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Mike's Pilot Log: South to South Adventure

OK, maybe Monday!

Woke early. 5 am. It was bright outside. In my dozy state I wondered who I needed to call to make our case stronger with the Danes. I sat on the edge of the bed and contemplated making coffee and getting dressed. But, it was too cold and the weather still looked miserable outside. Yesterday Tim Lester from BaseOps had said to me that he was looking forward to us finishing our trip then his life would be a lot easier. Also, he had said "leave it with us, go and find some Polar bears and wolves and have fun. We will call when the Danes give you the green light!" There was nothing more that we could do except wait. We had the insurance, the Danish CAA and our South African CAA were in touch with each other it seems, and BaseOps were keeping the pressure on. Good, then back to sleep.

At 9 am Sally from BaseOps called to say that we had the permit for Greenland and that she needed to fax it to us. I shouted a shout of joy, and the poor cat thought that I was being murdered and sprinted under the couch - especially when Olivier, Sandy and I danced around the lounge. Well, Sandy kind of wiggled his stomach around a bit! I thought that the permit would take longer to organise. More good news -  BaseOps were expecting a permit from Iceland for us a little later today, too.

It is a good thing that we started working on the permits in early June when we were still in Mexico. Once BaseOps had made the initial contact with Denmark and Iceland, they came back to us to tell us about the huge amount of insurance that we would need. I contacted my insurance broker in SA who I was sure could pull it off for us. We also started talking to Brian Milton (who flew around the world in a trike last year) asking his advise on the routing, permits and insurance etc. He even suggested we get our embassies involved.

About two weeks ago I realised that I needed to look elsewhere for insurance and through my mother-in-law, Mara (who lives in London) contacted Malcolm French, a Lloyds aviation broker in London. We initially received a quote of 250 Pounds which sounded OK. Later when we wanted to finalise the insurance, they withdrew the initial quote and insisted that they insure us for more of the trip. Well, in the end we now each have cover of 500,000 Pounds third party and 25,000 Pounds search and rescue the third party insurance is increased to approximately 10 million US Dollars each for the flight over Danish territory. Have you got that? I will not tell you the premium in case you also need a pacemaker, like I now do.

An interesting thing I contacted my brother-in-law, John, to ask him if he had a contact in the insurance industry that could act as a broker with Lloyds. I was trying to find someone else to deal with, rather than Malcolm, because of the extra and unnecessary insurance he was insisting we take and Lloyds told John, (through a large broker called Stirling Cook) that for enquiries originating out of SA, we should deal with my original insurance broker in SA which pissed me off a whole lot! And have you got that, too? Take your time read it again if you are not sure!!!

So, the people that helped us a whole lot to get the permits: Sandy for entertaining us and at whose house we are staying, Cam for also taking great care of us, Adamee, who put us up on the first night and then gave us free access to international calls and the internet from his office plus more, Mike Walker and especially Matt in South Africa who spent time getting us info we needed and getting in contact with our South African CAA, Arrie van der Plaats from our South African CAA who dropped everything for about the fifth time to help us, Mara in London, John in South Africa, my darling wife Charmaine who also contacted insurance companies for quotes, Malcolm French, the whole team at BaseOps who really pulled it off and of course the ever cheerful Olivier who always does more than his fair share. Thanks, too, to the Danish and Icelandic CAA for allowing us two craaazzzziieees into your airspace.

I am used to it now, but on our first expedition, I was stunned at the amount of paperwork that was needed to succeed on a trip like ours. Having this notebook computer (SBS in South Africa sponsored it) has made our lives so easy to write letters, invent false documents and stuff like that! In the third world countries the bureaucrats at the CAA, customs and immigration love fancy documents with lots of impressive titles, signatures (especially big and swirly and important looking ones) and stamps. They love rubber stamps all over the place.

I have been feeling a bit slow over the last few days, but those words this morning gave me a huge wake-up kick. Today we bought Olivier some huge new Arctic gloves and the best boots that you can get for the cold they are called Sorel. The boots are warm just to look at. I will stay with my rubber boots and BMW gloves. I think I will survive the 8 or 9 hours with my old gear I have a fairing and do not get the same amount of wind on me as Olivier does. Also, if it rains, I am protected by the fairing, whereas Olivier and his instruments get soaked.

Later, we were given a lift to the airport by Matty McNair who is the amazing lady who led the first all-woman team to walk to the North Pole last year. Her sled dogs were all tied up on chains near to the airport. Seeing and meeting the dogs was an amazing experience for Olivier and I. Olivier is an animal lover and absolutely loves cats and dogs. Whenever there is a cat or dog around, he will always call it over or go to it and stroke it and hug it. Of course, he is always wary of the huge snarling, biting kind of dog, big cats like lions etc. Now, everyone that we have met here in the Great Cold North (as I like to call it) has told us to be careful of the working dogs such as the Huskies and Canadian Eskimo dogs. They are trained to pull sleds in winter and are not bred as pets. Matty's dogs are all friendly, cheerful souls, although, they are very tough. The dog teams are between 12 and 22 dogs per sled. What great dogs. It must be an amazing experience to go with Matty for between 5 and 15 days and have your own sled and dog team especially if the trip is to the North Pole. Check out her web site www.northwinds-arctic.com for a really great adventure.

One of the reasons I want to get across the North Atlantic soon is my wife, Charmaine, and our daughter, Alexandra, will be arriving in London on the 7th August for a short holiday with me.  Also, in the UK on holiday are my son, Gregory, my mother, and my sister, Sue. We will also see Charmaine's mother and two sisters. Yesterday, I spoke to my daughter over the phone for the first time since I left South Africa, four and a half months ago, and her tears tugged very hard at my heart. I haven't let myself think too much about my loved ones at home, but once in a while, I shed a few tears - especially when I am going through a tough time or the flight risks go up.

Later in the afternoon we did some maintenance on the trikes . we did a compression test, changed the oil pressure relief springs, checked the plugs and taped up the radiators some more. We then walked to the control tower and talked to the flight service guys and the weather forecasters at North Bay Weather. The map of Baffin Island and Greenland grabbed our attention. On the way to Broughton Island we will fly over a permanent ice cap, so I hope my camera works at this cold temperature. We have been warned that the temperatures can get to minus 15 degrees C at altitude, and with the wind chill factor down to about minus 40 degrees C!! Anyway the weather wasn't good for us to go to Broughton yet low cloud, mist, light rain, easterly winds, 4 degrees C, generally sh*tty weather. Anyway we cannot afford to get to Greenland on Saturday or Sunday the weekend and after-hours callout fee could be as high as $400! At the moment there is a great big happy high pressure over Greenland that is producing good winds and clear skies all the way down to Iceland! OK, maybe Monday! Happy high please stay put!



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