We passed the western part of the continent of Africa and are thrilled by the vast beauty of all the different landscapes, the people who seem so relaxed, and the wildlife in all different shapes and forms. And as we enjoy the flights, we are aware of the three basics for pilots who want to fly in this part of the world. We are happy to share them with you!
Good preparation is the thing. I started reading the Lonely Planet guide for Africa twice from cover to cover to figure out what I would like to see and what to expect. This helped me in preparing for the route planning. I also talked to several (ferry) pilots who had experience flying through Africa, read e-books with accounts of bush flying in Africa and started filling in the details step-by-step. The total preparation took from 2 weeks before Christmas until the day before departure (full time from early morning until late at night).
You need to be flexible to adapt to changes in weather, planning, delays. What helped is that I had the weather, flightplans and routes all preloaded on my iPhone and iPad(s). Filing of the flightplans I did digitally (using our own flightplan app) just about half an hour to 2 hours before departure). If I anticipated that I would not have time on a technical stop for refueling to file, I would file that flightplan ahead of time early in the morning in the hotel or guesthouse. Then, we would cope with what we would come across.
3. SENSE OF HUMOUR
You need to stay relaxed, smile and have a sense of humor. Connect with the locals and definitely do not get frustrated or at least don’t show it on your face.
Mastering these three essentials will make your experience rich and meaningful. Meeting new people, engaging in different cultures and adapting to a slower pace of life give a new perspective.
We love the tropics! Yesterday we arrived from Accra, Ghana in Sao Tomé de Principe. More about our journey there later in this post, but lets start with the fact that Lex smiled again upon our arrival at our Lodge. Sao Tomé isn’t really a wealthy place, but it allows for some good relaxation on western standards, and again some great underwater scenery for scuba diving!
Last Tuesday we flew from Bamako to Accra. The flight took us about five hours in total. Gradually the ground below turned green again and while flying over some small villages at 800 feet, locals were staring up and waving at us.
What amazed us, was that fires and large smoke plumes were taking away our visibility. Apparently the locals burn acres of wood to the ground to create fertile soil for crops. From time to time the smoke got so thick, we had to increase our altitude to keep a clear horizon.
At Bobo-Dioulasso we made a stop. Imagine a fully equipped large airport with only two scheduled flights every day.
Arriving in Accra around 16:00 we were parked amongst Boeings and Airbuses. See how we were refuelled in the local fashion:
At Accra we found this Dutch-registered Fuji. We have no clue about its history and how it got here. You are welcome to share your information here!
Yesterdaymorning we left Accra for a direct flight to Sao Tome. Blue up and below, until we had the large island in sight.
Today we will spend the day scuba diving and enjoying everything our luxury lodge has to offer. Tomorrow we will fly to Africa’s mainland again: Congo!
Sjoerd Jan ter Welle and Lex Versteeg are flying from The Netherlands to South Africa and back in a small Piper aircraft. Read more about the team >here<
We have left Europe, and this time, we won’t be back anytime soon. As we flew from the Canary Islands to Atar in Mauritania, all we did see below us was sand, and an occasional herd of wild camels.
After a while the scenery became more diverse, with large rock formations and vast canyons. We flew as low as 300 feet over all this beauty, to enjoy it as much as possible. But then the sand came. It went straight through our fuselage, and reduced visibility quite a bit. We decided to climb to see if we could get above it. We had to climb to 7000 feet to regain normal visibility again.
After landing we had some stressful conversations with local authorities, as they tried to explain to us we were not allowed to land on the airport.
Thanks to the assistance of some local Dutchmen we were soon allowed entrance to Mauritania nevertheless. The Dutch took us with their SUV to a fantastic oasis where we spent the rest of the day relaxing.
Today, we visited the market in Atar, an old mining city, and enjoyed some local food and culture. This afternoon we will fly with some of our hosts around a spectacular crater, about 70 miles from where we are now. After that, we are promised some barrels of Avgas to fill up our airplane for the flight to Bamako tomorrow. We will be bound for Mali in the early morning!
But only for a few days. We left Fés in Morocco yesterday around 1100 in the morning, bound for Tenerife-Norte (Los Rodeos) where we would have to pass immigration back into Spain. It was a long flight over the Atlantic ocean, and it took several hours before we first saw land again (Lanzarote).
We arrived at Tenerife at around 16.00 local time, knowing we had to leave for El Hierro as fast as we could, as the airport of El Hierro would close at 18.00.
But Murphy’s law started to wag its tail. The first delay happened because of a royal visit – the son of the King of Spain came in with his Dassault Falcon, and that grounded us for a significant amount of time. Then, when we were allowed to leave for El Hierro, the cloud ceiling had dropped to below 500 feet. Because of that, ATC no longer allowed us to depart under VFR.
Our OPS-team back in the Netherlands quickly came in to help and prepared an IFR-flightplan which was approved and active within minutes, so off we went. We tried to enjoy the spectacular scenery of the Canary Islands during the sunset, while we flew to El Hierro as fast as our Piper would allow us to. We touched down at El Hierro at 17.58, just minutes before closing.
Now came the driving part, and that would prove to be more tricky than flying. We had to drive to our hotel, but because of the recent volcanic activity on the island many main roads were closed. We had to drive during the night, over small and curved mountain roads. Visibility gradually dropped to 50 meters or less. It took us two hours, before we arrived at the hotel.
Today we relaxed at our hotel, enjoyed the mild temperatures of 20+ Celcius and had some fantastic scubadiving experiences. We will upload some videos as soon as we can. So stay tuned!
Tomorrow we will head for Africa again: Atar, Mauritania. We’ll be doing some trainspotting there!
We wanted to share some more information on our short stay in Fés, Morocco a few days ago. We visited the old Medina, the town center dating back to before medieval times. It is said not having changed a lot since then. At night, going in without a guide will get you lost within minutes because of the incredible darkness.
With daylight however, it is not much better. The system of small streets, lanes and alleys is insanely complicated, even for those with an extremely accurate sense of direction. So we took a guide, who led us through this fascinating first part of Africa!
We found a great, short youtube video for you about this fascinating city here!