This is the next instalment of my Special Moments, Magic Memories series for the 2022 A to Z Blog Challenge.
It’s not so much that there’s lots of WOW in most journeys by train, boat or plane – or car, or bus- which overall is probably a good thing as it would more likely be an OMG rather than a WOW. Still, if you want to go anywhere much, there’s got to be transport other than Shank’s Pony (walking), especially when you live on a big island.
It’s probably appropriate that trains lead the phrase, as my family inheritance is inextricably linked to railways. I have four generations back on dad’s paternal line, and four on my mother’s paternal line, including each of my parents. Maybe I should have job-hunted with Queensland Rail 😉
We didn’t live close enough to the train station for it to be a common mode of daily transport in my youth. Instead, trains were mostly reserved for holidays when dad’s railway pass would see us travel to North Queensland where mum could revisit the friends of her youth. So some particular memories:
- Did I or didn’t I travel on the steam train to Townsville as a small girl? I have memories that suggest I did but perhaps it was only a local train to meet up for a picnic lunch with mum’s friend. I remember the windows being open and needing to have coal dust removed from my eye with a damp hankie.
- I know that we did several trips on the much vaunted Sunlander, an airconditioned diesel train that went from Brisbane to Cairns, though we always finished the journey at Townsville. It would leave Brisbane late at night, arrive at Bundaberg for breakfast and Rockhampton for lunch, when dad would dash from the train to the best fisho in Rocky (dad had all the best tips from his railway colleagues on the train). I emulated his way of jumping off one time and got a bit of a bollocking from him and the guard because apparently I’d landed on the wrong foot and could have slid under the train. Didn’t try that again! Leaving Rocky with a full tummy was sleep inducing but so was the boring, flat country north. There’d be the sugar cane fields burning and the smell that came from the processing plants. Then Townsville for breakfast by which stage you’d feel very wobbly from travelling. You can read more here if you’re so inclined.
- On one trip, I clearly remember we crossed the Burdekin River in flood with the waters lapping the sleepers. Dad reckoned the fireman had pushed what he thought was a log away from the sleepers, only to find it was a crocodile. Possible, but was it a tall yarn?
- Our first few trips to Europe involved a Eurail Pass so we did what many did, and planned some overnighters for the longer sectors. Shut the door of the sleeping compartment, and lie doggo and hope no one else joined you 😉 That didn’t help when it was time for customs and ticket inspections at frequent intervals during the journey…they got very tedious.
- Or the time on a packed train when the bloke opposite was cracking bugs on his leg (eerk!) or another tried to stroke my leg. I think that’s the point when the corridor was more appealing than the cabin.
- Or when some dummy (who, me?) read the destination sign on the train to Vienna incorrectly. We did eventually get there after a day in Salzburg. Oops.
- Or warning Miss 6 and Miss 4 about the “spit” train when catching the underground in London.
Minor adventures but ones that have gone into family lore.
In the 1970s, there was one road that went anywhere in Papua New Guinea and that was the Highlands Highway – rough, scary with trucks etc (but not as scary as now with raskols), and tedious. Consequently planes became our “bus” when we travelled.
- My first flight ever was when I was 19 or 20 with a uni friend who’d just got his private pilot’s licence. No fear of single-engine aircraft for me.
- My second flight was leaving Brisbane, and family and friends, in tears just after we were married.
- A rather disturbing flight when we landed in Losuia on the Trobriand Islands with five minutes of fuel left, thanks to cloud and a small hill somewhere between us and the airstrip. I think the pilot had a stiff drink after that.
- The sound of aircraft circling overhead as people in our small town searched for a plane that had disappeared. Crashed with all on board including a young family. Sobering and sad. In fact, that makes me realise it would have been this very week in 1970 as the search teams were up over Anzac Day. Mr Cassmob was the last to see the plane leave.
- Bringing our infant daughter home as the pilot scared the cockatoos from the trees we were so low -Mr Cassmob saw country he’d never laid eyes on before even though he’d flown on that route many times.
- Flights when the skies were green with thunder and lightning…oh well, we were together.
- A couple of near misses on audit flights meant Mr Cassmob gave up being the Education Dept’s auditor.
- Landing in a cracker of a storm in Bangkok, ditto lightning and green skies, with the runway awash with water. Those getting off wished us luck. Thanks guys!
- Taking flying lessons on the Grumman Tiger in Moresby and watching the Qantas Jumbo lumber into the sky like a pelican, and landing as if it was easy peasy.
- The pilot who nearly overshot the length of the runway in Moresby as his passengers who lived there, “hit the brakes”. We knew he was running out of room. Next stop? The road.
- Being offered membership of the Mile High Club by some old bloke on a charter flight on a Bristol Freighter, Goroka to Moresby. No thanks!
- Miss 6 and Miss 4 flying unaccompanied to Brisbane from Port Moresby. They were so familiar with flying that on the return leg they gave our friends,, who were visiting, tips on what to do.
You might think I’d have a nautical streak considering I have three generations of Scottish merchant seamen on mum’s side as well as Irish fishermen. While we’ve done our share of ferries and similar, we’ve never had a crack of sailing, even though the opportunities were there in Port Moresby and Darwin. Instead we’ve settled for tourist trips on the water. I loved fishing villages long before I knew of my family inheritance and can happily spend ages taking photos or just enjoying the ambience.
- If I’m on a boat, ferry or ship and it’s rough you’ll often find me out on the open deck, nose to the wind and loving it, but pleased I have no responsibility.
- On a very rough trip Cairns to Green Island, everyone but dad and one crew member was violently ill – I still remember the boat dipping from side to side. Put dad on a millpond and he’d be the one who was sick. Weird.
- If the pandemic passes and covid becomes less risky, will we ever re-consider a cruise? I’m not sure. I did a genealogy cruise around Australia on a humungous Royal Caribbean liner and we did a cruise Athens-Istanbul on a smaller Oceania ship. While I can see the fun on the big ships, I think the smaller passenger numbers suit us better.
Do you prefer planes or boats or trains? Have you ever done a cruise and did you enjoy it?
Any funny or scary stories?