Published: January 4th 2011November 19th 2010
Christmas Island 2010
The nicest jet engine you have seen
It has been a hectic time, I had barely unpacked my case after arriving back from England, and at very short notice needed to fly up to Christmas Island, so my merry go round lifestyle continues, once I had made sure that Andy was ok after his operation and some very brief preparation I was once again sitting in the lounge at the airport, this time waiting for a flight to Perth.
In Perth I found Sue waiting for me in arrivals, unfortunately Cliff wasn’t there as he was working off shore and due to fly in to the same airport at lunchtime on the following day, my arrival was a day too early but I was limited by choice due to the limited number of flights.
Sue took me to their lovely house in Scarborough where we indulged in one or two glasses of wine, or maybe 3 glasses I am not sure that I remember that far back, and a few crackers and cheese.
Unfortunately because there is only 1 flight a day from Canberra to Perth, it is in the evening and does not arrive until after 9.00pm so I don’t have an awful
lot of time to see Sue, but a short amount of time is better than no time at all.
It was soon time for bed, we had worked out that we were 3 hours ahead of Canberra, so it was heading to something like 3.00 in the morning for me and considering since I came back from the UK I was still suffering a bit with jet lag and had been in bed before 10.00 most evenings.
I awoke early, I was confident that it was just after 7.00 and it seemed that I had missed Sue, she usually heads of to work around 5.30 . I thought we were 3 hours ahead of Canberra my phone said it was 2, but was I really sure that my phone was right?
I had spoken to Andy earlier and we seemed to be 2 hours apart, but then I turned the television on and it seemed only to be just after 7.00, which indicated that it was indeed 3 hours time difference. Looking at the clock on Sue and Cliff’s kitchen wall confirmed the worst; yes once again I was out of bed terribly early! Unusual for me
I know, but never mind I am up, showered, dressed and packed to await the next leg of my adventure.
I was still getting over the jet lag from my UK trip so I figure that by tomorrow morning my body clock would be all over the show and time would mean nothing.
My taxi arrived at 10.30, I left a thank you note for Sue and I was on my way. At Perth International Airport I found it to be terribly quiet, there were people around but I could hear no conversations. I did not really give it a huge amount of thought when I arrived so dutifully found the appropriate check in desk and joined the queue, I wondered if we were waiting for check in to open and people were just patiently waiting, but no, suddenly there was a ‘bing bong’ on the tannoy and an announcement that said “thank you for observing the 2 minutes silence” and then within a moment or two the usually airport mayhem commenced. I am so glad I did not say anything when I joined the queue to check in!
It was a beautiful day as I flew
out of Perth the sky was now bright blue punctuated with a few white fluffy clouds, a little bit different to the rain that we had in the morning. As Perth vanished below me, the turquoise blue sea below me, a couple of steep turns as the plane banks towards the right and for a short amount of time we followed the Western Australia coast line, the amazing expanse of that unique Australian coastline and very much some of the terrain that we had traversed by road only a year or so before.
The flight passed quite quickly, I read my book, listened to a bit of music and watched the blue ocean beneath me, and when the captain announced that we were coming in to land, I wondered where the land was, a few steep turns later we were lined up and descending, I still had not seen land, but was fairly confident that the pilot knew what he was doing and before long I saw a section of land out of the window, closely followed by a view of the dense jungle below and no runway, and suddenly as soon as I saw the runway, we were
down, bump and a couple of bounces later the brakes were on.
When I walked out of the door onto the steps I instantly felt the humidity, it felt good to me, a long wait was to be had but a relief when I was able to collect my luggage off the trailers in the room behind, I cleared customs fairly quickly and within no time at all had met up with a colleague picked up my hire car and was on my way to Poon San to find my accommodation, on the way I passed the very building that Andy stayed in when he was working up here not so very long ago.
Not long after my arrival, I had a phone call from a colleague and I was invited round for something to eat and drink, I was feeling pretty exhausted but keen to meet up with colleagues and relax for the evening.
The following morning I was up early and on my way to the office. It is a very bizarre put exhilarating experience to be driving around a tropical island on my way to work, but because of road closures it is taking
me about half an hour to get there.
I suddenly realise that I have to dodge the red crabs, some of them are quite small and there are leaves on the ground so it does get a bit confusing, if I dodge everything perhaps that would do it, but despite having to dodge you still have to look out for the occasional oncoming traffic.
It is Saturday so after some work in the morning I head off to meet a colleague, we have arranged to have a drive around Christmas Island so that I can see some of the sights, half an hour later we were back! Well ok then, maybe an hour later we were back, there truly was not a lot to see as we could not get down any of the roads that we needed to, most of them were closed due to the crab migration and those that weren’t closed, were either advisory “don’t drive down here unless you have to” leaving very few roads to investigate.
So with all the main sites blocked off to us we had no choice but to return back to base, so for me it was feet
up with a magazine and a cup of tea. Actually I have a lot of work to do while I am here so really need to get on with it.
Dinner that night is with another colleague, but during the evening the weather deteriorates, it has been threatening all day, bouts of rain, heavy rain and the occasional rumble of thunder, but this evening the rain starts and a flicker of light comes through the glass door and an almighty crack of thunder feels like the roof is going to cave in.
The weather is no better after dinner and even though my accommodation is in the building next door I am going to get absolutely soaked and I did, in the space of a nano second I am dripping with water. My clothes are drenched so much so that they are now hanging in the bathroom drip drying.
It’s a cracking storm, the whole sky lights up very closely followed by the massive crashes above my head. I switch the TV on, but the screen is blank, of course the storm will have affected the signal – there is none.
Outside the streets have turned
into rivers, white rivers of phosphate, there are waterfalls coming down the external staircases, I hear footsteps in the hall outside except that they are not proper footsteps, all you can hear are squelches and squeaks.
The Sunday afternoon brings with it some good exercise, I meet up with a few colleagues to have a hike down to “Secret Cove” to see some of the migration. Even the 4wd track is closed so we have to park in the 2wd car park and hike down the steep and rocky road. The weird thing is that the crabs are all over the place and you really have to watch where you step, mostly they seem to clear the path before your foot falls, but every now and again I have to do a hop skip and a jump!
We come of the formed rocky road and find a small track through the jungle, fortunately not dense, but you do have to dodge the branches and climb over some rocky obstacles, but here for the first time since I arrived on the Island I see the truly amazing Robber Crabs, some of which are particularly huge and quite colourful an amazing sight to see and since only seeing them in Andy’s photographs previously it is a real pleasure to see them in person.
Arriving at Secret Cove is like finding a small piece of paradise, the tide is coming in and thus we cannot get onto the beach but there are still plenty of crabs around hanging to the underside of the rocks.
By now I have seen red crabs, robber crabs, green crabs, blue crabs and white crabs, I wonder how many species of crabs are actually here.
After downing some water a small bar of Toblerone and a short rest we had back up the track, it is a lot easier getting out than it was getting in, but you do have to dodge some seriously large cob webs which contain some equally seriously large spiders, once we were clear of the jungle we head back up the 4wd track and take the turn off for Dales Waterfall, there is a boardwalk that takes you through the jungle up to the waterfall, it is quite rotten in a few places and some meshing has come loose, my mind flicks back to the boardwalk on Cradle Mountain, so I remind myself to be careful, this boardwalk is very damp, covered in lichen and very slippery.
Eventually we walk up a series of steps and we arrive at the waterfall, despite the very overcast day it is hot, it is humid, I am struggling to get my breath in this environment it is a tough hike, and because of the heavy rains last night the waterfall is flowing with cool fresh water so the only decent thing to do is to stand underneath it and cool down - bliss!
My hike earned me a well deserved meal at one of the local Chinese restaurants that evening along with another early night for another early start in the morning. I seemed to survive my time on the island eating cheese sandwiches and Chinese food washed down with plenty of water and the occasional gin and tonic.
It is a tropical climate and it is the time of year with the humidity and the weather conditions do have a tendency to send people a bit troppo! A few people are getting quite keen to leave so that they can have some respite from the humidity and to do some Christmas shopping on the mainland, so it’s all down to one thing right now, will that plane come in on Thursday?
“Boss Boss It’s the plane it’s the plane” – some of you at a certain age may well remember that famous phrase from the TV program “Fantasy Island” – well I am not on Fantasy Island that’s for sure but it is still just as exciting that the plane is on it’s way. A ripple of excitement runs through everyone waiting here at the airport, we cannot see it yet but we know that it has left Perth which is the important thing some people here have been waiting to leave the Island since last Saturday, but due to the poor weather and atmospheric conditions (volcanic ash) no flights have been able to come in.
That’s island life for you and a life that the local’s are used to.
My short time on Christmas Island has been a busy one barely any time to explore and exploration has been limited due to road closures caused by the biggest event of the year and that is the Red Crab Migration.
The road closures can change daily, a road open tonight will be closed again by morning. For example I drove down a newly open road one morning on my way to the office, there was still a concentration of red crabs in one area, fortunately I was following a vehicle that had enough people on board to jump out with the rakes and clear a path through, for that I was truly grateful as they drove through the cleared path I followed close behind, and then behind me was a bus (it was almost gridlock out there!), so not really sure how well the crabs fared with the bus following me, but I do know from the locals that they just drive through.
By the time I left the office that day, that road was closed down again.
I am sitting outside in the shade at this tropical airport, the breeze is cooling against the hot afternoon sun and the relative humidity, the heat is rising steadily from the runway, crickets are cricketing and the baggage handlers are sprawled across the currently empty baggage trolleys, unfortunately every now and again one of them has to move to collect some baggage and load it to the trolley, eventually the trolley becomes too full of cases for them to lie on. It’s a tough job I guess but someone’s got to do it.
I thought I saw a booby this morning, but could not identify it for certain, it had gone back into the bushes by the time I reversed back up the road, I guess it could have been a chicken, but it did look a slightly odd shape.
It will be some sort of relief to get back to Canberra, not only to see Andy but to give my wild hair do some respite from the humidity which has made it frizz up a fair bit. I cannot wait to get it cut, it has been a while, but then I had to let it grow long again as it was cut far too short.
Silence breaks as the sound of a jet engine comes through, not long after the jet itself appears and suddenly the very relaxed atmosphere of the airport is broken and everyone jumps to it, there is work to be done.
Along with some very excited people, I board the flight back to the Australian Mainland, the first part of this journey is not too bad, especially with a decent book to read (back on the Nora Roberts novels).
We landed in Perth it was around 9.00pm after Passport Control (which the signage confused me greatly as there was no other route for passengers apart from Australian Passport holders only (I am still on a British Passport) but everyone’s luggage was being checked at quarantine the queue was long in the number of people and time it took and as I had ticked a couple of vital boxes on the documentation 1) I was carrying food items and 2) I had been hiking and thus quarantine were really only interested in my hiking boots and not the food – my hiking boots were taken washed and returned, by the time this was done I was almost the last person out of the quarantine hall which caused me to miss the transfer bus from International to Domestic so had to grab a taxi.
The next part was the worst, the red eye from Perth to Sydney, I was not interested in anything but sleep on this part of the flight, but I have to say sleep was not easy, the seats only recline about an inch and Virgin don’t provide any pillows or blankets so comfort is not a key word here.
Eventually after several hours of broken sleep we landed at Sydney, I searched the busy airport for a decent coffee and some breakfast before boarding my 3rd flight into Canberra, fortunately I had been upgraded so for the last 50 minutes of my journey I grabbed some sleep in a very comfy seat!
Landing in Canberra again was an experience, only a week or so beforehand I had flown out of the old airport and I have flown back into the new one, the best thing was that as I descended the escalator into baggage reclaim Andy was leaning against a pillar smiling and awaiting my return.
The rest of my Friday was a complete write off, I didn’t have to go to the office fortunately so Andy dropped me off at Becs for a rest and to once again start packing our cases as this was the weekend we move again.
We have been very grateful to Bec for allowing us to rent her spare room for the spell that Andy was away and for the short time that we were both coming and going. It has been fun staying with Bec & Cooper but it is time to go.