Our last full day in Sydney, Maile woke up thrilled.
"This is the day I've been most excited for," she said, barely able to contain her glee.
"Really." I was not as excited.
"Absolutely! Aren't you looking forward to this? KAREN. We're going on a seaplane. How amazing is this going to be??"
I have mentioned before how I much I dislike flying. I do it often, I've even been given explanations on how planes work (yes, yes, things like "thrust" and "lift," I know), but whatever man, planes are heavy, and it makes not one bit of sense that they stay in the air. Even so, flying is a necessity for my job, and so I do it. But honestly? I prefer planes with big ol' jet engines. And fancy computers. Watched closely by control towers. Call me nuts, but something about the word "control" comforts me.
Which therefore leads to my distrust of seaplanes.
When we arrived at Sydney Seaplanes, I suddenly felt faint.
"Dear God, Maile, are you seeing this?" I asked weakly. "This is the tiniest plane I've ever seen. I'm not even sure that something this small can be called a 'plane.'"
"I know, isn't it awesome?!" she gushed, clicking away at her camera. Clearly, I wasn't going to get any sympathy from her.
"First time in a seaplane?" One of the employees of Sydney Seaplanes approached us, smiling.
"Yes, definitely." My voice croaked.
"Aw, you're going to love it. There's nothing to worry about either, these planes are workhorses. It's just too bad they stopped building them in 1967."
"Nineteen sixty-seven?!" I squeaked.
He looked surprised. "Yesss...?"
"Dude, I was born in 1967."
"Well, that's ... good?" He was still confused.
"I'm old. This plane is old. I'm old ..." By this point, I was almost blubbering.
He smiled reassuringly. "Trust me, you're going to be fine. In fact, I predict that by the time you return, you'll be ready to go up again."
Our pilot arrived, and after a safety briefing (that, comfortingly, included the same life jackets as on a large plane; however, no oxygen masks magically appear if you need them, I noted), we climbed aboard.
Then I buckled myself in, took a few deep breaths, and tried to convince myself that the roof of the plane wasn't actually made of a quilt.
The pilot invited each of us to put on a pair of headphones. "That way you can hear me while we're flying," he said.
We did as we were told.
The engine started, and the propeller began spinning (was it wobbling? I couldn't tell ...). The pilot did all of his checks, including referring to something on his iPhone (are you kidding me? There's a bloody app for this??), and then, through the earphones:
"We're on our way."
The plane started forward, bouncing along the waves just like a jet bounces along tarmac, and suddenly we were off.
This was, hands down, one of the most exhilarating experiences of my entire life. The pilot was a total pro, and with the smooth ride and the clear weather we could see for miles. Also, since we flew relatively low, we could make out details. Besides, it doesn't hurt that Sydney is an absolutely beautiful city, as well:
... where, yes, if you looked closely, you could see the spray from the spout of an occasional whale surfacing to take a breath. It was a magical place to spend a very leisurely lunch, and several times during the afternoon Maile and I had to pinch each other to convince ourselves we weren't dreaming.
But as lovely as lunch was, I was more excited for the seaplane ride back.
When our pilot picked us up, I decided to venture a request.
"Hey, I don't suppose on the way back you could fly us past the Sydney Opera House and the Harbour Bridge, could you?"
"I don't see why not."
And, God bless him, he did.
When we landed at the end of our flight, the first guy we'd met that morning -- the one who tried to calm me down -- came running out of the Sydney Seaplanes headquarters.
"So?" He was grinning. "Was I right? Would you do it again?"
"In a heartbeat," I gushed.
And I would, too: this day was absolutely the highlight of my entire Australian adventure. I can't recommend this experience enough.
But we still had a few days left -- after all, we had yet to see a kangaroo. So, of course, stay tuned.
And in the meantime, have a great weekend, friends.
Huge thanks to Tourism Australia, Air New Zealand and Go Mighty for making this adventure possible. If a trip Down Under is a dream you've had, please be sure to check out the Tourism Australia site for all sorts of juicy information about Australia; in addition, throughout October Tourism Australia, Air New Zealand and Go Mighty are running two additional campaigns to help make your dream come true in 2014: the first, Fill-A-Plane, where you can sign up to be one of 322 people to get a special discount on air travel for folks who take the pledge to travel to Australia next year; the second, "Win a Wild Card ticket to Australia," for a chance to win a trip to Australia, by simply becoming a member of Go Mighty and adding your wildest Australia-based dreams. You can check out all the details here. And to see my iPad images and listen to more in-the-moment impressions I had while in Australia, be sure to check out my Go Mighty posts of this adventure.