Captain’s Log-31December 2015-Barn Raising African Style

Many people working to make this all come together.  Great to be a part of the community.

Many people working together to make a home. Great to be a part of the community.

Some of our family friends and co-workers here in Nyankunde are Kazi and Leoni. They have been building their house, a lovely woven reed structure with a proper tin roof, for a while now and Tuesday it was time for the whole community to come together and “mud the house”. This is much like a barn-raising in the old days in the States. The church, community, friends and family all take part in the labor and festivity.

Jon and Josh in the background throwing mud.  Gabe is there but not in the picture.

Jon and Josh in the background throwing mud. Gabe is in there somewhere but not in the picture.

Gabe with other kids were having a great day.  full permission to be as muddy as they like!  What fun.

Here’s Gabe with other kids having a great day. Full permission to be as dirty as they like! FUN.

Kazi shows Cher some of what is goiong on inside the house.  It is the men's area for the most part as mud is flying.  Women bring a continual stream of water for keeping the mud at the right mixture.  They stop at the door.

Kazi explains to Cher what each different room inside the house will be used for. Men are doing the work in here for the most part as mud is flying freely. Women bring a continual stream of water for keeping the mud at the right mixture. They stop at the door. But my sister Lu was there to take pix.

When we arrived mid-morning the work was already well under way with hundreds of people of all ages involved. The noise level was high with laughter and loud conversations competing with the sounds of people working strenuously. Men and boys were mixing, stuffing and slinging mud into every crack and crevasse, both inside and out, of the house’s woven hollow walls and calling loudly, “Leta maji!” (Bring water!) Women carried water to be added to achieve the right mud consistency or chatted in large groups on the ground. There is never a shortage of children in an African village and no self-respecting child would pass up a day of sanctioned mud wallowing. Groups of kids hovered everywhere, sometimes working, sometimes watching or playing in the wide, low water tank made for the occasion. Our family came along with us and other MAFers took part as well. Sandals and flip flops were discarded as a hindrance because the mud just built up on the bottoms turning them into platform shoes. I suspect the whole throwing mud thing between us may not have been a normal part of the usual work day, but everybody sure laughed and joined in when we weren’t looking. There were great opportunities for mud wrestling but we let those slide by. The littlest MAF baby, Caleb Hensen, was very popular with the ladies and got passed around quite a bit.

Women bringing water for mixing mud and cleaning.

Women bringing buckets of water for mixing mud and cleaning.

Raeleigh working on the outside of the house and having a great time.

Raeleigh working on the outside of the house and having a great time.

The ladies are all enjoying little Caleb and he was passed around liberally.

The ladies all enjoyed little Caleb and he was passed around liberally.

Jon, Kazi and Lioni in front of the house at a tea break.  Wow, clean hands!

Jon, Kazi and Leoni in front of the house at a tea break. Wow, clean hands!

One of our MAF wives getting into the day and somehow managing not to get any mod on the flower in her hair or her sunglasses.  way to go Hayley Hensen.

One of our MAF wives getting into the day and somehow managing not to get any mud on the flower in her hair or her sunglasses. Way to go Hayley Hensen.  Guess who was throwing the mud.

A community happening always includes a real feast at the end of the day and we supplied a pig for our part. The women had prepared masses of beans, rice, sombe and lots of piri piri sauce in tremendous great pots over open fires. Amazingly the whole, huge house was completely mudded by 2 PM and everyone joined together for the meal. It was truly wonderful to be part of such a joyful community happening like this. It’s just another example of why we love living in the village.

Josh and Jon enjoy some wonderful good after the work is finished.

Josh and I enjoy some wonderful food after the work is finished.

Jipe, kazi's son, enjoying the feast at the end of the day. Pork, beans, rice and sombe.  Ah, how wonderful.

JP, Kazi’s son, enjoying the feast at the end of the day. Pork, beans, rice and sombe. Ah, how wonderful.

Kazi's family in front of their home at the end of a hard day of work.  It was great to  be a part of it.

Kazi’s happy family in front of their mudded home at the end of a long hard day of work. We enjoyed ourselves thoroughly and it was great to be a part of the  community.

 

 

Posted in Cuture, Family, Life in Africa | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Captain’s Log-25-12-2015-Christmas Joy With Family

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The Family on Christmas morning with Duiker, Dogs, Chameleon, Parrot and people.

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Gabe flying the remote control helicopter.

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Tess trying to eat the helicopter. This was a gift from our friend Scott Canfield before we left the states. Not totally focused but there was lots of action going on.

We have some of our family with us in Congo this Christmas holiday and it is great! Josh and Audra and their kids Raeleigh and Gabriel, as well as my sister LuAnne, are here and we have had such fun. We have been showing them some of the beautiful surroundings, going on hikes in the hills behind the house, bird watching, having great things to eat, (the chocolate supplies have gone up radically since they came), Christmas carols, carving gifts out of lovely Congolese wood, trips to the village, flying little remote control helicopters, and even helping build a local house with mud.

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Some of the Christmas cookies we decorated.

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Cher, the love of my life. Still crazy after all these years…about each other.

Probably the most fun for me is taking the grandkids on flights and showing them what I have been doing for the last 30+ years as a bush pilot in Africa. We have had some great opportunities to help people together and I have been able to let them sit up front and teach them some things about flying. They are both quite good and we might have a future pilot or two on our hands.

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The flaps are looking good. This preflight inspection is going well.

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Gabe and I check the fuel on the preflight before taking off for Boga.

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Yes, all is good up here. Just about ready to fly.

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My co-pilot and I on the way to Boga in the Cessna 206. Unfortunately the weather got bad and we had to return to our base. We went in the afternoon in the Caravan. Gabe is very clever and figured out the GPS very quickly. Also very good with the flaps for landing and takeoff.

It has been a great Christmas season that we will remember for a long time to come.

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Raeleigh and I fly the Caravan to Burasi to pick up a sick person. My sister Lu is along and taking the brilliant photos.

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Raeleigh’s hands on the controls. 

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Landing at Burasi over the Semliki River. We saw so big killer crocs.

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Raeleigh sits in the doorway as she waits for me to brief pax and make sure everyone is in their seats.

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Over the escarpment to the Semliki River. Reminds me of the Zambezi valley but a bit more water and sadly, the wildlife has been gone for some years with the fighting.

Posted in Amazing Africa, Family, Holiday, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

iPad Falls from Aircraft Over Congo and Survives!

Dawson Tanner reunited with his skydiving iPad. He was very happy.

Dawson reunited with his skydiving iPad. He was very happy.

Pilots these days are really depending more on technology these days and iPads are becoming norm with EFB’s or Electronic Flight Bags installed.  They have everything from flight logs and  weight and balance sheets to strip charts and Pilot operating handbooks.  My friend Dawson Tanner was checking out the MAF airstrip at Nyankunde and taking a picture from the opened window in the pilot’s door with his iPad Mini and flew calmly back to Bunia where his plane is based some of the time. As he got out of the Twin Otter, he noticed that the iPad was not in the case and he quickly called me to ask if I could send out search parties to look for it. It was night by then but I told people the next morning and I guess there were a lot of people looking. About 10 days later and after lots of rain, a guy came to me and said he had found it. He said it was still working and we talked a long time about a reward and the whole group of searchers got involved. Dawson and I texted back and forth and finally we all settled on $75 and everyone was very happy. It was amazing that after falling from 1000 feet and landing in the forest and being rained on it was not only working but there was not a crack or scratch on it. I was flying around the country the next day and one of the times through Bunia I saw the Twin Otter sitting on the ramp so I called Dawson to come and pick up his iPad. He was very happy and kept saying “Wow. I can’t believe it!”

iPad Mini still working great after falling from 1000 feet to the ground from overhead Nyankunde, East Congo.

iPad Mini clearly working great, although disabled, after falling from 1000 feet to the ground overhead Nyankunde, East Congo.

Posted in Humor, Life in Africa, Pilot stuff | Tagged , | 9 Comments

Captain’s Log-November 28, 2015-Thanksgiving Day in Congo

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Nice big turkeys that we picked up in Beni with the help of friends.

We were excited to see that there were turkeys for sale in Beni and since we had a trip down there the week before Thanksgiving some of the guys ordered a bunch. Joel Hensen and I picked them up and brought them back to Nyankunde. But, in the end, it was thought that they needed a bit of fattening up before they became dinner. I don’t know, they seemed pretty heavy to me. Maybe a little muscular. I guess fat is more tender!

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Turkeys in the pod of the plane, ready to go and get fat.

Our MAF team and guests gathered together at our house and shared lots of food. Chickens worked well in place of turkeys and it felt very much like a traditional Thanksgiving. We truly have so much to be thankful for: a beautiful place to live and work, relative peace and calm, fellowship with family and friends, food and shelter. We don’t have to look far to see the bounty God has blessed us with. We sang praises to our Lord and told him we were grateful. It was a lovely day.

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We had the MAF East Congo team from Nyankunde for dinner as well as some friends, new and old. We had a great time together being thankful to our Lord.

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A bit non-traditional Thanksgiving but Cher made elephant cookies along with pumpkin pies for dessert. Love elephants.  Very nice the next day in the plane.

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Captain’s Log-November 15, 2015-Aerial Survey over the Okapi Wildlife Reserve

The first team on the survey this year. Rosie Ruf photos all points of interest as we fly.

The first team on the survey this year. Rosie Ruf photos all points of interest as we fly.

Loving African wildlife as I do, it is always a pleasure when I get to help the parks here in Congo. Rosie Ruf organized an aerial survey to check for poachers and illegal mining within the Okapi reserve so Cher and I flew out for 3 days. It was great to be back in the forest and be over so much of it again.   I had done about 4 days earlier in June and this was finishing up the process. This kind of survey is totally different from the game counts I used to do in Zimbabwe. The forest is SO thick with layers of canopy that you can rarely see animals on the ground unless they are in one of the small openings called an “ido”. We try to find where populations of people are moving into the park and cutting trees or poaching, (which we usually find by smoke for the fires to cure meat), but also to see where illegal mining is going on. The rivers get dug up and mercury and other harsh chemicals are dumped into the rivers and everything downstream dies.   It is pretty bad. This is not our normal flying but it is good to help the country and protect the wildlife.

Cher and boeu riding along to Epulu. of course he had to come. He is needs his mom.

Cher and Beau riding along to Epulu. Of course he had to come. He is needs his mom.

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The “control” barricade at the station with the Congo flag in the foreground as well as guards in the little guard house. Even some women rangers nowadays!

A Congo loaded mini-van on the Epulu-Kisangani road. There is a roadblock at the Station to check for wildlife and other contraban. Chimps, parrots and baby okapi are sometimes found.

A Congo loaded mini-van on the Epulu-Kisangani road. There is a roadblock at the Station to check for wildlife and other contraband. Chimps, parrots and baby okapi are sometimes found.

So we put 3 people in the plane and I fly routes through the park along rivers and boundaries and where there are known incursions and see where patrols need to be sent. This eastern part Congo where we live is much like gold rush days in California or Alaska and there are 1000’s of men and women and boys working little streams all over. I will have to write more about that sometime because it is very interesting seeing the similarities of lifestyle now in Congo and in the mid 1800’s in the US. We are always being asked to “promote” or “Grub steak” a guy who wants enough to get picks and shovels and all the little things he needs to get started on a claim. They come back with tiny little glass bottles with a few gold flakes in them and you wonder how they make a living. But then someone pulls out a nugget and people stay on. There are claim jumpers and bandit groups who rob the miners and saloons and whore houses and all the stuff that we had in the Wild West gold rush days. There are co-ops and big Chinese mines with heavy equipment dredges in the rivers as well as strip mining the beautiful riverine vegetation. In Doko, a South African company is running what will be the most productive gold mine in the world that is massive and run very professionally.

Hunting with some pygmies in the forest. There were six guys with me and I really felt like Snow white with the seven dwarfs. Very cool.

Hunter gathering with some Pygmies in the forest. There were six guys with me and I really felt like Snow White with the seven dwarfs.  They show me all the things to eat and how to make their shelters and good stuff to survive in their environment.  Very cool.

I had a chance to walk in the forest one morning for hours with the Pygmies. I truly love that. They are born hunters and gatherers and know the forest like the back of their hands. Fruit, honey, mushrooms, monkeys, forest pigs and animals of all sorts are on the menu and it is fascinating to see how they gather it all and their traditions and culture. I was with 6 men who were all below shoulder height to me and I felt like Snow White with the 7 dwarfs or something very surreal as we moved quietly through the forest. They are as comfortable in their natural environment as I am in the air.

Some pygmy women around the fire with a house in the background.

Some Pygmy women around the fire with a house in the background.

We had a chance to be with Chui, the little Genet that Cher raised for many weeks when he was only a few weeks old. He remembered us, which was nice, and we played till my arms were shredded with little bites and scratches. He is full grown now and about the size of a cat with shorter legs and the most striking spotted coat and longer stripped tail. So much fun.

Cher with Chue the genet, now all grown up. He goes walkabout sometimes but always comes back.

Cher with Chui the genet, now all grown up. He goes walkabout sometimes but always comes back.

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One of the little “dukas” or shops in town. Shows nice fat healthy people changing money for “love” but then the effects of AIDS after time. All too common here in Congo and a good warning.

Posted in Cuture, Hunter/gatherer, Life in Africa, Pilot stuff, Wildlife | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

Captain’s Log-October 24 2015-More pix

Cessna 206 on the Burasi airstrip after a rain.  A beautiful day at the office.

Cessna 206 on the Burasi airstrip after a rain. A beautiful day at the office.

I made a mistake and posted the last blog by accident before I had all the pix up.  There is a very cool one with the chief on his throne that I quite like.  Those of you who get the blog by email will have to go to the blog site to see them.  I fly better than I do computers.

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Captain’s Log-October 23, 2015-Return To Burasi

The Green Hills of Africa.  Shockingly beautiful green.

The Green Hills of Africa. Shockingly beautiful green.

So, people are really liking the Burasi airstrip being opened and I have had 2 trips back there since we went in the first time.   Dave Petersen went with me the first of those and, after we dropped some people off in Boga, we flew down the valley and landed at Burasi. The Chief met us and after we checked the strip after recent rains, we were asked if we would like to go down to the river and to the Chiefs house. Of course we agreed. There is a “ferry” across to the Uganda side of the river and we checked out the situation. For only $100 they will ferry your Land Cruiser across the river…There is no paper work to do. No passport control. What could go wrong with this? They are talking about making it a legitimate border crossing in the future.

The small ferry to cross the river by vehicle.  A bit spooky but it works.

The small ferry to cross the river by vehicle. A bit spooky but it works.

We drove on to the Chief’s house, which looked great with a reed boma fence. As we stopped, Chief Albert jumped out of the car and went inside. When I arrived at the open door, he was sitting on his throne across the room with cow skins and leopard skins at his feet and a banner sign overhead that said, “Grand Chef Kituku II Albert Rutahaba Brhema Mitego” framed in tinsel.   A grand title for a grand man. He was happy for us to take pix and afterwards dinner was on the table. Chicken, goat, French fries, rice, cabbage, plantain, and tea. It was very nice and we were made to feel quite special and that we had been with royalty.

Chief Albert on his throne. Leopard skins a sign of royalty here in Congo.

Chief Albert on his throne. Leopard skins a sign of royalty here in Congo.

The Grand Chef Nituku II uhema Albert Rutahba Buhema Mitego

The Grand Chef Nituku II Albert Rutahaba Buhema Mitego

We flew the chief and a couple others out via Boga to Nyankunde with the arrangement that I would fly them back home on Saturday.

Beautiful waterfall on the escarpment abeam Burasi.

Beautiful waterfall on the escarpment abeam Burasi.

It rained all morning Saturday and it was after 1:00p.m. when we were finally loaded up and on our way. It is a short flight but we went past a beautiful waterfall and an area of erosion that looks like a mini Grand Canyon. That is kind of incongruous, mini/grand, but you get the idea. After the rain the sky was crystal clear and as I circled the strip to see what effect the rain had on the surface I saw at least 5 huge crocodiles slither back into the water from the river bank. One of them was 10 feet of visible croc with the whole tail under water, so probably 14 feet at least. These guys were all big enough to take a human and they say that cattle are taken all the time. It is great to be around wildlife again.
I took my fishing rod but there wasn’t a lot of time. But I will have to be switched on to keep from getting eaten. I have something to look forward to!

A lake down from the escarpment into the Albertine Rift.

A lake down from the escarpment into the Albertine Rift. The western branch of the great East African Rift valley.

Posted in Adventure, Cuture | Tagged , , | 5 Comments