first washing away the grime of the flight before descending into the heat. Is there a better way to recover after a long flight?

I think not.

Now to recharge all the devices and myself.

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