As we slowly shuffle down the air bridge, the plane crash scene from “Alive: Miracle of the Andes” pops into my head and I silently curse myself for not being in control of my own thoughts. The bridge sways gently under the queue of people waiting to board the plane. “Think happy thoughts”, I quietly whisper. I imagine the three of us sitting in a trendy London bar sampling some traditional English beer but the thought is quickly replaced with the mental image of our plane crash landing into a snow-covered mountain at 960kph.
A bead of sweat trickles down my forehead. We approach the airplane door and the stocky, slightly balding steward welcomes us on board the plane. As we step on, Mick informs him that I have never flown before and that I’m a little nervous. The steward lets out a maniacal laugh reminiscent of a Scooby Doo villain and then wishes me a pleasant flight. I imagine the picturesque mountain landscape, flawless white as far as the eye can see, spoiled only by the scattered debris that used to be our Boeing 747.
We walk past the steward and head down the narrow isle toward our seat. Everything is a lot more compact than I thought it would be. I suddenly start to feel very claustrophobic. I imagine Mick and Lee cutting off and devouring parts of my dead frozen arse to survive.
We find our way to the tiny seats we will have to spend the next twenty-four hours in. I notice the little paper airsick bags tucked into the netted pouch on the chairs in front of us as an announcement comes over declaring high winds and apologizing for the inevitable turbulence we are going to experience. I start to stockpile a collection of bags as a precautionary measure. The plane crash scene from “Cast away” finds its way into my thoughts.
There is an excruciatingly long wait and all I can do is try to compose myself. Another bead of sweat trickles down my face. This is the most traumatic part of any unpleasant experience. The anticipation. The moment before you rip off the Band-Aid. The calm before the storm. I imagine the cabin of our plane instantly filling with water as we make an emergency sea landing in the middle of the Indian Ocean.
Mick points a video camera in my face and asks me a question. I don’t hear a word he says so I just bluff my way through by nodding awkwardly. I try to distract myself by staring at the small television screen mounted into the chair in front of me but all I can see is a message reading “The in-flight entertainment has been temporarily paused”. The plane engines start up. A series of profanities escape from my lips. I imagine swimming to an uninhabited island, my only company the 6 inch broken computer monitor that washed ashore. I shall dub thee… Wilson.
The plane starts to gently push forward and I think to myself… this isn’t too bad. I can handle this. Suddenly the roar of the engines intensifies and we start to accelerate at a speed that makes my nether regions tingle. The onslaught of regret begins. Why am I entrusting my life to this giant metallic bird? How is it even logistically possible for this huge hunk of metal to get airborne? I’m too young to die! I can feel my stomach drop as the wheels lift off the ground. My eyes lock shut. It’s going to be a very long day. I remember the plane crash scene from “Final destination”.
I can feel Lee nudging my arm but there is no way I am opening my eyes. I remember the gremlin tearing apart the wing in the twilight zone movie.
Lee softly punches my arm. I remember King Kong swatting bi planes out of the air like tiny flies.
“You’ve gotta see this Jag!” Lee announces, hitting my arm progressively harder. The steward’s harsh laughter echoes through my head.
I receive another punch to the arm and I know that Lee’s stubborn persistence means I have to make the choice between looking at whatever he is trying to show me or wearing an orange sized bruise for the next week. I reluctantly prize one eye open to see Lee pointing out the window and all my fear suddenly turns to a sense of awe. The aerial view from up here is truly breathtaking. I remember the scene in “Dances with wolves” when Kevin Costner sees the herd of Buffalo on the hills.
Its so humbling to elevate yourself so far above the place you were just standing. It really puts things in perspective. It was then that I truly got a sense that we actually leaving. We were going to the other side of the world. And we were leaving all this behind us. I spent most of the flight staring out the window watching the reflection of the moon in the plane wing as we flew over little clusters of lights that make up European cities that we will soon be living in. I remember the scene in “Road trip” where the boys embark on their crazy adventure.
We are going to the other side of the world. The adventure has begun.