Olivier's Log

99-04-07

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Olivier's Pilot Log: South to South Adventure

The 3 As

I already forgot the day we went over the Andes, as dates have completely lost their importance to me. Days are passing very fast. And in the mean time it seems that we have been travelling for months. The people at Bariloche airport gave us a very warm Goodbye. "Suerte"! (Good Luck) became the fetish word we heard from everyone before taking off. Lots of people were waving at us as we got our 6 little wheels moving for the holding point at the top of runway 19.

Mountains are never such a big problem for aircraft. Weather is the most important thing to be checked before any flight over high terrain. The right equipment and a good engine do the rest. But in this part of the world the meteorology is a real b*%ch. The winds are unpredictable. Very strong currents can start to blow across your path at any time. These are the Andes. Local pilots have been warning us since we departed from Buenos Aires. But we felt quite confident about this day. A superb anticyclone arrived that morning and was to remain around the whole area for a few days. It was The Day!

The "Voyageur" climbed steadily as I applied 5200 RPM and popped up over the first hills and wide cliffs. The blues of all the lakes around the area were changing their colour as we got higher. It was just beautiful. Mike sounded fine as always, joking through my headset. He had chosen the lower altitude option while I decided to test the high "route" at 12'000 feet. But my ground speed dropped considerably and I soon decided to throttle back and join him. The highest peaks with "Eternal Snow" stood in front of us at 4000 meters about for the highest, most of them, old frozen Volcanoes of a million bloody years. Wind seemed to remain pretty "tranquillo" as we slowly progressed over the wide range of summits and high valleys. We were probably the first 2 trikes to cross these mountains. Every time I got my Nikon to "capture" some great landscape, the frost bit me. Hell! Damn cold here!

I was bathing in my thoughts when I realised that since 1995, I had flown that trike over some great mountains their names starting with A's. They were the European Alps with Mike in 1995, the African Atlas in 1997 during a flight to Morocco, and the South American Andes now. And these latest seemed to be the most difficult ones for the pilot's mind & spirit.

The winds started to get stronger as we finally reached lower areas of small volcanoes. We were in Chile, on the Pacific side of the continent. The guys at the airport of the Chilean harbour of Puerto Montt were awaiting us. It was a happy moment to be on the ground again for the both of us

 


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