Airlines of PNG Economy Class POM-TFI

Bahahaha. I’m shocked! I had a 90 minute international-domestic connection in Port Moresby. Did I make it? Ha! Course I did.

After clearing immigration and customs, I headed for the Airlines of PNG domestic transfer desk. They tried to hit me up for excess baggage, which I was prepared to cop, as it was only 20 kina ($10 Australian for 4kg over). But when I went to the customer service desk to pay for it, there was nobody there. When I went back to tell the check-in agent, she just let it go. PNG’s infamous lack of customer service works in my favour!

Anyway, the domestic departures lounge is pretty bare. There’s a tiny shop selling drinks (water, coke, etc.). I got some water.

Walked out to the plane, and took off on time. Once in the air for our 35 minute flight to Tufi, we were offered refreshments. Which was a small tub of orange juice and a packet of scotch finger biscuits. I hate long life juice, and the biscuits were off the table for gluten, dairy, and egg. Such is life.

IMG_5369

I could have drunk the orange juice, but I didn’t.

The landing into Tufi is absolutely spectacular by the way!

IMG_5373It’s a hard life…

Air Niugini Economy Class CNS-POM

As a result of flight schedules, I had to fly to Cairns on Christmas Eve, and spend Christmas Day there before flying to PNG on Boxing Day. Ended up getting myself on a day trip out to the GBR on Christmas Day to go for a dive. It got me out of my hotel at least. And while the day trips go to some pretty well worn parts of the reef, a dive is a dive…

Anyway, up early to get from my hotel to the international terminal in Cairns to check in for my Air Niugini flight to Port Moresby. No priority check-in, no lounge access, no business class. I hadn’t actually realised how short the flight was until I noticed that we were flying on a Dash-8 rather than a jet. Check-in was relatively efficient. Got queried over the weight of my bag until I mentioned that it had sports equipment in (which equates to being allowed 30 kg). No excess baggage fees!

Instead of an entirely separate post on this, a brief description of the food options at Cairns international terminal (T1). Be aware that there are not a whole lot of food options at the international terminal to start with. Inside there’s a small cafe and an Eagle Boys Express (pizza). The cafe sells the regular pastries and sandwiches as well as coffee and an assortment of cold drinks. There was fruit salad containers – in theory. They’d sold out when I went through. Of all places, the newsagency store sold raw food bars. Which it turns out I am forever grateful for…

I’d put in a VGML request when booking this trip, and at the time I’d expected to get it. But when I realised just how short the flight was (around 90 minutes), I figured that we’d be lucky to just get a snack and they wouldn’t do special meal catering. But upon check-in, they actually confirmed the catering, and that I had a VGML! But I met a couple of other people in the departure lounge who were also divers and on my flight, and they suggested buying some snacks to eat when we landed in Port Moresby, because the domestic terminal there had no real options. So I bought a few of the aforementioned raw food bars for the transit.

Get on board the flight from Cairns, and get given the standard meal. Which was chicken with pasta salad. I asked for my vegetarian, thinking maybe they didn’t realise it was intended for me. But, no. The caterers didn’t load my VGML. She then offered me an icecream. And, no.

I got myself a Coke Zero and ate one of the raw food bars I bought in Cairns airport. See, this is what I mean about always having a contingency plan when flying. I was told at check-in that my VGML was on board. It wasn’t. Catering in Cairns stuffed up.

IMG_5367BYO VGML!

Anyway, we landed on time and then I had to rush through immigration and customs to make the connecting flight to Tufi.

 

On the road in…Cairns!

*ahem*

Poor planning on my part meant I had to spend 2 nights in Cairns in between my domestic and international flights. Nobody to blame but myself for this one (I had a brain fart when booking the domestic flights and forgot that the international flight wasn’t scheduled every day), but it did give me a chance to play tourist for a bit.

When I realised my stuff up with the flight schedule, I booked into the Cairns Plaza Hotel. It meant getting in late on a Wednesday night after work, and flying out early on Friday morning, which left me the whole of Thursday to play tourist. It just so happened that the Thursday in question was Christmas Day. Because I’m just that coordinated.

After landing and making my way to the hotel, I pretty much just walked straight down the Esplanade from my hotel to the night markets to find some dinner, because it was getting late, and it was Christmas Eve, so I expected things to start shutting up. Managed to pick up some vegan sushi rolls and a couple of bottles of Coke Zero (for the morning).

photoVegan sushi rolls from the night markets on the Esplanade. Pretty good to be honest!

As for what to do for Christmas itself…It left me in a bit of a bind, because predictably, almost nothing is open on Christmas Day. Frankly, as an atheist, I don’t actually celebrate religious holidays. For me, December 25th is just another day of the year. Which is why I don’t really care about being stuck on my own for the day. But I appreciate that it actually has some meaning for some people. I’d initially thought of just hanging around at the hotel and doing Christmas lunch there. Except upon making a couple of inquiries, pretty much everyone said they had a set menu or a buffet, and nobody could guarantee me anything except the fruit would be vegan and gluten free. I was not going to pay well over $100 for a lunch that I couldn’t actually eat.

As such, I started looking into other options for the day. I figured Kuranda might be nice, but everything was going to be shut. Eventually I decided that I would book a trip out to the Great Barrier Reef to go diving for the day. I know the day trips out of Cairns are pretty mediocre compared to the liveaboards that go out to Osprey Reef and Cod Hole (which I’ve done a bunch of times in the past), but I only had one day, so a day trip it was. I got in contact with the company who ran the trip to figure out whether I could get vegan and gluten free food on the trip. It was a buffet lunch, but I was told that I would be able to eat salad and fruit. As I’d been told this in advance, I packed a few goodies in my bag (bought before I left home) before getting on the boat that morning. So I had my own corn thins and some sweets that I could eat on board.

Forward planning is your friend when it comes to going out on boats if you have dietary restrictions. Because once you’ve left port, you’re stuck without any shops if you can’t eat any of the food on board. Despite what office staff tell you when you are making inquiries or booking, you have to be prepared for the fact that they might not actually pass the message on to the boat crew on the day. Even if it’s just a box of plain rice crackers or something, always take something to eat with you.

Because this is literally all I could eat…

IMG_5362A pretty sad lunch. Everything else contained meat, dairy, or egg – basically everything else had mayo on it.

We got back to Cairns just before dinner time. I was mildly surprised at the number of places open to be honest. Roughly 50% of the restaurants were open for dinner, which was great. I’d walked past a Turkish restaurant the night before and had been hoping it’d be open for Christmas. It was!

Ended up going for a baba ghanoush salad, which was served with Turkish bread (that I obviously just didn’t eat). And OMG, awesome. Seriously, next time I’m in Cairns for work or play, I’m not going to eat anywhere except that restaurant. A good third of the menu is vegan (although most are served with bread which isn’t gluten free, but there’s nothing stopping you just leaving the bread).

IMG_5363Om, nom, nom!

I had a fun day on the reef though. The food the boat provided wasn’t great, but some of it was edible. And I got to go diving. All in all, not the worst way to spend a random day in the space-time continuum.

Breakfasts on the 2 mornings I was in Cairns consisted of raw food bars from Woolworths. I’m not much of a breakfast person in general though and really only eat it because I have to take dietary supplements and other medications with food.

Qantas Economy Class TSV-CNS

The flight from Townsville to Cairns is a bunny hop at best (though technically it says an hour). The only reason I flew instead of driving is because I didn’t want to risk the roads being flooded and missing my connecting flight because the highway was cut near Ingham or Tully. Don’t laugh – it’s happened to me before.

Anyway, Qantas Club access in Townsville is predictably average. It’s a tiny lounge, but I got lucky and there weren’t a whole lot of people in it when I was in there. Food offerings were minimal, but they had some olives, and a pumpkin and cous cous thing that I could eat. Not bad. Plenty of alcohol though by the looks of it. Which you know, is great if you actually drink the stuff. Read more about it here if you’re interested.

Also? That awkward moment you’re in the lounge watching stupid Youtube videos and your boss walks in with his kid and sees exactly what you’re watching? Awkward.

No priority boarding as it’s a Dash-8 flight, and everyone just walks out to the plane rather than using the aerobridges.

I put in the VGML request when I booked the flights, but predictably it never eventuated. This was entirely expected given the length of the flight. It was Christmas Eve, and I’d already started eating before the flight, so my care factor was pretty minimal. For the record though, we were offered the following snackbox:

IMG_5320Innit cute?IMG_5321Crackers (gluten), Cheese (dairy), Beetroot relish (no ingredients listed), Chocolate (dairy), and Tic Tacs (no ingredients listed)…So, the Coke Zero I ordered was ok?

An otherwise uneventful flight. Landed on time and made my way to town.

Townsville Qantas Club

My new home base. For the next couple of years at any rate…

The Qantas Club in Townsville is tiny. And given the number of people living in the city with Qantas Gold or Platinum frequent flyer status (it’s home base for a lot of fly-in/fly-out mining types), it’s usually also really busy. However, I got exceedingly lucky being on one of the last flights of the night, and it was pretty empty. Sadly because it was Christmas Eve, and traffic and taxis were chaotic at best, I ended up arranging a taxi much earlier than I would ordinarily. And because it showed up more or less on time (only 10 minutes later than booked), I got to the airport way too early. While I love lounge access, I’d still rather avoid lengthy stays if I can.

However, that aside, if you do head for the lounge…Typical Qantas Club really. Bar is kept busy by mining types wanting a drink. The food offerings were minimal, but I did find a couple of things to eat. Some olives and a pumpkin and cous cous thing. I had to ask what was in the olive marinade and pumpkin stuff, and the kitchen told me it was safe – which it seemingly was, since I didn’t get sick.

IMG_5318The lounge food offerings in Townsville Qantas Club. There was a hot food option of nachos as well, but for obvious reasons it was out (dairy, meat, gluten).

IMG_5319I got something to eat – I was surprised!

Wi-fi works, but it’s not fantastic, even with so few people in the lounge. I had a better data connection on my phone just using Telstra. There are powerpoints in there at the tables – although very few, so you’d be up the proverbial creek without a paddle if it was busy.

All in all, a pretty good lounge visit. Although one has to bear in mind that the lounge was not busy at the time. Having been in this lounge when it’s busy in the past, I know that food is pretty much non-existent, it’s loud and overcrowded, and the wi-fi barely works.