I’m currently recovering from some minor surgery, and out of the cockpit for a few months. During this time, I’m digging up some memorable flying experiences from the past. Don’t worry… multiple paragraphs contemplating the ocean from 40,000 feet will be back soon!
I arrived in the city and was now stepping off the train into the glare of the midafternoon of a Southern Hemisphere’s Summer day. The normal bustle of Sydney was dulled by the heat as people struggled through the hot, stifling air, making their way from one air-conditioned space to the next and relying on patches of shade to traverse the spaces in between. Fortunately my walk from the train station at Circular Quay was short, but by the time I stepped into the cool and shaded atrium of the hotel’s lobby, the fabric of my shirt, pinned to my back by my heavy backpack full of camera and travel gear, was drenched with sweat.
“Are you going to the fireworks,” asked the woman at the check-in desk, as she handed me my room key.
I cocked my head in question, as I knew nothing of any fireworks. “It’s Australia Day,” she said. “The whole city is ready to party. Fireworks over the Harbor Bridge just after dark.”
In the relative coolness of the early evening air, I leaned against a railing in the Royal Botanical Garden, looking across the inlet at the graceful curves of the Opera House and the squat lines of the Harbor Bridge. Hundreds of people clustered along the walkways and paths lining the water, staking out vantage points and comfortable seats, while overhead, in the dimming light, giant fruit bats launched from the trees and flew in ever-widening circles over the water as they flapped their wings to gain altitude.
In the full darkness of night, after the flyovers, and after the fireworks show that brought to life a postcard sent by my uncle when I was four or five years old that I kept above my bed for 15 years, I walked back towards my hotel, through the botanical garden. The pack on my back, now just filled with the camera gear I’d needed for this evening, bounced lightly on my shoulders. As I followed the winding footpaths towards the bright lights of the city, in parallel with hundreds of people doing the same, yet by myself in the darkness, the operatic sounds of a Florence and the Machine concert somewhere in the park filled the air, providing a soundtrack for the closing credits of my evening.