Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Sometimes flying...

feels like falling for a little while. Jeff Bridges, Carzy Heart sounds track.

Monday the 17th JN.
Flew to Mbeya from Dar in a little 12 seater Cesna with Giovani our short, stocky, scrappy, black half bearded Italian pilot for a three hour tour.
No bathroom for three hours, shouldn't have had the gallon of delicious rift valley coffee and five bottles of water know should I. I got to ride co-pilot again. About an hour into it I started nodding off and Giovani did as well but we were both awakened by a stomach falling drop of turbulence and the a curtain of black clouds. The plane had no radar, just some duct tape where it once lived and our high tech navigation piece was a "Give a give a give a…Garmin" clamped to the dash. I really almost threw-up. Not from motion sickness which I have never had but the shear terror. Giovani was sweating heavily and kept tapping the Garmin. "Now it's the Garmin's fault" I thought and " I shouldn't have poked fun at the missionaries" I was purging the anger and guilt in my brain.
Then bad songs kept repeating in my head "Bringing me Down" by Ryan Adams, and "In the Belly of the beast" by some one else. I couldn't find the sick bag and kept trying to take deep breaths as we bounced from cloud to cloud awaiting the rain. I kept looking back over my shoulder at everyone else who had no idea of our predicament with a giant freaked out smile. Not to mention we were in the very mountainous region along the south western Tanzanian border and had no where to land. It looked beautiful but the thought of slamming into it took that geographical admiration away. Giovani banked hard right and said "360, we'll never make it threw that one."

We circled a monster charcoal gray cloud rising well over twenty thousand feet into the sky and watched it pass as white sheets of rain from it's belly to the ground. If there were any more of those behind it we would have only made the 6 o'clock news.

My Italian pilot rang again "it's really flooded down there, hmmm" pointing to the water covered fields. Bill behind me chimed in "why are we circling this crowded soccer field? Where's the airport?" I bent my head over my right shoulder and yelled "that is the airport Bill." We circled a few times letting the crowd and heard of goats know we were going to be bringing her down. Giovani kept scratching his head and looking at me "half of it is flooded so the half where the are playing football might work best." "At least we were close to the ground" I thought, then we skipped hard just right of the runways center across the wet grass. We used up every inch of that landing strip and parked it in front of a bright yellow plane with a coffee cup painted on the cowling and a billboard the said "WELCOME TO MBEYA, THE LAND OF SAFARI LAGER."

Giovani, along with everyone else headed to the bathroom as I unpacked my gear from the plane. Giovani was back in a few seconds jumped right back in and cranked up the props. He gunned it, held the breaks to build torque the jumped down the flooded strip. Just as he broke from the ground the right wing quickly dipped tat a 45 degree angle almost clipping the trees and then back hard left and up, up and away. A small crowd of locals yelled with laughter "Giovani, Giovani" in broken english. Bill and I looked just at each other. Giovani was trying to scare the villages that use the landing strip as a soccer field, goat paster and bike path, "well done" I thought.

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