It's hard when you've been somewhere a while. You know the locals, see the same people around the same time of day. The regulars count you as one of their own. It's pleasant. But, course done...it was time to move on. Otherwise I'd be growing roots. Besides, I just know I'll be back here; I can't leave those wrecks just yet.
I had a bit of an afternoon on the way out, and left Crystal Lodge with a bit of a sour taste in my mouth; it wasn't the return of the halitosis...more the bill they stung me with for laundry. Came to a week's rent. It was more the way the owner went about it. After the first wash I asked to pay, she said "Don't worry, I'll write it down". When I asked how much after the second lot, she said "Don't worry...it's cheap". I don't know about you, but when one wash cost me more than it would in London, I'm not up for calling it cheap.
Saying my Goodbyes to a few people at the shops et al, I made my way to the airline office to meet the 2.30pm bus. Against all strict Filipino rules of leaving whenever, it had actually gone early. The driver must have been working in Europe recently, that's way too efficient. As it disappeared around the corner, I had to run back up the hill...struggling with two packs in the afternoon heat...and flag the silly bastard down in the middle of the road.
So, dripping cold sweat in the icy blast of the aircon, I'm on my way. We get to the airport, where the tit on the desk decides my bag is 3kg too heavy at 13kg. He asks for payment, and I asked him if I could get compensation for the fact he'd just told me the flight was delayed 3 hours. That bamboozled him, as I took 3kg of stuff out of my rucksack and put it into my carry-on bag. "That OK now?" He smiled and nodded. Obviously makes a massive difference, re-distributing weight on the plane. So I'm through to the lounge. Great, they're putting a move on for us...big screen and surround sound. Not so great, it's that talentless, expressionless twat Costner in the Whitney "Crackhead" Houston two-hour plug, The Bodyguard.
The pain was briefly salved when the alarm bells rang at the side of the terminal. The fire truck set off, horns blaring, lights flashing. Busuanga is a tiny airstrip with one building, so I imagined the plane coming in had problems and we were in for drama/ death. Everyone rushed to the windows to search the sky for a burning plane approaching. Nothing so dramatic; the whole terminal started laughing at the sight of the fire truck chasing a cow down the runway. That could have caused some problems had it remained there. Or an instant barbecue.
Once onboard the prop-driven plane, I started to relax. I got a few pangs as we lifted into the air, Coron away to my right. I strained at the window to catch sight of the bays further away. Some lucky bastards would be on their way back from wreck dives right now.
The skies and cloud formations on the way back to Manila were astounding. I just spent 45 minutes glued to the window. I think it would have made a nice short film, just the weird and wonderful gossamer formations drifting past. Some looked like banks of ice on fields of fire as the sun began to set on the other side of the plane from me. The red, orange and purple blobs above were ringed with halos of gold. In the distance I could see Luzon, a giant column of cloud above it like the smoke pillar of a nulclear explosion. I didn't want this flight to end. I wish I'd taken some shots, but I was too entranced to get up and retrieve my camera. Some things need to be seen first hand. I mean, how many shots of other people's sunsets have you yawned at?
I certainly didn't want the flight to end in flames. It seemed it was bound to as we swooped down to Ninoy Aquino airport's runway. We passed over the broad white lines the piots aim to stick the wheels down on, still a good 20 feet in the air. The plane bucked from side to side, wings rising and falling dramtically: we'd hit a crosswind. Another few hundred yards and still no nearer the tarmac and safety. If we'd been landing at Busuanga's short runway, we'd be bracing for impact by now. Suddenly we dropped, the plane lurching and bouncing twice. Lights flickered in the cabin. Some women screamed. I would have liked to join in, but my throat was way too restricted. As we steadied, the pilot began braking with everything he had. Finally stopping, he turned to head back to the terminal buildings, and as we turned I saw we were around 200 yeards from the end of the runway. As we got off, a stewardess had opeed the doors to the cockpit and I could see the pilots.
"Hey, fella" I said, and he turned "if you're ever in London, the beers are on me."
"The pilots are not allowed alcohol on duty, sorry Sir" the stewardess duly informed me.
I didn't stop to explain the joke, I didn't have the strength. But as I got to the bottom of the steps and looked back at the plane, the pilot gave me the thumbs-up. I laughed and did likewise.
I don't want another landing like that in my lifetime.