Be prepared to be patient when you get out here. They make it sound like everything is a hurry up and go no culture, but in listening to all these tales from other tuna pilots I seemed to forget that we are on Island time over here. Things are very much done at the pace of “when it happens it happens.” I’m sure the boats are different, and working. But for now, I checked into my hotel last night and was told that an agent would pick me up this morning and take me to the boat.
I’m still waiting, and it is almost 10am. That’s ok, it has given me time to pack, and unpack and repack my bags. I still feel as though I came over here with a lot of stuff, but all of it makes sense in my head. I have my own life-vest and my own self rescue tank. I have a personal locator beacon and I have a GPS tracker/communicator. I have my laptop, and a bulky hard drive, a flight helmet, sandals, swimsuits, tank tops, shirts, etc. And a trauma kit, well – a small kit. With bandages and burn gel and medication to cover me from headaches and motion sickness to allergic reactions, and beyond. It feels like a lot. And the damn bags are heavy. Personally I can’t wait to get to my cabin and figure out how in the hell I’m going to organize this stuff into a shared space.
But. For now, I wait. Thankful that this hotel has WiFi. Because right now, I don’t have a sim card, and even if I did I wouldn’t know who to call at all about where and when I should be at the boat.
It’s been an interesting trip getting here, and certainly wasn’t short at all. I started on Monday the 10th of November at noon in Spokane, Washington. My original destination was Honiara in the Solomon Islands, but when I landed in Portland (leg number 1) I had messages from Tropic asking if I could go to Fiji instead and meet my boat directly. Of course, I’m not going to say no – they need me at the helicopters, I can do that. The one thing I asked for was that the senior pilot with the helicopter not leave before he could give me a bit of dual in the 500. Since I’d never flown one before in my life. They assured me he was going to check me out in the helicopter and might even take this first leg with me (thank god).
By the time I landed in Los Angeles (2nd leg done) my email had exploded with new tickets and a hotel resrvation in Suva, Fiji. Seems everything was in place. I climbed aboard Virgin Australia’s sardine can layout 777 and settled in for a 14 hour hop to Brisbane, Queensland, Australia.
A quick word on Virgin Australia. Take a row of seats out in each economy section. I’ve never flown on any airline, anywhere in the world, that has had me crammed in so tightly. The rows were damn near overlapping. Beyond that, there is no customer service culture in the company. No accommodation for checking heavy bags, no help with checked bags on an add-on ticket, nothing. After having heard so much cool stuff about the Virgin brand of airlines – I was very, extremely, disappointed. I’ll be asking the people handling my travel at the end of the year to avoid Virgin as much as possible. If able – an asian Airline like Singapore, Garuda, Asiana, Philippines Airlines, etc. They’re the best IMO.
Anyways, I digress, when I landed in Brisbane the connection was extremely short with the new changes. I didn’t know if I’d make the flight. I had to claim my bags (because VA wouldn’t check them through, even though the next flight was VA) and clear customs and immigration. The agent even asked me if I meant to put “0 days” on my card. I quickly explained to him that I was in fact planning on spending less than 2 hours in the country. After getting cleared I made my way to check in where a lovely, beautiful blonde Aussie restored my faith a bit in Virgin Australia and their customer service. She even gave me an express pass for clearing outbound customs.
The flight to Nadi, Fiji was a fun one. At this point I’ve been traveling for days, I kind of just wanted to sit down, silently, maybe sleep a bit, and ride this one in. Turns out my row mates were some awesome people and we spent most of the flight BS’ing. Who was I flying with you might ask? Lauren Brant, an Australian tv-actress from the Childrens show Hi-5 and her brother Greg – who is one of the principals at UBK and does most of their design work. He’s also a former Infantryman with the Aussie’s so we’ve got the brotherhood of arms thing going. Anyways, they both were awesome. Lauren – is stunning, and a lot of fun too. Make for a great flight. I even met their parents in Nadi when we landed. (I will admit, I think they gave me a skeptical look over when I came walking up with Lauren and Greg – a “who is this guy” look). Leg 4 completed. +2 friends in Australia/Fiji for when I’m free’d up.
Grab my bags, clear Fijian customs (kind of just a handshake and Bula (hello) and then you’re through). Walked across the way to the domestic terminal, got checked in, paid for my heavy bag (Virgin Australia – take notes) and settled in for a beer at the cafe until the gate opened. Leg 5 was a quick hop across the island in a weed-whacker of a plane.
It was all I could do to muster the strength to stay up long enough for dinner, and to repack some bags. I slept like a ton of bricks last night. The Southern Cross hotel isn’t exactly a marble and Egyptian cotton kind of establishment. In fact, I think they’re fighting hard for that 3rd star. The Korean resto at the top of the hotel is really good. I ate Bulgogi, passed on the wierd fish tasting side dish, and bought a few extra bottle of water for the room.