Back in Canberra

I have taken up position in the seating area of Coffee Guru in the Canberra Centre. Good coffee, friendly staff, and within Apple Store WiFi range. Perfect. While I’m back in Canberra, like last time, I don’t propose to blog much. Firstly, I see this as a kind of break from my travels, and secondly, out of respect for the privacy of my generous hosts. I will tell you about Thursday though, not that it will compete as the most riveting read of the whole trip.

First, let me share Wednesday’s excellent meal with you…

Hog's Breath Cafe

Right, back to Thursday…

The airport van arrived pretty much on time. There was one other airport-bound passenger waiting in the lobby with me, a lady en route for Sydney. She was a little flustered as Sydney was fogged-in for the second day running. I’d seen on the previous morning’s news that this was was causing chaos, not least as all the harbour ferries were cancelled too. A real pea-souper by all accounts. This had the potential to effect me too, as I understand the Aussie airlines operate in a kind of transcontinental chain rather than simple out-and-back flights, so it wasn’t beyond the realms that my Hobart to Melbourne flight originated in Sydney – or otherwise suffered a knock-on. Whilst it all seemed a little odd in as much as it was another lovely sunny day in Hobart, as I was to discover later in the day, such is the size of this country that there are some pretty significant weather variations.

After picking up from two more hotels, we set off over the Tasman bridge, with its missing Pier 19. The story of the 1975 Tasman Bridge disaster was related by the Mt. Wellington driver/guide and crossing the bridge — albeit in clear daylight — it was easy to see how terrifying it would have been for the drivers to suddenly have no bridge in front of them. It may be getting on for 40 years since it happened, but it is obviously still keenly felt around here.

Hobart airport may not compete with Heathrow (or even East Midlands, for that matter) in size & scale, but it is nevertheless a bustling and very efficient transport operation. It is called Hobart International (like Canberra International), but so far as I understand, neither regularly handle international flights. (That said, I was told later that several were diverted into Canberra because of Sydney’s fog on Wednesday, much to the local authorities’ delight). This means that whilst security is effective, anyone can go airside, whether travelling or not. This adds to the hustle & bustle of the place as there were several families waiting in the lounge before saying bon voyage to loved ones.

Air travel in Australia is truly akin to a bus service. My Virgin Australia flight was shown as boarding at 12:30. At 12:20 the aircraft flew by, no more than a mile away and already quite low, parallel to the runway, before turning on its wing-tip and landing with no more than a mile or so’s glide slope. I reckon the pilot has been here before once or twice as he was on the stand within five minutes of me first seeing the aircraft. The pilot and first officer didn’t even get out of their seats as the arriving passengers disembarked down forward and aft sets of steps and, spot on 12:30 we were invited to board. Waiting in the lounge it seemed so close as we were almost part of the action.

VH-VUU

Once on and ready to go, the aircraft didn’t even need to push-back, having stopped such that it was ‘right-hand-down’ and turn on the spot. Impressive. Twenty minutes later the Captain came on the PA to announce we were at our cruising height of 40,000 feet – which sounded rather high to me in any circumstances, let alone for such a short flight. The sky certainly looked ‘edge-of-space’ darker, though it might have been a trick of the mind…

40,000 feet

Maybe as a result of the height, maybe something else, but the descent was unusually hard on the ears. Interestingly, when Carl came in later from his work related flight from Adelaide, he said the same thing about his flight.

My earlier point about weather variations became apparent as we landed in Melbourne where it was tits-ing it down (technical meteorological term, you understand). My lay-over here was around an hour and I was checked-in right through with my boarding card for the second leg. However, as the Canberra flight left from a gate on the other wing of the terminal, I had to go out and back through screening. Not a big deal, of course, but a bit of a faff with all the road-warrior style preparation needed to get through smoothy – especially with a bag full of gadgets. This meant I barely had time to grab a snack and replenish my Diet Coke stash before boarding.

I’d had an exit row seat on the Hobart flight, which was very helpful, but no such benefit this time. Neither flight was particularly full and in both cases, being 737-800s with three-plus-three seating, there was a space in the middle next to me. So, even without much leg room I was hardly cramped. Coffee was served on both flights, and this one even featured “a complimentarily snack for all our guests” – cheese & biscuits.

Arrival at Canberra was uneventful. Not as warm as Hobart, but at least it was dry – unlike my bag when I reclaimed it from the carousel, which had obviously waited on the tarmac at Melbourne. I caught the 737 bus into Civic, grabbed something to eat and the bus out to Carl’s house.

Canberra landing

As I said, that’s likely to be it for a few days. What happens that’s worth rambling about in the next few days, I’ll likely leave and incorporate into Monday’s update. That’s when we set off for New Zealand. Until then, feel free to email me or leave comments. All feedback much appreciated.

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