Torres Straight Adventures

flying over the ocean
The journey started with the usual agency hiccups. The lass in the office had a really hard time understanding where I was and how difficult it was to get to anywhere else.
After a few days of back and forth, I ended up with a one and a half hour drive in a hire car, (which I ended up paying for myself due to more mis-comunications), a 2 hour flight to Cairns, an overnight stay in a hotel there (with taxis rides I paid for there and back), another 2 hour flight up to Horne Island and a 15 minute ferry ride to Thursday Island (which I again paid for.)
It was all pretty exciting....and expensive. Sigh...somehow this often seems to happen with agency can claim these expenses back from the agency, but it always means you have to have the cash to fork out first...and as I'm usually down to my last penny before I leave, it gets a bit scary...then of course you have to keep track of receipts and send originals into the agency...and then theres always the 3 week time lag as you start work just at the end of the last all up you have to find money to get yourself there and feed yourself for 3 weeks before the whole thing actually pays off....
But whinging aside, I got to travel to the top end tropics! Warmth! Less clothing! Sunburn!
And it's mind bogglingly beautiful...... And I still get such a kick out of flying...turning up at the airport in (for me) smart clothes looking all efficient, being smiled at by air hostesses and random strangers...and people watching! Stressed families of crying children packed with bags and strollers and bottles...businessmen in grey suits and slicked down haircuts talking importantly into their mobile phones...carefree travellers with sensible hiking clothes and backpacks...and me.
kissing turtles on Cairns boardwalk
Ok the smart clothes thing was probably an exaggeration, I still don’t seem to manage that, and always end up looking like an ageing hippie no matter how hard I try...and my bright flower covered suitcase with the leopard skin carry on bag is just that touch too eccentric...but it does make them easier to find on the luggage belt.
The hotel room is white and grey and impersonally lonely, and it takes me ages to get to sleep. But the next day I have a few hours to wander around Cairns and treat myself to a luxury breakfast at a poncy waterside restaurant. It's always weird sitting in these places on my own...I enjoy having the peace and quiet to think and watch and rediscover the inside of my own head...but it is lonely...and I miss my kids, and my boyfriend, and look enviously at the happy couples all around me. I end up having a long conversation with Dan (my dead ex partner) in my head while sitting there....
Cairns lantern tree
Cairns is a pretty place. I suppose its a small city, with huge casino and a few streets worth of shopping, mostly Asian owned ozzie souvenir emporiums with signs and prices in Japanese.
I bought a lovely green dress that is too tight, having convinced myself that
a) it will probably stretch and
b) I will lose more of that mid-life midrif through exercise and healthy diet on the island.
And no Viv, you cant have it.
Cairns is full of huge tropical trees filled with colourful lights, art exhibitions, open air music and English tourists with excellent wax jobs and spray tans.
The local waxing emporium is closed, so I'm stuck with hairy legs and no bikini wax...and my usual argument with myself between comfort and the wish to conform to local female customs....which reminds me that I forgot to bring a swimsuit anyway.
At midday I take another cab to the airport, lose my favourite cardi along the way and spend an hour eating stale salad and coffee in time to just catch the last boarding call.
The man who sits next to me on the plane turns out to be the Don of Torres Straight.
my plane to the island
And after I've swallowed my panic about saying the wrong thing the the Big Boss, turns out we have a lot in common and he actually has rather a lot of revolutionary and alternative ideas about nursing, healing and how to fix the problem with hospitals himself! Its rather fascinating listening to his stories about his own nursing experiences and how he came to be in the job he is in now...and the challenges of organising 2 hospitals and a bunch of independent clinics on isolated tropical islands. And 20 years from now I'll write more details about this conversation in my memoirs, grin. One of the problems with this blogging about nursing thing, you cant really share everything without insulting, upsetting or breaching confidentiality...yet its the personal stuff that makes it I said, memoirs....
2 hours and some magical views from above later, we touch down and take a bus across to the harbour. The land is sooo dry! It looks more like outback scrub than what I was expecting from a tropical island! The bus also gives me my first good look at the islanders themselves! The bus conductor is a delightful little old lady in a long floral dress, with a straw hat covered in artificial flowers on her head. The Islanders themselves are big, relaxed, happy looking people. Clean and healthy looking too, which is a big change from the desert. The seem prosperous and well fed, and there’s a lot of laughter around me...
at the wharf we crowd onto the little ferry boat that speeds us over to the next island. My seat neighbour from the plane is picked up by another hospital bigwig, and I get a lift with the ferry people up to the hospital.
Of course nobody knew I was coming today, but after a bit of scuttling around, the head of the hospital is found who then finds a key for me to a room in the 8 bed share house across the road and I have a home for the next 3 weeks.


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