Pilot Journal
Friday, September 1, 2006

Across The Nile

Flying a DA40 From Europe To Africa

across the nileThe Great Rift Valley is one of the biggest and most remarkable fault zones in the world. It stretches more than 3,500 miles and is recognizable from space. Tectonic movements have created high mountain rims that play host to moist tropical rainfall. The fertile volcanic earth supports diverse plant and animal life. It’s here in this “Valley of Life” that the earliest human remains were discovered.
" />

The morning above Aswan is majestic. A huge fiery ball slowly ascends above the horizon and is reflected in Nasser Lake. Abu Simbel, one of Egypt’s most impressive monuments, which is decorated with statues of Pharaoh Ramses, almost slips unnoticed beneath us. Patiently, I radio air traffic control in Khartoum, 800 kilometers in the distance. Without contact, I can’t be sure that they’re expecting us. Flying at low altitudes over a high density of war machinery creates some unease.

across the nile
In a Diamond Star, Matevz Lenarcic flew more than 11,000 miles tracing the Nile River over Africa's Great Rift Valley.
South of Khartoum the desert starts to change. Around volcanic peaks surrounded by sand dunes, the first bushes appear. Their density increases and, gradually, the parched brown trees in dry riverbeds become green. This signals our approach to the rain-rich tropical belt. Here the Nile lazily twists around green grass and low bushes. No animals can be seen, but now and then we overfly lonely villages with round clay and straw cottages.

The clouds are descending toward the marshes and they take us with them. For some time it looks fine, but then we find ourselves in the middle of a grey mist in IMC. Airliners flying from south of Sudan warn of heavy thunderstorms. Because the aircraft isn’t equipped with weather radar, I turn back to Malakal, a village on the Nile.

In order to reach Juba, a town in southern Sudan, one must fly three hours over one of the world’s most remote areas. Deep swampy rain forest stretches more than 1,000 square kilometers in every direction. Toward the middle of the flight, the clouds beneath us start to break, and the twisted riverbed of the Nile comes into sight. The marshes act as a big sponge that accumulates enormous quantities of water, thus influencing the river’s flow and enabling it to survive to the Mediterranean Sea.

Before the Nile flows through the Imatong Gorge to Uganda, we turn east to the Great Rift Valley. Through the morning’s cold, our wings glide softly toward Lake Turkana. As the light intensifies, ground objects throw their first shadows. Dry riverbeds are covered with green bushes and rare trees, and it’s obvious that underneath the surface, water still runs from the hills. On confluent points, the flora becomes richer, and with it, people come into the picture. Round villages with branch fences are clones of each other. People dressed in lively colors walk between dogs and goats. Occasional cowherds are accompanied by tall shepherds leaning on long sticks.


Add Comment