“Not a lot happened on today.” one of Chimere crew declared. This opinion appeared to conflict with credible eye witnesses claiming that sleeping-in and breakfast at the French patisserie on the main street required serious effort. Over the past few days Chimere has indeed undergone a spring clean ready for thirty new arrivals today from Melbourne as part of the MSM Supporters’ Tour. So maybe the crew of Rob, Matt, Cathy, Dave and Liz deserved a break?

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For the ‘thirty somethings’ from Melbourne it was a long day. Many were up at 3am, whilst some took the luxury of sleeping in ‘til 4:30am. All 30 made it to Tullamarine airport to check-in, pass through security and chemical explosive checks (We will probably never know what Graeme was carrying in that tin canister!), a resuscitating coffee or croissant, and compulsory loo stop, to make it to Gate 10 on time. The Qantas flight to Sydney supplied us with breakfast for those who needed a boost.

How do you keep 30 adults together over two flights and through four different airport terminals? The answer: hire Linda Latimer. Linda was highly organized and we, like a group of “school girls in two straight lines” were ushered through each of these steps in the correct sequence. But by the time we arrived at Sydney Domestic terminal, however, the group of “school children” became unruly and independent, heading in several different directions!

“One, two, three,….twenty-eight! Oh dear, who’s missing?…..OK where’s George and Joy?”

“Oh, they missed the connecting bus to the international terminal.” Like duckling returning to their mother George and Joy turned up a few minutes later, unfazed and unconcerned.

Getting the correct seat on the Air Vanuatu flight was a game of musical chairs, with lots of giggling but without the music. The group seating had been allocated Melbourne and none the couples or close friends were seated next to each other.

“What’s your seat number? I’m 28D.”

“I’m in 25A!”

“Here’s a solution: We’ve all got the last 30 seats in the back of the airplane. So if Peter moves to 30B and Jill moves to 30C and Sue sits in Graeme’s 28D – no you stay where you are Ruth – and Alison moves to 27B, then John can be next to her.” And so on it went for 10 minutes. When the music stopped there were seats for all. But none were in their original seats!

Upon landing at the Bauerfield International Terminal, Port Vila, Rob Latimer with Bob and Dick (from the Eye Clinic) were there on the observation deck to great the new arrivals.

“One, two, three…twenty-nine. Where’s Graeme?”

“I think he’s still on board.” It turned out one of the flight attendants had an eye problem and saw the PCV Health insignia on Graeme’s T-shirt and he had stayed on the plane after all the other passengers had disembarked to suggest a management plan for her eye problem – a common illness found in sun-exposed eyes that causes blindness if not treated, but easy to treat.

Immigration and customs seemed to go smoothly, didn’t it?” someone remarked as greetings and hugs were shared.

“One, two, three, twenty-eight. Oh no, who’s missing this time?”

“Liz and Greg” replied Linda. It had transpired that the customs officer did not like the fact that Liz and put some commercially packaged and sealed sachets of tuna fish in her luggage (as emergency rations when they go to Tanna), and had taken them aside to a private room. And he charged them $30!

The Melanesian is a friendly and well-appointed resort overlooking the harbor and close to Parliament and the Museum. We all gathered at 6pm in the outdoor restaurant area around the pool for a sumptuous barbeque of Aussie food and some local delicacies, such as lap-lap made of ground up taro, coconut and banana. It was great to relax and catch up and meet new faces.

The night ended with a Ni-Van band from north Pentecost Island who sang, danced, and performed some kustom dances and amazing sand drawings with commentary.

By now there were 34 of us with the addition of Cathy, Matt, Dave and Liz from Chimere, but who’s counting? For some it has been a long day.

Thanks to Ari from Excuse2Travel for all the arrangements and bookings to make it possible. And welcome to thirty something supporters.

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On-duty Cub Reporter