Captain’s Log 9 July 2010- Medair Motorcycles and Aircraft Carrier Airstrips

Ugwaro our MAF worker in Isiro with 6 motorcycles and boxes being loaded into Medair cruiser in background.

This morning we took a flight of motorcycles for Medair up to Isiro in the back of the plane. They were mostly assembled so we had to do some juggling to get 6 of the Yamaha 100’s in. With the front wheel off and the handlebars off we have had as many as 10 inside the Caravan at once. Now that is a load! These motorcycles are used in the work of the national staff as they visit outlying villages for their health programs and other projects in the interior of Congo. I enjoy being a part of all of the different projects going on here with our airplane bringing in the tools and people that are needed to get the work done. There are hospitals where we bring in all the medicines and supplies that keep the place running and it feels good to be a part of that. The weather was not bad enroute and I cruised along at 10,500 feet in the sunshine with scattered to broken clouds below me. But when I called the Isiro tower they said their ceiling was solid; estimated 400 feet and 3 miles visibility. There were lots of holes where I was and the clouds were not thick at all, but I could see up ahead that they were getting more solid and would keep me from landing, so I decided to get below the cover early to give me a better chance of getting in. The weather report was pretty accurate and I still had move around a bit to work my way through. There is a thing called “Local Knowledge” with pilots, where if you are very familiar with an area you are able to work with weather much more than someone just coming in fresh who is unfamiliar with the ground and the weather patterns. This worked well to my advantage today. By the time we had unloaded the motorcycles and were ready to leave the clouds had burnt off a bit and there were lots of holes through to the sunshine on top. I had to go down low again to get into Bunia. The weather was just on the edge of being a problem all day. I took a medical team up to Butembo in the mountains. Butembo sits in a big bowl, surrounded by peaks all around. It is not unusual for the clouds to be down on the mountain peaks and you have to find a place though one of the gaps between peaks to get “inside” to the town. The strip sits up on one of the mountains in the center of the town with the top cut off flat so it is like landing on an aircraft carrier where you would fall off the edges on each end. Because it is right in the center of town you feel very close to all the houses as you approach the little mound where you must be precise or slide off the end into the crowd below. I flew Rosie Ruf and some of her friends back to Epulu. She was returning from Switzerland and brought some very nice fresh chocolate for us. That is a treat here. Also Brian Pill, the MAF pilot out from the UK for a month or so to help in Uganda, brought us a very interesting puzzle as a gift. He often gives us books he has finished or brings me “hunting” magazines from the UK with classified ads in them for old English double rifles by Holland and Holland at only 150,000 pounds sterling. That’s a different kind of hunting than I am used to! Little things like that make us feel very special. Thanks Brian and Rosie!

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