Tuesday, 15 July 2008

Transports of Delight

On Sunday I took my first ever helicopter flight, from Illawarra Regional Airport near Shellharbour, south of Wollongong in New South Wales. I was excited about the prospect, but also worried that the experience would be unnerving, with visions of the puny craft being tossed around by high winds once aloft.

I needn't have worried. As we slowly lifted off it felt as if a giant hand was lifting the helicopter up on a piece of taut string, but after that the journey above Lake Illawarra, Shellharbour, Kiama and the Illawarra Escarpment was superbly smooth.

For some reason I'm always overly pleased with travelling on a new form of transport, as if ticking it off a mental list. Here are five other forms of unconventional transport that made me smile:
  • Camel. AKA the ship of the desert, while I was living in Egypt. Some people don't like the rocking motion, but I really appreciated the breadth and sturdiness of the camel compared to the few horses I'd been on.
  • Funicular railway. There's something rather fun about zipping up the side of a mountain at a decidedly unconventional angle. I've been on funiculars in Budapest, Hungary; Zakopane, Poland; Wellington, New Zealand; Santiago, Chile; Vilnius, Lithuania; and in the Tatra Mountains of Slovakia.
  • Unmanned train. Nothng says "the future has arrived" more than travelling on a train with no driver. Aside from the occasional short unmanned rail journey between airport terminals, I've enjoyed driverless travel on the Docklands Light Railway in London.
  • Cable car. I've been on two types of these. The type with multiple small cars hauled along by a moving cable, jangling alarmingly as they pass over the supports; and the larger car that hauls itself up a support-less cable to the peak of a very high mountain. Have been on the first type to Mount Kasprowy Wierch on the Polish side of the Tatras, and to Skalnaté Pleso on the Slovak side. And from there, on the second type all the way up to Lomnický Štít at 2634 metres above sea level. Great view!
  • Glass-bottom boat. The classic craft of gentle seaside tourism, allowing a view at the fish, coral and other attractive marine items below. However, the first time I set forth in one of these, on the Red Sea off Hurghada, Egypt, the swell made me ever-so-slightly seasick.
Which brings me to this very morning, when Narrelle and I walked across Princes Bridge in Melbourne, crossing the Yarra River on our morning walk to work. We looked up about 7.45am and saw the forms of several hot-air balloons on the horizon, passing over the iconic Melbourne Cricket Ground, and the nearby ferris wheel and Circus Oz tent.

Now there's a form of transport I haven't yet been on! Hmm...

Tim Richards travelled courtesy of Tourism Shellharbour.