Tuesday, February 5, 2013
Patrolling the national parks
I pull on my Tevas and head out of the lodge on the dirt path lined with pink bougainvillea, past the little guard shack to the Kilaguni airstrip. A hungry hornbill announces my arrival, and the only other company is a family of baboons silently crossing the airstrip, wary of predators. Super Cub 5Y-KWB awaits. After looking it over, I start up and taxi out, watching for animals. Rolling down the red gravel strip, I take off to the southeast toward Tanzania.
I haven't told anyone where I'm going, so I'm on my own. I don't know if I can walk out, but I think of my friend and student (a term I use loosely in his case) Danny Woodley. He's a third-generation Kenyan, warden and pilot, who once walked from the coast of Kenya to Mount Kilamanjaro, over 300 miles, and is better suited for this country than I am, but it gives me hope.
I fly low, skirting across the plateau, watching water holes for elephant, giraffe and zebra. At the crest of a plateau, I push the stick forward and dive down a cliff into the valley below where I'll see six— maybe eight!—hippos and three or more huge crocodiles bathing in a series of shallow pools.
Ahead are the Ngulia and Kichwa Tembo, but today, I'll turn to the south, fly through a narrow pass under broken misty fog, and descend again into a lush green Jurassic valley.
I fly close, but not too close to the trees, so I don't disturb the elephants and other animals standing under the branches. I follow the river for a while, then turn another corner and get my first glimpse of "Kili" not far in the distance. There's still some snow on its peaks, but not much.
Then, I start climbing toward the Chyulu Hills, past the volcanic Mzima Springs, toward a landmark of twin hills and into Kilaguni to land. It's time for breakfast, and my day is just beginning.
Page 1 of 3
Labels: Careers, Columns, Features, People and Places, Pilot Skills, Aviation Personalities, Pilot Talk, Guest Speaker, Pilot Safety