1/9 Thursday - Departure day.
First leg: Air New Zealand flight 81 departing Auckland 1130 non-stop; arrive Singapore Changi Airport 1840. Flight length: eleven hours and ten minutes.
We had to be at the airport at least three hours before but on the way the fog was so thick we had to slow right down... A pleasant surprise that our flight was only delayed by one and a half hours. We have four hours at Singapore so shouldn't be cutting it too fine.
The last view of the 'Land of the Long White Cloud'
As I write this N. is happily watching some movie about four girls and a pair of traveling jeans or something. Nice chicken pasta lunch.
Over the Tasman Sea
Great Barrier Reef coral island
2.51pm. I have a window seat so am in heaven. I've just seen what I assume are a couple of coral islands - must be the Great Barrier Reef off the Queensland coast. Ovals and circles of pale blue-green lagoon with a white fringe of breakers - the reefs are not quite complete. What a treat! I can hardly take my eyes off the window even 'though it's still the Tasman sea. I don't want to miss a single view of this flight!
Australia at last
3.05. Auckland and we are traveling at 783 km/hour at 9800 m altitude. Now almost exactly over the Queensland/ NSW border on the Australian coast. About eight hours to Singapore. With great mental effort I calculate that if you travel at 780 km/hour for three hours you cover 2340 km or 1410 miles. I must be tired, but I feel great.
Somerset dam and lake?
6.30. We are 10,000 metres high, traveling at 800 km/hr, and it's -44ºC outside this round window, just two inches from my nose. We've been in the air 4 hours 45 minutes. We are still over Australia, on a line that seems to pass right over Katherine (heh). Katherine over Katherine. The clouds have changed since the coast from fluffy patches to balls, and then wisps and now have disappeared altogether. We flew over what I'm convinced was Somerset Dam where Wendy and I swam on our motorcycle trip when we were 21. There have been patches of cultivated land and pasture. But now all I see is red earth scoured into valleys and riverbeds. I took a photo of tracks converging on a ford over a dry river. What a different look this place would have when it rains.
This country is truly massive. I can see the HUGE Gulf of Carpenteria now. I sailed through it on the Oronsay when I was eleven.
I'd forgotten how big the world is. We have been flying at 470 mph (I still think in miles) - that's covering about eight miles every minute, or a mile every seven seconds, have been flying about six hours, and are only about a quarter the way to England. Novelty's worn off a bit and I've begun to unglue myself from this window.
7.05. Happened to look out the window just as we finally reached the other side of Aussie. I watched the coast pass under our wings. Well, this is the last we'll see of Australia for a while. It feels a little like we are leaving the familiar part of the world behind...
The other edge of Australia.