This is becoming a theme in the blog, but here is one more example of “flexibility while traveling.”
While Julie was visiting, Jason and I had set up an overly-complicated plan to connect on Pentecost. The plan was that Jason and Julie would catch the morning flight from Vila to Pentecost and watch land diving. That same plane continues on to Santo then turns around and does the same route going back. I was going to catch the plane in Santo and meet them on Pentecost about the time that land diving finished and we’d all go back to the village together.
This was a nice, tidy theory. The reality was a bit different.
On Friday, I got a call from Air Vanuatu saying I’d been moved to a Sunday flight. (They’ve added a Sunday flight during land diving.) I called Jason who was in Vila to go find out what was going on. He got me switched back to the Saturday flight. The camp was in South Santo, which is about an hour from town. I jumped on the early truck into town, just in case. I figured I’d hop out at a good restaurant, have a nice meal and get some internet then go to my 11:30 check-in.
We got in town and I pulled my bag off the truck. As I’m standing and waiting to say goodbye to people, Jason called. He had just checked-in for his own flight and asked about mine. It was cancelled.
I throw my bag back in the truck and jump back in. Being in town isn’t going to sort this out, but maybe I can get space on the flight going to Vila and transfer through there.
At the airport, the flight has a 20 person waiting list. The plane only seats 65. The flights were too full and there was no way I could transfer through Vila to get to Pentecost. The guy at the counter felt sorry for me and sent me to go talk to someone in the back office. I chatted with the guy in the back office for an hour. He dealt with about four other people while I waited and chatted and played politics and Peace Coprs.
I was hoping to get to Vila and wait for Jason and Julie there for a few days. The nice man got me on the plane to Vila, though still no chance of a transfer through to Pentecost. I would get a refund of 5000 some vatu (about $50) because I was no longer going to Pentecost. I went back to the waiting area and sat with my friends.
Five minutes before boarding, the guy from the back office came out and found me. He asked, very nicely, if I would give up my seat to someone who was supposed to be on this flight. I couldn’t very well say no, so I went with him to sort the situation out. We got to the counter, I handed him my boarding pass, and asked for my luggage back. (They had deemed my backpack too big to be carry on.) I had to go get my luggage ticket.
I came back from getting my luggage ticket to find a chain-smoking white guy speaking Bislama to the Air Vanuatu office guy. I hand him my luggage ticket. He goes to go find my bag. He gets about three steps away and the white guy says, “I’ll just take the Wednesday flight.”
They gave me back my boarding pass and I ran to get in line before something else could keep me off the plane.
We arrived in Vila and had to wait for our luggage. The domestic terminal is one big room with check-in on the left and arrivals on the right. The luggage comes in on a trolley and you go grab your bag.
I glanced over at the ticketing counter and see the name of my airport still on the sign. Curious. The name is only up while check-in for that airport is open. I wandered over, just to check and see.
Yes, there was another plane leaving for Pentecost. No, it wasn’t full. Yes, I could change my ticket and go there.
The nice man at the ticketing counter went and talked to the guys in his back office who changed my ticket around again. They re-set the ticket as a transfer through Vila, which means no extra charge to me. The flight was actually leaving at 3:45, so I had a few hours to kill. I checked-in and hung out at the terminal.
We boarded. There were 4 people on the flight, including me. At 4:45, my plane landed on Pentecost. Jason and Julie met me at the airport and we went to Vansemakul. We arrived in the dark, but all of us were there.