Saturday, November 6, 2010
Off for Milne Bay today, or so I think. TANGFU.
Up at 4:30 am to finish packing, checked in at the airport by 6 for my Airlines PNG 7:30 flight and then end up sitting with a couple of ex-pats I’ve never met before, Niki, James, their 2 girls and Simon who by the end of the day are now good friends. Thinking we are being called to board we get up and then get called to the check-in counter where we are told our flight has been cancelled and combined with an 11:15 flight… um not good! (Apparently there were only 6 people scheduled to fly on this flight…AirNuigini is full…hm…wonder why?) They are all supposed to be catching connecting flights in POM to Australia and I’m catching my Milne Bay flight at 11:15. There is only one flight on Saturday to Milne Bay and no more flights to Cannes for James and Niki. We try to get on the AirNuigini flight but it is completely full (which is actually how we all ended up on the AirPNG flight in the first place). Simon rebooks, or so he thinks, for a flight to Brisbane at 2:30. Now we are sitting in the airport with nothing to do. I am supposed to be in Alotau at the canoe festival where I could be taking photos and hanging out with May and Adam… Ok, so looks like I will miss all activities of the show as I can’t get there now til late Sunday morning (and there is no guarantee of that). I call May to tell her I won’t be arriving today unfortunately and I only had one night to spend with them since I catch the boat on Sunday for my diving trip. I am a little worried but things usually work out and if they don’t there is nothing I can do.
We make the best of it…the two girls, Ruby and Valy (Croatian for Violet) are 3 and 5 and do an amazing job of entertaining themselves and thus us. I go around and take pictures of the airport instead of traditional festivities…We all try and get the Airlines PNG guy to arrange for our flights to be rebooked for us so that we don’t have to do that when we get to POM and to arrange for our accommodations before we get there. He tells us to talk to Leka when we get to POM and she will take care of us. This doesn’t clarify if stuff is actually taken care of or if we will still have to do this when get to POM.
So the thing about travelling alone is that these situations can make you feel really alone but the thing about having other expats around is that that they all help each other out. Simon has been in PNG for 30 years, came here originally with his parents who ran tea plantations first in India and then here. He now works with villages to make sure that when mining companies and such come in that the villagers make fair wages and are fairly treated. Niki came here about 11 years ago, originally with AusAide and now owns a concrete company with James. A long time ago I mentioned an explorer, James (Mick) Leahy, who was the first white guy in the highlands, this expedition was filmed and made into a movie – First Contact. No, this isn’t that James, that was in the 1930s, but that is his great uncle!
Now, I still have some hope that there is a good chance the Milne Bay flight might be delayed (this is PNG) and I might make the connection??? As it gets close to our new departure time there is an announcement apologizing for further delays…We will now be departing at 12:15…hopes are getting slimmer. But what can you do? Obviously the guys behind the counter have no control over the situation and travelling here you know that there is always a very good chance of flights not happening!
Another couple hours, the plane finally arrives, we board it leaves about 12:30, I fall fast asleep well before we ever take off. We arrive in POM and as we expected, nothing has been pre-arranged and the further delays means Simon misses his connections, which, by the way had not been booked as the Airlines PNG had led him to believe originally. We get in the first customer service line where our flights get rebooked but she can’t help us with accommodations, for that we get in another line. A mere two hours later we have been booked at Lamana, one of the nicer hotels in POM (unfortunately not Airways but at least not guesthouse). I’m so glad that we all did that together, it made it so much more…hm, well I can’t say ‘fun,’ but at least not totally frustrating.
I text Craig to fill him in on my status, many, many texts later still not exactly sure where I’ll meet him and the boat. The last text I get from him only says TANGFU, I assume it’s pidgeon for ‘thank you.’
After quickly freshening up we meet back in the hotel restaurant for some much deserved refreshments (we’ve only had some coffee and biscuits all day). Ok, so I am supposed to be in Milne Bay, but I now have some new friends and am drinking beer with them, if I was in Milne Bay I would be having a beer with friends…so…things work out. The hotel finds a babysitter for the two girls (another great thing about PNG) and we spend the evening talking and enjoying real food after a day of dry biscuits. Oh, and we watch the contestants from
American PNG Idol performing live in the Lamana club! Friends, food and live entertainment…not bad!
At one point Niki uses the word TANGFU which is odd because today is the first day I’ve ever heard of this word and I’ve heard it twice, so I ask what it means… Typical Air NuiGini F* Up… ahhhhh, that makes more sense now! (ok, well in this case it should be TA(P)NGFU).