11-12 Airport Woes

The airport at Lenorore (alternately spelled Lenoroe), is big enough to have a tarmac runway. That is a Big Deal around here. That’s about as far as it goes though. The security/check in/waiting area is a one-room building with a half wall dividing the official side from the waiting area side. Still, tarmac!

Jason and I flew to Pentecost with 4 of the other 5 people heading here as well as 3 people going to Ambae. There were only 11 people on the flight total. Now, you’d think letting us stay together for the last few minutes would be nice of them, but in fact, I’m considering it poor planning. In a 16 seater plane (still the Twin Otter), there isn’t a lot of luggage allowance. In fact, there is almost no luggage allowance. So, when 9 Peace Corps Volunteers are all trying to move in their stuff for 2 years of living on an island, the plane has problems. Problems that involve each of us pulling off 13 kilos a piece. In actuality, Jason and I pulled off two of our 5 bags and put them on the ship and two other people pulled off a bag apiece to make up the difference in weight. Shipping our bags was about 2,500 VT (25 USD) cheaper than putting them on the plane anyway.

Of course, the airport didn’t bother to tell us that we were so badly overweight until ten minutes before the plane was meant to be taking off. It took us a good 45 minutes to deal with the overweight baggage, get ahold of someone at the office to come pick up our bags and bring them to the PC office to get on the ship and then load all our bags onto the plane for round two. So we were running a bit late.

We all get in, strap in and start to taxi only to have the plane turn around and head back to the airport, on its wheels. The captain turned around in the captain’s seat and told us that there was something wrong with the electrical in one of the engines and it would get fixed and we’d be on our way in no time. I do mean he turned around to tell us that, the planes are that small. So, we pile out of the plane and go hang out in the waiting room some more. This is made funnier by the number of other volunteers waiting on other flights. We were supposed to be long gone so each new group of volunteers to come in required a re-telling of the story about why we were still there. About an hour later, we are told that we will be switching planes and we will re-board in 10 minutes. I feel bad for the luggage handlers who had to move all our bags so many times.

We did take off that time and arrived safe and sound on Pentecost about 2 hours late. There was a really amazing view of an active volcanoe on the way, which I don’t know if the pilot intentionally gave us such a good view of or if that is the normal flight path but it was certainly cool. We have some pictures, maybe the internet will be fast enough one day to post them. In the mean time, you can just imagine flying over the rim of an active volcano and looking down through white steam and smoke to catch flickers of glowing lava.

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