I had flown over Zobia to see the progress of the work on the new airstrip on the last 2 trips I had taken to Dingila in the Caravan and it was coming along well. But it looked short somehow and I attributed that to the tall trees on each end. I just couldn’t get down to use the first 200 meters on the approach ends of the strip they were so high, and that made the rest go by very quickly indeed even though they said the length was 800 meters. Now I had been informed that they had finally got some of the trees cut down and we scheduled the 206 to make the first landing there in probably 30 years. We had been told that many people were dying for lack of malaria treatment and the whole community was out for the great celebration when the little plane landed. People from the village had been working tirelessly to get the strip rehabilitated so the aircraft could come to bring the meds and medical teams that would help them. The paths through the forest were not big enough to accommodate a car and motorcycles were the best they could do till now. And Oh, they were happy. I love seeing large groups of happy people. It is really encouraging and entertaining. The village chief was there in his suit and hands were shaken vigorously and smiles and cheers were abundant.
I had work to do so I walked the strip taking measurements, angles of trees to takeoff paths, slopes and marked places I would use as abort points to keep things as safe as possible. Sadly, the measuring wheel revealed that the runway was only 700 meters and not the 800 we had been told had been carefully measured. We really need that extra 100 meters. The Caravan will need more room because of how high the trees are. The men who had worked so hard said they would work more. The said they would have another 200 meters of trees cut by Monday. That is a monumental task and I will be celebrating with them if they can do that. We will still have to limit loads out of there, but at least we will be able to bring the needed supplies in.
More supplies for the mission had been brought to Dingila in a bigger aircraft and when I got there they had about 3 Caravan loads at the airstrip hoping to take it down to Zobia. There was just no way! We spent a good 45 minutes going through packed boxes and picking out the critical items necessary for the first cargo flight in. I looked like an African taxi after we got the bulky meds and other equipment loaded with all the little medicine boxes stuffed into every available nook and cranny. I was still under weight, but it sure didn’t look like it. I was content that there would be things here for a very good start at helping the people of Zobia with the terrible malaria problem that plagued them.