...And here we are in Majuro !
MASTERFUL FLYING !!
The Gods of sleep were kind and released all the members of the group in time for them to reach Bonriki airport in time to check-in for the flight.
The God of the weather was also kind in making it a clear, starlit dawn, with no risk of adverse wind or rain.
This was a charter flight of an Air Kiribati inter-island plane (a CASA), and so the check-in was manned by Air Kiribati staff. Immigration only recorded our passport details and stamped the boarding passes.
An official "Passenger List" had been provided to Air Kiribati on Monday afternoon and this was used at the check-in. We were able to take the complete list without exceeding the crucial weight limit. (The plane had to carry extra fuel for its longer-than-usual flight.)
The target had been to take-off at 0600. All the passengers were there and ready, but other things had to be prepared for the plane and so actual take-off was at 0700. As we left the ground, we shook hands !!! Finally we were ON OUR WAY !
As is normal on Air Kiribati, the doors to the flight deck were open all the time, so we could watch the instrumentation even if we could not see through the (high) front windows ! Thus we could count down the Kms. as we approached Majuro and also watch it on their navigation display !!!
With some masterful flying (smooth take-off, steady climb to 3000m., and almost smooth touch-down - on one wheel ?), the two pilots achieved a fast flying time of about two hours. Mission accomplished !
There was no "Welcome Committee", no band, but Immigration formalities were completed quickly and Customs found nothing to concern them.
After a little delay, we decided that the six athletes with Coach Rianimarewe should head for the hotel (Marshall Islands Resort, where some of us have stayed before), while I called at the US Embassy to check on their needs for us. I was already carrying a limited quantity of US$ so getting taxis was no problem ($4 each to the hotel !)
At the Embassy, I found them typically helpful and spoke to a number of the relevant staff. They suggested for interviews to start that afternoon at 1300 ! I knew that would be tight, not yet having another US$ 700 in cash to pay for the Visa fees. But I thought that getting to a Bank would be easy ! Also, although all seven sets of Application Forms had been partly completed, each applicant still had other details to fill in. Finally, suitable photos (NOT those from Tarawa, mostly !) had to be taken downtown !! All this we knew, but now we were on a time-scale !
CATCHING-UP WITH GROUP !
Not having funds, the group was relaxing on the comfortable furniture at the hotel. They had already negotiated two rooms, each with two double beds, to accommodate eight friendly people ! Also, the hotel agreed to charge "local rates", as they have before for us.
Enough US$ were available to pay for the two rooms for two nights (less than $400) and this was done.
The next priority (at 11.30 am) was get the necessary photos (for four people) and fill in the forms. All this took an hour or more, but by 12.45, Rianimarewe plus two of the team were ready and had the fees (total US$300) and return taxi fares ($12) to head off for the Embassy and get the process moving !
In the meantime, I set out for the (nearest) Bank of Guam ! We have often changed money there before, with no problem. Unfortunately the queue was long and this time the teller said "Do you have an account here ?" Of course I do not - nor would most visitors ! Thus thirty minutes were wasted !
A CO-OPERATIVE BANK !
Another taxi ride, further downtown, found the Marshall Islands Bank open and helful. Again it took ages, but the end result was US$ in the pocket ! One more taxi ride back to the hotel and the other four (now catching up on their sleep !) could join the first three at the Embassy ! Equipped with forms, photos, US$100 each, passports, and taxi money ($16), they left. It was now 1415 ! Thanks to the God of rain, the tap remained "OFF", so at least they could travel with no discomfort !
REMARKABLY SOON !
I crashed out to await developments. Amazingly soon, they were all back, processing completed !
FOOD ? WHAT'S FOOD ?
Although advised to bring food to Bonriki, bread and juice had been exhausted before arrival in Majuro. So all were hungry and thirsty ! A restaurant near the hotel had been used by us before, but has now closed. A short walk towards downtown found a new store/restaurant (CTC). This, owned by a Fijian, proved a success. Many of the group were converted to "Mountain Dew", a number of extra side-dishes of rice were obtained, and everyone left feeling "tibutaua" (full) ! We operated (as agreed between us) on a $10 each maximum.
Next to catch up on showers, news, football, toilet, sleep, etc.
TEMPERATURE CONTROL !
One thing about an Equatorial hotel is finding the best room temperatures for living and sleeping, with or without the sliding door open. An efficient air-con can be like a refrigerator, a danger for inexperienced athletes travelling TO a competition !!! Thus, to have the air-con on "LOW", plus the door partly open, seemed to work as a compromise for us !!!
EARLY ACTIVITY !
Several of the athletes decided to work early. Others did not !
We eventually hit the hotel restaurant for breakfast at about 0900. Again, this was a new experience for some, e.g. blueberry pancakes, maple syrup, hash browns, but they quickly adapted and again their meals were tasty, filling, and welcomed.
By arrangement with the Embassy, I phoned Ms. Daisy at 1000 to be told "Come and get them !" Taking only the time for me to write a letter of "Thanks !" and a request to use their help again next June (for OAA in Saipan), they took their taxi money ($28) and went ! Now it was time for a little relaxation !
SWIM, BIG GYM, SMALL GYM.
Two of the benefits for such a group at this hotel are the weight room and the swimming pool. These were used, plus a visit to the nearby public Gymnasium (Basketball Hall), to which I had paid a visit yesterday afternoon and talked to the Manager (Daniel - one of the RMI Athletics coaches !)
Returning to our (CTC) supper place from yesterday, we had an equally satisfying meal, and I decided to set up this first stage of the M.A.C. story. More will follow !