I am so lucky that I get to travel for work. This normally involves some podcasts and me in my car, but occasionally – very occasionally – I get to fly.
Recently, I flew to Ceduna.
Ceduna is one of the few places in South Australia I haven’t been, because it’s simply so remote. It’s on the Great Australian Bite (good for whale watching), but its most commonly used as a stop over for anyone travelling to Perth or other parts of WA.
But I’m not so interested in talking about Ceduna as much as talking about getting there.
A very little plane.
I have been on a little plane once before (also for work – Port Lincoln), but this was a different experience.
My ticket says “Gate 10” and I follow the signs in Adelaide Airport, but the gate is so small I missed it first time – walked right by it, got to the end of the terminal (several steps further), and had to turn back. The Rex Airline’s gate is stuck at the very end of civilisation, much like the places it flies. The waiting area for the gate didn’t even have that many seats.
The first thing that was odd was there was a guy talking to some stranger. It was two randoms, intending to go on Rex flights, who somehow struck up a conversation. How country. How Australia. How Crocodile Dundee.
Then, eventually, a call was made for boarding – for Kingscote travellers. Huh? Was I at the wrong gate? I checked the screen. I wasn’t the only one perplexed – someone asked the attendant what happening, and she explained that “We always board Kangaroo Island first”.
Then us, the Ceduna lot, were called. So I follow the little group of passengers through the gate. Down down down down all these stairs and then… Into this strange small carpeted room. It had pictures of remote Australian locations, but it felt more dungeon than tourism. The group I was with stopped and, me, being a good sheeple, stopped too.
Someone yelled out, “Not many on the flight tonight!” It was a conversational shout, but no conversation was catalysed. I took stock of the number of people in this cell – though I didn’t know how many they normally had on a flight, I could agree that there didn’t seem to be many. But we were going on a little plane – there wasn’t capacity for ‘many’.
The guy behind the Rex counter had someone contact him on the radio. The voice, through static, gave the “Ceduna passengers” permission to proceed. In full sheeple mode again, I followed the shuffling crowd, through sliding doors, and into this shed-like breezeway. More pictures of country Australia, in places that looked sunny, in direct contrast to the temperature in June in a breezeway at Adelaide Airport.
The passengers then deviate, turning through a gate, walking onto the tarmac… And then into a bus? I wanted to ask, “Um, this is the flight to Ceduna, right?” but instead my internal ruminant found myself a seat.
The bus drove us across the tarmac, down to the back most corner where our little Rex plane was parked. We had to wait for the captain to come out and put up a barrier, so we didn’t walk into the stationary propeller… Then we ascended the steps (steep, and able to be folded into the plane). There was a flight attendant who checked my ticket. She smiled and nodded, directing me with a wave. Phew. It seems I was going to Ceduna.
Turning into the fuselage, I realised the aisle didn’t go down the middle. There were two seats on one side, one seat on the other. There were thirty-three seats in total and about half of them were occupied.
The trip proceeded as normal. We took off, with a little bit more shaking than a normal plane. I eased my anxiety with constant self talk of, It’s a small plane, they shake more. We took off into an Adelaidian sunset, and chased it across the sea until the blue faded to navy to black, and we could only see a gentle blush on the horizon – and then the night sky was over us (and under us too).
The only light out of the window was the flashing from the plane, and the occasional bright star. Over water we travelled, so there was no ground based lights, until we got to Ceduna. I was disappointed that I was landing at night, so I couldn’t see the town from the air.
But there was suspense in descending into darkness – was it ocean or land where we were aiming? Looking out the window, there was nothing to ground me, but I could see our wheels were out – so where was the land to claim us? One moment there was nothing, then there was the darkness of a tarmac? Thud, rattle, thud, we bounced back to earth and along. The engines in reverse sound far more sinister in a small plane, and I didn’t breathe until they stopped.
Sighing, smiling, realising I get to live for at least a few more minutes, I strained to observe any sign of habituated land. Then, a well-lit small shed comes into view. My short-sighted eyes squint until I can just make out the letters – “Ceduna Airport”.