The Caribbean isn’t really known for big adventure. There are no lost civilization to find the temples of, no vicious creature such as lions or tigers or bears (oh my) and not even much in the way of dangerous sea creatures. While there is lovely rain forest hiking, mountain climbing and great fishing, most adventures here are in the hotel rooms, and not suitable for public discussion! Traveling through the Caribbean can be an experience and adventure by itself, especially if you are traveling on LIAT, officially known as Leeward Islands Air Transport!
LIAT was offering a fall special to Puerto Rico for a seven day vacation and my family decided it sounded like a good opportunity to get away, do a bit of shopping and spend quality time with the kids. It was also at an affordable price, important to a struggling family. The flight was scheduled to have three stops after Nevis, but it wouldn’t matter as we were to to have to de-board the plane, it was to be a 4 hour flight.. We rousted both kids out of bed and went to the airport for our 6:30 flight, the plane arrived at 7:15. Caribbean time, no problems.
We flew for 7 minutes to St. Kitts and then had to unload, there was engine problems. We got off, went back through immigration, sat for 30 minutes and then got back on the plane. Now there was a 25 minute flight to St. Martin which took 40 minutes as the wind was wrong and the engine started acting up again!
In st. Martin we got back off, had to all collect out luggage and then go back through customs and immigration. We sat there for another 30 minutes and then got back on the same plane and it wouldn’t take off! Unload, back into the terminal and send back out the mechanic. We finally left St. Martin at 10: 00 on the same plane, we have also now been through Immigration 4 times and still have the stop in Tortola to go!
The plane makes it to Tortola around 11:00 and is schedule for a 15 minute lay over, but it may run a bit longer as they still need to check on that engine, again. At 12:00 we have run out of our own snacks and start looking for lunch, but everywhere at the airport is closed, It was August Monday, a public holiday. We can’t even find the LIAT staff. The LIAT passengers all get together and demand security to find the staff and or lunch. The British Virgin Islands has good officers and they soon located the staff in the back at a birthday party, they would be out shortly.
Some one hired a taxi to run to a nearby Chinese restaurant and bring back food. The staff came back out at 2:30 and the mechanic then went out to work on the plane. We boarded at 3:30, taxied out to the runway and Nikki, my wife, commented that some one was smoking on the plane. Patrick, my six year old son goes, “no they aren’t, I think it is probably the smoke coming in from the engine as it seems to be on fire”. We look out the window and the stewardess screams “we’re on fire, evacuate the plane!” The fire exits get popped and everybody runs back into the terminal. The fire department goes out and puts out the fire!
Now we had to go back out to the plane and get the carry on luggage and wait for a replacement plane to be flown in from Antigua. Getting back on the plane at 6:00 that night Immigration realized I had a first aid kit with scissors and tweezers and accused me of being a terrorist, that delayed us another 15 minutes. We did make it to Puerto Rico, only 9 1/2 hours later.
That was a Caribbean travel adventure. I did mention that while LIAT officially stands for Leeward Islands Air Transport it is locally known as Look Into Alternative Transportation, didn’t I?