Thursday, November 20, 2008

It's amazing how many men with grey hair, beards and glasses there are in airports.

I've always been accident-prone, especially in new situations, so the fact that my new sneakers had already chewed a hole through the back of my heel by the time I reached Brisbane airport was no surprise.

The problem started in Auckland and I actually went and purchased a packet of sticking plaster to patch myself up, but optimistically only put on one and then lost the rest of the packet somewhere in my luggage. The lack of sleep didn't help my decision-making - I didn't get to bed the night before, having marked exams until 3am, then raced home to shower, give my partner instructions on dealing with the mountains of laundry left in piles in the flat, collect a last few things from the production office, pay the phone bill and bust a move to the airport. Briar and Jeffrey left a day before me so I had to make it as far as Brisbane on my own. Then I would be meeting Oceanographer John Hunter.

On arrival at Auckland International I managed to check in without much incident (although the check-in chick wanted to prevent me taking the big solar panel on the grounds that it was like an energy efficient light bulb - ?). However when I made it as far as customs the scary woman there took one look at my carry-on bag as I staggered in and asked to weight it. Next thing I was back downstairs at check-in arranging to pay excess baggage with a woman who clearly believed I was evil incarnate and a scam artist from way back. I managed to get away with paying significantly less than the $382 she wanted to sting me for, on the grounds that no one could figure out how to charge for the domestic leg of the journey, so I gave the person concerned a bag of lollies we were hoarding for the trip. I didn't want to pay excess on them anyway.

After bleeding my tired way through arrivals at Brisbane airport I found a place to buy a very nice set of superior Australian band aids with which I swathed my heel and the offending shoe which was merrily grating its way towards my achilles tendon. I then spent the next hour watching middle-aged men with beards and glasses and wondering if they were John Hunter. I actually approached one but got it wrong, and decided that I wasn't going to ask every likely guy. It's amazing how many men with grey hair, beards and glasses there are in airports. Maybe they're the only ones with enough money to travel. Eventually John located me - a much better proposition - and we made it on to the flight to Port Moresby - which was surprisingly on time, given previous experiences with Air Nuigini.

My first impression of a new place is always the smell and the relative temperature. Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea's capital, rewarded us with the hot, sticky sort of weather you find in Tahiti. The smell part of things didn't, however, kick in until we reached our accommodation. Everything about the Airways Hotel was amazing - except for an odor issue that, having tantalised you with, I won't go into detail about. However, one thing I can tell you is that the tiles on the floors of their rooms are more slippery than glass. Running from the shower to grab the phone I slipped, rolled like a sausage and bounced twice. The bruise was quite impressive. It currently looks like an atoll map - a red ring with yellow on the inner part of the circle where the lagoon would be.

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