Monday, November 30, 2009

A Buzz in the Air

For nearly 40 minutes my mouth hung open in awe. I didn’t know whether to hold on to my seat or jump from the window with the over whelming since of vertigo. Either way, my recent helicopter ride from the mountainous terrains of the PNG Highlands, through the vast Ramu Valley and rivers to Madang’s pristine coastline, was incredible.

Making friends with the pilots who live two doors down from our house on Coronation Drive has its advantages. I was in Kundiawa for an education conference and Jolanda had taken advantage of the VSO vehicle driving through Goroka to climb Mt. Oto before the end of her placement. Neither of us was looking forward to the 6 hour, body-jarring drive back to Madang. Lucky for us, one of the pilots was on a flight from Lae to Madang and felt sorry for us poor volunteers and decided to “scoop us up.” Just like that, like it was no big deal. Jolanda and I couldn’t believe this was happening. What were we going to tell the other volunteers? “Oh sorry we aren’t going to be riding back with you guys. We have another ride with a friend who is picking us up in his helicopter.” That’s exactly what we said before their eyes turned green with envy.

The pilot's phone call to discuss the details was short. How was the weather and cloud coverage? Where was the airport in relation to the town? He had never flown to Goroka. I told him the airport was in the center of town and we agreed to meet in an hour. I finished my hotel breakfast of salmon and eggs (I know, hard volunteer life) and headed to the art market to buy a beautiful helicopter painting I had my eye on as a thank you gift. The VSO Land Cruiser dropped us off at the Air Nuigini airport. But after fighting the crowds of passengers and speaking to the armed guard through a partially opened door, we were told that we needed to go to Pacific Helicopter for heli landings. Great. Where was Pacific? How long would it take us to walk? Is it a safe area? The guard pointed us in the direction of Pacific but we remained uncertain of where the helicopter was going to land. We started walking and a woman pulled up beside us offering us a ride because she said it was an unsafe area to be walking. We jumped in her car and she drove us to Pacific.

The ladies in the Pacific reception gave us a warm welcome leading us into an air-conditioned lounge with fluffy couches. This impromptu “scoop up” was getting a bit formal…visitor tags, signing a log book, call names. Lucky I heard the buzz of the helicopter and we were off before we knew it!

The pilot quickly pointed out a few buttons and helped to fasten our belts and adjust our headsets. It was hard to hear him over the blades, but I later learned that the button wasn’t to eject the seat but to talk through the radio!

Watching the terrain change so quickly from the “broccoli” covered mountains, to the rivers and valleys, to the coconut lined coast was incredible. The highlands were very remote with the occasional cluster of villages with round huts and patchwork gardens. It was amazing to feel the cool breeze through the windows and when we flew through bits of cloud coverage I remember thinking…I am literally in the clouds! When we came to the Ramu Valley, the pilot knew we would be in for an adventure.  We decided to get a bit lower and follow the river. It was amazing to observe life from this perspective. The children were jumping and splashing full of excitement of seeing the helicopter. Men were fishing and women washing clothes and dishes, but all looked up to wave.  Soon the air in the cabin was warmer and the coast came into view. 

Before we knew it, we were back in Madang!  A big thanks to our pilot friends for an amazing view of PNG!


Buy Viagra said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Viagra said...

That quilt looks great!

Elliott Broidy said...

What a beautiful adventure!