We arrived back at the Popondetta airport for a 6am check-in – the hours dragged on. The local manager kept calling out updates every hour – our hopes kept rising especially when around 10am he said the plane was loaded with passengers on the runway about to take off in Port Moresby. Our hopes soared when around 11am he said the plane had taken off already and was in the air. The hours kept dragging on – over the course of two full days of waiting around the airport we were told “there weren’t enough pilots”, there were “problems” at the Port Moresby airport, technical problems with the plane itself and ultimately weather related issues (which of all the problems was the only one confirmed to be true).
Comments from passengers in regards to his updates ranged from, “his clock works slower than ours”, “his battery needs a recharge”, “we need to give him a lie detector test”!
At one point we saw the manager racing down the runway in his land-cruiser. All of us gathered at the shelter next to the strip started cheering – we thought perhaps the stress of no arriving flight had gotten to him and that he was going to try to take off in his vehicle! As it turns out he was just checking the strip for debris. After a 28 hour delay/cancels of the flight we finally boarded right before sunset in pouring rain. The Popondetta strip doesn’t have lights so planes have to land and takeoff only during daylight hours.
After arriving in POM we were dropped off near JMart – supposedly one of the worst areas of the city at night for crime. We were then found aimlessly wandering in this area by Allen and Nancy, locals who spotted us and who were concerned for our well being.
We hopped in their van and headed out to a safer part of the city where they were going to help locate accommodation for us. After several phone calls, it was decided we would stay with them for two nights. Allen’s brother is the superintendent of a large quarry (has 100+ people working for him) and we ended up staying with him in the middle of the quarry site surrounded by heavy machinery and construction material!