Travelling north

I’m writing this from my hotel room at the Hilton in Sydney. I’m up here for a conference, due to commence in about 45 minutes.

I was in the back of a taxi by 7am to travel to the airport – just short of an hour from my place. At that time of the morning the light is feeble, with the sun not long risen, and the traffic relatively sparse.

It was a familiar experience. Sitting in the back of the car watching the streets and suburbs go by as the city slowly rouses to a new day is a unique experience if you have the leisure to enjoy it. There’s an additional edge to it when you’re on the way to the airport and know that soon you’ll be in a different place altogether.

I bore myself every day lately staring at the ceiling from inside my hyperbaric chamber, but it’s much different when you’re in motion and have a destination in mind. It was a pleasant trip, even with the jangling, repetitive Indian music in the background.

The airport was chaotic and I was glad that I only had carry on luggage.

Every trip away I set myself to go with the smallest possible bag, stripping things to the bare essentials. There’s a Spartan pride in achieving that, but mostly I give it up halfway through wondering what the point of it is. I get more spacious bag then, squeeze a few extras into it and leave enough room for anything I might pick up while I’m away.

This time I’m only gone for a night and so it was the smallest bag I packed – a change of clothes, a toilet bag, a few odds and sods, and that was it. I took my iPad, but not my laptop.

I was surprised sitting in the airport lounge that such frugality is uncommon. Many travellers had full on bags, clearly exceeding the published limits, but ultimately allowed. Some had more than one such bag.

While I was there, a traveler sitting a couple of seats away took ill. He was placed on oxygen, and eventually we were cleared out and a screen was wheeled in to hide him from prying eyes – like a horse that was to be put down, I couldn’t help thinking.

Ill health seems to be following me these days.

The flight was uneventful. I had a window seat and looked out the window with my headphones on. It was a pretty site.

The clouds seemed to have divided into separate rows at 45 degrees to the direction we were taking. It was very distinct so much so that I wondered how they were formed. They fluffy types, through which I could see the earth below.

We passed over townships and hamlets, over cleared land and low hills covered in thick scrub. Roads intersected here and there, as did creeks and rivers taking their winding course, and once a gorge.

What a mighty land, I thought. I think this every time I fly out of the country when it takes hours until we reach the far shore, after traversing all manner of strange and beautiful land below.

It’s rare I think it on the hour flight from Melbourne to Sydney, but as I looked down at these passing scenes I realised there were so many places in my own country I would never get to, and so much I would never see up close.

In the distance. I wondered if it were an illusion initially. Beyond the striped clouds was a pale blue I thought might be some trick of the light. I don’t ever recall travelling so close to the coast on this trip, but obviously our route was more southerly than normal, for as we went on it became clear that it was the ocean.

Beyond was a bank of low, thick cloud that looked like a great shelf of ice – as if the Antarctic had been towed north. It was a majestic sight.

I must go now. Pretty myself up for the conference and gird my professional loins for the serious conversations ahead. I have to change my pants, from jeans to bloody chinos with a jacket. Dress code is smart casual, which is the Muzak of the fashion world. I’d rather wear a proper suit than look like a dad trying to look hip. Needs must, however. I’ll be back.

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