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Mike's Pilot Log: South to South Adventure

Whenever we can, we prefer to sleep in the open.

Whenever we can, we prefer to sleep in the open. In this part of the world there are usually lots of mosquitoes, so the next best thing is the mosquito net. We hang this from one of the wings and put our mattresses and sleeping gear inside and enjoy the fresh air this way without being annoyed by mozzies.

We took off at about 7am and headed to Tapachula airport again to clear customs and immigration. This time it was a little more difficult. The Civil Aviation lady had a bit of a fit about us not completing all the bureaucratic formalities yesterday. I still have a language problem, but Olivier's Spanish is now good enough for him to really get into a good argument. I marvel at his negotiating skills. It is those years of crossing African borders that must've been such good grounding.

I kept looking northwards to see what was happening with the weather. These damn people have all the time in the world, but we have to move very quickly sometimes to avoid bad weather. The clouds grew so quickly; I was amazed at how they changed.

At 10:45 am we took off and headed along the coast for 70 km to where the mountains, the Sierra Madre de Chiapas, were a little lower. We climbed to 8,000 ft and, dodging cumulus clouds, headed towards the mountains. I looked back to see Olivier about 2,000 ft higher than I was. I cleared the top of the mountains by about 200 ft, happy with the space around me. The higher peaks were at least another 1,000 ft higher. Suddenly, I was into some light turbulence, enjoying the ride. My ground speed shot up to 130 km/h and we sped along towards the lake of Nezahualcoyotl and open countryside. We descended below the clouds. It was hazy ahead and very dark. Olivier asked me what the countryside was like up ahead and I reported that there were no other mountains to worry about. But ahead looked like mountains. I looked at the map again, and realised my mistake. This map had different colours, contours and patterns than the previous maps and on looking again more carefully, I now saw the contours indicated high ground ahead of 7,000 ft. There was no way under the clouds as the tops of the high ground ahead were in the clouds. OK, over the top then. At 9,500 ft I reported to Olivier that I could see a clear tunnel through the clouds. But Olivier was lower than I was and quite far away, and not too happy about being near the clouds. I skirted the clouds trying to find a way through. Olivier sounded anxious over the radio. We headed west along the edge of the mountains. We had lost each other and I gave Olivier the latitude and longitude of the large airport of Comitan. In my quest to get through the clouds, he was about 7 km further west than I. He approached the airport and reported that he thought it was a military airport only. At about that time I passed over a small airport nearer to the town of Comitan. We landed on the very stony strip and taxied to the small office and tiny open hangar where a few Cessnas were parked. The weather ahead was really bad. An army Hummer vehicle was parked nearby and immediately four soldiers approached us and demanded our papers and did a basic search of our goods. Olivier didn't allow them too much leeway, making it quite clear to them that we were tourists and had already passed customs and a sniff by the drug dogs and a bitchy woman at Tapachula and that was enough for one country. Luckily, at Ricardo's suggestion, we had put some tape over the marijuana stickers that El Gato had put on our trikes in Colombia. After about 30 minutes the soldiers returned to their vehicle. We went across the road for food and fuel.

We spent the night in the small office with the guard. A few times in the night I got up to check the trikes and even though I made quite a noise the guard slept through. It rained heavily in the night.


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