Friday, 19 July 2013

A shortish walk in the middle of know where!

Eric Newby writes beautifully in his A Short walk in the Hindu Kush, one of his best, he crafts words in such a way that you walk the journey with him and can almost smell the fragrances! I wonder what he would have written had he been with me in this remarkable, little known region, in this barren yet beautiful part of Northern Chad. Today the skies are so clear you seem to be able to see forever.

The golden dust cloud rises up high into hot afternoon air making a distinctive wall trailing behind me marking my track as I bounce across the rough airstrip, the sand itself provides more effective braking than anything my brakes can offer. The wind has long since scoured a natural parking area onto the bed rock, as the nearest other aircraft is probably about 400 miles away, so finding a parking spot was not terribly difficult!

I secured my hotel d'avion for my two night stay, whilst my pax, engineers from the region's Aviation Authority carry out some routine work on a nearby communications network in what could only described as the in the middle of know where. If you look carefully below you can see them in the distance!

Supper was a tin of French Military beef lasagne, not bad actually, even had to have a mug of black instant coffee, whilst not usually my favourite made for a pleasant evening drink. As night fell with it's usual rapidity, so the wind began to pick up speed. I prepared my boudoir, tonight I decided the aircraft floor offered the best sot, my portable mattress, more like a large babies changing mat with one imagines a similar level of comfort fully explaining why babies cry when it is nappy/diaper time!

My not so comfy pillow was my puppet Jim Le Huray (everything has a dual purpose, as every kg counts) and was between the boarding stairs and the freight door, created the most marvellous wind tunnel as the desert windows began to really howl across the sands.  When it was time for slumber, closing the two lower doors with the top two open to the universe, removed worst effects of the gale that now gently and occasionally not so gently rocked the aircraft at it's 'mooring'. Then the display started, a million individual stars blinked on, suspended as background to the milky way as it swirled and illuminated it's majestic way across the inky blackness of space. A streak of light, zips across the sky, the image remaining  half a second after the errant rock has turned to vapour, it sets one's imagination racing*. The play that unfolds is magnificent, beautiful perhaps one of the few times awesome can be correctly used,  'He stretches out the heavens like tent.' (Psalm104:2) Eventually sleep moves across my thoughts pulling my eye lids closed.

So friday morning I wondered if I could make a phone call! I set out to climb the pile of rock before me what I guessed would be an hours walk away, perhaps 5km across the golden but firm sands before the heat of the day though at this time of year the temp is more in the mid upper 30's than 40's.
I kept were I could to the vehicle tracks, as we do fly MAG (Mines awareness group on occasions) and it was a delightful hike. I was able to set a good pace up the slopes as the rocks were generally very stable mixture of scree with the odd outcrop of what appeared to be crumbling sandstone. I decided about about third of the way up, that if I wished to continue flying perhaps thus far and no further as it was rather steep and arguably steeper on the descent. I doubt I would be missed till it was time to take-off, so one had to be careful! I then skirted around to the right maintaining my altitude till I could get a signal from a phone tower some 15km away in a small but important nearby village. I was able to ring a friend who had arrived there an hour an a half earlier after almost a week of driving across desert and mountains to do what I had done between 0645 and 1400 the day before. Managed two bars and so best of all I was able to ring my wife, Trish in Guernsey. Phone call achieved.

Anything after a bit of hard graft and effort, ah, how sweet it tastes!

* Made me think of Antoine de Saint Exupery author of the Little Prince. Published in 1943. A great read for young and old.