Sunday, February 8, 2009

Meet the Fokkers

The time had come to fly from Medan to Nias Island. Nias is a large island off the west coast of Sumatra. Up until now the flights within the region had all been on medium-size Airbus-type aircraft. I had been told that the flight to Nias used much smaller aircraft and that it would probably be a Fokker. I had this picture of a small passenger plane with a minimal capacity flown by a pilot who looked way too young. The recollection of Bob Newhart’s famous routine about the “Mrs. Grace L. Ferguson Airways and Storm Door Company” also passed through my mind.

When they called our flight and we headed to board the bus it became quickly apparent that this was not a tiny aircraft – way too many people!
We were bussed out to a small terminal building where a Riau Airline Fokker 50 was waiting. Two aside seating and two flight attendants – much better than I expected. The Fokker 50 is an over-wing aircraft so we had great unobstructed views of Sumatra as we crossed over from east to west. It was a wonderful flight. The baggage claim area at the airport on Nias was nothing more than a low wooden counter – they really don’t need any more given the few flights a day that come here.

After landing we had a 30 minute drive north to Gunung Sitoli where we will be checking out radios on Monday. The staff of the PMI branch were all at a wedding so the office was locked for the day – Glen and I were forced to sit and read on the hotel patio. 

One thing we noticed as we drove from the airport was the lack of roadside animals – none. But we did see goats on the narrow beach outside our hotel later. We also saw at least four churches. In all of Aceh that we have travelled so far we had seen only one church. I’m sure there are more – we just haven’t passed by. It seemed odd to see so many churches in such a short distance. A reminder that not all of Indonesia has such a large percentage of the population being Muslim as does Aceh.

Our hotel in Gunung Sitoli is right on the ocean so I can hear the waves from my room. Bummer huh! Rooms on the ground floor close to the beach were still available so Glen and I took those. Our travelling companion Pak Edho headed for the 2nd floor. Later we concluded that perhaps the memories of the tsunami are still fresh enough that some people are uncomfortable being low and close to the sea. We know that Pak Edho lost quite a few family members in the tsunami in Banda Aceh so he has a right to head for higher ground if it makes him more comfortable.

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