samedi 26 juillet 2008
This isn't where I'm supposed to be.
So, I woke up this morning in sunny Noumea. Well, I say sunny, it is sunny, but it's incredibly windy and keeps throwing down a shower every so often.
Anyway, the point of this is that I'm not supposed to be waking up in Noumea this morning. I'm supposed to be waking up with an incredible hangover, having finally caught up with my Aussie friends in Port Vila, Vanuatu.
Last night, all was going well - checked in on time, went through security (nothing beeped), bought duty free rum. I guess the fact that a (big, old) tree blew over onto a car as I walked past into the airport might have been considered an omen by some.
We board the plane and taxi out. On the runway, the pilot puts his foot down (I do appreciate that he doesn't actually put his foot down, flight fans) and we hurtle down the piste. And then he slams on the anchors and we screech to a juddering, bone rattling halt at the end of the tarmac.
It seems he needs to get his breath, because it takes some time for him to announce that 'the wind is too high for take off'. Apparently, cross winds were too strong and so we were going to wait for them to die down. You know what's coming next.
After sitting on the runway, then back at the terminal for what seemed like an age, the decision was taken to cancel the flight.
Bring on the mayhem.
Now, that curious blend of French insouciance and Pacific Island laid-back-ness worked well to ensure that amongst the Air Calin staff, no-one knew what to do next, no-one really cared and no-one was too worried about finding out.
There was much screaming, shouting, tears (not mine) and renting of cloth amongst the locals and the Vanuatans. The Air Calin staff appeared, saw the baying crowd and very quickly disappeared. I reckon they'd gone for a quick swig of rum, because they seemed much calmer when they came back out. I know I'd have needed a drink iof I was them.
Anyway, they finally make reservations at hotels for us and bundle us all onto a bus (the airport is 45km from town, the other side of a big mountain range) for the ride back into Noumea. The bus was full, full, full and the locals had so much luggage that a second bus came just to transport luggage. They didn't really think spreading people over two buses was a good idea. Nope, people went on one, luggage on the other, them's the rules.
If that wasn't enough, it would appear that the plane was mostly full of Vanuatan Church groups who had been in Noumea for some kind of choir competition. Suffice to say that the journey back into Noumea was accompanied by their selection of top tunes, all sung at deafening volume (but in really quite lovely close harmonies).
There was little irony in their choice of songs. They belted out 'Nearer my Lord to Thee' and 'If you're happy and you know it clap you're hands', and they belted out them out at least three times each. Trust me, no-one was clapping their hands for their third rendition.
Anyway, here I am, in Noumea. The flight has been re-scheduled for 8pm this evening, which should get me into Vila for cocktail time. Meanwhile, I'm eating for England at the expense of Air Calin.
Pass the drinks menu!