Stuck in paradise

WHEN it comes to the eruption of Mount Raung in Java, there are two very distinct views.

Either you are in Australia thinking why are these people complaining! They are stuck in paradise! Why would they want to leave, embrace the eruption.

Or else you are one of the people stuck in Bali, doing everything possible to just get home.

To be honest, if I was stuck in the cold of Perth, I would be thinking those in Bali were the luckiest people around, getting the chance to extend their holidays and miss out on work for a couple more weeks.

But I was one of those people who was in Bali, and the truth was it was impossible to find an Australian who was happy about the delay.

I arrived in Bali as part of a family group of 20 the day before the eruption. At that point, we all assumed it would blow over by the time we were due to fly out on July 12.

After all, there were no visible signs of the eruption. Bali was all blue skies and sunshine.

Unless you were told the volcano was erupting you would not have known anything was different.

When Denpasar Airport closed on July 10, panic began to set in. What if we couldn’t get home?

Talking to people who had their flights cancelled that day, the news was not great.

One Perth couple could not get a flight home until July 21, another was told August 3 and one woman said she could not get back to Melbourne until August 31.

Many said they would be willing to ride it out lounging in the sun for two or three more days some of us would probably even embrace a short extension to the holiday but nobody wanted to stay for another three weeks.

Perth people might have been wondering why all the fuss, but in Bali there was panic everywhere especially among my family on Sunday morning when we were told the airport had closed again until 4pm.

It is not easy to fit 20 people into a plane if our flight was to be cancelled, and we had the same thoughts as many other travellers.

Where would we stay? Where would we get the extra money from? How long before we could get back?

My uncles had already spent more than 10 hours queuing among thousands at the Garuda Indonesia offices trying to find out more information.

Garuda was keeping passengers updated through twitter, and most of the morning I had family and strangers surrounding my phone, eager for any update they could get as to whether we would fly.

By 2pm the stress of waiting became too much and we headed to the airport.

But what greeted us there was thousands of passengers who were stranded or trying to find more information.

There were rumours everywhere.

You would hear no planes will fly today, the wind has changed again, the airport will stay shut, your plane has been cancelled and your plane is still going all within the space of five minutes.

When news came out over the loudspeaker at 4pm that the airport was reopened, a massive cheer went out.

But it was just three hours before our flight was due to go and we still had no idea whether we would fly.

We checked in and kept our eyes on the departure board. As the flights came onto the screen they were either boarding, or cancelled.

When a gate number popped up next to our flight number, we finally got a glimmer of hope.

We headed to the gate and our spirits lifted when we saw we had a plane, but we werenot home yet.

7pm came and went, and we were delayed until 8.30pm. Then 9.15pm. We had a plane, but it turned out we did not have a pilot; he was stuck in Jakarta.

When the passengers finally got called to board at 9.45pm, a cheer roared around the terminal. We were going home.

When we landed in Perth just after 2am on Monday morning, passengers physically kissed the ground.

In the end, I was one of the lucky ones who managed to get home on time, however there are thousands who did not.

Before you reply with lucky buggers get to be stuck in Bali think about this: how would you react if you were told you would be stuck in a foreign country for up to six extra weeks with little money and no chance to get home?