Wheelchair Abroad – Vanuatu
I recently ventured overseas for a family wedding to Vanuatu, where you could say, I encountered some logistical hurdles. I’ll start from the beginning…
I had a 7am flight to Vanuatu with a connecting flight through to Sydney, with an expected layover of just under 2 hours. Being the intelligent readers you all are, you may have come to the assumption that this layover blew out. It was now an 8 hour stopover! This happens from time to time so it’s no biggie, however, when I asked for my wheelchair back (I was ushered over from the plane to the departing gate in an aisle chair), the support staff responded with “I’m sorry sir, we can’t retrieve it”. Then to make matters worse, they provided a substitute wheelchair that was far from operational for myself. I expressed my concern that getting around in this subpar contraption for the next few hours was simply unworkable. And to the staff’s credit, they were very accommodating by putting me in the business lounge to pass the next few hours.
Eventually I board the plane and arrive in Vanuatu, where I’m pumped and eager to get to the resort so I can relax with a cheeky shiraz. Of course to do so, I’ll need my trusty wheelchair. As I am sitting patiently in the aisle chair at baggage claim awaiting my luggage, I ask the staff member who was ushering me “My wheelchair will come here, yes?” She smiles and replies with “YES” (I think she was humouring me, though we must keep in mind that English is not her first language).
Several minutes pass, the luggage items slowly dwindle away and in which case I have collected my bag but not my wheelchair. As you could imagine numerous discussions have taken place in this time, but the more amusing exchange was near the end of this escapade. I was approached timidly by an airport staff member, as I sat there marooned by three Vanuatu airport staff, instructing me that my wheelchair was left in Sydney. Then in the action of retreat, the airport staff member asked “you okay?” I politely let the airport staff member know I will not be okay and I need my wheelchair to get around the island. I was then taken to service desk and filled out the relevant forms, with the much needed help from the resort manager who was waiting for me.
I eventually arrived at the resort after 15 hours in transit, including the bumpy drive in the dark through torrential rain. By now, as you would all appreciate, I was exhausted and ready to turn in for the night. But not in this story!
As I approached Villa 14, pushing in my rickety wheelchair supplied by the Vanuatu Airport in the pouring rain and sinking sand, I hear cries of laughter get louder with each metre gained. As I enter the villa, it feels like I’m entering a Roman Bathhouse with way too much male nudity for my liking. Great, my roommate decided to hold another bucks party for the groom. Thankfully I received my wheelchair the next evening, and overall a very enjoyable wedding and weekend was had.
The main narrative of this story I am trying to portray is that things may not go as planned in travel, but that’s all part of the adventure. I can attest from all my travels over the past 10 years to numerous countries in a wheelchair, this is the first occasion where my wheelchair has been left behind.
So be rest assured, this incident will not stop my future endeavours of travel!
Joshua Hose is a two time Gold Paralympian. Playing for the Australia Steelers Wheelchair Rugby Team for over 9 years. Retiring after the 2016 Rio games Josh now works for Spire as a Peer Support Worker. Josh likes to Travel and keep fit with various activities. Follow Josh on IG @josh_hose