Down Under Down Under

Wednesday, September 10, 2014 Road Junkies 0 Comments

Day 8:  Canberra to Hobart
Our primary objective for today was getting to Tasmania, an island state south of mainland Australia (see map above).  We were also determined to build a little down time into our itinerary.  With an 8:35 a.m. flight from Canberra, we had no opportunity to sleep in, but driving to the Canberra airport was quick and easy, as was our rental car drop-off.  Though it bears the name Canberra International, the airport serves only domestic passengers, perhaps explaining why security procedures were relatively lax.  We were never asked to show our boarding pass until we boarded the plane, nor did any agent ever examine our identification.  Apparently, anyone who passes through security screening can enter the gate area, including non-passengers.  Though this was at one time routine, it's been about 13 years since we've seen that permitted.

With a spate of recent facelifts and modernization, Canberra's planners sought to "visually elevate" the airport, incorporating a variety of materials and commissioning a number of pieces of public art.  Their efforts have created a very pleasant environment for air travelers.  

In another example of what we have come to call the "No worries, Mate" attitude, boarding the flight at Canberra was markedly different from the typical U.S. and European loading experience.  When preboarding was announced for anyone needing assistance, no one stepped forward, even though there were several passengers with infants and young children.  (In contrast, more than 25% of the passengers on our flights to and from Honolulu last week contrived some excuse to preboard.)  When boarding announcements began, there was no swarm of passengers toward the gate as happens in the U.S. and European airports where we've traveled.  Everyone remained in their seats until the announcement was made for their turn to board.  It was quite nice.

Be careful what you carry on
Thanks to our friends BJ and Mark who traveled to Australia this past summer, we learned that bags that meet U.S. carry-on restrictions will not pass muster in Australia.  In both Australia and New Zealand, passengers may take one piece of cabin baggage on board so long as it weighs no more than 7 kg (15 pounds).  In addition, one small personal item per passenger is permitted.  Had BJ not shared this vital information, we would have suffered the same fate they did in their visit here, having to check their bags and pay hefty fees to do so.

No jetway but two sets of airstairs at Hobart
We had a brief layover in Melbourne on the way to Hobart.  The busy Melbourne airport provided quite the contrast to Canberra's empty corridors, perhaps explaining why no gates with jetways were available for our inbound and outbound flight.  Airstairs were used for both, making us very thankful the weather was sunny.

Hobart terminal
At Hobart's small airport, we had a good distance to walk on the blustery tarmac before reaching the terminal, where we were met by a couple of agricultural agents and a beagle trained to sniff out the truth of our declaration that we were carrying no fresh fruits, vegetables or fish that would require quarantine.  Car rental pick-up was smooth and easy with the cars parked close to the terminal, and we were on our way to the city, 12 miles away.  Driving on the left is becoming a bit easier, but we both remain vigilant to any lane straying that 40+ years of habits may induce.  On a positive note, Ken did not turn on the wipers when seeking the turn signal a single time today.

Finding hotels with suite style rooms, called apartments here, has been much, much easier than in the U.S., where this type of lodging makes up a very small segment of the market.  In each of the properties we booked, we've had a separate bedroom and a kitchen with full-size fridge, a stovetop and microwave, and sometimes an oven and dishwasher and even a washer and dryer.  So grocery shopping is a first stop for us because we like the time-saving flexibility of having some meals in or preparing meals to carry with us on the go.  Once that chore was done, we fulfilled our plans to relax for the remainder of the day.

Tomorrow we'll drive south to visit Port Arthur Historic Site, a well-preserved example of the convict system that was part of the forced migration that introduced European settlement to Australia in the 19th century.
Daily Stats:
  • Started in Canberra, ended in Hobart
  • Mileage -  692       (Trip total:  10,671)
  • Weather - 46° to 64°; Sunny and windy
  • Passengers preboarding - 0


Almost empty baggage claim area at Canberra airport