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Back To Papua


After 7 months in Medan I was starting to wonder if I was ever going to get back to Papua as had always been the plan. I hadn’t really tired of the flying in Medan but I was really missing Papua.

As is so often the way here things can change at a moment’s notice, so it came as little surprise after flying an afternoon shift in Medan when I was presented with an itinerary by the ground staff for my flights to Papua. I had hopped out of the aircraft seat at 18.05 and my flight was to depart at 18.10. Looking across the apron I could see the Garuda flight had already pushed back for engine start.

Naturally I hadn’t yet packed my bags, stupidly not wanting to jinx things. The Base Manager rang me and said he was working on getting me a 20.00 flight so I could connect with the flight to Jayapura (Sentani), it would still be a mad rush. Once home I bolted upstairs and began packing my life into my suitcase. Even leaving a few things behind I knew it was going to be overweight but I managed to complete the process in 30 minutes, surely an impressive feat by any measure.

All packed there was little time for goodbyes, a colleague that I joined the company with had just announced he was resigning and there was only time for a quick hug (he’s Italian) and a promise to come visit. Then I bailed into the crew van to head to the office to collect my Air Asia ticket and then to the airport.

Having missed my initial Garuda flight I knew I would be pushing s**t uphill to make the Sentani flight, so I contacted the Sentani Station Manager to try an organise a driver for me from Terminal 3 in Jakarta to Terminal 2 where Garuda departs from. It was a bit of a nervous flight watching the clock as a 1 hour connection time between flights at different terminals is tight.

Thankfully, we arrived in Jakarta 10 minutes earlier than scheduled and I quickly collected my baggage and headed for the exit. Sure enough our main Jakarta driver was there (the poor man practically lives at the airport) and had low and behold already checked me in using a photocopy of my passport (Indonesia has its advantages). It was still a bit of a rush but I ended up with 10 minutes at the gate before boarding to collect my thoughts.

The later red-eye flight to Sentani routes via Bali and Timika and is around 6 hours flying across 2 time zones eastbound. It really is a tough flight and being in economy hard to get any meaningful rest. In Bali you have to disembark and re-clear security but in Timika you can at least stay on board for the 30 minute turn-around.

Arriving in Sentani around 9.00am I always feel horribly jet-lagged and always struggled to have a good nap and usually have a couple of small ones during the day and just try and get a good night’s rest that night.

However, while the red-eye is tough it is a small price to pay for the privilege of being back in Papua. It might have been a crazy mission from one end of the archipelago to the other but it was well worth it.

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