BILL AND DES'S SAFARI Entry 3: Khartoum – South Sudan – Ethiopia - South Sudan - Kenya
Monday 19 January 2015
Today is the longest day of the trip, over 700nm flight following the White Nile South from Khartoum. Once again the Controller forgot to give us a direction after leaving the airfield so instructed us to, "change direction quickly"....
We were constantly finding greener pastures by the 50nm South we flew, criss-crossing with the Nile down to Ethiopia, flying over the spot where all the South Sudanese troubles are in the news this morning. Fortunately we're flying too high for this to affect us as we are at 11,000 feet and only a little short of 200 mph which isn't as fast as we have been flying. We are conserving fuel today, firstly because it's such a long leg, and secondly, because the pump we need to facilitate the refuel is in one of the accompanying planes… a plane which is flying both behind us and slower than us!
Whilst writing the blog we are flying over the Gambela National Park in Ethiopia at 7,000 feet, which is the greenest area we have seen for days! Updating the blog regularly has been good to fill in some of the quiet time in the air.
We re-entered South Sudan to find it quite barren again with small fires dotted around our visual field everywhere, and quite interesting topography, the further south we fly the more trees appeared again, but nothing like Ethiopia - very strange!
Approaching Kenya just after 14.30 local time, we are required to refuel from drums as there is no AvGas available. Our plane is searched for alcoholic contraband by the Chief Customs Officer – fortunately we don’t have any on board!
Gaetano, our guide for the trip, told us the hotel we're in tonight makes our last stop in Khartoum seem like a 5 star, so ........not sure what to expect........
Wowwwwwwwwww he was NOT WRONG!!!!!! This is a - 9 star, boulder-built very basic hut (around 40 years old) with no air con, squeaky old fan, dusty mosquito-netted stone bed, and with cold really old showers (…but very 'real').
Our next host, Twig, is a very interesting old Brisbanite who flew for the Red Cross and now for the World Health Organisation (41 years in this area) is full of interesting flying stories, and lots of advice. As he "hadn't been into 'town' for a beer for a few years" (town turned out to be a dusty sand single potholed bumpy old road edged in makeshift huts and lean-tos of all shapes, sizes and condition), (800-900 metres from our camp for the night!!!!) so we convinced him after a few in his own little outside camp bar to take us. The 'nightclub' was strangely empty but we were made welcome by the owner, this was a good start as we were scowled at by the majority of the 'locals' we saw on the way. That's quite a few hundred colourful characters of all shapes and sizes, some with guns strapped to the shoulders, some carrying things on their heads, most doing nothing at all, all mixed tribes and displaced Sudanese. We asked what the locals thought of visitors here, "Well, they shot the last head of the UN in this town last time he came here....dead!” So we knew to be very careful!
Warm beers from the so-called 'fridge' (not switched on unfortunately!) added to the whole bizarre experience. On the way back to the camp, just on the edge of darkness and after a number of beers, Twig took us to the boundary of the Logichoico township where we met the Army guys protecting the border (guns ‘n’ all).
Dinner in the camp was another experience, very bush and basic, and it was stressed we couldn't go out after darkness. We had armed guards at the gates and a large fence surrounded our camp. We were informed that more than 50 rounds had been fired during the previous night and that if it happened again, we were to STAY in our hut and get as low as possible. This made Khartoum seem very friendly indeed!
This trip just gets better and better! Heading to a camp in central Kenya........