Sunday, December 23, 2012

Chapter 3: Are We There Yet? Please?

Saturday, December 22

Saturday morning began with some Mario on the Wii and some delicious quiche from the hands of our hostess. She brought us to the airport in plenty of time to make our 12:30 flight. Except that when walked in and pulled out our itinerary, the flight was scheduled for 11:55. And for two days earlier. The print-out from Fiji said the correct date (Saturday, Dec. 22) but our more recent printout from Brisbane said Dec. 20. You see, when we were in Brisbane a wonderfully helpful airport employee entered our updated itinerary officially into the system but accidentally put Dec. 20 (the date on our original itinerary from before we left the States) instead of Dec. 22 for this particular flight.

Now, remember how I said that the Fiji airport ticketing area was chaotic? That was nothing compared to the sight we beheld upon entering the ticketing area in the Port Moresby airport. There were about 10 counters at the front of the room, but there were no lines. Just a giant mob of people all trying to get to the front.

There was no way we'd be able to fight through the mob, straighten out our ticket discrepancy, and make it onto our flight by 11:55. So we tried the customer service window tucked in the back corner of the room, and with some persistence and long explanations, were able to get on an afternoon flight, and they were able to print our boarding passes. Though we still had to fight through the mob in order to check our luggage, we had boarding passes in hand and three extra hours to play with!

Oh, and while I was at the service desk, I met an Aussie guy whose flight had been delayed because the pilot was drunk. That bodes well. (At least they didn't let him/her fly drunk!)

We did manage to get through the mob, partially with the help of a security guard who, after our luggage was successfully checked, followed me and repeated in a low voice, "Now you owe me 30 kina" (roughly $15). I'd never had a bribe demanded of me, and I wasn't sure how to respond, so I lied and said I had no kina on me. He was persistent--but also trying not to make a scene and draw undue attention to his asking me for money--so he eventually did give up.

Then began the wait for our flight to Madang. I think it was between 12:30 and 1:00 when we made it through security and into the waiting area, and our flight wasn't scheduled to leave until 3:00.

By this stage in the journey, our little introverted selves were so exhausted from constantly being around hordes of people--not to mention the physical exhaustion of jet lag and lack of sleep, as well as the emotional exhaustion of losing two days with our family, having our plans tossed in a blender, and having no control over the situation. We were SO ready to be done with airports!

This particular departure lounge (using the term loosely) does not rank high on the comfort and niceness spectrum. It's overly crowded, only somewhat air-conditioned, and not remotely clean. They do get points, though, for having a decent PA system in that part of the airport, and a woman who spoke announcements very clearly in both English and Tok Pisin.

Somewhere around 2:00 they said that Madang passengers should prepare to board soon.

Then our flight's departure time changed to 3:30.

Then they said it was delayed indefinitely.

Then they said 4:30.

I literally choked back tears when I heard over the PA system, "May I have your attention please. Passengers of flight PX 126 to Madang, your plane is now boarding."

The flight itself was blissfully short and uneventful, and we finally landed in Madang, 49 hours later than originally planned. It sure felt good to hug our parents and middle brother!

Total travel time from start to finish: 84 hours, or 3-1/2 days. I began on Tuesday at 10:30 a.m. CST and arrived Friday 10:30 p.m. CST (5:30 p.m. Saturday PNG time).

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