Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Trans-Africa Adventure

Part II: From Cape Town to London in a Cessna 206

Having travelled south down the east coast of Africa, our return route would be north up the west coast and center on a 4,900-mile journey to Ibiza, Spain. We were a selection of six single-engine airplanes, of which mine was the only turbine—a Soloy-powered Cessna 206 that I usually keep on floats. The epic planning and preparation had all been done by Prepare2go, which has been running Safaris to Africa since 2008; all we had to do was fly! We had some difficulties on the way down and were hoping for a smoother return trip, although the countries northbound were more complicated.

We were airborne early for the flight from Cape Town to Swapokmund. Our flight took us over the Orange River, its brown waters set in a twisting ravine banded by stripes of green vegetation. From the air, the river could be seen flowing through black crumpled hills that appeared quite suddenly after many miles of barren sandy land—the Namib Desert. Finding Swakopmund airfield proved difficult: a sand runway set in a vast expanse of sand!

The following day, we flew to the Mokuti Lodge bush strip at Etosha Game Park. Collected by 4x4 game-drive vehicles, we set off for the Mushara Lodge. A moment of excitement came with the discovery of a poisonous banded spitting cobra on the lawn.

Heavy rain during the night made us anxious: Would the dirt and concrete runway be fit for use? Thankfully, we all managed to get into the air before running out of the concrete portion. Our first flight was to Ondangwa to leave Namibia. Everyone filled up, as this was the last airfield with tanker avgas until Algiers.

The flight to Lubango was fascinating, as there had been heavy rains and many of the farms were islands surrounded by flooded fields. We missed out on seeing the massive Ruacana Falls on the Cunene River, as a huge storm sat over them. By the time the slower aircraft reached the falls, the storm had cleared to the west and the sight was apparently spectacular.

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