Except for the residue of sunset on the western horizon, it was dark when we arrived in Honiara. It had been raining earlier in the day, so it felt extra muggy as we exited the plane. The high humidity feels like you are walking into a greenhouse.
Honiara does not have jetways. Instead, passengers exit the plane, walk down stairs that have been rolled up to the airplane, and walk across the open tarmac to the terminal. We were glad that the rain had stopped.
Once off the plane, medical personnel stationed outside were waiting for us. There was yet another form to fill out and then we had to wait a good 20 minutes while passengers were ushered into the building a few at a time.
Medical personnel asked us questions, checked our Covid test results and collected the forms we had filled out. A box on a table read, ‘place passports here‘. I was unprepared for that! It felt funny to ‘toss’ our precious passports into a box with a pile of other passports, but it was part of the protocol. They promised we will be reunited with our passports at the end of the 3 week quarantine.
Baggage claim was the next step and it didn’t take us too long to find our bags. We were thankful to see all 3 bags had made it through to Honiara safe and sound and without any additional charges! Customs officials were collecting the regular form that passengers fill out and we made our way to the exit.
At the curb, a flat bed truck was waiting to receive luggage. Tim loaded our luggage on the truck and we were directed to board a small bus for transport to the hotel. It was the 2nd bus in the queue and there were a couple more behind.
We sat on the bus while the rest of the passengers were processed, which took a while. Finally, when all the passengers were on board the buses, the caravan of the truck with the luggage and the buses slowly pulled out and on to the highway. We made quite the procession from the outskirts of town to the hotel with the yellow emergency lights flashing.
Because it was humid, the bus windows were steamed up. I peered through the windows trying to recognize landmarks, but through the blurry windows, it was challenging.
The caravan arrived at the hotel and snaked through the parking lot and around behind the hotel to a parking area. The truck with the luggage drove up to the building and the first bus backed into an narrow alley between hotel buildings. The rest of the buses waited. We had no idea what was going on.
The radio on the bus was playing and at the airport we had heard the 8:00 pm news. When the 9:00 news came on, we realized that we had been on the bus for more than an hour.
Eventually, bus#1 came out and our bus drove into the same area between buildings. One at a time, we were asked to get off the bus to be interviewed by another set of medical personnel. They filled out more forms and then we were given the first of four required Covid tests.
After we had done that, we were walked to our hotel room. We had reserved an upstairs room with a balcony and a sea view, but apparently the Covid committee had decided the day before to rearrange the rooms and put all the arrivals from ‘high risk’ countries on the first floor.
We were disappointed to not be in the room we expected, but at that point, we were thankful to be in our room and at the end of a long journey. From DFW Airport (Dallas) to our room in Honiara was about 68 hours.