Australia Oceania Papua New Guinea Vanuatu

POM VI Down Under

The main thing, if you’re traveling in the South Pacific, is patience. Because the airlines are not the most reliable, and when you’re out in the middle of nowhere, there aren’t a lot of options to switch to other flights or try a different airport or airline. We had already had flight trouble within Papua New Guinea, flying from Port Moresby up to the Highlands, but none of us had any idea how bad it would get trying to get out of Port Moresby and to our next destination: Vanuatu!

Look at the light in our eyes as we got to the airport! Short lived, unfortunately

The flight path we were supposed to have was Port Moresby > Brisbane > Port Vila, with a couple hours in Brisbane. We arrived bright and early at the Port Moresby airport, having flown in from Goroka the day before, and then…. we waited. And we waited. It was one of those times when they kept telling us things were delayed for an hour, and then an hour would be up, and then it would be delayed yet again. At one point, they said we were delayed because someone had to be medevac’d out of PNG, so they put that person on the plane and took the luggage out and then put their luggage into the hold, and then apparently it no longer worked to bring them on our flight and so they took them back off the plane and pulled the luggage out to sort through it and find their bags again. People were watching this with the general vibe of sports fans rooting for their favorite team, including cheers and groans at the appropriate times. It felt like we were never getting out of that airport, and we were becoming airport people like Tom Hanks in The Terminal.

Hour ???? of our delay

Luckily, of people to get stuck with, it was a good group. We made a lot of jokes about our whole situation, including naming ourselves the POM VI after the Port Moresby airport code. What quickly was becoming a problem was that we were blowing through our layover in Australia, and we were not going to make our Vanuatu flight. Which, for most of us, was fine, as we could spend a night and fly out the next day. But one of the POM VI was from Chile and he wasn’t able to clear immigration in Australia without a visa. He was going to be able to get through in transit status with our initial flight plan, but it didn’t seem like there was anything we could do to get him on a series of flights that would keep his time in Australia low enough to qualify for transit status. I think he ended up flying through New Caledonia to meet us in Vanuatu, which added another leg to the trip but did at least go smoothly! Definitely a reminder that passport privilege is real.

Slightly blurry but it really captures the excitement of getting on a plane!

Eventually, we got on a plane! People cheered and clapped when the pilot passed us to board. It was such a relief just to be leaving the Port Moresby airport. We got to Brisbane pretty late. Honestly, Australian passport control is a breeze – they’ve really streamlined the process with the ETAs and electronically linking everything together, and going through the kiosks made it way faster than most countries I’ve gone to. We got to our hotel, made plans to meet up for our third airport day in a row, and passed out.

And then it was time to go back to the airport. Which is when we found out we had more bad news…… Our flight to Port Vila had been cancelled!

While I was super bummed to miss out on the first part of our plans in Vanuatu, we had a great time with our extra day in Brisbane. It’s a cool city, and had not been on my original plans in Australia!

Overall, it was a very relaxed day – we went to brunch, wandered around a bit, went to the pool, and did our laundry. Major shout out to our hotel for having laundry machines we could use for free! As usual, the best laid travel plans aren’t always the way things actually happen, but sometimes that’s the most fun part. One thing is for sure, I’ll definitely never forget the Port Moresby airport or our strange layover in Brisbane!

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