Continuing after where I left off more than a week back. I got bogged down with loads of work and could not blog earlier as promised. Story of my blogging so far. I am not confident that I will find time again for a week and will take this opportunity to complete this saga, no matter how long this blog piece becomes.
Not much landscape in Keflavik as you can see above
Leaving Greenland, we were over the North Atlantic again. Next stop: Iceland. I have been to Reykjavik the capital of Iceland and Kefalvik, a town famous for the blue lagoon that I wrote about in a previous post. This time, we decided to stop only for re-fueling and press on to Prestwick. Coming in from the North Atlantic, Keflavik Iceland looks quite barren. With the hills in the backdrop, the small town of Keflavik is not really picturesque, just a watering hole for ferry pilots like me. Having been there in the past and having found hotels expensive and food unavailable all the times of the day (and night), the best thing to do is to refuel and leave. As usual I used South Air, an FBO that offers free cookies and coffee, relaxing atmosphere, seamless flight planning and refueling. We were in an out of Iceland, keen to get into the United Kingdom, with good hotels and curry! Just like to add, for the benefit of those crossing with the Mustang, Gander radio was available right through Greenland and thereafter crossing over to Iceland. NATRAC restrictions does not allow this Aircraft to fly over 27,000 and even at this altitude, one is able to receive clear VHF from Gander and never had to relay.
(Keflavik runway and town nearby)
This part of the ferry from Keflavi Iceland to Prestwick Scotland was perhaps the easiest, in that the weather was good, visibility was good and crossing the pond seemed more like a walk in the park. It is the best weather I have encountered in this part of the World and wasn't raining anywhere. We got into Prestwick where the handling agent Ocean Sky, was waiting for us. They were cordial and made the arrangements to get us to a hotel. A mix up in their booking had us arrive at the hotel and not finding ourselves anywhere on the list of expected arrivals. It had been a long day and we were hungry and in desperate need of some sleep. The front desk was quite helpful and while we waited for them to set us up rooms, we adjourned to the pub/grub place also in the lobby area. The hotel was packed with people in the lobby area, a Scottish wedding or reception in progress.
(Leaving Greenland towards Keflavik)
These Scots were loud, gregarious and all over the place, hogging every inch of the lobby. The bride looked fabulous, did not know they have such petite sized waists for such tall women! Jim was of course dismissal of the whole thing saying that this would only last a few months after the wedding. Mind you, by then we were wolfing down a tuna sandwich (curry be damned, we were hungry) and literally pouring down our throat a large pint of some really dark, strong, Ale. Rather dismal observation of the bride by Jim, I thought, bewitched by the beautiful gown she was wearing and looking so gorgeous, when he again spoke saying that "the men looked funny in skirts"! I was about to drop my drink and head anywhere else but be associated with Jim at that time. "Don't say that", I hissed, "unless you want one of those really big guys bashing us up". You'd never call a Scottish Kilt a skirt, ever, not with each and every Scotsman being almost double my size and Jim ain't no giant either.
I have a grouse against hotels in the U.K. they have poor net connectivity, funny showers, cold rooms, no electric iron (they have a mickey mouse thingamajig contraption that supposedly presses shirts and trousers). Although it was late at night, I wanted to catch up with e-mail so that I can check on the clearances that my efficient and hard working assistant Marisol had applied for, back in SIngapore.
A note to the guys who want to ferry to Asia, you only need to file a flight plan everywhere in the US, Canada, across the pond and across Europe but you will need to start applying for flight permits many days ahead for all the rest of the countries through Asia. Every country from there on needs to have an application put in, days ahead, and permission granted for you to land in those countries. Therefore I was tracking clearances from Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Pakistan overflight permit, Indian DGCA clearance, Bangladesh overflight permit, Myanmar overflight permit, Thailand Landing permit. If flying from Thailand to Singapore, one does not need a Malaysia overflight permit if the flight plan is filed 12 hours ahead of the flight. Singapore does not require you to apply for a permit, feels like we got back to first world civilization when you get here because of the simplicity.
Back to the story now. There was a cable in the room that advertised high speed internet. I plugged that in and it asked for a password. I called the front desk and he did not have a clue, after much discussion they had me try "guest" as user id and the room number as password. Guess what? It did not work! Went to bed frustrated. After stuffing ourselves with a hearty breakfast, we started on our way to Luxor. Encountering a bit of problem with an intermittent auto pilot, we headed for Le Bourget France and spent some time getting things fixed. We had flown over Paris and past the Eiffel Tower on such a clear, bright, summer day in France and I had stuffed my camera in the bag behind and could not take any pictures. Lost opportunity indeed.
Leaving France we flew over the swiss alps and found most of them green at this time of the year, not sure that's the way it is supposed to be. Entering Italy, we stopped at the picturesque town of Pescara on the sea. A seamless turnaround and we were on our way to the island of Crete in Greece. I started imagining the Minotaur and the legends associated with Crete that I had read about way back in primary and middle school. I told Jim of the Minotaur and he had no clue about what I was talking about. Landing in Crete (Iraklion) is a treat, passing over beautiful resorts and hills on one side, the runway and airport sticking out to sea literally. Our first taste of the third world begins here, the paperwork takes ling, the fueling takes long and we are looking to desperately regain lost time and press on to Luxor, Egypt. From here onwards it seems apparent that no one has heard of a Mustang, never heard of a Jet being that small and that light weight. Of course they don't have it on their chart of Aircraft and the handling lady has to work out the charges for the Aircraft based on the maximum take off weight of the Aircraft. What made this excruciating wait so much worse was that this lady was smoking like a chimney, inside and this was normal for them! I'd like to mention that through Europe, finding clearance to fly in RVSM airspace in the Mustang was easy and till India and beyond we managed FL370-FL380 easily. The Mustang performs best here and we averaged 380 Knots every time, passing 400 Knots over the Arabian peninsula.
(Hot air balloons rising above the Nile-early morning in Luxor)
Finally we headed out back to the Aircraft and flew on to Luxor. The handling was smooth, visa on arrival was smooth and we were herded off to Sofitel for some rest and relaxation. I had planned an entire day of rest and we had not planned on leaving Egypt till the next day. My handling agent offered to get a friend of his who is a tour guide, to join us and take a tour of the Valley of the Kings and the Hatshepsut Temple complex. Never the one to resist anything archaeological, we left at nearly noon, having slept most of the rest of the night and into the morning. Now, noon time and afternoon in Luxor is not the best time to visit anything because of the intense sun and heat but this is also the time when crowd levels are low. So we went, Jim in tow, earnest to learn a bit of Egyptian history.
(Luxor International Airport above)
(Approaching the valley of the Kings where great Pharoahs were interned)
Luxor is host to the largest number archaeological sites in Egypt with the Luxor complex, Karnak temple complex, Valley of the Kings, Valley of the Queens, Hatshepsut temple complex and so on. We went past the others and made Valley of the Kings and hatsheput Temple. One can get details from many websites out there that describe this part of Egypt so I won't dwell into history here. Jim was singled out for harassment by hawkers trying to sell their wares everywhere. I was commonly mistaken to be Egyptian! I was asked at least in three different places whether I was a local. At the Queen Hatsheput Temple complex, a uniformed Egyptian guard also asked if I was an Egyptian and I was sick of saying no by this time. Therefore I identified myself as being descended from the Pharoahs and that my real name was Anupmosis the great, tracing my lineage back to Thothmosis the great! I think the humor was lost on him and he looked at me quizzically while I walked away to take pictures that you see below.
(Entrance to King Tutankhamun -King Tut to some-tomb)
(entering Queen Hatshepsut Temple and Pharoah Anupmosis the great-me!)
Leaving Luxor the next morning, from the rather nice International Airport that they have built, we headed off for a fuel stop in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Less than two hours on the ground there and seamless handling through Jet Aviation and we were off to Muscat, Oman for a rest stop before going on to India. A note about Muscat, I have been here a few times before but I saw many pleasant changed there, staring from improvements in the airport terminal to the taxis, roads, infrastructure, landscaping, al reflecting the economic growth this region is experiencing.
(More Hatshepsut temple pix and painting of jackal face god Anubis)
A good night rest before the crossing over India because I knew that this was going to be the challenging and sometimes most frustrating part of any ferry. Ahmedabad wasnot bad, just too hot and the wait near the Aircraft in the heat was for a little more than an hour. Flying across India, we ran into the biggest honking "mother of all" CB cloud over Jamshedpur. It was so large, so threatening, full of turbulence and lightning, it almost looked evil. Airlines were diverting left, right and center around this massive storm. Making it to Kolkata was a relief, having gallivanted all over the countryside to avoid the storm, a remnant of the cyclone that had just devastated Myanmar. I'll not dwell on Kolkata as I have been nasty enough on my comments page of my previous blog about my experience here.
(Us and Minee at Royal Sky before departure to Seletar SIngapore)
Not one to stay behind, we pressed on to fly over Myanmar and on to Thailand, landing around mid night. We did not expect a grand reception but Minee and her team at Royal Sky Bangkok's Don Mueng Airpot gave us one, offering a cold local drink, wet towels and a welcoming committee of more than a dozen people. Quickly they put the baby in the hangar and whisked us through the empty terminal to our hotel downtown. I had meetings in Bangkok the next day and we took the day off to pamper ourselves with some good local massage. Business over that day and a restful night later, we took off towards home-Singapore at last, half way around the World. Landing at Seletar, the Baby's home base, I kissed her nose in thanks, like I do on all ferries. Our friends and office mates were on hand to whisk us away home but not before we put the baby in her own hangar and had a spot of Indian food at a restaurant in Little India. Our ferry had ended and with it, another set of memories that is etched in my brain. Should I forget any event in future, all I need to do is read my own blog and relive it. That's why I write in the first place. Thanks for bearing with me on this long piece. Cheers.
Next blog will be about the baby at home.