After arriving at the airport at 06:00, I met up with my two cousins. Andrew, his wife and their baby daughter were also there to see us off.
Before checking-in, I exchanged AUD300, which was about PKG550 (at the time) – the local currency is called kina.
Jetstar told us that the luggage would be checked all the way through to Port Moresby, having a stop-over in Cairns to break up the journey. Being an early start, I didn’t get a chance to have breakfast, so I bought a slice of banana bread to gain some energy. I was actually short $0.50 and sheepishly asked my cousin’s partner to spot me the difference. As I munched down on breakfast, I instinctively reached into my medikit for a malaria tablet – *pop*.
Not long after breakfast, it was time to ‘go through.’ For Indie, Andrew’s little one, it was hard to say goodbye to her father. Not knowing when she would once again see him, nor even understanding why must have been so tough.
Unsurprisingly, there was a 20 minute delay by the airline. We all got on the plane and settled in for the flight. I watched two and a half episodes of Downton Abbey like an addict. I shut my eyes as we landed and woke up as they opened the aircraft door.
Going through Customs, the officer refused to let us pass.
The plane was parked on the tarmac and we had to disembark into the tropical heat of Far North Queensland. I could feel the humid air envelope my entire being in its warm embrace, tiny sweat beads quietly forming at the edge of my hairline.
Going through Customs, the officer refused to let us pass. It was his logic that as we disembarked, we should take our luggage through as well. The airline had already checked our luggage through to our destination – so, in a frustrated rage, we enlisted the help of another, more experienced officer. We were advised to check-in again via the Papua New Guinea desk and enquire about the bags. With our connecting flight due to leave at 11:30, we were worried that we’d miss the transfer.
After an agonising while, the kind gentleman at the check-in counters located our bags and arranged for them to be placed on the connecting flight.
As there were merely minutes until the flight, we stopped by the airport café for a quick bite – handmade sandwiches on rye and a delicious looking slice of carrot cake.
Rushing around like headless chooks, we were pleasantly surprised to know the flight was delayed by 30 minutes. Free snacks were handed out by the airline staff – although the chicken noodle salad was not of a standard that I am used to.
More episodes of Downton Abbey kept me occupied until the hostesses came around with Mango Weiss bars – OMG, yum!
As we touched down in Port Moresby, already a change could be sensed in the air. The smell (not unpleasant, but distinct), the heat, the humidity. We disembarked again on the tarmac and after clearing customs, our Geckos tour leader met us on the outside.
If it’s good enough for a head of state, then it’s good enough for me
Papua New Guineans are greatly obliging folk – so warm and welcoming. It was only a short drive to Paddy’s Hotel and we were sent off into our individual rooms. Apparently, the hotel was host to the Papua New Guinean Prime Minister – if it’s good enough for a head of state, then it’s good enough for me.
The mattress was like a cloud – a corner of heaven within the walls of the hotel suite.
Large, well-appointed suites with brand-new, fluffy bedding – the mattress was like a cloud – a corner of heaven within the walls of the hotel suite. Yet, skirting the hotel grounds were high fences with spikes, 24 hour security detail manning the gate and perimeter with passive surveillance throughout the complex. So much for luxury, huh?
We all rejoined in the foyer for cold bevvies, before the pre-trek briefing. Another six trekkers were there waiting for us and together we had dinner. The dinner service was awfully long, I can remember it clearly. Everybody’s meals were brought out at the same time – it might be the local custom, but I wouldn’t have cared if my surf and turf came out first – I would have sunk my teeth into that steak as fast as anything.
Big, black billowing plumes of smoke were rising out of the machine.
Three times the power blacked-out. From where I was sitting, I could see the generator through the window. Big, black billowing plumes of smoke were rising out of the machine – we all joked that the hotel had never had so many guests before…