If ever there was an occasion when I would allow myself to say, “What a day!”, this was probably it!
In all my years of flying I have never had such an exhausting experience – both physically and mentally, in terms of flying, planning, and the aviation skills I needed… a truly stressful day. But I made it, I did it! Now, when writing the input for this post, I am typing away on a computer in what must be considered a paradise after the most recent days of Cape to Cape.
I have arrived in Camp 748 in Lokichoggio in northwest Kenya, a small collection of huts and a bar/restaurant. I never imagined that I could be so happy to be served a simple cold beer. There wasn’t much alcohol to be had in Egypt or Sudan, or during the Eid Feast. I did find some now and then (thanks Eddie and Ronnie!). The airfield in Lokichoggio has a has almost a silver-screen “bush flying” look – a remote outpost, with old, abandoned airplanes and wrecks, a half-finished runway, and magnificent mountains in the distance.
I came in around 1430 local time after taking off at 0710 from Damazin, Sudan. There were several aspects that made this flight the most challenging yet during this journey: I was really stretching it in terms of distance, and there was a good deal of uncertainty regarding winds. If I fly at 75 knots (140 km/h), and have a 15-knot headwind, my ground speed in the Moth is just 60 knots. Such a scenario today would have meant that I would never make it to my destination.
In every other country along the route, I have always been able to find at least some field where I was allowed to land and refuel. Not so for South Sudan or Ethiopia. I do want to note, however, that we got excellent help from the Swedish Embassy in Addis Abeba. On Friday the embassy had representatives making every effort to organize a landing permit through the Ethiopian Civil Aviation Authority, but without success. It is perhaps understandable; my intended route would take me over a region in conflict, and rebel action has left legitimate authorities in Ethiopia, Sudan and South Sudan without control over some areas.
I didn’t have any other alternative than to make an extremely difficult 7-hour flight. But then again, a Moth is one of the most capable planes around! If need be, I can land AMO on a road or dirt strip/field of less than 200 meters. I loaded a plastic container holding an extra 40 liters of fuel in the baggage compartment and put my trust in AMO to get me where I needed to go.
For security reasons, I cannot reveal what actually happened along the way. I couldn’t tell you my position en route, and I can’t describe how I managed to get the information I needed to make Lokichoggio. All I can say is that this wonderful 1935 Moth makes the impossible possible, and that this is worth more than all the money in the world!
Perhaps there are people reading this who were involved in making this incredibly demanding leg of Cape to Cape a success. I am truly indebted to you, and I am so thankful for your help, guidance and friendship. When authorities and governments can’t help us, ordinary people take on the challenge and make great things happen in this crazy world…
In the first 3 hours of flying, I climbed really high to avoid the headwind. That worked for a while. Another solution is to fly at a very low altitude. Wind is always hindered by the friction of the ground. It’s still uncomfortable going low like that, but I gained significant ground speed by using this so-called “nap of the earth” flight course.
What I can tell you is that I was treated to some beautiful scenery today: huge flatlands consisting of both marshes and dry areas, with a few trees here and there. Definitely an Out of Africa feeling today!
Flying low is fantastic for making time pass. You are always so busy looking at everything around you. You see people coming out of huts and waving as you pass. You see the grass bend in the wind. The Moth performed faultlessly – it’s the pilot who is the weak link. I feel utterly, physically exhausted. I will rest an extra night here in Loki and then continue to Nairobi via Nanyuki (fuel stop) on Monday. No new photos at the moment but I will make sure that new ones are added soon – stay tuned.
You might see that I have altered my route a bit. I have not yet got landing clearance at Segera retreat, which owns the original DH60 that was featured in Out of Africa. I might come back to visit Segera before leaving Nairobi.
Ethiopia needs no explanation. Not having SEAMO as a guest is their loss!