For everyone who’s been asking about Ginger’s birthday, how’s this for a saga…
What a nightmare – it was worse than just bad timing (Ginger’s 21st was slated for the Saturday night immediately following the Tour de Force opening in Brisvegas.) Best case scenario, taking into account the opening on Thursday and floor talk on Friday, was an early morning flight out of Brizzie on the Saturday morning, catching a connecting flight from Sydders and arriving in Merimbula at 1.15 in the arvo. So – home by 2pm, leaving 4 hours to pull the catering together. Do-able, just. We’d done some prep before leaving on Thursday, and left a ream of instructions. What could go wrong? (Apart from the fact that Paulie, Sammy Jo’s chef mate from the train, hadn’t managed to get his visa in time – so the kitchen was rudderless…)
When our plane arrived at Merimbula, the pilot had to abort the landing – bad visability and rain, blah blah – and we went into a holding pattern for half an hour while he waited for the weather to lift. It didn’t. He made one more attempt, pulled out half way, and…we flew all the way back to Sydney. What the hell to do now? Being a Saturday, it was the only flight to Merimbula. We scrambled around the terminal, checking the possibilities of Virgin or Qantas flights to the ‘Berra (Sammy was prepared to make the six hour round car trip to pick us up – we wouldn’t make the party until 10pm, but at least we’d be there, eventually.) In the meantime, faced with a plane load of irate passengers, Rex decided to have another go. They couldn’t guarantee we’d be able to land, but they were prepared to give it a burl.
Omigid, which way to jump? Sammy said ‘don’t risk it – I’ll drive to Canberra’. Yeah but no but yeah but no but. There wasn’t much time to dither. The Gang tossed a mental coin – it was an excruciating decision: worst case scenario was another four hours plus in a plane going nowhere…
Rex split the passengers up into two planes so that each could carry maximum fuel (2 tonne) in case they had to circle forever waiting for the break to land, and then of course, failing that, to still have sufficient gas to get back to Sydney. Because we’d been scooting around the airport scoping for alternatives, we’d missed the cut-off for the first plane. Eight of us drew the second.
By the time Rex rounded up a crew and fueled up we were nearly an hour behind the first. Our pilot, a sheila, explained the very real probabilities of this being another extended scenic flight back to Sydney – nonetheless she would, she assured us, give it her very best shot. Once in the air, between sips of warm unwooded chardonnay, we went into metaphoric nail biting mode. Would we get through? Should we have been on the other plane? What about the party – what about the catering!!!
Fifteen minutes out of Merimbula the pilot informed us that the first plane’s attempts to land had so far failed and it was currently in a holding pattern over Merimbula airport. Tension mounted palpably in the cabin the closer we got to our destination. We stoically ignored the turbulence. Finally, as we descended toward Short Point, all eight of us held our collective breath (well, eleven of us really – counting the hostie and the pilot and the co-pilot…)
And then, at the very last minute, that wonderful sheila in the cockpit squeezed through a momentary parting of the clouds – and quickly landed. Just like that! Omigod, totally unbelievable. A great cheer went up. Megsie got a bit teary, even. Then the weather moved back in again. And as we disembarked we could hear the distant droning of those other poor buggers still circling high above – we’d caught the right plane after all.
We drove home through pouring rain, arriving only a smidge later than the other guests. It took a while for the stress factor to subside (about a week!) and the food was less than perfeck – but we had finally made it to Ginger’s birthday, thankgoodness – and for that we remain eternally grateful.
Thanks to Klausie and Helen for additional snaps. Lotsa pics were taken of the night – and many were (for one reason and another, unprintable!!) To check out those that did survive the editing process, go here.