Thursday, 18 October 2012

A whisper in the sand

I do love words and whilst neither a writer or a poet on paper, perhaps I am both at heart.
 Poet at Jayburn inspired me to put a few words tentatively down - down tentatively.  
It does seem that sometimes you can make words spin, turn dance and sing, so they create an image, painted in such a way that perhaps it is only yours to see. 

                  Worn out...   
         they rest on Faya's sands, 
scorched by the silent sun, 
squint under azure skies. 
Weary feet,
search for refreshment in the season of the rain? 
Little chance!
 Sweat dries before it wets.
The cloudless blue above an aurum carpet below, 
so rich in a one off colour that lay beneath the sole.

  Rocky outcrops stand aloof, proud guardians of the silence.  
Broken only by the abrasive whisper of sand upon sand, 
it swirls around rocky outcrops,
 like children playing chase, 
kiss me, 
catch me, ssssssss, 

it quietly covers their footprints in the sand.  

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

What on earth are Plumpey Nuts?

This blog is in answer to the question, What on earth are Plumpy Nuts? So this is a re-edited blog that only 31of you read from last year so 'tuck-in'. 

However I will be back in Uganda on assignment in November 
so stand by for some fresh blogs from the Equator.

Plumpy Nuts what a wonderful name for a food...

"Ok I will take 9 boxes in pod B, 8 in Pod C and the other 45 in the cabin,"  each weighs 14kg so sweat soon trickles off, tickling my nose as I do my 32nd twist and turn, great for the waste line but doubt I'll never be able to limbo dance again! Loading Plumpy Nuts in the Juba heat, South Sudan's capitol  where we have our south Sudan base is hard graft but we soon have them on board and they are strapped down.

The refuelling truck pulls up take on board 512 litres of Juba's best Jet A-1. Once the fuel is signed for I double check the weight and balance, as whilst the aircraft looks empty with all the seats out we have a  ton of 'peanut butter' on board; not a kg more can it lift.

I am about to move about 5 tonnes of these boxes and other assorted medicines and supplies up to northern Southern Sudan for SCF over the next four days as well as pick up an AID Sudan team now Every Village The plumpy nuts (what a great name) in particular will save countless lives and make a real difference to many, particularly children in extremis.

Jim Le Huray (check out Jim's film)
supervising the unloading

I spot the airstrip 15 miles out, a khaki patch standing out as clear as a bell, against the sea of waving green, as despite the lack of rain, the grasslands look surprisingly lush from the air. The first trip takes me up to Waat over 200nm north of Juba, it is a new strip for me and as it is a freight flight, I bank hard over the black cotton soil airfield, getting a good look at the land below me. Boxes seldom complain about such manoevers. 

I can see the airstrip is a pleasant place for some of the locals today! However despite passing very low over the cattle, they barely raise an eyebrow today but they do take the hint and 'push off.' It also gives me a chance to look out for any standing water or any other obvious hazards that might be there to trip me up but it has not rained for a few days so there is only one area about 200m long that I had best avoid.  The cattle having ambled off, noses in the air, somewhat irritated by this giant fly that  zipped past their 'horn tops' at 110kts disappear into the bush. Another couple of hard banks keeping the circuit really tight and I am lined up again on the field, to the right of where I guess the runways centre line should be,  best avoid the muddy areas that would definately ruin my day if I landed on them, a rattle of wheels as I apply reverse thrust and brake hard and my shoulders push against my harness. Scotty alias 5X-SCO stops in no time at all as the tyres grip terra firma bringing me rapidly to walking speed, I then taxi to the far end to where I think the runway ends!

Thursday, 4 October 2012

A few reports from 12°6′N 15°2′E. Mentioned in dispatches No 2

Here are a few more notes from my knee board from my last flying assignment in Chad. It was my 9th assignment there but my first time during the rainy season and this year it seemed to be a really wet one.

Incredible, after several hundred miles of desert I spot some 8000ft below me fresh water,  no plant life visible. Amazing!

I land in Faya Largeau, a desert out post, an oasis of greens and golden roads, it has an old and very large tarmac runway built by the military once upon a time, laid forever on the on desert lands. The French military occupy an amazing fort that looks like a Beau Geste film set, with the possibility of Gary Cooper about to enter screen right at any moment!  The deserts sands are so so beautiful, so soft and the aureolus grains tumble through the fingers like water. The date palms know where the life giving water  is and it is they that have helped establish this rocky green Island in the desert ocean where the crystal clear liquid freely breaks through to the surface providing a safe haven for all and sundry from the crippling effects of the fierce sun but the sandy tide is eager to swamp and engulf the town. Probably half the buildings are already submerged under tons of sand and many a 30ft palm has only the top 15ft showing! The old prison, guillotine block stands as a reminder of days past, I reluctantly use this old photo of myself in 2007 below (all the rest are from a few months ago) but the arch  makes the point rather well ...

In another oasis we find some amazing carvings on the sandstone showing Ostriches, cattle, elephants and a Cheetah. Just below FC's hand. None of which can be found probably within over 400 miles of here. The desert has claimed much territory for it's own. As an aside there  is a story about the bearded bod, so you best see slightly earlier blogg.

Gateau de Semoule, Salmon riz legumes and Tajine d'agneau, the french military rations are tres bon. Cooking a Le Bistro meal under the milky way in Simon and Anju's small rough court-yard was alot of fun. These are two amazing young Swiss folk who are running a langauge centre just down the road from Le bistro! A mere 6 nights & 7 days drive from the capital or about 1700km, though only 5 hours by Caravan, when I say Caravan I mean 208 rather than Camel!

Their job description must be very varied as we 
brought up a simple but rather clever life saving 
device that passes an electric current through a snake
or scorpion bite. Here Simon is treating a delightful 
localman who was stung by a scorpion that he had 
thought was a mouse! These guys are incredibly 
tough by  our standards and so to say this sting 
hurts is an understatement. The treatment made a 
dramatic  difference and it was the fourth person in 
the one week they had had the device that 
they had treated. The sting often reduces people to 
unconscious and in Faya will often kill their victims.

Flew some folk down to Moundu and overnighted at the TEAM Guest House. Went into a shop in that was quite well stocked, to look for supper,  though if you count the number of actual different items available it is food for thought.
It reminded me of a previous trip in Chad when I had an unexpected night stop and I was able to buy a 1.5 litre bottle of water and a pack of sour cream pringles for my evening meal, a balanced diet!

David Ott 
Here is one of our smaller pilots Jim Le Huray with David, his wife a medical Dr and small girls and their home school teacher and a nurse. They have work for Cooperation Service International have been in Ati 4 years. They are typical of the sort of people we fly, enthusiastic warm hearted and eager to make a difference to the people they work alongside. Rather like this quote David made “MAF has been a huge blessing to us, it’s been a life line to our work out here. Especially during the rains when they are the only way to get food and medicine and to get us in and out of our home and for work, we are thankful for the partnership. We have worked with about 6 different pilots over this period and just want to thank-you as they have been a huge blessing to our work both professionally and personally”

Whilst waiting for the weather to clear in N'djamena I had a chance to do a spot of weeding! I have pounded grain, dug ditches, shot bows and arrows, seldom can one call 'Flying for Life' with MAF dull! 
It was hot, the ground was thirsty despite the rain, the people grinned. Mother seemed happy to have 5 mins break as I snapped the weeds and we laughed together. For me it was fun and a photo, for them it was a lively hood and a full stomach.