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Mike's Pilot Log: South to South Adventure

We crossed the border into Nicaragua

Immediately on waking I checked the weather. Good. Some cloud and a small storm nearby but to the north-west it looked good. It had rained very heavily last night, so it was a relief to have some blue sky. We packed our trikes as quickly as we could, had a quick breakfast and said our goodbyes. We were on the move again, after a break, which was just a bit too long. Olivier reported that his ear was on the mend and he was also eager to move.

We climbed to 2,000ft and headed down the beach. Beautiful beaches and lodges passed slowly beneath us. Some of the beaches are white on this section of the coast, but most have black or brown sand. We flew over a Club Med hotel with beautiful pools and a magnificent golf course. Good bye Costa Rica, it's been fun. All the hotels and lodges were completely empty apart from some staff cutting lawns, etc. It's now the low season in this part of the world because it's the rainy season.

From the rain the previous night my radio started to have a mind of it's own and so I switched it off. Olivier was flying with the map and he did all the radio work. I stuck to him like glue. Without a radio it would be easy to loose each other in the open blue.

We flew quite high because there were not that many open beaches and occasionally we would cut across small peninsulas. There were a few storms around and we carefully skirted them. Olivier always avoids the large clouds and storms and rain by staying at a really safe distance from them I enjoy going as close as I dare. I wonder if I need the adrenaline.

While flying, I spent some time trying to accurately calculate our fuel consumption and speeds. I had re-calibrated my fuel gauge and suddenly I seemed to be using a lot more fuel than usual. I guess my cruising speed is about 100 km/h at 1,000 ft ASL and fuel consumption about 14 L/h, and at 5,000 ft ASL my cruise is about 105 km/h and consumption about 16 L/h. Fuel consumption seems to be a lot higher on these 912 S engines than on the 80 hp 912. If my memory has not failed me, I recall on the last trip we did (1995 Cape to Cape Expedition), our average consumption was about 11 or 12 L/h although our speed was also about 10 km/h slower. I am not sure that we have the most efficient jetting, because the exhaust gas temperatures are a bit low. Also, a direct comparison with a standard 912 might show only a small difference. These 912S engines are great, and having the extra power has given us that extra safety margin, but it is costing us in fuel a bit.

We crossed the border into Nicaragua. Not much to see. No fence or guards or gunfire.

After a while the terrain changed a bit and the beaches became longer. Olivier dived down and sped along low level. I stayed at about 500 ft and watched him play. It was interesting to watch the kids and the dogs. Some kids and some dogs dived for cover as he got closer. Most kids leaped into the air and tried to persuade him to land. The cheeky ones even did a little jig in front of him. The dogs were the funniest. They gave chase as fast as they could, looking up at this big noisy bird. Not looking where they were going sometimes had disastrous consequences with the odd collision and even a crash into a pole.

Over a large beach at the town of Puerto Masachapa Olivier did a go-around and it looked like he was going in for a second look at the people and kids on the beach when he suddenly landed. OK, coffee time, I guess. I landed and stopped near to some beautiful beach houses. Olivier told me that he landed because of the storm ahead. I looked north and could see a darkening sky.

The wonderfully enthusiastic and hospitable Nicaraguans we met really made our stop worth while. They all live in Managua and were at the beach for the day. I tested some really magnificent Nicaraguan rum. We chatted for a few hours and I went off to the local fuel station to get our 3 loose plastic fuel containers filled. Fuel in this part of the world is about 50 US cents per litre. They sell it by the gallon, though. We were invited for lunch, but it was getting late and we needed to move on.

The sky ahead had cleared up a bit. We flew on for another 2 hours and then at the final point of Nicaragua, called Punta Cosiguina, before the Gulf of Fonseca, we looked for a spot to spend the night. The map indicated 2 runways, but the data was really way out of date. We found one abandoned air strip and after flying around for about 20 minutes trying to decide where to land, put down on the old strip, as far from the houses at the other end as possible. Within a few minutes the local kids surrounded us. One of the local orphans was white with light brown hair. The other boys tried to persuade us to take him with us, as he was abandoned and had a gringo father. He seemed to like the attention, even though the other kids were trying to give him away.

After the sunset they left for home, promising to be back in the morning. Just what we need.

There were no mosquitoes, but instead millions of little flying bugs descended on us. Luckily they didn't bite or sting. The tropics are an insect's heaven, obviously.

We put the tent up and dived in. During the night it rained a little. Dinner was a sandwich and some bananas, which Elizabeth had given us before we left the Flying Crocodile this morning.


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