I’m sitting on a wooden bench seat next to my travel partner, staring out over several shades of blue, as it glistens under the afternoon sun in the nearby lagoon. Palm trees loaded with coconuts border the white-sand beach. Pristine gardens are filled with the tropic’s best: my favourite frangipani, vibrant hibiscus and expertly manicured hedges which separate bures from the beach.
I guess you could call this the airport lounge, Fiji style. Small does not begin to describe the plane that rolled down the tarmac to greet us. It could probably fit into a car parking space. There are a total of six seats inside and one has my name on it.
“Bula” the friendly pilot and co-pilot welcome us into their vehicle with wings.
“Bula” we reply with a more authentic accent than the first time we spoke the word upon arriving on Malolo Island. There’s not much aisle room in this thing. I certainly don’t see any food and drink trolleys fitting down that. It’s for the best as I probably would have spilt it anyway.
There is a total of three passengers on board for the flight to Nadi. I’m up front with the cockpit in full view. It doesn’t seem to worry the pilots though, they’re much more accustomed to this setup. We are each issued with headsets, they’re not for watching movies though. They serve a more practical purpose of drowning out the noise and rattling equipment. The plane lines up on the runway and the pilot hits the pedal. We’re off.
An aerial view lends a new perspective to the paradise we’ve lived for the past week. There are golf carts transporting visitors down below, people congregating at the restaurant and swimmers splashing about in the pool. Soon they’re all tiny ants and we’re looking down on the lagoon with hues of blue and green that could fill a paint shop twice over. Neighbouring islands jump into view and disappear just as quickly.
The mainland creeps into view just as I’ve started to loosen the grip of my fingernails on the vinyl seats. I clench my body in anticipation of the landing but I needn’t fret, it’s a clear day and we’ve had smooth sailing. Departing the aircraft is the quickest I’ve ever experienced, one of the perks of a six seater plane I guess, no queues. Departing an island holiday on a small plane does seem a bit like the lives of the rich and famous. They might just be onto something.
The Facts: We stayed in Plantation Island Resort, on Malolo Islands in Fiji in 2008 and flew back to Nadi on the mainland via small plane. For more information, click here.
Tasmania is perhaps like the youngest child of all the Australian states. It’s much smaller in size and gets a bit of flak from its siblings. New South Wales, a bossy older sibling that is always busy. Victoria would be an alternative child into the arts and yet footy mad. Tassie is a different league altogether, it’s placid, with a rural lifestyle and a ‘true-blue’ personality. Far from a weakness, this is what Tassie has best to offer. There is an instant sense of calm. There is no need to rush here, there’s a peaceful, easy feeling.
Tasmania in two days, that’s our mission. We hired a car from a friendly local agent. “Everyone thinks Tassie’s a tiny island” said the agent. Hardly the tiny island, Tasmania has more than 2,000 kilometres of walking tracks and 18 national parks. The island cuts an impressive silhouette with towering mountain peaks and serrated hilltops.
The two hour drive from Launceston to Hobart gives us a dose of rural life, a refreshing change from our home in metropolitan madness. Sheep are dotted over the green paddocks, cattle graze and silage stockpiles and respect-demanding mountain peaks assemble in the background. We even see a few rusted and weary tin sheds along the way.
Where are all the people? I wonder, as we approach Hobart’s heart on Saturday at lunchtime. A few hours later, we find half the town is in the bustling Salamanca Market. There are stalls on either side for the entire length of the narrow road. As we make it half way down the street, we realise we’ve made a rookie mistake. We ate lunch before wandering down here. Not to worry, we collect local ginger beer and delicious snacks for afternoon tea as well as some local crafts to take home.
There’s a place perched atop a cliff that overlooks the Hobart harbour that has everyone talking. The Museum of Old and New Art, MONA for short is my next stop. A whisper has been circulating about all the nudity and confronting artwork inside. I’m intrigued.
I wander up the hill to find a couple of tee pees on the bank which seem to validate the rumour of weird things. The rest of what I see is strangely normal. A stage sits downwind with a bunch of brightly coloured bean bags strewn across the lawn. It’s Sunday and there’s a live band playing chill-out music. I’m almost tempted to abandon the museum and park up in a deckchair. Curiosity overpowers me and I push on.
What can I say about the museum without spoiling it? The building architecture itself is commanding. Like it or hate it the museum is an eccentric assortment of pieces intended to provoke. It’s a great way to bend the mind in directions it may not have been before.
Dinner Reservations were made at the highly recommended Blue Skies Restaurant* on the waterfront in Hobart. A few warm, crusty slices of garlic bread started us off nicely. I am partial to a tasty steak and the 250g eye fillet was cooked to perfection, charred around the edges and juicy pink on the inside. It fell onto my fork with the garlic-infused creamy potato mash. A plate of butter-drizzled greens with a crispy crunch filled me to bursting point. Do not come here if you are dieting.
The waterfront is a lovely place to take a stroll in the evening, with boats of all shapes and sizes littering the water’s edge, sitting like pebbles in the lulling water. Lights dot the shores of the Derwent River and make a pretty picture against the evening sky. People are wandering to and from drinks and dinner. Some mellow teenagers are enjoying an evening of old school roller skating and skate boarding.
The next morning seagulls cry while surfing the sea breeze, the town is still. It’s only a weekend but it feels like a world away. They say that the youngest siblings are often spoilt but Tassie, the little brother of all Australian states, is just a cruiser and I like it.
The Facts: Australian airline companies travel to Tasmania daily from most major locations around Australia. My trip from Melbourne to Launceston took approximately on hour. For more information on Tasmania, click here.
*Blue Skies Restaurant has unfortunately closed and been replaced by Mai Ake Asian Cuisine which is also highly rated on Urbanspoon.