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Olivier's Pilot Log: South to South Adventure

The Magic continues…

The Magic continues…
I actually could not (and still not now) really believe that we were once again going to meet and set up for another expedition of this type. When waiting for my South African friend at Esseisa Int'l Airport last Sunday, I missed the right electronic panel and read the departure board instead of the arrivals one, thinking Mike's flight was delayed for an hour or so. Nothing really surprising as SAA is an African Airline after all. So, we went with Edgardo, accompanied with by respective patiences to the bar for 3 quarters of an hour while Mike was actually waiting in the arrival hall, wondering where the … I could be! We just missed each other for a few minutes. A few dark coffees later we went downstairs and I realized the mistake. And there was Mike, smiling as always, laughing. A great moment. I was frankly happy to see his friendly face. The Dream was finally about to materialize, once again. And now, I could really start to think that we would soon be exploring that part of the world.

Although the temperature and humidity was pretty bad, Mike felt happy about it. He was coming from an African summer and I just left the winter colds of Europe. On the large highways leading to the center of the gigantic city we could already have a good taste of the driving style of the Latin Americans. An enjoyable show. Cars dancing all over, loud noises, badly burned diesel from spitting lorries. I was back to somewhere exciting, somewhere were passions seemed to come before strict rules, in one of these colorful nations close to the tropics where people don't bother too much about the respect of New World standards of fumes and decibels emissions, but enjoy themselves and laugh a lot. A delightful feeling.. At first sight, Buenos Aires sounded, smelled, and looked like a good mixture of Southern Italy and Central Spain.

Split wings…
But we still needed our wings. The following day, we could get my trike out but apparently Mike's machine was still in Johannesburg, forgotten somewhere in the Cargo terminal. Swissair had sent my trike on the same flight of last Friday as promised. So we managed to get the first trike out of customs. A great thanks to Mrs. Gabrielle Siekiersky of the Swiss Automobile Association in Geneva for her fantastic last minute effort and initiative to issue two import documents for both our microlights. The customs agent we took was a guide through the many offices and departments of the large buildings that compose the Cargo terminal. But what really made the whole process rapid & easy were those yellowish "Carnet de Passage en Douane" that were covering Argentinean customs from any risk of illegal selling from our side. Surprisingly, all the people we encountered and dealt with in Customs were friendly and helpful. Knowing that things would go again so smooth in a few days when getting Mike's trike out, we did not really care to wait and come back a second time.

Getting the starting blocks adjusted..
Now, we are just about to go on this marvelous expedition.. Argentina is an easy place to live, but will be difficult place to leave.. No wonder that so many Europeans immigrated here. In these last days, we met so many wonderful people. Argentineans are delightful souls. Generosity and spontaneity are their most obvious qualities for freshly imported visitors like us. A smiling nation, with a fantastic climate. We first got a hangar to prepare our machines and equipment borrowed from Rans agent Ernesto Acerbo and were then introduced to Santiago Garibotti, the playboy instructor of the EAA Aeroclub of General Rodriguez airfield. He is the one who helped us the most from day one up to now. A real character! We met new friends everyday and got invited all the time. Eduardo Maffia was very helpful and got Mike's radio system working. Carlos another flyer of the club lent us one of his cars to give us some independence and mobility, an original Jeep Willys from the WW2. Saying goodbye to all those new brothers in a few days will be an emotional moment.

Mike's trike got finally ready to test fly 2 days after delivery. As more complicated and fancy than my yellow plain "Caterpillar", it needed more adjustments and careful set ups. We finally flew both trikes on Sunday before sunset. Great machines! We had the privilege to fly the two very first 100 HP trikes in the world. With our brand new Rotax 912S's we have the absolute power we need for our heavy loaded microlights and the crossing of the Andes next week. Our speed ranges are very similar and we can comfortably cruise at 100 kph.

The new route..
Crossing the Andes right to the West of Buenos Aires (Mendoza – Santiago at 15 000 feet..) requires the assistance of oxygen, which we could not get. Also, the South seems very interesting. So with the advice from a local specialist, we will fly South West to Neuquen in two stages from here covering about 1000 km. From Neuquen we will be able to cross the Andes without too much worries as elevations hardly get to more than 10000 feet. Then we will come to the Pacific coast of Chili, near Conception, 800 km South of Santiago, the Capital City.

We were supposed to leave on Thursday, but the flying community of the EAA insisted for a later departure in order to join us during the first hours of the expedition to Santa Rosa, our stop over number one. A dozen of ultralights will escort us for 2 hours about. This is going to give us a real energetic start. We immediately accepted and decided to take of on Saturday 27th of March. We will definitely catch up with time and reach Central America on schedule. This is how flying adventures go... No real plans, no strict rules, but a good vision and flexible timing, and also a fine tuning of our personal meteorology stations: our noses. Mike and I have had an absolute wonderful time preparing the last bits of this imminent departure. Now, I should go back to my packing.. Things are all around the place and we are still wondering how this enourmous amount of equipment will fit onto the 2 machines.. We actually need a Land Rover..
Hasta luego

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