Last night I got to meet Mette Sunnergren, Sweden’s Ambassador to Khartoum. I was invited to dinner with Mette and two of her colleagues at an Italian restaurant. I had the opportunity to tell them about some of my adventures so far, and I thought I saw some concern in the ambassador’s face when I described the rest of the trip heading south.
I can imagine that embassies really have a lot of work do if their citizens get into trouble.
My sincere hope is that I saw the last of my administrative troubles of this adventure in Cairo. Nevertheless, I still have to be prepared for everything…on that note, I want to get back to Cairo and the challenges encountered with my “leave-taking”.
Thursday was the ferry flight from Cairo International to October 6. On the Friday we saw the pyramids. On Saturday we got out to the plane again, and instead of taking off for Aswan I had to do some maintenance. The flying and landing wires had become quite sloppy – I had seen how they were vibrating (the landing wires, that is) while flying.
My theory is that the dry climate has probably dried up the wood in the struts and that the heat is making the wires longer. Steel becomes 1 percent longer with a 100-degree increase. I think. Am I right!?
It took some extra time to fix the wires – so much so that by the time I taxied out and got in line to take off, it was too late! For all intents and purposes, the airport was suddenly closed. It seemed that the Army had to practice for an upcoming celebration with helicopters carrying the Egyptian flag, so that meant closing the airspace around Cairo and also Cairo International airport for a few hours. I think the exercise was set to run three days in a row.
I had to taxi back and park, because of the flight time to Aswan – I did not want another landing in darkness. We watched Flightradar24 and saw how several flights into Cairo International had to divert and hold. An Egypt Air flight from Newark, New Jersey (EWR) was also affected.
The same thing happened on Sunday, but this time we were prepared. I got airborne and was asked to climb to 6,000 feet immediately, above the airport. I lost valuable time and fuel doing this. I just couldn’t understand – why wasn’t I allowed to climb en route, as in all other parts of the world ( or Europe at least…)?
At any rate, it was a long flight, but uneventful. I reached Aswan, very tired, and got help from Samy, a G.A.S.E. representative and a Nubian Egyptian who speaks very good English. Previously, Samy had worked with tourists, but these days the tourists to Aswan have all but disappeared. It is indeed sad to see how such as amazing country has lost its attraction for tourism. Aswan is very beautiful, with its location by the Nile. It could be the most romantic of holidays for many, with the area’s fine hotels and beautiful setting.
I did not see that much in Aswan because I needed to press on. In the early morning we got the plane fuelled using plastic containers and car petrol, all of which came through security without incident. “The captain has to have fuel for the plane…!”
I was indeed happy to leave Egyptian airspace. When I reached Sudan’s border I discovered that radio coverage was limited. I managed a couple of relays, but otherwise it was radio silence over the Nubian desert, and the only terrain to see was shifting brown and yellow sands, with small black stones and small hills. Nevertheless, considering the past few days, a smile can to my face as I thought about my diplomatic flight permit to Sudan, issued through the embassy in Stockholm and Ambassador Mutjab!
I landed in extreme heat in Dongola, and realized that this is the real desert! Somehow the Moth seems to cope better than I do with the conditions. The heat and dust really take a toll on a pilot sitting in an open cockpit, flying at 140 km/h for 5-6 hours…
I received a very friendly welcome to Dongola – more on that soon!