Mike's Log

99-09-21

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Mike's Pilot Log: South to South Adventure

The trikes were full and heavy, the take-off roll so long...

Waking up on the beach is really what most people dream about. To get away early in the morning and for the pure enjoyment of it, we decided to sleep on the beach - quite near to our newly rigged trikes.

After coffee and bread, we finished packing our trikes and prepared to leave. Ahead of us lay the last water crossing of any significance (I think actually this might not be true at all I will have another look at our route) so Greg and Olivier put on life jackets. Between the four of us we have three life jackets. The third life jacket we placed in my trike at my feet if Olivier and Reynald had to ditch, then I would throw the life jacket down to them, if we ditched then I already had the life jacket with me. Easy. Also, if we ditched, Olivier and I both agreed that the best thing would be to jump off the trike just before it impacted with the water. Greg was to bale out to the right and me to the left.

The trikes were full and heavy, the take-off roll so long that I had to turn slightly during the take-off roll after 80 meters because the road bent to the left. We waved goodbye to our new friends and headed out over the sea. In the distance we could clearly see the hills around Tanger, Morocco. Africa, the crazy adventure-filled continent and our home, lay ahead of us in a dusty haze.

As usual, the engines purred sweetly. Since Olivier had his wing adjusted at the factory in France, and since my trike has turned into a huge drag machine with Greg in the back and our huge bags tied onto the sides, Olivier has been a bit faster than me. Nonetheless, for most of the flight across the water, we stayed close together, Reynald taking photos of us from the back seat of Olivier's trike. This was to be Reynald's last flight with us he was to catch a normal airline flight home the next day so that he could attend an art exhibition where some of his works of art will be displayed.

We headed along the first piece of the west coast of Africa. Morocco is a bit Arabic, a bit European the distinction between southern Spain and Morocco was noticeable from the air by the white flat-roofed houses and buildings, the mosques and the different kinds of cemeteries.

As we have passed through the different countries an interesting thing to see from above has been the different cemeteries and burial grounds. Some, like in Nicaragua, are small and colourful, some, like in England, have small gravestones and special buildings where the cremated remains are placed in urns in a wall and some, like in Spain, filled with huge white tombs. One thing is sure, in all countries the dead are honoured to some degree. I guess no one wants to feel that as soon as you are dead your body is cut up and fed to the wild animals. Bye, thanks for saving our dogs from starvation! Olivier and I have discussed death on more than one occasion during the last few months (there are lots much more interesting subjects that we have discussed, too) and we agree that, in our humble opinion, there is no life after death, so live every day to the full, because there may be no tomorrow! If, of course, after death we find ourselves at the Pearly Gates (or in Olivier's case, in the Devil's Chamber) then that will be a bonus. Actually, I am quite scared of dying now. It's not that I worry about the last few scary moments, it's that I still want to spend more time with my family and friends and also, there are so many things that I still want to experience especially while I am in my prime!!!

The weather was good, blue skies and the little wind that there was, was behind us. One hundred km before Rabat, we headed inland and started to climb. Ahead of us was a restricted airspace that started at ground level and ended at 3,500 ft. We flew over it at 4,000 ft to be sure that the military didn't send a rocket or similar up at us.

It was cold up high, but the turbulence was less so we were happily cold! The airport of Sale could be seen from miles away a long dark streak in an otherwise brown landscape. The ATC told us to join on a left base for runway 22, but the windsock indicated quite a strong wind in the wrong direction, so Olivier asked if we could land on 04. "Yes, but cross the runway and join left downwind for 04 you can't do a right hand circuit, you must go left."

We crossed the runway at about 500 ft and dived left downwind, left base, finals and landed all in one swoop. While we were taxiing to the terminal buildings the ATC called Olivier on the radio and started to tell him something about doing a left hand circuit and blah blah about something or other not doing it correctly. Just then other air traffic started calling and so we never got to hear what the problem actually was.

We taxied to the old Aeroclub hangar where we parked, removed the wings and unpacked. After pegging the wings down, we were forced to wait with an airport security man at the side of the hangar while the president of Tunisia was escorted with pomp and ceremony (marching bands and ceremonial soldiers) to his waiting Airbus jet. After his jet was in the air and on it's way, we were then allowed to move around freely again to finish our unpacking. We took all our valuables with us and headed to the terminal building where we cleared customs and immigration.

A taxi took us to the house of Louis and Bahia in Rabat. This was to be our home for the next week or so while we did battle with the African embassies for the eight or nine visas we needed. Rabat is the capital of Morocco and almost all the African countries have an embassy or consulate in the city. I just checked I need 7 visas and Olivier needs 9! Sometimes a visa is such a difficult thing to obtain . We are prepared for a frustrating week.

We met Louis and Bahia and the rest of the family and settled in to their home.

 

 


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