In search of a little healing sunshine, AT’s Dorian Mode packs his bags for Noosa. What he finds is a brush (or three) with death and a town in mid-deluge. Images by Tony Wellington
I failed geography at school. Which is why I booked a flight to Brisbane Airport thinking it was only ten minutes from Noosa. Unfortunately it was one of those inflexible no-frills-no-luggage deals where you’re allowed a light carry-on bag and required to clip your toenails before boarding. However, I have travel writer superpowers. One call to the airline and, unlike you, I am headed for the right airport.
The downside with this travel writing gig is that I’m occasionally forced to travel. Driving’s okay, but I’m terrified of flying. Comes from an overactive imagination. Great for writing. Bad for flying.
On takeoff, I dig my nails into the armrest and recite the Lord’s Prayer. However, I forget I’m an atheist, so after the first line I mouth the lyrics to “I Walk the Line” by Johnny Cash. The woman flanking me shoots me a queer look. She’d move but our flight is chockers. I listen for noises and scan flight attendants for traces of alarm. Halfway through the flight she leans into me. “Bad flyer?” “Does it show?” I chuckle. “Me too,” she laughs.“Not scared. Just nauseous.”
My worst imaginings are made manifest when at Maroochydore Airport the weather is cyclonic. The pilot can’t see the runway. He makes his descent, only to hit the afterburners and take off again, flinging us back into our cheap seats. He banks, he wheels, he dips. After extracting my stomach from my rectum I break out in a cold sweat. The woman beside me is pale.
This is your captain speaking. No need for alarm, folks. We’re just in a holding pattern (much like my life) till we clearly see the runway in order to meet our minimum safety requirements (ie, not leaving your charred corpses on the runway). In ten minutes we’ll have another crack at this landing.”
To assuage us, Muzak blares. I listen to a soothing rendition of “Sunshine On My Shoulders” only to realise it’s written by John Denver. Note to airline re Muzak: I don’t want to hear anything by John Denver, Buddy Holly or The Big Bopper. Got it?
The captain makes another attempt, only to put us through the rollercoaster all over again. Back in the holding pattern, he finally announces it’s too risky to land and we’re diverting to Brisbane Airport. He warns of excessive turbulence. In my solipsism I decide this is karma for abusing my travel writer superpowers. I’m destined to arrive at Brisbane after all. I turn to my fellow passenger for another of my classic panicky bon mots just as she projectile vomits.
At Brisbane we are green. I motion to leave the aircraft but the problem with new security measures is I can’t use my pocket pliers to remove my fingernails and teeth from the back of the headrest in front of me. At the airline meeting point (the baggage carousel) I receive frantic calls from my wife, my dinner companion and the chap from the fishing charter I’ve organised. They’re all stressed. The charter captain – a glass half-full guy – is dually disappointed and thrilled by the six-foot swells. He invites me surfing. I pass.
At the squeaking carousel I realise the faces on the plane weren’t ghosts from my past flashing before me but musicians I’ve worked with as a jazz pianist over the years – all headed for the Noosa Jazz Festival. I meet the talented Matt Baker, plucking a cymbal case from said carousel. His drummer offers me a lift. Sans seatbelt, and squeezed between a double bass, trombone and snare drum, Baker cures me of my fear of flying because with him at the wheel frantically trying to save his gig on his mobile and navigating the highway in the diluvial rain, we’re nearly killed three times. I relive my impending death, this time in the key of G.
I arrive at my dinner companion Tony Wellington’s house, trembling and speaking in tongues. With his good humour – and wine cellar – he and his wife Jude soon have me at ease. A Renaissance man and Noosa diehard, Tony is a splendid painter, writer, muso and photographer. After a charred dinner, he drops me at my accommodation: Noosa Springs Resort. The generous rooms are luxurious and quiet.
Noosa Springs is a stunning place even in a downpour. They’ve an 18-hole golf course, restaurant, gym, pool and the finest spa I’ve ever seen in Australia. (I loathe spas. All those seaweed wraps and sacred hot stones from Arnhem Land. But the Caesarean hydro pool, Turkish bath and floatation room are tailor-made for hairy-assed blokes with man-boobs and body issues. I’m in heaven.)
Tony picks me up to drive me around Noosa in the horizontal rain. He’s disappointed with the weather after hounding me to visit for nigh on six years. I overcompensate, comparing it to the south of France. But I’m genuinely impressed with the place. I live on the NSW Central Coast so it’s like you’ve squinted and clicked the ruby slippers thrice and suddenly Gosford has no methadone clinics. Even in the rain Noosa’s paradise. And it’s only so because locals have brawled with developers for years.
On my final night I dine at the resort’s restaurant: Relish. It’s your typical clubhouse type affair you find in any golf resort. However, head chef David Page’s hip menu punches well above its weight. And like the accommodation it’s reasonably priced, with portions designed for ravenous golfers.
In the morning I pass on the round of golf. My game has gone to hell since losing my clubs. I know where they are but can’t touch them. Some AT issues back I took my kids camping in Tumut and they fought like seagulls the entire time. In the end, desperate and pleading, I promised my eldest teenage son my new set if he behaved for the remainder of the trip. He thought about it and said if I threw in the bag and the buggy, we had a deal. Besides, given my karma on this trip, I’d put my back out on the 18th.
Depressingly, I fly out of Noosa on a stunning day and into the driving rain of Sydney. Sometimes, folks, you need to stay home and eat kettle chips.
IDEAL IF // Your partner likes beaches, designer shopping and luxury spas while you tee off for 18 holes.
WALLET PAIN // Noosa Springs Golf Resort & Spa has packages from $135 per person per night for a luxury two bedroom apartment, including a cooked buffet breakfast in Relish Restaurant. Discounts on golf for guests.
TENSE DRIVE WHILE SHE STARES OUT THE WINDOW NOT TALKING TO YOU // less than two hours from Brisbane.
HANDY WEBSITES //
www.lagunachartersnoosa.com.au (bring your surfboard if the seas are high!)