Thursday, May 30, 2024

Carefree in Cairns at ‘Oz Fest 20’

It’s gotten to be an annual habit for Kathy and Brian.

Oz Fest is the name of a “FlyerTalk Do,” or get-together, organized by Australian members of the FlyerTalk internet forum for other members from around the world. The two of us stumbled upon the fourth one, held in Melbourne in 2007, and have been returning annually ever since.

For us it was 13 consecutive Oz Fests until Covid got in the way for two years, and three more since then, for a total attendance at 16 of 20 Oz Fests.

We’ve met a lot of great people, made some lifelong friendships, and have seen more of Australia than most Australians have (according to Aussies).

Our second visit to Cairns was at least as much fun as our first.

The Hilton was a decent property in a terrific location. We never tired of our waterfront view.

Our first “official” FlyerTalk dinner was Friday night at Dundee’s, around the corner from the Hilton.

The evening included a surprise birthday cake and a round of Happy Birthday for Kathy and our friend Sue, both of whom were celebrating birthdays.

Saturday featured a one-hour ride on the Kuranda Scenic Railway, originally built in the 1880s as a mining train.

We visited the town of Kuranda long enough to get a (drum roll…) tourism complex. Check out the sign.

Then it was a ride back down on the Kuranda Skyrail gondola system.

A dinner cruise featured good fellowship and good food Saturday evening.

Sunday afternoon a number of us took a 45-minute catamaran ride out to Green Island, with plans to view the Great Barrier Reef by snorkeling or (our choice) a glass-bottom boat ride. 

The trip out was so choppy that we contented ourselves with walking around the highly developed island for awhile. 

Fortunately the trip back was considerably smoother.

Our farewell dinner Sunday evening took place at the Cairns RSL, Australia’s Returned & Services League, a benevolent organization for current and former members of Australia’s military forces.

Almost before we knew it, another Oz Fest had come to an end. 

Volunteers have already stepped up to organize next year’s Oz Fest in Adelaide, and we’ve signed up.

Our trip home featured flights at reasonable hours, starting Monday noon with a two-hour flight to Brisbane on Qantas.

We stayed at a reasonably swanky Pullman, part of the Accor hotel chain, where our room featured a great view of the BNE control tower.

We could barely make out the air traffic controllers moving around. Are they peering back at us?

Two of our Brisbane-based friends, Bevan and Ross, joined us for drinks and dinner.

Tuesday morning we boarded a United 787 and flew Polaris business class to SFO.

The flight was fine, although we found the United business suite a little more crowded than those we’ve experienced on other airlines, including most recently Fiji.

It was also possibly the bumpiest transoceanic flight we’ve ever experienced.

Once landed at SFO, we took the familiar walk across most of the terminal to reach our domestic UA connection to SEA. 

The TSA checkpoint was somewhat chaotic and crowded, featuring a longer wait in the PreCheck line than the regular line.

A friendly line-minder confirmed that “it’s always like that.”

Sadly, we were seated in economy for the short SFO-SEA hop, but had plenty of room in Row 21 exit row seats.

We stopped for the night at the SEA DoubleTree, giving up our usual tower room for a fairly dingy room near the pool. It was worth it for a nap after our nearly 20-hour trip from Brisbane.

We tried out Sharp’s Roaster House for an early dinner one block up and across International Boulevard. After two disappointing visits over the past decade, we were happy we’d read the many positive reviews and given it another chance. The Happy Hour menu suited us nicely. 

After a few hours of sleep, we particularly appreciated the Alaska Lounge barista-made Cappuccinos before boarding our noontime flight to Bellingham.

We even got upgraded to first on the regional jet for the 25-minute SEA-BLI flight. Whoopee! It was one of the bumpiest short flights we’ve experienced. What is it about the weather in late May?

One Birch Bay Village neighbor picked us up and drove us home. Our garden looks terrific, thanks to another neighbor’s efforts.

It’s always great to be back home, especially when the sun is shining.


Anonymous said...

What a lovely trip… and beautiful pictures as well

Kathy and Brian said...

We did enjoy it, even if the extremely bumpy BNE-SFO flight has left us somewhat sleep deprived.

FS said...

Looks like another fun year! Great to see so many recognizable faces here and in pics on FT, FB, etc.!

Kathy and Brian said...

It was fun. What a congenial group! It's not getting any easier to find business class award tickets to Australia, but for us it was worth the effort.