Dream vacation on “fantasy island” ends in nightmare
Relaxation in the Mermaid Pools.
A secondary view
Flying off to a remote island might seem more like “fantasy island” these days. But with that familiar TV show from the past, “Don’t Leave Home Until You See The Country” ringing in my ears, I was able to fulfill that dream vacation dream a little closer to home.
I consider myself extremely privileged to have been invited to stay with my family on Great Barrier Island for a week this New Years. Well, maybe I dropped a few clues and invited myself, but let’s just say that was a dream come true.
This wasn’t our first visit to Hauraki Gulf paradise – I honeymooned there in 1990 and have returned many times over the years with the kids.
It had been 11 years since our last trip and the first overflown since that memorable February day nearly 32 years ago when, as soon as the tires made contact with solid ground, I clambered over stunned passengers to escape, sprinting to the reservation desk upon landing, canceling the return fare and re-booking on the ferry.
It would take me 26 years to board another plane, albeit with clenched teeth and trembling knees.
Fast forward a few decades and I stood in a queue of cheerful island visitors, waiting for a golf cart to arrive to wheel us across the tarmac to our plane.
At this point, said plane was hidden behind a bigger one – a much bigger one. As the big brother flew away, a plane the size of a sewing machine revealed itself.
With my heart pounding and pounding hard, I tossed frantically into my purse and ignoring the “four drops on tongue” instructions on the label, I swallowed my bottle of relief remedy from a one shot. Zero effect.
We crossed the tarmac and arrived at the boarding ladder way too early for my liking. Tried deep breathing – also ineffective.
It was now down to that old chestnut ‘mind over matter’, so with shaking limbs and strange noises emanating from somewhere deep in my throat, I climbed aboard.
This plane was slightly larger than the one on our first trip – there was a silver lining. This one actually boasted of an aisle, although the word ‘aisle’ might stretch it.
The gap between the single-seater on one side and the pair on the other had to be negotiated sideways. I motioned for Ed to sit by the window so I could sit a little closer to the air.
A hot summer day, cramped conditions and masks sucked in place were the perfect trifecta.
The storm of panic was brewing. And to add insult to injury, of course, we had to listen to the captain’s welcome and safety speech. All the instructions passed over my head in a blur – if we fell into the ocean below, I would dive for the doorknob.
We finally started taxiing down the runway, propellers revving, engines roaring and presto, it was time to take off. Which meant it was also time for my anti-panic plan – head down, read my book, stay still, don’t look up.
Ed put his hand on my leg as a sign of affection and support. It might have been a furry eight-legged creature at the speed at which I pushed it away. He tried to apologize before I shouted “Don’t talk to me!”. Well, that’s how I coped.
And I coped. We flew over the sprawling city of sails, over the islands of the gulf and finally landed on the barrier.
I felt immense relief when we landed safely, pulled over and looked out the window to see my sister-in-law waving wildly.
I waved too enthusiastically as I waited for the passengers to disembark and nonchalantly climbed up that ladder without a care in the world.
The nightmare in my head was over and the vacation had begun.