30 September 2005


September, 2005

I had recently read a few articles about renting C182's in southern Africa. The time was right for another international flight seeing trip. The planning of the Africa trip was very different from Australia. Australia was one country, so there were no customs and immigration details. Most destination airports would have fuel. We planned the Australia trip ourselves and used an Australian travel agent to book lodging and rental cars. In Africa, we would cross international borders eight times (officially). Most destinations did not have fuel. There were no cars to rent in the bush.

Over the internet, Liz and I looked at places we wanted to visit. Liz wanted to dive in the Indian Ocean. I wanted to see the Namibian Desert, Victoria Falls, the Okavango Delta and lots of animals and put more countries in my logbook. For Africa, we used the services of Nick and Chris Hanks. They are a husband/wife team who run a company called Hanks Aero Adventures ( http://www.selfflysafari.com ). Ten years ago they flew a single engine airplane from New York all the way to South Africa. They now winter (our summer) near Johannesburg, South Africa. The Hanks own three Cessna-182's, one of which they rented to us. Nick arranged the two days of briefings and flights required for the South African pilot license validation. After several email exchanges and two phone conversations we settled on an itinerary. Nick and Chris planned the route from coast to coast with all the customs, immigrations and fuel stops along with booking all the lodging. Two months before the trip, the Hanks sent us an excellent orientation package to prepare us for the adventure.

We flew 8000 miles commercial to Johannesburg, South Africa. I spent the next three days obtaining a South African license and being briefed by Nick and Chris for the trip.

We flew 3500 miles landing in five countries with some over-flights over Zimbabwe. September was the end of their winter and near the end of their dry season. Most places were 3000-4500 feet above sea level near the tropic of Capricorn. Consequently, the skies were nearly always clear except near either ocean. Daytime lows were in the low 40s and highs in the 90s. That created excellent VFR weather for sightseeing and navigating. Unfortunately, we sometimes had poor visibility (3-5 miles) due to brush fires to the north. We flew from the Atlantic to the Indian Ocean, west to east, 1200 miles. During the trip, the Hanks called every one of our "ports of call" just after our ETA to make sure we had arrived. We were in good hands.

If you want to get a map of Southern Africa and follow along, below are all the stops followed by some aviation highlights:

2-5     Lanseria Intl.          South Africa    start
6-7 Tswalu South Africa lodge
Upington Intl. South Africa fuel immigration
Keetmanshoop Namibia fuel immigration
8 Karios (Canon Lodge) Namibia lodge
Luderitz Namibia fuel
9-10 Sossusvlei Mtn. Lod Namibia lodge
Swakopmund Namibia fuel
11-12 Mokuti Mushara Lod Namibia lodge fuel
13 Lianshulu Namibia lodge fuel immigration
14-16 Livingstone Zambia lodge fuel immigraion
Kasane Botswana fuel immigration
17-19 Kanana Botswana lodge
Francistown Botswana fuel
20-21 Limpopo Valley Botswana lodge immigration
Polokwane South Africa fuel immigration
22-23 Chitwa Chitwa South Africa lodge
Kruger Mpumal Intl. South Africa fuel immigration
Vilankulu Mozambique fuel immigration
24-26 Benguerra Island Mozambique lodge
Vilankulu Mozambique immigration
Polokwane South Africa fuel immigration
27 Lanseria Intl. South Africa end
Sept 6: Our first flight across northern South Africa treated us to great visibility with blue sky and the orange sands of the southern Kalahari Desert. The real trip had finally begun!

Sept 8: Over southern Namibia we were flight seeing Fish River Canyon, Africa's deepest canyon at 1500 feet. On approach to the gravel runway an ostrich ran right under the plane.

Sept 9: Just east of Fish River Canyon, were the rugged mountains of the southern Namibian Desert with views of active and abandoned diamond mines. The next fifty miles were over a harsh lifeless desert with huge sand dunes. We finally found the Atlantic coast and cruised another thirty miles to Luderitz. Just off shore was a low cloud bank over the cold fifty-degree ocean. Often these clouds move inland and obscure the coastal airports but not today.

We filled up at Luderitz, then headed north up the coast at 1000 feet for about thirty miles. The cool air off the ocean was only 65 degrees. The cloud bank eventually moved inland so we proceeded direct to Sossusvlei. The desert rapidly ascended to an elevation of 3000 feet, so we climbed up to 7500 feet. When we passed through 2000 feet the temperature jumped to 82 degrees! Now we were flying into the sun with only three miles visibility at best. Thanks to GPS, we found the airport on a desert pan (a flat sand-less area) surrounded by 2000 foot mountains. The runway was only a slightly lighter shade of brown compared to the pan.

I was proud to announce to Liz and all the interested springbok and scorpions in the area that Sossusvlei Mountain Lodge Airport was my 500th logged in my flying adventures.

Sept 14 and 17: Coming and going from Victoria Falls created opportunities to fly over and photograph the falls. Regulations required a right handed pattern at 3000 feet above ground level. This pattern allows flight over Zambia and Zimbabwe. It was the only time I flew legally over Zimbabwe territory. After leaving the falls area, we got the see the confluence of the Zambezi and Chobe Rivers. It is the only place were four countries meet at one point -- Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Zambia. After the short 45-minute flight to Kasane, Botswana for fuel, we flew over the Okavanga River Delta that eventually drains into the sands of the Kalahari Desert. The Delta looks alot like the Florida Everglades. While approaching Kanana camp's airport, another pilot who had just landed, warned me to watch out for the elephant grazing on the approach end of the runway.

Sept 20: The tower controllers at Francistown, Botswana seemed anxious for us to depart because the president of Botswana, Fastaris Mogae, was due to arrive within minutes. We felt fortunate that we were able to land and get fuel. In the US, we could not get within 15 miles of an airport that was to be used by a US president. On the way to Limpopo Valley, we overflew a sliver of Zimbabwe. We were told that we would be under their radar and out of communication range of their controllers.

Sept 22: I had to go around at Chitwa airport because there really was a pig on the runway. Actually, it was a family of wart hogs.

Sept 24: After a long three hour flight over the barren scrub of Mozambique, we were finally treated to a marvelous view of the azur blue Indian Ocean. After pricy fuel, immigration, visa and air traffic fees were paid, we few seven miles over the ocean to Benguarra Island. The runway was so sandy I almost got stuck taxiing to the tied down area!

Sept 27: There were very strong crosswinds at Polokwane. I did not resolve my crab and slip into the wind fast enough when the wheels hit the runway. This resulted in the airplane veering into the wind and rolling off the side of the runway. Fortunately the grass edge was wide and I missed the runway edge lights. I gradually got the plane back onto the runway. The final flight of ZSOCD was into cool smooth air with excellent visibility. The final landing was much less dramatic!

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