New Zealand / Australia Diary
Monday 23 April 2012

Taking the train from Newcastle station

The day opened with grey skies & light rain, weather that would accompany me all the way to Sydney. After my (by now) regular morning cup of Annie's excellent coffee I finished up my packing and we set off for the station. My Anxious Traveller personality was back to the forefront and it took a conscious effort to relax & enjoy an final short tour of the city & seafront, trusting that Annie would get me to my train on time. Which, of course, she did with time to spare. I bought my ticket, hauled my case up onto the upper level of one of the double-decker carriages and settled back to enjoy the views.

I'd travelled & arrived in darkness on Friday so had no real picture of what I might see on the journey. After making our way (surprisingly slowly) out of Newcastle & the surrounding suburbs we entered tall, wild-looking forest and as we went further the hills rose around us and the track wove between sharp peaks and steep valleys. We passed coastline & rivers, skirting the edges, crossing on varied bridges & causeways and then heading back inland through sudden tunnels. Sadly the rain left drops & rivulets down the outside of the windows which blurred my photos too much to be of use.

The persistent drizzle lent a very different look to the countryside, the blueish-grey light coming through the overcast sky tended to mute the brick and paintwork of the houses and emphasise the infinite range of greens of the trees, shrubs and other flora. The land had the look of rainforest, verdant & lush, sprouting up from any available scrap of soil. I'd seen a little of this in southern Tasmania on one of my previous visits but this was my first experience of a wet landscape on the mainland.

Watching my bag being loaded, Sydney airport

Arriving at Sydney airport (the domestic terminal) I found an almost deserted concourse with a smattering of travellers lost amongst the rows of machines. By now I'd gotten used to automated check-in machines where, in exchange for my booking reference and promises that I had no deadly cargo concealed within my luggage, my boarding pass, luggage labels and receipts were printed for me. But this was the first time I'd encountered automatic bag drop machines that would take my case and whisk it away into the secret bowels of the airport, again in exchange for promises that there was nothing dubious within them. The first actual human being that I interacted with (in an official capacity) was at the x-ray machine, and he seemed to be operating on automatic too. It was all very impersonal and somehow disappointing - as if part of me wanted to be asked the same, inane questions and to be correspondingly irritated. Is there a ritual process involved with air travel that needs to be invoked before I/we can comfortably surrender to it? A curious question.

Once again I decided to eat on the ground and forego the airline food, and once again I chose a spicy noodle dish. As in Aukland I noticed that the oriental food outlets (this one was called Wok in the Air) were doing a roaring trade while the more western burger/grill/chips places were almost deserted. A sign of new cultural reference points? After eating I wandered round the touristy shops looking for keepsakes but found nothing of interest, although it was nice to see a good selection of stuff that was actually made in Australia.

The flight passed uneventfully and 90 minutes after taking off I was safely down again in Hobart. The quarantine dog didn't even give me a sniff as I passed into the arrivals hall, met up with Peter (the host for my Tasmanian stay), collected my bag and headed off for the car park.

It had been over ten years since I'd last visited Hobart but it all seemed familiar - the long, high bridge over the Derwent river, the harbour, the brick and stone buildings of the town centre (Hobart feels so much more like a town than a city, in a nice way), and the wandering road out through Sandy Bay and up & on to Taroona. When we pulled up outside Peter & Krista's house (all arriving together as Krista drove in just ahead of Peter & myself) it was like coming home again, the perfect way to end a day's travelling. After settling in, enjoying a splendid fish supper and a goodly quantity of chat, my energy started to flag and it was time, once again, for an early night.

On the platform at Sydney

The view from Peter & Krista's house

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