When we were leaving Mibu the Husas were also heading out to go to America (where they will be having baby #4!). We couldn’t all fit on the helicopter at once, so it was decided that Shannon and I (Elizabeth) should go on the first helicopter ride with 4 of the children and that the dads would follow on the 2nd helicopter ride with the remaining 2 kids. This put me, Belle, Everett, Shannon, the Husas’ 4 year old daughter (Maddie) and their 20 month old (Abby) on trip #1. We would ride in the helicopter to a nearby village that has an airstrip where a plane would be waiting to take us the rest of the way, then the helicopter would go back and get Joseph, Geoff, Skyler (the Husas’ six year old) and Lucy and take them straight to Goroka.
The weather on the morning we were going to depart was cloudier than we wanted. We finished off all the last minute details and got all of our stuff out to the landing pad and we waited…and waited. It turns out the weather in Goroka was even cloudier and the helicopter was delayed. The Husas told us stories of times when they had been stuck until the next day because the helicopter never could make it in, and times when the pilot had gotten stuck with them for the night because they couldnt make it out, and even of a time where the pilot got stuck in the nearby village with an airstrip and had to sleep in a villager’s hut! SO we sat and watched the clouds and listened on the radio and finally heard that he had left.
So Mike (the pilot, who happens to be our friend from our days of training in Missouri) showed up and the guys quickly unloaded and loaded the helicopter and helped me, Shannon and the four kiddos get loaded in and off we flew to Nankina. Once there we hopped out of the helicopter, watched the kids, watched the two pilots unload the helicopter and load it all into the little plane, and watched all the villagers who were standing around watching us! The helicopter took off to go get the guys and we loaded in the little plane (my first time on a tiny plane like that!) with Shannon sitting in the front and me in the back with Everett on my lap and the other 3 beside me (two seats total!) The clouds had been present this whole time, but they came in even more, enough that we couldnt take off after we loaded up. 🙁 So we sat on the plane with antsy kids for an hour or so praying for a break in the clouds and remembering how Mike had spent a night there in a hut! We REALLY did not want to spend a night in a hut with four kids and no dads at all! We started thinking maybe we should ration the two sippy cups of water we had in case we had to stay there! While we were waiting in the plane we saw the helicopter fly by and he even flew around the clouds while talking to our pilot, telling him how the clouds weren’t too terribly deep. (Joseph took the picture above from the helicopter showing the air strip which runs along the top of that ridge–the plane is at the far right end just to the left of the tree sticking up. Click the picture to see it a little bigger.) Shannon and I were so wishing that the helicopter would just come land beside us long enough for the plane to take off first…we thought the dads could handle being stranded alone better than we could! As we heard our pilot tell Mike (in the helicopter) to go on to Goroka and then we saw them fly away, we were sad. So we waited some more, but thankfully before too much dispair set in the pilot saw a break in the clouds and we went for it! It was pretty exciting to take off!
The view is absolutely amazing, and I reminded myself several times that although I may get used to the view, I shouldnt take it for granted because many people will never get to fly in a helicopter (or plane!) over the mountains of PNG. (Harry Stevenson, I thought specifically of you and how much you would be loving it! )
We were glad to all meet up again in Goroka and thankful that no one had to spend an unexpected night anywhere else! It was sad leaving our new friends at the airport! Six weeks together made them fast, close friends and it was sad to leave them!