Nauru Travel Diary

Nauru Travel Diary 2012


Day 3 - Nauru to Brisbane


1 August 2012

There are only two flights each week from Nauru to Australia, and I had a reservation on today’s flight to Brisbane, scheduled to depart at 2:15 pm.  The information provided by Our Airline requests that passengers arrive at the airport three hours before the scheduled departure time.  This seemed a little excessive to me, given that the flight to Brisbane was the only departure for the day and the plane could only accommodate a little over a hundred passengers if full, which previous experience indicated was extremely unlikely.  I thought it improbable that congestion at Nauru Airport would delay my flight, although thunderstorms might be a different proposition.   Working backwards through all this, I figured I would be safe if I left the hotel at about midday.

That meant I had just a morning left in Nauru.  As I had travelled along every street and laneway in the entire country yesterday, the remaining sightseeing options seemed limited, or at least repetitive.

Lying in bed after waking up to the sound of the churning surf outside, I had considered going for a pre-breakfast walk along the coastline to the south of the hotel, along a coastal strip with some coral pinnacles.  However, I changed my mind as soon as I looked out the window and saw a massive rainstorm heading towards Nauru from the sea to the north-east.  Although we only caught the edge of the storm, the downpour started at 8:15 am, confirming that this was not a good morning for an early coastal stroll.

That left just one important item on my ‘to-do’ list – “the” bookshop.

I decided to give the hotel’s breakfasts a chance to redeem themselves after yesterday’s experience.  There was no meeting underway in the hotel’s Chinese (and only) restaurant this morning, and so I was able to eat my breakfast from a china plate while it was still reasonably warm.  This did make a difference and it was actually quite enjoyable – or maybe I was just in a better mood this morning; today’s sausage even seemed a little longer than the one they served me yesterday.

I had arranged to meet the driver at 9:00 am to go to the book shop.  Unfortunately, the hotel’s bus had not yet arrived from its circuit to bring in employees at that time, although the wait was not too long – we were on our way by 9:20 am.

As we approached the book shop at about 9:30 am, I joked to the driver about the famous saying “third time lucky”.  Sadly, this didn’t apply to me this morning; the shop was firmly shut and the security guard advised us to come back later as the staff had not yet arrived.

I was not alone in the bus.  A couple of hotel employees were also aboard as they needed transport.  One needed to be dropped off at a government office, while the other needed to be driven to her home on the opposite side of the island as she had forgotten to bring the keys to open the administrative office at the hotel.  Rather than standing outside an unattended book shop, I agreed to accompany the others on their travels.  None of the roads travelled were new, but it was pleasant nonetheless to see the sights and enjoy the breeze through the open windows (and rusting sides and floor) of the minibus.

One of the employees (the administrator) suggested some other possibilities to find books, so after calling at her home, we made two additional stops on the return journey.  The first was at the Nauru Campus of the University of the South Pacific – a grand name for a two storey metal bungalow that would not look out of place in Blacktown (a working class suburb in Western Sydney).  They had four thin books to offer me – one on Nauruan traditional folklore, one on Nauruan fishing before the arrival of Europeans, one on how to make a hammock, and one on Nauruan chiefs prior to European settlement.  Sadly, none of these were of relevance to my environmental, developmental or geographical interests.

We proceeded to the other suggested location, a small metal garage labelled “Elizabeth’s Garden”, with the helpful sign saying “Open 9:00 am – 5:30 pm, Sundays Closed”.  Although today was Wednesday, and the time was about 10:30 am, the doors were firmly locked shut.  Luckily, the owner was outside and greeted us with a big, friendly smile - before confirming that he would not be opening today, still smiling.

And so we returned to try our luck for the fourth time at “the” bookshop.  We arrived to find it still locked and silent.  The security guard helpfully suggested that we return a little later in the morning “because someone might come”.

I asked the driver to stop about two kilometres short of the hotel because the sun had come out and we were passing the coastal strip with coral pinnacles where I had thought of walking before breakfast.  The walk back to the hotel took about half an hour (with lots of stops for photos), but it was wonderful; this section of the coral reef is perhaps the most spectacular in Nauru.  However, half an hour’s walk in the hot sun was enough to work up a profuse, salty sweat, but fortunately I had time to have a refreshing shower and change clothes before checking out from the hotel at midday.

My walk along the coastline had coincided with the only sustained burst of sunshine in Nauru today.  As we left the hotel the overcast conditions turned to light rain, which became steadily heavier during my final couple of hours in Nauru.  In a generous show of Nauruan persistence, the driver decided to divert on the way to the airport to try the bookshop for a fifth (and obviously final) time.

I wasn’t optimistic as we approached the book shop, and what little hope I had seemed to vanish when I saw the shop was still dark and locked.  However, this time the security officer came across and offered some reassuring words, before going and knocking loudly on a few doors, then shouting to try and wake up the book shop staff.  Despite his valiant efforts, he was unsuccessful, and he had to concede defeat with a shrug of the shoulders – and of course a huge smile.

Despite the short diversion to the book shop, we arrived at the airport well before 12:30 pm.  Prior to checking in, there was a visual check of my check-in bag (taking little more than 15 seconds when he learned I was not a smoker), and within another 60 seconds I was all checked in for my flight.  Long queues do not seem to be an issue at Nauru International Airport.

As the immigration counters were not due to open for another hour or so (which leads to the obvious question – why does One Airline recommend checking in three hours prior to departure?), I decided to take a stroll outside to the observation deck in the hope of seeing my plane arrive (it was scheduled to come in from Nadi, Fiji, at about 1:00 pm).

The observation deck was simply an open elevated platform, somewhat exposed to the wind and rain of the early afternoon, but offering great views across the runway to Parliament House and the other administrative buildings of the central government zone.

Just as I was about to surrender to the increasingly teeming rainfall, which was becoming heavier with each passing minute, I saw the lights of my plane approaching through the grey clouds, and decided to stay to watch the landing.  My plane was the same Norfolk Air aircraft I had flown in from Brisbane to Nauru a few days earlier, and this time I was able to read an informative note on the side of the plane that explained the relationship: “Operated by Our Airline on behalf of Norfolk Air” – which I think means One Airline is/was Norfolk Air’s parent company.

There was a small gifts store in the departures area which had some quite nice things for sale, or would have done if the shop had opened.  Remaining closed made it only slightly less useful than the gifts shop at my hotel, which had no conventional ‘gifts’ for sale, but was well stocked with 2-minute noodles, canned fruit, iodised salt, jars of vegemite (really big ones!), cordial concentrate and various types of canned food with faded labels which looked as though they may have been donated by children in a school’s food drive about a decade ago.

Boarding of the plane – through Gate 1 (the only gate) – was quick and efficient as one might expect, and like other passengers, I was grateful that the intensity of the rain had eased to little more than a light sprinkle at the time of boarding.  The plane departed from the terminal 15 minutes early, which was probably a relief to the local drivers as the road which doubles as part of the airport taxiway had to remain closed all the time that the aircraft was on the ground.

My flight to Brisbane was a smooth 4 hours and 35 minutes (no refuelling in Honiara this time), and at a few minutes after 4:30 pm, I was landing in Brisbane, my short adventure being over just a tad too soon.

Today’s extra bonus images