15 July 2012


I have tried and failed - well, I did not try very hard - to find, on the web, the quickest way to get from Auckland to Yap.  It may be that it is easier today - though I will not be surprised to find it is not.

In 1976, the route was:
  • Auckland to Manila, via Sydney
  • spend one night in Manila
  • Manila to Guam
  • spend two nights in Guam
  • Guam to Yap
The two hours or so that we spent in Sydney airport in March, 1976 was the only time I had been in Australia until Johnny's wedding in Marchy, 2008.  We had flown there from Auckland, spent the time to wait for the change of 'planes, then to Manila.

Manila is hot.  It is hotter both than Honolulu and than Yap.  And by now we were three-years-acclimatised to Auckland.  Did the hotel room have air-conditioning?  I am not sure that it did.  We were certainly uncomfortable.

We were, after all, in Manila only for 24 hours.  We arrived in the morning, I think, and left the next morning.  The hotel was near the airport, but we never saw the city.  Nevertheless, it was a bit of a revelation for us both.  Unlike pakeha westerners, the Filipinos are not fond of boring.  Many of the cars that we saw were innocent of their original paint, being decorated with gorgeous tropical scenes.  The jeepneys were especially magnificent.

Nonetheless, I had, as I have said before, romantic notions of Micronesia.  In Guam, instead of a more conventional hotel, we stayed at the Micronesia Hotel.  Perhaps it doesn't exist any longer - at least I didn't find it with a web search - or perhaps it wasn't called that.  It wasn't much of a hotel.  Its attraction for me had been the fact that in 1972 I had stayed a night or two there, and it was the favourite resort of Yapese travelling through - principally because it was very cheap.  We were there two nights.

In reflecting on this trip it has come back to me with force the dismay with which Susan had viewed her arrival in Auckland in 1973.  She felt cut off from all that she had known.  She feared that she would be completely alone (which, for her first year, was not far from the truth).  Here we were in Guam - Guam! - at a seedy sprawling collection of buildings, in a room with a single large and noisy fan over the (quite large) double bed, and headed for a place that, John told her, had no fresh fruit or vegetables (of the sort she was used to, that is), was inhabited by people who, mostly, spoke no, or little, English, and which was accessed from Auckland only by a three-day journey involving three different airlines.  I was insensitive enough at the time to her distress; I now know only by imagination what it must have been.

We were there two nights.  Eight-month-old Johnny slept with us in the double bed - and had a habit of half-waking up during the night, standing half up, and falling face forward on top of one of us.  The principle excitement, however, was that the hotel was apparently only a few hundred metres away from the landing end of the runways at the airport.

I don't remember how many times that first night we were wakened by 'planes coming in - or perhaps it was the takeoff end of the runway and they were leaving?  I only remember that I hadn't known this would happen.  The first occurrence caused us both to shoot up to a sitting position on full alert, heart pounding.  The room shook.

I think that the second night's flights must not have wakened us at all - at least I don't remember their doing so.  So readily we adapt to our environment.  After the Micronesia Hotel, Yap was a relief.

Landing in Yap was then a moment of great emotion for me.  I suspect it would still be today, even although now the 'planes are 747s and the runway is long enough for them - by contrast with the 727 that brought us there to land on the legally underlength runway.  The 'plane has to hit the very beginning of the runway, and stop as fast as possible, which it does with a great uproar of dust and noise.

Auckland, Honolulu, Hilo, and Yap are landings that I never make without deep feelings of coming home.

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