Then back down and landing at the little grass strip at Kipaka. Men were waiting to help unload, which I was grateful for. I quickly put all the seats back in and loaded people and cargo up for the return flight to Bukavu. I was already an hour behind schedule by then. The smoke made the visibility bad and the sky bumpy. As I helped everyone out of the plane and got ready for the next load I saw the back seat pouch, which is clear vinyl for our immediate action cards and barf bags, had itself been used as a barf bag and was completely full with streams running down the back and onto the floor. And I had made a point of explaining where the bags were and how they worked. I love that! I used to be an empathetic vomiter, easily joining in with others who were offloading, but those days are past. We carefully took the seat out and left it before loading the plane again, this time with about 800kgs of roofing tin and other bits as well as one passenger. We were off again. Now the smoke was really bad and I was glad to be back up where it was cool.
I was 1:20 behind now and it was getting close to being difficult to get back to Bukavu before the airport closing time of 5:00 p.m. There were lots of guys there to help unload and it went surprisingly fast. I was back in the air in less than a half hour and on my way but the GPS still said I would be a bit late. Sunset was not for another hour after the airport close time so I wasn’t too worried about that but it would still take a bit of talking to stay out of trouble. The visibility over the mountains was now very bad and I was glad to get through to the other side where the wind off the lake had cleared everything nicely.
I was on the ground by 5:10 and I didn’t need to worry. Everyone from RVA had already gone home, even the fuel truck. That meant I would be stuck here till at least 9:00 a.m. today.
Maybe that wasn’t so bad. Because it is such a long way to town, (30 miles but it has taken me 2 hours to drive it), I had arranged to stay at the Lwiro Chimp orphanage where we had sent the little chimp Sakina only 10 days earlier. Maybe I would have a chance to look around in the morning!After closing up the plane we walked up the road to the little village where we might be able to catch a “taxi”. I got a lift out to Lwiro research station, which is only about 7 kilometers away but still took 20 minutes. I got there about dark and everyone was waiting for me for supper. Eggs and chips which went down very well. We had very nice conversation and Carmen Vidal, who runs the chimp sanctuary, told me that Sakina was doing well. She now has 50 chimps there and can not turn away a chimp although it is very hard to do as much as they wish on their limited budget. It is obvious that they are really working hard and love the chimps very much. Sakina and another baby chimp are still sleeping with Carmen. In the morning I had a lovely tour around the research station guided by Dr. Lawrence Mugisha who is a wildlife vet from Uganda and, I must say, it is an amazing place. Left over from Belgian days, it is obviously from a time when aesthetics and beauty were as important as function. Arches and courtyards and carved wood and thick doors and grand fireplaces look very Spanish in design while the houses have almost a Swiss feel. It is all very pleasant and inviting. The taxi driver, Vidogo, returned for me and 7:30 a.m. and we bumped back to the airport where we still had to wait till 9:00 before we could get fuel and go. I had a couple of families going to University Shalom in Bunia. There were 16 people in all, half at Bukavu and half at Goma, and I was still under weight. It just sounds odd for a 10 place airplane! It is good to help these people get to where they can study and go back to their communities prepared and enthusiastic about giving back. Some of the amazing stories of humble heroism they can tell would fill books. Maybe I will relay some.