Report: Clyve Herbert
Photography: Jane ONeill / Clyve Herbert
24 November 2011
If there is one thing I hate it's queues!
We arrive at Melbourne airport early to avoid them - our flight today will take us to the Top End Downunder for a taste of the "Knock-Em-Down" storms across the Top End of the Northern Territory. These pre Monsoon monsters are immense thunderstorms of tropical Australia that develop in the months of October and November - some of them tower up to near 70.000 feet and offshore of Darwin "Hector" a famous thunderstorm has been clocked to 75.000 feet !....
Meanwhile though, reality bites at the Jetstar terminal Melbourne as the queue rapidly grows to nearly 200 struggling humans with about 450 suitcases and screaming kids, there are only two (2) active check-in chicks and we shuffle along jammed into a human quagmire of moaners. We finally get to the check-in and its all over in 20 seconds ! we only have one bag we feel like lottery winners as we escape the bedlam and head for the security...no problem here and we didn't even have to strip to the undies. To get to the Jetstar terminal you have to walk through the pleasant and well illuminated Qantas domestic - looks great with nice shops and lots of happy people selling Australian wine, then you descend a single escalator to the "Cattle pens" for the Jetstar departure lounge..its a gloomy arrangement not unlike sheep and cattle pens there are queues everywhere waiting to board late running flights, we finally line up at gate 27 and walk onto the tarmac just like we used to do 30 years ago, its an interesting trip under our Airbus A 321 then up a narrow staircase to the rear of the jet. It soon become obvious that all the screaming kids at the check-in are on our flight...
We are delayed 20 minutes as a plumber tries to fix the forward toilets, no luck all forward toilets are 'Stuffed" so the entire congregation will have to use one set of toilets in the rear...including the captain!. Still we love grunty takeoffs and the A321 does not disappoint . Soon we are flying across northern Victoria with the announcement that a food service will be provided, the glossy brochure shows all kinds of nice tucker, we opt for the fancy ham and chutney sangers. The reality of getting food on a Jetstar flight is nothing like the fancy photos in the brochure....instead we are told there are no ham sangers...so we choose the egg and mayonnaise....the hostess has none of those either although she runs off to the next food trolley and as if finishing 1st in the galley race returns triumphant with the egg sandwich..."that's the last sandwich on the plane" !!!..We were not impressed, so with one sandwich, a small box of Pringles, a couple of drinks we were 22 dollars lighter.....
The view from our window seat is superb the Australian landscape from 37.000 feet is like no other the remains of the past summer rains is still strongly evident with full or partially full salt lakes and flowing rivers, if we tired of the view we were entertained by the male steward stroking the back of the female hostess ! After 4 hours we start to see the big storm tops around the Top End and one of them is huge, the plane is diverted to avoid the outflow from this monster storm over the Cox Peninsular complete with a bell shaped wall cloud and bolting lightning. At the airport we meet up with fellow chaser Michael King from Canberra and we immediately drive the Cullen Bay and photograph the setting sun and storm backdrop....and we didn't even notice the 80% humidity and 32 degree temperature....
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