Friday, Feb 19, 2016
I had a 1.5 hour drive from Torquay to the Melbourne airport to catch a 4 pm flight from Melbourne to Cairns.
I woke up at 7 am after a good nights sleep, although the ground was a bit uneven. I had lots of time, so I packed my tent, re-arranged my belongings to fit into two backpacks and then I had a leisurely breakfast at a nearby cafe before leaving Torquay.
The drive to Melbourne was uneventful, however, it is a large airport with 4 terminals and when I got off of the highway into the airport, the GPS told me to go to the far right lane but I couldn’t because it was full of cars. I had to improvise, so I drove into the parking garage, grabbed a ticket and drove to the exit hoping that it would allow me to get right back out again. Fortunately this was the case, however, the only option I had, was to drive out of the airport on a small highway for a few miles, before taking a roundabout and driving back to a different entrance into the airport, which allowed me to fill the car with gas before dropping off the car at the rental agency.
When I entered the airport, it was 4 hours before my flight. After a little research, I found my terminal and tried to check in but it wouldn’t allow me to do so until 3 hours before the flight was scheduled to leave. This gave me a reason to get a ” flat white ” coffee ** and a snack before trying again. After an hour I checked in and got my boarding pass and baggage ticket, without any problem, however, the automated system told me that I could not check my bag until 2 hours before the flight, so I had another hour wait, before finally ‘checking in’ my bag on the automated conveyor system that weighed the bag and checked the bar code label on it to make sure it met the criteria. After that, it was just a jaunt through security and then a wait in the food court for another hour before the monitors would tell me the gate I was supposed to go to.
1 hour before the flight was to leave, the monitor informed me that my flight would be at gate 45, a good 5 minute walk. When I got there I realized why they hadn’t let us go there earlier. There was nothing at the gates except a few seats and we would have all been standing around in a small area. It was quite the unique experience, but it all turned out just fine. After a late take-off and a 3 hour flight, we arrived in Cairns at 7 pm. It was 8 pm in Melbourne, because there is a 1 hour time change going to Cairns that I wasn’t aware of.
As I had been warned, the heat an humidity was stifling when I got off of the airplane onto the tarmac. It was in the mid 30’s C ( 90’s F ) and almost 100% humidity. I was in the tropics.
After I got my bag, I checked to see where my shuttle driver was, only to find out that my ride would not be there until 8:30 pm. When the driver arrived, I was escorted to a van with 5 other people and after 30 minutes consisting of picking up one other person and dropping 4 people off, I arrived at my resort. Before I got there the driver said that she had experienced late check-ins with this resort before. Like many of the accommodations in Australia, the reception desks are not attended at night. She informed me that the last time she brought some foreigners to the resort late at night, they couldn’t speak much english and it took her an hour to figure out how to get them to their room, so she now had experience with it. She drove me to the reception which was at a different unit and she told me that I would have to take the elevator to the first floor and get my paperwork out of the safe around the corner. I found the note at the reception indicating what to do for a late arrival, but when I got to the safe, I didn’t have an access code to open it. So I went back down and called the after-hours number. I was put on hold for about 10 minutes before an agent informed me what the code was and I was able to get my envelope containing the resort information and the key to my room. With the key to my room in hand, the shuttle driver brought me to my unit and I was able to get into my room.
It was a bit of a pleasant shock. I have gone from tenting to a plush resort. This was one of the few times I had pre-arranged a place to stay while travelling. I had traded a timeshare unit for this unit in early January in order to get a place to stay for at least 1 week in the tropical area of Australia but I didn’t know what to expect. It is a very extravagant, 2 bedroom unit, but the most stunning part is the tropical view out of the large windows in the living room and master bedroom, looking past a huge veranda.
Tomorrow I will have to get acclimatized and figure out whether I will need a car and what I will do for the week that I am here. I will also have to plan my last four days in Australia, as well as, my flight back to Sydney to catch my flight back home.
** A flat white is a coffee beverage that originated in Australia. The beverage is prepared by pouring microfoam (steamed milk consisting of small, fine bubbles with a glossy or velvety consistency) over a single shot (AU) or double ristretto shot (NZ) of espresso. It is somewhat similar to the traditional 140 ml (5 imp fl oz) cappuccino or the latte although smaller in volume, therefore having a higher proportion of coffee to milk, and milk that is more velvety in consistency – allowing the espresso to dominate the flavour, while being supported by the milk.