Tuesday, February 7, 2012
Part II: From Cape Town to London in a Cessna 206
We again had haze to contend with, and the promised 9,999 at Tamanrasset seemed extremely unlikely, until it suddenly cleared about 10 miles out. We met Sam's friend Claudia, and were driven through town out into the desert to the foot of the mountains, where her tourist bungalows are situated. It's a pretty development having a large shady courtyard with trees and shrubs around, which was a collection of small mud dwellings, simply yet tastefully furnished and with floors of fine gravel. We ate supper under the stars on cushions set out around large round copper tabletops arranged on colorful mats and rugs. Our couscous and lamb stew came on a single communal bowl in the center of each table. Dinner ended with traditional tea poured from a silver pot at height, without a drop spilled.
The next day, we could see more of the mountains, which suggested improving visibility. Indeed we had two spectacular flights over the desert to our night destination of El Goléa. Sam had warned us that the accommodation, whilst the best in town, was "very basic." It still came as a surprise to us when we saw just how basic it was. Hôtel Vieux Ksar was the grandest building in town, but then so would my garden shed have been!
Our last African day was the 400-mile flight to Algiers. The others had left earlier as we travelled more quickly. In flight, we received a message from Sam saying they (he, Alain's Piper PA-28 and Richard's Grumman AA5) had diverted to Béjaïa, as there was bad weather at Algiers. We all followed this plan, and after making our excuses to the navigation office for filing different alternates to the one we actually used, we lifted again for the short flight to Algiers. We were pleased to check into Algiers' finest hotel, the splendid El Djazaïr. The mixed emotions were also beginning—it was almost over, but, it was almost over.
The last day of March and our final leg took us across the Mediterranean to Ibiza, a short, easy and beautiful flight. Not quite the end of our adventure, but returning home from here would be simple after circumnavigating all of Africa. Tired and elated by our achievement we departed for the boutique Ocean Hotel where hugs and congratulations were shared around. There was a last supper, which lasted late into the night. We had done it! Over 10,000 nm, from northern Europe to Cape Town and back, two months and 15 countries!
Prepare2go (www.prepare2go.com) will be running the Safari again at the beginning of 2013—including aircraft coming from the U.S. for the first time. I can't recommend it highly enough, but don't forget that it's an adventure, and you may just end up using your sleeping bag!
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