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Olivier's Pilot Log: South to South Adventure


We just arrived in Cali and we are already treated like Princes. Just unbelievable! Thanks to my friend "Crab with Golden Claws" in Geneva who put me into contact with all the great flying community here. Cali is a very nice city and the people we meet are incredibly genuine and friendly. The UL club we are parked at now is well organized and quite big, with 25 planes and neat hangars with grass everywhere and security guards.

Our arrival yesterday was quite epic. We first entered from Ecuador and landed in Tumaco at the border. The day after, we flew along the wild coast, up North to Buenaventura in our way to Cali. But the weather got severely bad and we had to fly in the rain over the Pacific Coast for some time. We eventually called Cali control to tell them that we had to abort the flight and land on the Beach. The sky was dark and threatening. Cali had no real choice and said okay... The day after, we took off early towards Cali and climbed high to cross the Andes at 10'000 feet. Underneath the terrain was only jungle and hills. My tank was getting empty and I quickly realized I would not make it to Cali as the sky further east was closed by cumulus over the city and surrounding hills. The airport was still 30 km away. And that moment became the most critical situation I have been through during this journey. Looking down the green valley underneath, I could see some farms and small pueblos. I went low and searched for a suitable landing spot. Mike decided to land also, starting to get low on fuel too. My needle was flirting with the terrible "E" for empty and I had no clue how much petrol was left in my tank... Bad time... I flew around and around that valley for another 10 minutes and decided that I had to land before the engine quit.. I found a steep terrain on top of a small farm and came low down the slope and applied full power to land uphill. The machine jumped over the holes and bumps but I managed to not break anything. The solid yellow trike was actually made for that kind of a landing.

Mike did the same and avoided the deepest holes. Cali control was wondering where we had suddenly disappeared to. I unstrapped the 2 plastic tanks and went to the next village 10 km away. I first had to walk two kilometres before stopping a truck driving on the muddy track. There in the small village, I bought 60 litres of fuel, drank a cup of coffee and hired a car and driver to bring me back to the landing spot. One hour passed... Cali started to get really worried.

The take off was somehow abominable, rushing down the slope and jumping all over again, avoiding the nastier trenches and potholes. Fortunately, we both managed to make it safely up into the sky again. At this point in time, Cali was really wondering what the hell these two guys were doing... We eventually came down through the clouds and over the city and headed directly to Cali International. We suddenly saw a big airport and started the landing procedure joining downwind and talking to the radio control. We got the green light to land on Runway 01 and approached on final when we realized that the runway was 06 and not 01 and that this airport was a military base!! Mike was about to land but did not touch the ground. We went off again, watching people moving fast on the ground like ants. I just felt that we had kicked an ant hill.. Hell, this time we got it all wrong!!

Cali airport was 8 miles away, another 10 minutes to go. We followed the information from the GPS's that was right. Mike went his way and I lost him. Suddenly I had a real fright! A Cessna 182 came across my route, very close. I could see the marks on the fuselage. It was one of the aircraft from the base, a training plane… The air force is after me! That's a new experience!

I carefully followed the Cessna turning and coming back to me again, twisting my neck and sweating. Again, the hunting plane was diving for me! I plunged low over the fields and maintained my heading for the large airport, dodging fences and telephone lines. The Cessna was trying to stop me going that way and I could clearly understand his intention. He was trying very hard to bring me back to his base for .. questions.. - No way I would turn back! I was motivated to escape my hunter and sneaked around the fields another time and let that pretty bad pilot turn a large circle again before catching me.. Each time I was gaining a kilometre. The clumsy aircraft was not able to stop me. I told the pilot to get lost in the radio but he remained silent. I heavily insulted him through my thoughts giving myself the sufficient boost to escape his chase and winning that cat & mouse game.

Next time he went so close again that I could feel some of his prop wash before climbing fast out of his trail.. I sweated even more, thinking about the stories and reports I read in magazines concerning the dangers of wake turbulence. Eventually the S.O.B had to give up, unable to catch the little mosquito!

The long runway of Cali appeared there in front of me and Mike suddenly joined me, coming from nowhere. Eventually the Cessna stopped his flying circus and went back to his base.

On the ground Randy, the guy I contacted from Switzerland, and some of his friends were waiting for us near the buildings. Again, we were about to meet some very special guys. The South American pilot community has a real warm attitude toward other fliers, incredible.

The army sent a dark helicopter armed with a canon and missiles to investigate the case. But in 10 minutes everything was fixed as Randy walked under the turning rotor to explain the situation to the helmeted occupants. At the control room, everyone was friendly and smiling. We were expecting some slight trouble but everything went smooth, incredibly. We took off again in the afternoon and reached the local Ultralight club. We just had time to park in the planes before a massive storm passed by, pouring tons of water over the corrugated roofs. Our lucky day... Colombia met our expectations - A special place with special people, and beautiful landscapes.


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