New Zealand / Australia Diary
Friday 4 May 2012

Catching the 06:05 from Hobart to Melbourne

My 6:05 flight from Hobart meant a 4:45 departure from Peter & Krista's house which meant setting the alarm for 4:15. Oh well, such is the life of a peripatetic dance teacher. As it turned out I awoke quite easily and was washed, packed & ready to go right on schedule.

Outside it was darkest night, there were one or two cars & delivery trucks around as we drove through Hobart but mostly we were alone in the empty city. Clumps of quite dense fog came & went as we crossed the Derwent valley, adding another level of strange unreality to the already dreamlike journey. Eventually we arrived at Hobart airport and I prepared to enter yet another weird state - that of the modern air traveller.

Airports are strange places to be, and even more so when catching the first flight of the day. People are either desperately rushing or stuck in bored, powerless waiting. You're surrounded by reminders of the time and the many distant places that are just a short hop away but the overriding feeling is of being immobile & stuck in place. The veneer of glamour is all around but for most of us (in economy) the prospect is of a gruelling, unpleasant & uncomfortable assault on our bodies & senses. How quickly the wonder & magic of being able to bestride the globe becomes something to be endured & survived rather than marvelled at.

There was one beautiful & charming moment in all of this misery - amongst the travellers in the departure lounge was a group of around eight Buddhist monks dressed in long, elegant robes. They were sat in a row, in silent meditation (or so it appeared), until another monk arrived holding what was obviously a carry-on bag. Graceful bows were exchanged, then the single monk went through the gate and walked out to the plane while the others walked round to where they could see him. At some point he must have turned and acknowledged them as they suddenly all started waving him goodbye, transforming from spiritual serenity to childlike emotional immediacy. It made me smile as it makes me smile writing about it now.

(In hindsight this strikes me as a poignant Buddhist lesson - non-attachment doesn't have to be denying the existence of an object or purging myself of an emotional response towards it, it can just be a case of cheerfully waving it goodbye. Food for thought.)

Pat's garden, in the rain

The flights (I was connecting at Melbourne for my Perth flight) were uneventful, probably the best I hope for in travelling nowadays. The strange quirk at Melbourne was that the shops sold postage stamps (I'd finally gotten around to writing a couple of postcards) but the only post box was outside the airport building, and with a fairly tight connection I didn't feel sure of getting back through the security screening in time. (My Tasmanian cards would eventually be posted in Perth.) Neither Melbourne or Perth had signs from the arrival gate to the exit & baggage reclaim but somehow everyone seemed to know which way to go, is this a case of the process of air travel causing migration instincts to appear in modern travellers?

At Perth I saw my first name board (well, the first one with my name on it). Pat (my host in Western Australia) and I had never met before so it seemed like a necessary contrivance but in the event I walked straight towards her before I read my name. My bag was collected and we made our way out - no more airports for me until Tuesday.

We came out in rain and it continued, varying from heavy to less heavy, for the rest of the day. I was driven to Pat's house, fed, given time to shower, unpack & rest, fed again and chatted with while the rumble of raindrops on roofs continued as a relentless backdrop. Everyone I met quipped that I'd brought the rain with me, either from Tassie or Britain, and although they agreed that it was sorely needed they didn't do so with much enthusiasm.

The lack of sleep, early start and time change (Western Australia is 2 hours behind Tasmania) had rendered me decidedly fuzzy but even so I took up Pat's invitation to come to the local circle dance group. It was being held in the home of someone I actually knew - we'd met at the Woodford Folk Festival in Queensland (Australia) when I'd been over to teach there back in 2000 and 2001 and, as a celebration of this, she'd laid out pictures from the Fire Events at Woodford in the circle's centre. A very nice way to be welcomed back to Perth.

My spirit was willing but my flesh was becoming very, very weak and I was noticeably fading as the evening progressed. After the last dance I almost fell into the car and on arriving back at Pat's it was all I could do to brush my teeth, undress and crawl into bed before plunging into a deep sleep.

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