Back To Cairns

23 June 2021

The day started at 1AM. There were only 2 people snoring in the night, down from 3 the night before. The snoring came from them all having a cold, which I’ve also caught. Maybe I was snoring too for the couple of hours I slept. That would bring us back to half of the tiny 6-bed dorm room snorning in symphony.

Normally it’s not the end of the world to catch a cold. But I’m flying to Cairns at 11PM tonight. At check in, you need to declare that you’ve got no cold/flu-like symptoms. Or if, like me, you do have symptoms you need to go get a test and have a negative result. I couldn’t find anywhere where which could guarantee same-day results. So I lied. And it was obvious to anyone who looked; my almighty fever made me sweat like a pig.

My charity shop suitcase bounced around Fremantle’s stone paved streets. It felt sad to be limping around with all my motorbike bags in a wheely suitcase. I picked up 2 masks, since I’ve got 12 hours tonight and tomorrow morning and apparently they get manky after some time. I didn’t know that. But it seems like you can only run away and stay naive for so long. The only other time I’ve worn a mask was a couple of times in Sydney supermarkets.

After the masks I got some paracetamol and decongestant tablets. The strategy was to drug myself up and dry myself out so that I don’t blow my nose in front of people. I limped around until sunset, then headed to Perth airport.

flight status board with cancelled flights

Flights to Sydney were cancelled “due to NSW COVID restrictions”. FIFO workers arrived still wearing their hi-vis shirts and work boots. But the 20 police officers standing around weren’t interested in them. “We regulate how we enter this state! What are they gonna do, stand in the airbridge?” 160 people from Darwin arrived. The policed asked each one of them if they’d been outside of the Northern Territory. An Indian guy from Melbourne had spent 2 weeks in quarantine in Alice Springs. “We’ve got Adelaide next. We’ll see how we do with that” said the captain.

Flight to Brisbane

It was a long way to limp to row 58; right at the back of a very full aeroplane. “Looks like you came straight off your bike!” said the guy next to me. My neighbour’s name was Mark. Mark spoke too loudly but that helped as my ears were blocked, the cabin air flow was noisy we were all wearing face masks. “I ride bikes too, see? That’s some kind of fucking proof, anyway” he flashed the Ducati logo on his jacket. His background on his tablet wasn’t some loved ones or natural landscape, but a stock photograph of a BMW GS1200. He told me his most recent motorbike story. It wasn’t a clear story, other than that he came off his bike, and broke his ankles, fingers, ribs and two vertebrae. So I told my motorbike accident story. That explained why I was wearing motorbike boots and a jacket. Even without a motorbike, you meet motorbike people. I fell asleep straight away and woke up when the captain announced the descent.

Flight to Cairns

Luckily the flight wasn’t late; I walked straight out of the gate, got my second boarding pass scanned. Nobody checked my QLD border pass. After another long limp to the back of another full aeroplane, I sat down and closed my eyes. It was 6AM and I’d slept 6 hours in the last 2 days.

“Have you flown alone before, sonny?” the flight attendant asked.

It was my 29th birthday a couple of days earlier. Do I look even younger than I do? But then a young boy squeezed through and sat next to me. It wasn’t his first time flying alone. I asked if he’s got family in Cairns.

“Nah, I’ve still got another flight after this. I fly to Weipa to see my Dad”.

If Cairns isn’t far north enough in Far North Queensland, I guess you’d live in Weipa. It’s another 800KM north of Cairns. I slept for the entire flight again.

There are strange formation on the Earth on this side of the continent. The locals call them hills and mountains. There are also green plants. Local name is “tree”.

That’s the first thing I wrote when we touched down. The mountains never looked greener than they did after spending 3 months in the sandy outback. I wondered how they make air conditioned air so warm and humid but then I saw the air bridge just has vents letting natural air in.

aeroplane parked at cairns airport set against mountains

Apparently I was overdressed for the climate.

I took off my long sleeve thermal top, jacket liner and motorbike jacket and kept it in a big pile on my lap in the taxi. The driver kept all 4 windows open on the way to Travellers Oasis hostel - the same hostel I stayed at 10 months earlier. My fingers still had muscle memory of the front door code. I wasn’t wearing my contact lenses so I couldn’t see who was sitting at the reception desk as I walked through. But I didn’t need to see.

“Olly! Welcome back!” the owner smiled. “What are you doing over here?”

I limped over to the desk.

“It’s a long story”