Qantas Economy Class CNS-TSV

Nearly home…

After getting to the airport an hour before my flight and checking in (they didn’t charge me excess baggage despite my bag weighing 28 kg), I made my way through security (seriously, open more security lines at peak hour), and then went to one of the shops in the domestic terminal that I know sells dried fruit. Previous experience of both the Cairns Qantas Club and the Cairns-Townsville flights meant that I had little faith in getting much that I could eat, so I always have a contingency plan. Then ventured to the Qantas Club for half an hour before boarding the flight.

Upon take off, I was mildly surprised to get the breakfast snack box that contained a sliced apple. Turned out I didn’t really need that dried fruit after all!

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The Qantas breakfast snack box – with an apple, cake (marmalade, carrot, and sultana loaf), and a tub of orange juice. I ate the apple.IMG_5704

This is what I’d bought in Cairns airport to eat on the plane, but it turned out to be unnecessary. Snack for later when I’m at work? I think so!

Landed on time in Townsville and got a taxi home to dump my dive gear, pick up my laptop, and drive to work. Fun. And later I have all the laundry and dive gear washing to do…

Thus ends my PNG holiday. Back to the grind.

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On the road in…Papua New Guinea!

This was a long awaited dive trip to Papua New Guinea. I’d booked a couple of weeks at Tufi Dive Resort over the Christmas-New Year break. My workplace closes down entirely for 2 weeks, so we all tend to take off on holidays for the shutdown.

Why Tufi? Nothing in particular I suppose. The trip reports I’d read seemed to be more or less positive. And it offered the opportunity for some cultural experience – one of my primary reasons for wanting to visit PNG in general. I have no doubt there’s better diving in PNG if you are on a liveaboard, but I left booking this trip until quite late in the game, and there was no availability on the boats by the time I started to look. Turned out ok.

Getting to Tufi required landing in Port Moresby, and then getting a connecting domestic flight to Tufi. I didn’t see much of Port Moresby on the way to Tufi as I had a tight connection and pretty much just went from the international to domestic terminal and got a bottle of water.

On the way home, I took the advice of the travel agent and numerous friends who’d previously travelled to PNG, and headed to the Airways Hotel for the 7 hour layover between my domestic flight from Tufi to Port Moresby and my international flight back to Cairns. Easy enough, and they’d reliably informed me that if you bought a meal at the hotel, you could use the pool facilities for nothing. That’s changed – apparently if you want to use the lounge chairs, towels, or the pool itself, there’s a casual usage charge of 50 kina (about $28 Australian dollars – which is obscene). I paid it out of sheer boredom. Just my luck that it started raining about an hour or so after I got there. In the end I just moved into the hotel’s coffee shop and sat around drinking the local coffee (which was surprisingly good) until it was time to go back to the airport. I ate lunch there, which was just a small fruit salad, as everything on the menu was pizzas, burgers, and sandwiches. They had cakes in the fridge as well, but obviously they were off limits for me due to the dairy. So ultimately, the layover at the hotel was a little more expensive than anticipated, but I suspect it was still better than hanging around the airport for 7 hours.

Tufi itself was very hit and miss with regards to the food. They were informed well in advance of my dietary requirements. I’m not sure if someone didn’t get the message in the kitchen, but the first couple of days I ended up being served stuff smothered in butter. And getting pasta which contained egg and wheat. After discussions with management, they got the no dairy thing. Continued to get gluten throughout my stay, so it meant occasionally getting food I couldn’t eat. And on top of that, the servings I got were tiny. Like seriously, I got about half of the food of everyone else did, even if I had been eating the pasta. And when you’re doing 3 dives a day, you do actually need to refuel. As an example, say everyone else got steamed vegetables, mashed potato (made with milk and butter), and a large piece of steak for dinner, all I’d get was the small serving of steamed vegetables. I got nothing substituted for the food I couldn’t eat that they were serving everyone else for the meal. What I got also consisted of almost zero protein or carbs, just a few forkfuls of vegetables (literally some days, that is not an exaggeration) – I honestly considered myself lucky if I got a small amount of white rice, which is horrid enough on my stomach. I was basically in a bad mood almost the entire trip because I was constantly hungry, and not getting any real protein and very limited carbs. Not impressed. I wasn’t the only one complaining about the food either, so that says a lot. To be fair, the food itself was actually pretty good, there just wasn’t enough of it.

IMG_5391_smlLooks good, right? Smothered in butter. I was just about to put it in my mouth when I smelled it. The frustration begins…

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The sauce was ok, but I couldn’t eat the pasta. Could I get anything else as a substitute? The offered to get me ramen noodles. Seriously?

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This is what eventuated – plates with about 3 forks worth of vegetables, and nothing else, while everyone else was getting plates full of fish, chicken, red meat, and things containing dairy.

Breakfast most days consisted of fresh fruit, a little bit of dried fruit, and some nuts. Until they stopped putting out the dried fruit and very few nuts because they’d run out, so all I got was a couple of slices of apple or pineapple. For a tropical resort in PNG, there seemed to be a shortage of fresh fruit, which seemed a little odd. They actually resorted to putting out tinned fruit for breakfast at times. I honestly don’t get it – they grow it here, literally in the resort grounds in some cases (there’s close to a dozen mango trees, most of which were dropping fruit at the time), how hard is it for the resort to get us some? Lunch was steamed or boiled vegetables, randomly served with or without rice. This was the worst aspect, I never got enough food at lunch, and I don’t normally eat that much to start with. Dinners varied slightly, but was basically just a simple vegetable soup as a starter, and vegetables with a tomato sauce and pasta (that I also couldn’t eat). Normally people end up putting on weight during dive holidays because of the good food. I spent a not insignificant amount of time hungry, and actually lost weight. The resort bar sold snacks, but I’m sure nobody will be surprised to learn they consisted of things like chocolate and potato chips (that were full of gluten and milk solids in the seasonings), so I couldn’t even buy those to make up for it. They did have some salted peanuts for sale, which I did resort to in the end, because I needed more to eat. But that made me slightly ill due to the iron content (partly why I’m vegan in the first place, I need a low iron diet). For the amount of money I paid for this trip and the resort (Papua New Guinea is not a cheap travel destination, I can’t emphasize that enough), I was kind of disappointed at the quality of the food.

IMG_5381The small bowl of fruit salad that I got for dessert – every night.

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On a couple of occasions (literally), I got an ok lunch.

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The one good feed I got on the entire trip was on buffet night.

The plus side was that the diving was mindblowing.

IMG_5677Diving in paradise. Just a shame about the food…You can’t win them all!

Cairns Domestic Qantas Club

Been through this airport often enough in my life, but never got around to writing a lounge review.

As Cairns is more of a tourism port rather than a business port, most of the travellers don’t have lounge access. Which means there’s a reasonably sized domestic Qantas Club that’s not too crowded. It also means the wi-fi works!

Admittedly I got to the airport fairly late, as I’d had to overnight in Cairns (my international flight landed too late to make the last connecting flight home). I had a 7 am flight, so there weren’t a whole lot of tourists around. Mostly the business crowd, but even then it’s not really much of a crowd.

From previous experience, I knew that the food options in the lounge weren’t all that great – even without having dietary restrictions. As such, I went to one of the shops downstairs in the general departures area which I knew sold bags of dried tropical fruit before heading to the Qantas Club. My main reason for hitting the lounge was to get my caffeine fix. I’d just come back from holiday, and I had a 7 am flight, which meant I’d been up since about 5 am. And when I landed, I pretty much had time to go dump my dive bag at home, hang my wet stuff up, so that I could make it to work by 9am. Therefore – caffeine. I was only in the lounge for maybe 30 minutes before heading back downstairs to board my flight.

Snagged myself some mixed berries and gluten free museli – and a Diet Coke (no Coke Zero). Enough to make it through until lunch time at any rate.

photoNoms!

Air Niugini Economy Class POM-CNS

O. M. G.

I actually got a decent vegan and gluten free meal in PNG! Albeit I got it on the flight home…

I’d resigned myself to not getting the VGML on the flight from Port Moresby to Cairns, since I didn’t get one on the Cairns-Port Moresby flight on the way over. I figured that if catering in Cairns couldn’t get it right, then Port Moresby had no chance.

Lo and behold, as soon as the seatbelt sign was turned off, one of the cabin crew came and checked with me that I’d ordered the vegetarian. Yes, it was actually on board! One up on the Cairns to Port Moresby flight.

Then when it was actually served, and it was actually vegan and gluten free, I wanted to cry tears of joy. I’d had so many issues with the food in PNG that I was honestly genuinely happy to get a meal that I could eat.

It was a simple vegetable curry with rice, very mild, but it was edible and tasty, and at that point, that was all that mattered to me. Washed it down with the little tub of apple juice that it was served with (that I usually avoid like the plague), and a can of Coke Zero.

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My VGML between Port Moresby and Cairns! Miracles happen?

I was still definitely going to need to go out for dinner when I arrived in Cairns for my overnight layover (the flight landed too late for me to get through immigration and customs in order to make the last connection home), but I was grateful for the food regardless. It really doesn’t take much to make me happy when it comes to food, I’m not that picky.

That aside, the flight wasn’t terrible. The two guys in the row in front of me were playing games on their tablets and phones – without headphones on. Which would have been fine if they’d had the sound muted…I asked the cabin crew to ask them to turn the sound off or put headphones in, but by the time they got around to speaking to them about it, we were already an hour into the 90 minute flight. Frustrating, but at least it wasn’t a longer flight I guess. Also, after the meal service, the area around where I was sitting smelled like urine. There were no babies near me, so I don’t know if someone had bladder problems, or spilled something, but it reeked. Not a great flight, but I suppose I’ve had worse.

Landed on time in Cairns and got through immigration quickly, before being hauled up at quarantine for some wooden items and shells that I’d picked up in PNG, but even that didn’t take too long. Then made my way into town to my hotel and to The Esplanade for dinner! That Turkish restaurant beckoned…

Airlines of PNG Economy Class TFI-POM

Long day.

Left for Tufi airport quite early to get the flight back to Port Moresby. Simple enough. But then a really long 7 hour layover in Port Moresby before my connecting flight back to Cairns. Crappy flight schedules, but it is what it is.

The flight from Tufi left on time, but we flew to Port Moresby via Poppondetta, which added a little time to the trip. Nice flight though.

On board, we were served a little tub of apple juice on the Tufi to Poppondetta sector, and then a tub of orange juice and scotch finger cookies on the Poppondetta to Port Moresby sector. Honestly, after the lack of food at Tufi, I actually drank the juice out of desperation. Ok, it wasn’t quite that bad, I had a bottle of water on board that I bought at the resort, but I did want the sugar hit at that point. I gave the cookies to someone else on the flight to eat.

IMG_5700_smlThe two “refreshments” served on the two sectors between Tufi and Port Moresby.

Landed on time and ventured off for my 7 hour layover in Port Moresby. Ugh. Can not reiterate how much that airport sucks.