Horror trip to the top end

Trip to the Top End
Good trip, bad trip, you decide.
“Look at this”, I excitedly told my mate John.
Return flights to Darwin, just $4 each. Too good to be true I thought to myself.
I logged onto the website and discovered it was indeed true. The Airline was having a fourth birthday promotion, hence the $4 tickets.
I just needed to log on at 10pm and secure our tickets. I sat poised to pounce as soon as the clock hit 10 pm. Done. Oh what joy.
We packed a small carry on bag each , this was the only luggage allowed. I wasn’t worried though as at that price I could buy some more clothes if need be.
After a five hour train trip, then a 30 minute airport shuttle ride, we reached Melbourne Airport.
The flight was a night time flight so we spent a fair amount of time milling about the Airport waiting for our flight to board.
Wait we did. Still more waiting, and more, then two hours after advertised departure we finally boarded. Our enthusiasm had somewhat depleted by now, but hey, we were onboard..
Uh oh. Trouble brewing. One engine would not fire up. The Captain announced a short delay in take off while the Plane was push started. Whrrr Whrrr Whrrr, the engine finally sprung to life. At this stage I was hoping it didn’t give up half way into the trip.
Soon we were airborne and everything seemed to be running smoothly. Apart from the fact that the flight was absolutely fully booked, not even room for a pea to fit in, it was a good flight.
As we approached Darwin I listened, ( as I always do) to hear the landing gear go down. All I heard was a few clunks but no gear down. The plane had already started its decent and as I looked out of the window, I noticed fire engines and ambulances speeding across the tarmac. Not a good sign . Suddenly the plane ascended again and the captain announced that we had to retry the landing. I turned to John and told him the landing gear hadn’t engaged. He went a ghostly kind of white and gripped my hand tightly. He never did like flying.
All of a sudden I heard the gear go down, we were going to be ok. On landing we emerged into the hot humid air of Darwin. It was 2am and we were tired. Luckily I had booked into a hotel and soon we were sleeping peacefully.
The morning came too soon and it was time to go and pick up our Hi Ace van. We had three weeks up here and decided to do some travelling about the Top End and also over to Lake Argyle.
All went well for a few days, John was still very pale and shaken but I thought he would come good before we had to get on another plane and return south.
It turns out the trip was doomed as a few days later John tripped and hurt his back. He had to buy walking sticks so as he could walk about. The pain was bad, the bed in the Hi Ace was hard and sleeping was a problem for him, as well as for me. We soldiered on though and saw many beautiful places , met lots of nice people and generally had a good time despite the odds.
The last week we returned to Darwin to explore the city. John was still in pain and still pale every time he thought about the plane.
It was then that the sand flies attacked me. There must have been millions of them. I was itchy, I was sore, I was oozing stuff out of the bites. What else could go wrong? I went to a Doctor and he gave me copious amounts of ointment and pills to combat the reaction to the sand fly bites.
None of it worked. I was now looking like a leper with huge puss filled sores all over me. The itch was unbearable. It was only 2 days left until we left again. John was very reluctant to get back on a plane. In fact he was making himself ill just thinking about it.
I had an idea. We could go home on the Ghan. It was amazing how quickly he cheered up when I suggested that option. I had always wanted to go on that trip. We bought tickets for the next days train.
John was still on walking sticks and I was still looking like a leper and itching like crazy but we were on the train. It was just as I thought, a beautiful journey. We went through the very centre of our beautiful country. At night the stars were bright and the sky crystal clear.
The only thing bad was my sand fly bites. Every time I walked I sounded like a slop bucket as my shoes would fill with the liquid oozing out of my sores. They still itched, Johns’ back was still sore but not too bad and the train flew along without a care in the world. It was a great trip, it really was despite our ailments.
Two years later we decided to give the Top End another go, but this time in the Caravan.
It was certainly a trip to remember, and for all the right reasons.

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