Live the adventures of Dan Walker's travels through reading his travel journal. The travel journals are listed below in descending order of date. To search the travel journals, use the keyword search at the bottom of the page.
|Thursday, October 07, 2004 15:51:26|
S. Pacific 2004: 1
Tuesday, October 5, 2004
Yesterday after a smooth, on time flight from Costa Rica I stayed overnight at the Sheraton North Houston, near the airport. The only snag was that when checking in at the Continental counter in Costa Rica I appeared in the airline computer on their "no fly" list, so it took a phone call to Houston to establish that it was someone else with the same name who was on their hit list.
This morning when I checked in for the Houston to Honolulu flight, the same problem came up. A phone call theoretically cleared it up again but this time they had me, and everything I have with me, minutely searched. I'm hoping that this isn't going to be a regular occurrence, but it is likely just more of the "Fortress USA" paranoia.
The flight to Honolulu was very comfortable with good food and service. We arrived about half and hour early. Once in the terminal I went to Continental to see if my Gold Elite status with Continental would get me upgraded on the 5 ½ hour flight to Majuro in the morning. The agent said to ask when I checked in and they would likely give me a complementary upgrade at that time.
I then walked miles to the Aloha Airlines ticket office - if they were any further from Continental they would have been at another airport! I'm in economy on that flight, so I explained about my long legs and the helpful agent blocked off the window exit row seat for me, something they usually do only at check in. This flight will be a 9 ½ hour red eye - so standing for the duration is not something I would have been keen on.
That being done, and having not seen the hotel shuttle, I took a cab to the Pacific Marina Hotel. It is a small motel in the industrial area adjacent to the Honolulu Airport and is ideal when in town only to change planes. At the hotel they informed me they have a courtesy phone in every baggage area, so in the future I'll know to call instead of use a taxi. Taxis are expensive here - the 5 or so minute ride was $11. It was about 2 PM by the time I checked in, leaving time for an easy afternoon of reading and writing. I put on my bathing suit to try the pool, but in spite of the 88 degree F outside air temperature it was too cold for my delicate system!
It is an ominous aside that the Sheraton in Houston never did make my hotel reservation in spite of two faxed requests, and the Pacific Marina - although confirmed by email - had also failed to book a room for me. Both these places had rooms, so there was no crisis, but this is hopefully not the start of a trend!
My system folded up early with the time change, so it was to bed by 7:30 PM. That was just as well, as I had to be at the airport at 5 AM for the Majuro flight.
Wednesday, October 6, 2004
The hotel shuttle dropped me at the airport, and as advertised I was upgraded to first class. There was time for tea and juice in the Continental lounge before climbing aboard for the run to Majuro in the Marshall Islands. I was delighted not to be harassed by security again, so they must have finally decided that whoever they had flagged in the computer wasn't me. As I headed for the departure lounge I watched the pre-dawn sky colouring - it was going to be a good day and I was feeling great about being on the road again.
On board was a copy of "Pacific" magazine, a quite good news magazine devoted to the island countries of the Pacific. Besides news updates on many of the countries I will visit, it was interesting to read the articles on the renewals of contracts for US aid and how they are cutting back on funding for US supported strategic island groups. It was even more interesting to have as the only other person in the airport shuttle to the Marshall Islands Resort the fellow who is in charge of the US aid in the region, and who was a part of the US team at the contract negotiations. Once again it appeared that the press was remiss in reporting the whole story. His job is to try to see that the majority of the funds given to these countries actually get into designated projects, and that the amount flowing into the pockets of the politicians is minimized. Corruption is rampant and quasi legalized in the Pacific Island countries. Most legislatures have refused to pass laws allowing the prosecution of elected members for corruption related crimes.
Unemployment is a major problem in these island countries. It has been made worse in the Marshall Islands with the closure of their biggest employer - a tuna packing plant that employed 600 people. The US handouts and money sent back by islanders who leave to find work elsewhere are what many of these countries run on.
While flying here the date and day advanced to Thursday, October 7, a fact I overlooked in making my hotel reservations. Once again I arrived to no reservation as the one I made for the date I left Hawaii had been cancelled when I didn't show up, but once again the hotel had lots of space so there was no problem. They were good enough not to charge me for the night I was supposed to be here and wasn't!
Majuro is located on a 32 mile long sand bar which is never more than a few feet above sea level. It snakes its way through the Pacific with the ocean on one side and the calm centre of the atoll on the other side. It is seldom wide enough for more than one building lot on either side of the road, although it expands to a couple of blocks wide in the main business area. This is my third time here, and once having done the drive up and down the island it definitely falls into the "been there, done that" category. The spots most worth visiting in the Marshall Islands are on some of the other 1,225 islands. They are for fishermen, scuba divers or people who want to lay back and relax who are looking for a tranquil tropical place to stay on beautiful beaches.
I took a walk towards the main town area and back, but was soon drenched in sweat with the high temperature and humidity. Back at the hotel it was another easy day of dozing, reading and generally taking it easy. A couple of beer in the hotel pub, which was populated entirely by Marshall Islanders, and some of their happy hour snacks served for dinner so I headed to bed for an early night.
An email received from my long time travelling companion, Tim Carlson, indicated he was on schedule. The plan is that he will be on the Air Nauru flight from Tarawa when I get on the plane tomorrow afternoon at 1:30 PM, and we'll then travel together to Nauru and Honiara in the Solomon Islands and onward from there.
The only concern is that if the Air Nauru flight does no show up tomorrow, the entire trip falls apart as all reservations are based on being in Honiara on time, and it will be very difficult to connect with Tim again if this rendezvous is missed. It is the most crucial flight of the trip. The country of Nauru, which owns the airline, is bankrupt and I believe the airline has only one plane - a Boeing 737. It is not comforting that the airline of Tonga is bankrupt and in liquidation - and Tonga is in marginally better financial shape than Nauru.