Olfactory Assault

February 20, 2010

in Odor Stories

Let’s begin at the beginning to properly set this “olfactory assault” in the proper perspective. A small group of friends and I were traveling from the U.S. to a small ( translation: thatched roof ) airport in Papua New Guinea for a 2 week dive trip. So far so good after numerous connecting flights in HNL, GUM CNS, POM and then on to our final destination on a “domestic” flight.

Keep in mind that we had all been up and traveling basically non-stop for 48 + hours at this point. Let’s also add the temperature at the time was in the upper-90’s, with a comfortable 100% humidity factor to really help create the level of comfort we were all experiencing as we boarded our final leg. No words, at least none known to earthlings as far as I know, could begin to describe the aroma that hit you in the face like a 2 by 4 being shot out of a cannon with rocket propulsion to drive the point home as you entered the aircraft cabin.

In all fairness, we all mistakenly attributed this at first to fatigue, and possibly the error on our behalf that we had boarded the wrong aircraft, and were by mistake entering a flying morgue that had landed for refueling. We were wrong ! Have I mentioned that words cannot describe the scent that permeated every square inch of this aircraft, and as we were soon to find out, most of the indigenous passengers who were already on the aircraft waiting to test the mettle of the unsuspecting guests who had just boarded – us !

Needless to say, after 2 days of non-stop travel we were all just happy to be on our last flight before beginning our excursion. Well then it happened, the cabin door closes, the APU of the aircraft shuts off, and now we are just sitting there literally stewing in our own juices as the wafting scent of those around us began to attack our nostrils, throats, and eyes. Then the engines started and began blowing warm, moist, sub-tropical “air,” followed by an inaudible announcement coming over the PA system of which the only recognizable words being uttered were: “a few more minutes before clearance to taxi” could be heard. It is important to also note that this flight was taking place close to high-noon allowing for optimal sun exposure to assist in our level of comfort as it cooked the aircraft like a giant kielbasa being left on the grill till the casing explodes.

Now here is the punch line, only then did I turn to my left to see one of my traveling companions do what many would consider is the un-thinkable, but proved to be a life-saver. He had in fact removed one of his well worn 48hr plus shoes, and had placed it over his nose and mouth and begun taking what seemed to be life-saving deep breaths in what at that time he could only describe smelling like a field of lilacs. If only I was able to do the same, but for fear of being casually left for dead by one of my local seat mates, I instead closed my burning eyes and dreamed of cakes and candies and sugar plum fairies.

While those of you doubters might be reading this thinking I have embellished some here, there will also be many who have traveled in this part of the world and can attest to the scents given off by those who live in some of the more rural portions of this region.


{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Increasedosologist February 22, 2010 at 6:18 am

PNG still has plenty of cannibal tribes. You are lucky there was no in flight meal, cause they would build a bonfire in the middle of the plane and guess who would have got eaten.


chris February 22, 2010 at 7:44 am

You could have spent a little less time on florid language and a little more time on actually telling the story. I had to read it three times before I figured out that it was the people (not the plane, some cargo, or something else) that stunk. I hope the diving was better.


the logger February 23, 2010 at 2:37 am

I like sitting next to fatties and stinkers on planes.. it gives me a sense of warmth… my wife is fat and she stinks… if you want pics email me


Schwinnfin February 23, 2010 at 12:08 pm

I know the flight you were on. The smell, along with the fear of the ill-maintained plane landing in the jungle, is something I'll never forget. My favorite PNG experience was the flight from POM to CNS when the FA walked up and down the aisle, spraying the plane with insecticide to conform to Australian quarantine regulations. Now we had the aroma of the passengers mixed with Raid. Unforgettable!


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