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Mike's Pilot Log: South to South Adventure

We were soon over El Salvador

We rose with the sun, packed and avoiding as many of the stones on the old runway as possible took off for the open water ahead. I veered right towards some islands and Olivier asked me where I was going. OK, so I'm a bit nervous about flying over water, Olivier seems much more relaxed than I do about flying over water. We climbed to 6,000 ft and with a tailwind of 25km/h headed over the gulf. The 40 km over the water took only about 20 minutes. Still, a landing in the sea kind of terrifies me. With a life jacket on I know that I will be OK, but loosing the Cobra will break my heart. And the bank.

We were soon over El Salvador. The villas and beach houses really amazed me. I was fascinated to see hundreds upon hundreds of beautiful luxurious holiday homes along the coast. The roads were good, too. Olivier maintains that you can always see how much corruption there is in a country by the condition of the roads. We flew past a large airport near to the coast without calling them on the radio. We did not really want to land in El Salvador if we could help it. We stayed very low along the beach, to make sure we were well away from any conflicting traffic. If a Boeing was going to hit us just above the water, then he was going to have a crash anyway. No crash. Actually, not even a near miss! Maybe, next time.

This part of the world has a tremendous number of volcanoes. Every few hours we would fly past a volcano. No, not active, luckily.

We entered Guatemala and called the tower at San Jose. Approaching the airport, I noticed the results of hurricane Mitch. There were swimming pools, about thirty houses and three apartment buildings in the sea. Some of the houses had collapsed, some were intact. The apartment buildings were mostly intact but looked like they were about to fall over any second.

We landed at San Jose airport and I got a bit of a fright when I saw only military personnel everywhere I looked. OK, were we at the wrong airport, again? The air traffic controller arrived on a bicycle to speak to us. Yes, we were at the right place. No, we didn't have to worry about customs and immigration. We asked about the airfield that we had flown over about 10 km before and decided to go there to get fuel and something to eat.

The grass strip, white buildings and large blue pool looked promising. We had a lunch of prawns and rice and managed to arrange some fuel. Although I felt like a swim, our timing didn't allow us such luxuries! Prawns, yes. Swim, no. A swim would've been cheaper, but our stomachs took control.

Mexico next. We went through 5 countries in one day. Nice.

Tapachula airport in Mexico was our next stop. These large airports are sometimes easy and sometimes a bureaucratic and expensive hell. Olivier asked for the landing fees before we touched down. $ 3.00 each. Good! Anyway, the runways are good and usually large enough to land across if there is a strong crosswind. There were military here, too. Boy, these guys like guns!

We filled in a few forms and waited while our permissions were sorted out. After about two hours we headed off to customs and immigration with our bunch of forms determined to get everything done quickly. The officials had all gone home, so we told the Civil Aviation official that we would be back in the morning. Olivier spoke to a local trike pilot and he arranged hangarage for us on his farm and told us his brother would wait for us on the farm nearby. As we approached the farm, we spotted a trike circling. Ricardo greeted us enthusiastically. He had been flying trikes for about ten years. We tested some of the special mangoes. Great. Olivier took down details about this great fruit and will write about it.

We jumped onto the back of a truck and headed a few km down the road to the fuel station. Back at the farm, we had a bath in the country tradition. Water was scooped out of a trough and poured over ourselves. Nice and cool. After not washing for a day or two in cold weather, I don't feel too bad, but in a tropical climate, it is nice to find water every day, even if it's seawater.



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