Cold hands, warm heart
“How does a flight get cancelled just like that?” we asked ourselves, sipping a morning coffee and thinking we had plenty of time to leisurely reach the Airport. An email alert popped up letting us know that the next direct flight to Hobart was the following day; well, being a Saturday that just wouldn’t do for a weekend away. It was no surprise that the airline phones were jammed with unhappy travellers, so we headed straight for the airport, potentially 24 hours ahead of the next available flight with only hope in our pockets. At the Virgin service desk the lipstick crew looked remarkably unflustered, shouldn’t the whole Airport be in a flurry at the cancellation of our flight?
Accommodation booked, hire car booked, dinner with family arranged…we were going that day, no questions. A quick call to my travel agent to get a full view of any and all flights to Tassie and we were able to plan a connection between Melbourne to Hobart later that day, if only we could find 2 seats somewhere to get us out of Sydney…we did it! As the service agent handed us our boarding passes and smiles of relief broadened across our faces, it then dawned on us we had at least 6 hours in Sydney’s domestic terminal. At one point we plonked down in the $2 massage chairs jiggling ourselves around under the pretence of a massage just to pass the time comfortably. In that moment I remembered why it’s said that when you travel, the most important thing you can take with you is your best friend.
We reached Melbourne and amidst our chatting about some of the tourists’ spots we’d visit when we arrived, three burly looking police officers approached the aircraft staff at the Melbourne departure gate. There we were casually talking about Port Arthur and Tassie’s convict past, when they led a young guy in handcuffs towards the plane. I couldn’t have written the script better. He was seated at the back with plenty of legroom and a spare seat next to him. We noted this seemed better than our last minute deal and when the other gal asked “how come the convict gets the window seat?” we were in stitches all the way.
As we walked across the tarmac, I felt the familiar peace that descends on you in Tasmania; it’s in the colours of the rolling hills and the quiet that hangs in the air. I always notice the light when I travel, the stretch of sky and how the clouds fill it, making it either muted or stark. As we crossed the bridge into Hobart and the houses spread across the hills I thought it’s simply the light of fresh air. In the outskirts of the city, there is no greater circulation of freshness than Mt. Wellington, so that’s where we headed.
The road towards the peak is a familiar one to me; on the way we passed three homes I’ve lived in with trees in the front garden I’ve planted and driveways I’ve spent hours playing in. They sit like a permanent screen alongside the houses filling up the empty space. We crossed old friend’s homes filled with memories of 7th birthday parties, sleepovers and nights where I still have the photos of my mother lounging on beanbags in a roll neck wheat coloured jumper. Driving along, I thought for a moment that you never know which memories will imprint themselves on you; it’s so random that of all the summers of my childhood, it’s the afternoon where we sat under the hot sun on the patchy lawn at my mother’s best friends house that stays in my mind. That night she baked salmon casserole but I felt too sun-stroked to eat, though I remember picking off the burnt crumbs from the crusty top.
I had warned the other gal that it was almost impossible to prepare for the icy blast of wind that would hit us as soon as we opened the door. My Dad who was with us could offer no consolidation, he said the trick to withstand Mt. Wellington was simply to jump out, see the view quickly and hop back in the car. So we wrapped our scarves tightly around our ears and faces, pulled our jackets closer but I knew having done the pinnacle of the mountain countless times that we would still find it hard to breathe or walk straight. For a person who loves summer, I knew the other gal would feel like a maiden voyager to the South Pole; well truth is we weren’t really that far. As soon as we opened the car the gust of swirling cold nearly knocked us over. We breathed in the sharp air and made our way to the enclosed look out past the barren flatlined treetops, twisted and warped by the incessant wind. For a first timer, it must have looked like a moonscape. And we must have looked like Yemeni women swaddled in mid-winter shawls, thankful to our few extra kilos for saving us blowing off the mountain slope in a puff of wind.
After an exhausting 30 minutes, we headed to the serenity of Constitution Dock for a warm coffee and walk in the stillness of the evening air. There are seafood cafes and restaurants edged around the dock and you can imagine the mornings when the fresh catches are poured from fishing nets onto the dockyard floors between the rush of restauranteurs and seagulls. It was calm and sweet, a soft warm drizzle fell lightly leaving behind magnificent double rainbows. I’ve thought many times that Tasmania just feels different to the mainland; it’s got a lot to do with its natural vagabond wilderness and plenty to do with the quiet, like a small town rather than a big city. It does original well. Winding sandstone laneways bursting with local goodies, offbeat art galleries and hip cafes give Hobart its characteristic charm. It makes for a curious and enchanting weekend getaway, even after a day circling the domestic terminal, flying with a convict and talking our way onto a flight as overcrowded as a showground. Well, we are adventure in our teacups after all!