Monday, June 31st--Melbourne, Florida to Caldwell, New Jersey
It was a beautiful day for flying and we were extremely excited and ready. Larry had already packed the plane with our survival equipment and other essentials the previous day so we had only a few things to add.
Glenda and Michael Busick, Helen and Frank Miller, Vince Sammaritano and his father, Vince, Sr. were at the airport to give us a sendoff. We intentionally wanted only a small group so we could focus on the details of the flight. Frank prayed for our safety and also that we would have a great trip. We boarded the plane with a lot of waving. The Red Bearon sat right up front by the windshield to direct our first leg. Take-off was at 8:45 AM.
The flight was smooth although we ran into a little rain over Maryland. It lasted nearly until reaching our destination. It gave Julie a good shower. Julie is the nickname for our airplane (Baron 3199 Juliet). Our first glitch was that the GPS did not work correctly. Larry tried various things to no avail. Finally, he decided to try turning it off and back on. That did the trick. What a relief! It worked perfectly for the remainder of our entire trip.
We landed in NJ around 1:25 PM. Our rental car was driven right out to our plane. We loaded it with our luggage and it started raining just as we were getting into the car. Perfect timing!
We ran into our second glitch when Larry turned on our notebook computer in our hotel room (or, that is, he tried to turn it on). When he pushed the on button, nothing happened. We are so dependent on electronic devices in this age and, when they go down, so does our enthusiasm. Larry tried various things but with the same result. It was just completely dead. Fortunately, we were staying were 2 nights so we had an extra day to try to come up with a plan. We would need the notebook do update our website as we went along as well as to download and edit all of our photos along the way.
We left the hotel around 3:20 and drove into the “City”. We arrived at the home of our nephew Tim Hunt and his wife Rebecca around 5 PM. They had a very nice apartment with a view of the New York Stock Exchange. Their nursery was decorated all in blue, ready for baby Todd, who would be arriving a month later. The nursery was cute and so was Rebecca.
We visited a while and then walked to the station and took a subway to a quaint French restaurant. The food was delicious but the company was even better. After dinner, we subwayed it back to their area, walked to our car and said our good-byes. It was so nice to see them.
Tuesday, June 1st--New Jersey
After breakfast, Larry took the computer to a repair shop to see if there was any hope. He came back around 10:30. The computer technicians thought they might be able to fix it but, in case they could not, Larry thought he had better buy a new one to have as a backup. In any event, it was to be ready later that afternoon.
Around 11:30, we left to meet some friends, Bill and Dawn Gervens, for lunch. We had a nice hour and a half visiting with them at a local restaurant. Bill mentioned that he had a niece in Majuro, an island in the Pacific which we planned to visit on the trip. She and her husband are missionaries there. Bill said he would send us their e-mail address so we could contact them and hopefully get together in when in Majuro.
We left the restaurant and drove to Fairlawn, NJ to visit Larry’s Uncle Harold and our cousin George. Uncle Harold was 98 ½ years old. We visited with them for about an hour. Uncle Harold was doing fine and, as always, was mentally sharp. He loves to laugh and that is what keeps him healthy. He and George also go out to local restaurants for dinner several times a week. He is an amazing guy!
On the way back to the hotel, we stopped at the computer store and picked up the computer. They were able to repair it and also copy the data from the old one to the new one. Now we also had a good backup. Much better to have two than none.
We spent the rest of the evening updating the website and preparing for the next day’s flight. The weather did not look good for the next leg.
Wednesday, June 2--Caldwell, NJ to Augusta, Maine
It was a beautiful morning in NJ with the sun shining and a few puffy clouds in the sky. However, when Larry called for the weather briefing (1-800-wxbrief), he was told there was a lot of rain on our route of flight and a very low overcast in Augusta. However, it was forecast to clear by 2:00 or 2:30 PM. We checked out of the hotel at 11 AM, drove to the airport, packed and fueled the plane, had lunch, came back and took off. It was only an hour and a half flight to Augusta so by the time we approached the area, we anticipated that it would be clear.
We took off at 1:30. On the way, we had to skirt many thunderstorms. The radar and weather DataLink on the plane are wonderful as they show what is inside a cloud. Green means light rain, yellow means heavier rain. Red means a thunderstorm and you just don’t want to go there. Once, a cell of red was right in our path. It was not only red but pulsating. We told the controller the heading we needed to go around that! Every time Larry checked the weather in Augusta, it was still 200’ overcast. 200’ was the minimum allowed to shoot the instrument approach but we would rather have it to be somewhat higher. However, the air was smooth when we arrived in the Augusta area and we made the decision to go for it. He has over 6,000 flight hours so I had confidence we would make it.
Larry asked me for 2 things, one to tell him when I saw the ground, and two to point out the runway. We broke out of the clouds right at 200’ and I said, “I see the ground”. Then I looked up and right in front of us was the runway with the strobe lights beckoning us to come on in. It was a beautiful sight! Larry greased it on--2 landings so far and 2 greasers.
The FBO (airport fixed base operator) loaned us their car to drive to the hotel and keep it overnight. I guess they thought that they had our airplane so we would certainly return with their car. That is a nice service that some FBO’s offer.
After arriving in our room, I did a little hand washing and then got ready for dinner. We had to pack somewhat lightly so I would wash our clothes whenever I had the chance. We were to meet our friends Jean and Lewis Allen, who reside in the Augusta area, at our hotel for dinner.
We went downstairs to the restaurant and our guests had already arrived. We had a very pleasant evening with them and sat and talked for about 4 hours. We caught up on each others news. Lewis and Larry went to school together, from kindergarten through high school, and to high school with Jean. We have kept in touch with them over all the years. The Red Bearon was with us and he certainly enjoyed the lobster dinner! So did we!
After getting back to the room, Larry filed his flight plan for the next day. We received an e-mail from Colt International, our flight handler, saying there was no Avgas in Alexandria, Egypt and we would have to go to Luxor instead. I changed that information on our itinerary and also called and changed the hotel. It was much easier to do in the US than if I had waited until later. We updated our website and went to bed.
Thursday, June 3--Augusta, ME to Goose Bay, Labrador
We awoke about 6:45 and prepared for the day. It was a much clearer day in Augusta that morning. After breakfast, Larry called weather brief and received an update on Goose Bay and also on Greenland and Iceland. He said that the weather looked pretty good, except for icing conditions over Canada.
At the airport, when we went to the FBO office to pay for our fuel, Karen the agent gave me a Baron aircraft pin. I thought it was very nice gesture. Our estimated departure time was 9 AM and we took off at 8:59.
It was quite cloudy and we were flying totally on instruments. There was some icing at 7000’ so Larry turned on the deicing equipment. He also requested to descend to 5000’ where the temperature was slightly above freezing. Around 11 AM, we were out of US territory and in Canadian airspace. We would not see US soil again for quite some time.
It looked like snow on the ground and it sure was barren country down there. I don’t think there was a person around for maybe hundreds of miles. There were many, many lakes. They looked like they were iced over but it may have been an illusion because it was warmer at ground level.
We lost one hour on this flight due to time zones and landed around 2:20 PM local time.
The Goose Bay airfield was used heavily during WW 2. The runway is extra wide and very long. When we landed, it seemed like our plane was quite small in comparison to the runway. There were fighter jets touching down just ahead of us. I was quite concerned when I heard the controller tell us to be aware of a tornado ahead. It turned out that was the type of aircraft and not some weather phenomenon.
Our airplane was searched and passports were stamped. In many of the countries which we planned to visit, airport fees and AvGas charges would need to be paid in US Dollars. Therefore, we were advised to take a large supply of cash along with us. We had divided it into small packages and carried it in our wallets and hand luggage to keep it within our sight at all times. One of the questions asked by Canadian Customs was “Are you carrying more than $5,000 in US currency?” Larry did not want to raise any flags but thought it best to be truthful. The agent had him fill out a separate form and sign it and that was the last we heard of it. We were then cleared to go to the hotel.
One of the people from the FBO asked us where we were staying. When we said the Aurora Hotel he asked us if we had ever stayed there. When we said we had not, he said we might be disappointed in the place and offered to find us a better one. He was able to cancel our reservations at the Aurora with no problem and found us a room at the Hotel North. As you might imagine, there are very few hotels in Goose Bay.
The Hotel North was new and reasonably comfortable. Larry always had work to do whenever we reached our room--checking weather, composing and filing flight plans, updating flight logs, etc. I would read, write in my journal, plan ground activities and sometimes wash clothing. The notebook computer was working fine.
We took a taxi to a local restaurant. The taxi driver’s name was George and he told us that his great grandmother was the first woman to have built a house in Goose Bay in 1943. He explained some of the history of the area and he was quite proud of his heritage. The population of Goose Bay currently was about 8,000.
We had a good steak dinner at the restaurant. The owner came over and introduced herself. George had called her and told her we were there--a couple from Florida who were flying our plane around the world. She was very friendly and wished us good luck.
Friday, June 4--Goose Bay, Labrador to Narsarsuaq, Greenland
The day arrived cloudy with a light misty rain and bone-chilling cold. We awoke at 7 AM and were picked up at 7:55 for the airport. Once there, Larry had to check the weather and call in his flight plan. Weather service faxed a stack of about 30 or 40 papers about the weather in Greenland and Iceland. The weather looked good for landing. Just before departure, however, we were advised that half of the runway in Narsarsuaq was closed. Larry thought for a moment before deciding we would still have sufficient runway for a safe landing and that it would be OK. We were airborne at 9:40. By the time we reached 9000’, the cloud layer was below us and it was clear and sunny on top for the rest of the flight.
We were prepared that, in the event the weather would change in Greenland (and that can happen at a moments notice), we would have enough fuel to fly on to Iceland. This was the first leg which we carried fuel in the auxiliary tanks. When Larry had to switch tanks, it was quite exciting. I read the check list as Larry closed and opened valves. Larry could roughly calculate when the auxiliary tank would be empty but the exact time was always a surprise. When a tank would empty, the engines would flutter a bit. Along with the engines’ flutter, so would my heart. Larry would spring into action and turn on the main fuel valves and then turn off the auxiliary tank valve. We would need to do this quite a few times on this trip. I hoped I would get used to it and not continue to gasp every time it happened.
About 100 miles from Greenland, I thought I saw snowcapped mountains on the distant horizon. We finally out flew the cloud cover and could see the water below. There were ice flows in the water. They were extremely beautiful! We could see their projections below the surface of the ocean and they were an amazing, gorgeous deep aqua color.
We flew between mountains and up through a wide fjord. Finally the runway came into view starting right at the water’s edge. Larry managed to get the plane on the runway and not in the water. He also got it easily stopped in the first half of the runway. Four out of 4 great landings. A truck was waiting at the end of the runway and we followed it to the parking area.
We didn’t even have to clear customs here. Actually, there was no customs officer in that area of Greenland. Things seemed very casual. We found out that the airport is closed on Sunday, the day we had planned to leave, so we changed our plans to leave on Monday instead. That gave us a welcome extra day in Greenland but it would mean one less day in Ireland. However, we had plugged a few extra days here and there in our itinerary to allow for possible delays such as this.
There was only one hotel in Narsarsuaq. It was a military barracks in WW 2 but it had been totally renovated and was reasonably nice. Greenland is a possession of Denmark and it was nicely furnished with Danish modern furniture. Our room looked out on some mountains in the distance. The main dining room did not open until June 14 (we were a little early). Fortunately, there was also a cafeteria at the hotel which was the only place to get a meal in all of Narsarsuaq.
The woman at the hotel desk was Kirsten. She also was the person with whom I had made our reservation. We met the manager and his wife, Kim and Annie and some of the other staff. Everyone was very friendly and helpful. There were very few guests at the hotel.
We also met a man named Jacky who ran the tours in the area. He didn’t really start the tours until the June 14th but he was taking a group of travel agents to a village called Quassiarsuk the following day. It was across the fjord and accessible only by boat. He said we could go along and spend a few hours there before he would return. He planned to depart at 10 AM and we said we would be at the dock.
When we went to bed around 10 PM, it was still very light outside. They are situated so far north that they don’t need Daylight Savings Time.
Saturday, June 5--A day in Quassiarsuk--population 120
When I awoke, it was very light out and I thought it must be around 6:30 or 7 AM. I was very surprised when I looked at my watch that it was only 3:45 AM. I was still awake when Larry looked at the clock and said it was 4:30. I asked him if it was in the afternoon--I was just kidding. I did go back to sleep and woke up at 6:15.
After a nice breakfast, we went to the lobby to catch a ride down to the harbor. The sun was shining brightly and it was a clear, very beautiful morning. The Red Bearon accompanied us as he had insisted on going along. The boat ride across the fjord was cool but lovely. It turned out the others were traveling as a group with a tour guide. They were going to spend the entire day at Quassiarsuk and then take a different boat on to another village.
When we landed, Jacky gave us a tour. Quassiarsuk is the place in Greenland where Erik the Red first landed. The green fields and slopes explain why he chose the name Greenland. He settled in that spot with his family in the year 985. We visited the ruins from the Norse era. Erik’s house and Leif Eriksson’s wife Thjodhildur’s church have been reconstructed and were interesting to enter. The church is very small and was mainly used by Leif’s wife.
Although the village is over 1,000 years old, the population of Quassiarsuk is only about 120 inhabitants. Talk about slow growth! We walked around the town and enjoyed the sights. The people there are sheep farmers. The children board at school in “town” during the week and go to their homes on weekends.
Around 2:15, we took the boat back to Narsarsuaq. On the boat were some of the staff from the hotel--the manager, Kim, his wife, Annie and another employee. They had taken lunch to Quassiarsuk for the tour group (Larry and I bought some food at a small general store for lunch).
Annie told me about a museum in Narsarsuaq near the Blue Ice Café (which wasn’t open yet, either). When we arrived back at the hotel, she showed us a hiking path in a picture. She offered us a ride to the path so we could see where it started and also a place called “Valley of the Flowers. I had read about the Valley of the Flowers and wanted to see it. We climbed into Kim’s van and they drove us on a nice tour of the area. There were many different colors of flowers but they are very tiny and delicate. They cannot be too delicate, however, to survive in that climate. Along the way, Annie pointed out various buildings in the “town”.
On the way back to the hotel, they stopped at the museum and Annie opened it up for us. It documented the history of Narsarsuaq and was quite interesting. We stayed for well over an hour. We then turned out all of the lights and locked the door when we left and walked back to the hotel, about 15 minutes away.
That night while we were having dinner, a young woman came near our table to get a high chair for her baby. She was wearing a very pretty sweater and Larry complimented her on it. She said thank you and then asked us if we were November 3199 Juliet. We were quite surprised and said we were. She said she was “Sonderstrom Information,” the local air traffic control authority. When we had approached for landing, Larry had been in communication with her. I imagine she knew everyone else in the cafeteria. She had never seen us before so figured we had to be N3199J.
On the way back to our room, we stopped to look at a map of Greenland on the hotel wall. A man sitting at a table nearby started talking to us and after a while invited us to sit down. He was originally from a village about 60 miles to the southeast and had lived in Narsarsuaq for the last 7 years. He was a talker and very friendly. There wasn’t a lot to do in this town but talk to others.
Sunday--June 6--Our last day in Greenland
Around 10 AM, I went to the cafeteria to buy some bread and cheese to take with us on our walk up to the Valley of the Flowers. I asked for 4 rolls and some cheese like they served for breakfast. The waitress was very cordial as she packaged it for me. When I asked how much it was, she said there would be no charge as it was part of our breakfast. People are so friendly in Greenland.
Kim and Annie drove us to the beginning of the path. They were then going out to have their hair cut. The barber comes to Narsarsuaq only once a month. I imagine he or she must be very busy when they come, although there are not many people in Narsarsuaq.
The path took us up a small mountain and along a ridge. We stopped occasionally to enjoy the gorgeous view of the sea behind us and the mountains in front. The Red Bearon had a good view from Larry’s back pack. He enjoyed the outing immensely but was disappointed that he didn’t see any enemy aircraft he could shoot at.
The sky was absolutely beautiful with high cirrus and a few cumulus clouds and the temperature was probably in the low 60’s. Occasionally, we would come upon some wild flowers. Again, they looked so delicate. There were many colors--yellow, pink, blue, burgundy, white. Their sizes ranged from only about 1/8” to 1/2” in diameter, however.
When we reached the top of the mountain, we could see the glacier about 4 miles away. There is a path to the glacier but that hike is about 3-4 hours just one way. From a distance, glaciers look smooth and clean. Through binoculars, however, you can see that their surface is very rugged and it is also very dirty. You could never land an airplane on it.
From where we were, we could also see waterfalls and the Valley of the Flowers below. The water cascading down the mountain was a beautiful sight through the binoculars. We were the only humans on the entire mountain and it was very peaceful and relaxing. Our lunch of bread, cheese and water tasted surprisingly good in the wilderness setting. After about 45 minutes of taking in all the breathtaking views and photographing the beautiful scenery, we headed back. The entire hike took about 4 hours.
Back in our room Larry worked on the next day’s flight plan and called a local number for a weather briefing. It looked like it would be a great day to fly.
Monday, June 7--Narsarsuaq, Greenland to Reykjavik, Iceland
So much for my last sentence about the nice weather. The day dawned with a 600’ overcast. I use the word dawn figuratively because, if the sun never completely sets, maybe there isn’t a dawn. In any event, we were socked in and that had not been in the forecast.
We ate breakfast and then the hotel van drove us to the airport (which was only about 5 minutes away). When we checked on the latest weather briefing, we were told that the airport was closed because of the overcast and we would need a minimum ceiling of 1500 feet to take off. The airport manager told us that it could be late afternoon before the overcast cleared. There was nothing to do but wait.
About an hour later, I looked up through the skylight and thought I could see some blue sky. I told Larry and he went outside to have a better look. Amazingly, the overcast had cleared and the airport was now open. This time the opposite half of the runway was closed. We were soon airborne and I was taking pictures left and right, so to speak. The scenery was so spectacular with the water below and tall, rugged, snow capped mountains all around.
Once we left Greenland, there was a cloud cover below us so we couldn’t see the surface. However, the sky was clear above us all the way to Iceland and, once again, it was beautiful trip. We lost another 2 hours so, by the time we landed, it was around 5 PM in Reykjavik. Of course, it was still bright daylight.
Ari, the agent at the FBO, was extremely helpful. We had to fill out and sign a short form for customs and that was all. After giving Ari all the information he needed about the plane, etc., he suggested that he call our hotel to make sure our room was still available. It was good that he did. When we knew we would be arriving a day later than planned, we had e-mailed the lodging company where we had made our initial reservation and requested to change the dates. However, when Ari called, they had only a room for that night but not the next. Ari called around but all of the hotels in town were full. He eventually found us a room at the hotel right across the parking lot from the FBO. It was a very nice hotel and the convenience was unbelievable!
Before we had left home, in researching things to do in Raykjavik on the internet, I had found what had looked like a great restaurant for dinner. As we were landing, I saw the restaurant off to the right of the runway. I told Larry about it and there was even a view of it from our hotel window. After changing clothes, we walked out toward it. We thought we might have to take a taxi but there was a path directly to the restaurant. It was built on 6 huge circular water tanks on top of a tall hill. The roof was dome shaped and the restaurant revolved--one revolution per hour. The food was delicious and the revolving view spectacular. It was the perfect place to complete our day.
It stays light all night in Iceland, too. The hotel had heavy drapes but the light still spilled in around the sides. I awoke at 1:30 AM and there was still light coming in. All of that light makes up for winter when it is dark all the time. I was glad we were there during the time of extended daylight rather than the extreme darkness.
Tuesday, June 8--A day in Iceland
We took an excursion out to the Blue Lagoon, Iceland’s most famous tourist attraction. The island of Iceland is totally volcanic. There is geothermal activity either at or just below the surface nearly everywhere on the western part of the island. The Blue Lagoon has natural springs that heat the water. The air was cold when Larry and I went into the pool so the water felt really good. Poor little Red didn’t bring his swimsuit so he had to wait for us at the side of the pool. It started to drizzle so we ducked under a small bridge. The water dripped in somewhat but it was cozy under there. Red sat out in the rain but he seemed to enjoy it. After about 45 minutes or so in the pool, we got out and got dressed again.
We had lunch in the building there. The building is made with black bricks of lava. On our way to the lagoon, I remarked how the landscape looked like a moonscape. It is all lava with moss growing on it here and there. After a few years, grass starts to grow on the lava and then small flowers and eventually a few bushes here and there. It is amazing that anything grows on lava.
The guide told us that the astronauts trained in Iceland prior to their moon landings. When asked how the moon looked when they landed, they said it was just like Iceland.
Iceland received its name from the first settlers from Norway. They had approached from the east and there are many glaciers on that side of the island. That is what they first saw so they thought the island consisted mostly of ice. However, it is quite green on the western side.
Coming back from the Lagoon, we stopped at a place where steam was coming up through the rocks. There was a wooden walkway that we had to stay on. If we got off, we would sink. The volcano experts say that the area could erupt at any minute. Our guide said “Well it didn’t go yesterday, so chances are it will not go today either.”
We also stopped at a cliff overlooking the sea. It is a place for birds and there were many, many Arctic Terns and Sea Gulls on the rocks. It takes 6 weeks for the Arctic Terns to migrate each way between the Arctic and Iceland. At 12 weeks total for their trip, it would be about the same for us to circumnavigate the earth in the Baron.
We had a great seafood dinner in a fine little restaurant in town.
Wednesday, June 9--Raykjavik, Iceland to Shannon, Ireland
The day was clear and sunny when we awoke. It took all of 2 or 3 minutes to walk across the parking lot to the FBO. What convenience!
Larry filed his flight plan, we stowed our gear, and after pre-flighting the aircraft and receiving our clearance, we were soon on our way. It wasn’t long before we left land and we were out over the sea. On the way in, there had been cloud cover and I couldn’t see the water. Of course, I knew it was there and I could see it on the MFD (Multi-Function Display) but not being able to see it in real life, it didn’t concern me as much as now when I could see it for real. It was covered with whitecaps and it looked very cold! About 45 minutes later, we were flying between layers of clouds. We were a Baron sandwich. The sea became visible from time to time and occasionally, we ran into rain.
Then we flew through a front. From the radar, it did not look too bad--just various intensities of rain. Hopefully, we would be out of it soon. When we were in the clouds, we couldn’t see anything but rain splashing on the windshield. We felt like we were in a little cocoon, all wrapped up in a small world of our own. As long as not much showed up on the radar and it was not bumpy, I felt secure while in the clouds.
We made it through the front with no problem. After passing through it, there was a layer of clouds below but none above--just blue sky and sun. It was very beautiful to be in the clear air and the Bearon and I were happy!
English is the official language for air traffic control throughout the world so we should have been able to understand the controllers everywhere. We had our first surprise in Ireland, however. They have a strong accent and speak a different brand of English than we do. We had quite a time understanding them. Larry would look across at me inquiringly and I would just shake my head. Usually, after the second or third try, we would finally get it.
When we reached the Irish coast, we encountered large buildups of rain clouds. Once again, the radar was very helpful in avoiding the worst of them and there was no problem. When out in the open, the outlines of the fields below looked like a patchwork quilt of many different shades of green.
We landed at Shannon around 3:15 PM. Pete from FBO Shannon came out to meet us. He drove us to immigration and then got our rental car for us. People had been so nice to us all along the way.
We drove to Limerick and stayed at a local hotel. It was an excellent location—right in the middle of town and convenient to everything. We had an Italian dinner in a restaurant near the hotel to celebrate our arrival. Incidentally, a limerick is Larry’s favorite type of verse.
Thursday, June 10--A day in Ireland
It was cloudy and rainy when we got up but during breakfast, the sun came out. It turned out to be nice for the rest of the day.
In the morning, we wrote notes for our website and got that all ready so, when we could connect to the Internet later, we could just download everything. We left the hotel around 11 AM and went back to the airport which was only 15 minutes away.
Larry wanted to get the plane fueled and install the gust lock. He had forgotten about the gust lock when we had parked and it was certain to be windy sometime over the next few days. To get to the plane, someone from the FBO had to drive us out there. To get fuel we had to taxi over to the fuel truck at an adjacent hangar. The FBO called to make sure someone would be at the truck. We got in the plane and taxied to the hangar to meet the fuel truck but no one showed. After waiting about 15 minutes we taxied back to parking. Larry at least installed the gust lock so the trip wasn’t a total loss. They said the fuel truck driver called and said we didn’t show. There must have been crossed wires somewhere.
We drove to Killarny where we found another good hotel--the Killarny International. We had dinner in town at an upstairs restaurant--dark wood and lots of atmosphere. It was the kind of place I had in mind to have Irish stew—and it was delicious!
Friday, June 1--Another day in Ireland
This morning, we put our survival suits and cold weather clothes into a box and sent them home. The weather would gradually get warmer as we proceeded south so we would not need them for the remainder of the trip.
We drove down to Kenmare and around the Ring of Beara. The Bearon sure thought that was a great place to visit. At times the road was so narrow we would forget it was a two way road. The hedgerows and mountains made it very difficult to see around the curves. Fortunately, there was very little traffic. The scenery was breathtaking and the driving heart stopping. Between driving on the left side and paying attention to the narrow roadway and trying to enjoy the scenery, Larry had quite a task. But he loved every minute and did a great job of driving. Little Red and I hung on and enjoyed it all. We had a delicious lunch of seafood chowder in Castletownbere.
When we arrived back at the hotel, Larry went to a local Internet cafe and tried one more time to see if he could get our website updated. Yes, it worked and we were all caught up.
Out to dinner at O’Leary’s, another upstairs restaurant. We met a couple from Wales who sat at the table next to us. They had taken a ferry from Wales to Ireland for the first time in their lives. They said they saw the ferry go back and forth for all the years they lived in Wales and finally decided to go for it. They were really amazed when we told them about our trip. I remarked to Larry later that it is incredible how someone could live so close to a ferry and it took so many years before they ventured out to Ireland when it was only a 4 hour trip.
Saturday, June 12--Our last day in Ireland
After breakfast, we drove back to Shannon by way of Tralee and Listowel. I like all of the Irish names. We had lunch in Newmarket-on-Furgus at a very charming restaurant. We checked in at the hotel by the airport and Larry turned in our rental car. Larry went to the FBO to see about getting the plane refueled. It seemed to be a real hassle as there wasn’t anyone there on Saturdays. They had to call someone to come in and pay them overtime. Larry finally returned and all was accomplished. Incidentally, it was the same location where the truck didn’t show the previous time.
We had dinner at the hotel restaurant and were all ready for our next day’s flight.
Sunday, June 13--Shannon, Ireland to Genoa, Italy
We awoke early (6 AM) that morning so we could be off at 7:30. Breakfast did not open until 7, however, so we were waiting when they opened the doors. By the time we had breakfast, got over to the airport and completed the necessary paperwork, we didn’t get airborne until 7:45.
There were some clouds at 2000’ but when we broke out, the sun was shining above. When we crossed the channel, the trip that took the ferry 4 hours, took us only 18 minutes. The White Cliffs of Dover were brilliant from the reflection of the morning sun as we flew across the English Channel.
It was spectacular flying over the Alps. Although the European Union (EU) has joined all of the western European countries together, the air traffic controllers from each country still control their own airspace. As we would cross the boundary of each country, we would have to change radio frequencies and pick up a new controller with a different accent that matched the country we were flying over.
The one that made us laugh out loud was the Italian controller. There was a woman pilot on the frequency and, when she was going to change to the next one, he said, “Arrividerci Mother.” That would be politically incorrect in our country but was not a problem there.
The approach to Genoa took us directly over Camogli (pronounced Cam-o’-yee). That is the town in Italy where we would be staying. It is located about 20 miles east of Genoa. It was gorgeous from the air. I could see the harbor with lots of fishing boats and all the houses speckled on the side of the mountain. There were buildings nestled all along the Mediterranean coast from Camogli to Genoa. The runway was at the edge of the water so it was a clear shot in. It was quite gusty coming down and there were strong crosswinds. Larry did another stellar job of landing.
We called Ground Control when we cleared the runway and soon there was a “Follow Me” van that lead us to our parking spot. We parked next to a large jet and Julie looked rather small in comparison. But she sure was pretty aircraft and had performed flawlessly so far.
The agents in the FBO office were very laid back. It was Sunday and they were all watching futbol (soccer to us). It was our first experience on the flight of almost being ignored. We had to fill out a form and then Larry asked about a mechanic as he wanted to have the oil changed at this airport. We were told that they only serviced jet aircraft. Hopefully, they would sell gas to us! After filling out the form, we were told we were finished and could leave. They said nothing about going through customs or immigration. We figured coming from Ireland, which is in the EU, we didn’t have to check in with customs or immigration. If we had been driving, we would not.
After some wrong turns we walked right past the police station and customs office and found the rental car agency. The Avis representative was much friendlier and when we told him we were flying our small plane around the world, he was amazed and had to see the airplane. He helped us out with our luggage and assisted in putting it in the car. He treated us like celebrities.
We found our way to a quaint coastal road which we took instead of the auto route. We ended up on a very narrow one-way street behind a slow moving bus. I wondered if we would ever get out to the main road again. We finally did and shortly afterward, there was a sign that said we were leaving Genoa. Camogli could not be far away.
We finally arrived in Camogli to a very friendly hotel staff. Mario, the head front desk clerk recognized us as we had been there 3 times in the past. Even though we could not reserve our “usual” room due to our late decision to visit there, our accommodations were still very lovely. We had a dazzling view of the sea, the village and the coast all the way to Genoa.
Larry loves this area because Genoa is where Christopher Columbus lived. As a boy, he would watch the ships gradually disappear over the horizon and concluded that the world must be round. We could watch ships disappear over the very same horizon. Larry said that we would reserve our conclusion until we saw if we reached the coast of California.
That day was the running of the Italian Grand Prix, taking place in Monza. Larry kept thinking it would be fun to find a large TV and watch the race with a group of Italians who would certainly be cheering for the red cars (Ferraris). There was a large screen TV in the bar at the hotel but when he went down to get a good seat, there was already a group of people in front of the TV and, low and behold, they were watching--futbol. It turned out that it was the playoffs and everyone was interested in seeing the outcome of their favorite Italian team. Larry ended up watching the race on the TV in our room—and the Ferraris won!
I headed downstairs. Outside the bar area were tables overlooking the sea. I sat down at one and ordered a cup of tea. I certainly enjoyed my tea and view of the water and sky--it was just gorgeous!
After the race, we walked to the pizzeria for our usual Sunday dinner of pizza. The Italians make the world’s best pizza and it was, of course, delicious--maybe more so, however, because we were in one of our most favorite spots on earth.
Monday, June 14--A day in Camogli
We “slept in” this morning to 8:15 (at least I did, Larry got up around 7:45). The room was kind of dark as the shutters were closed and it was a little cloudy. After breakfast, I did some hand washing and Larry wrote the previous day’s story of our trip. It was quite windy and a little cooler than when we arrived. By the time we had lunch, on a patio overlooking the sea, the sun had come out, the wind had died and it was, once again, another beautiful day in Italy.
We drove to the airport because Larry wanted to see about getting the oil changed. After several calls, he finally reached someone he felt comfortable with who could do the job. It was a Piper dealer and they use some of the same kind of engines as are on the Baron. I waited for him in an office--and waited and waited. When he finally came back, he said he needed our passports which I didn’t have with me. It turned out, we were supposed to have gone through passport control and customs when we arrived and have had our paperwork stamped.
We thought that waiting one more day probably wouldn’t make much difference so we decided to go back the following day and try to get it all straightened out. By the time we returned to our hotel, it was nearly time to get ready for dinner. Our restaurant choice for dinner jutted out over the beach, which was about 20’ below. It was a gorgeous evening and a great time to be in Italy!
Tuesday, June 15--Another day in Camogli
After breakfast, we drove to the airport to pay for the oil change and to get our passport papers taken care of. We went to passport control and explained what had happened. They wouldn’t sign or stamp the form because we were 2 days late in getting it stamped. We went back to the FBO and an agent accompanied us back to passport control. He talked with them for at least 10 minutes but to no avail. He told us that it was a very serious issue and that there may be punitive action for entering the country illegally. At the very least, we thought there would be a considerable hassle and a probably a fine at the time of departure. But what had been done could not be undone—or, in this case, what was undone could not be done.
We went to the FBO to pay for our oil change and Larry had to move the plane from the maintenance hangar back to the parking area. I sat and waited and waited and waited. It seemed like I was doing that a lot in Italy. I guess it was a lesson in patience.
Larry showed up about an hour and 15 minutes later. It seems they didn’t accept credit cards and wanted cash for the bill--in Euros, of course. Larry didn’t have that many Euros so they had to drive him to the terminal where he could exchange some American dollars into Euros. Fortunately, he had enough cash between the Euros and US dollars. Then he had to move the plane. That took time as he had to call the “Follow Me” truck and it showed him a different place to park. Guess I had the easy part after all.
We were finally out of the airport and we decided to head to Portofino for lunch. Portofino is located about 20 miles east of Camogli. It was a delightful drive with very curvy narrow roads. There are houses built right on the cliffs and flowers everywhere. By this time the frustrations from the morning were far behind us and we thoroughly enjoyed the drive. At times, Little Red and I hung on when encountering a car or motor coach around a very sharp curve.
Our time in Portofino was charming as always. We had a wonderful lunch in a small restaurant overlooking the bay and watched the people stroll by. There was a gigantic yacht in the harbor with the crew on deck cleaning and polishing. It was fun to watch someone else working.
On the way back to the hotel, we stopped for some gelati. Italian ice cream is the best ice cream in the world as it is so creamy and has such yummy flavors. We enjoyed our gelati tremendously!
We had dinner at an outdoor restaurant with tables under large umbrellas. The sun was still out when we sat down. We witnessed the sunset and then the picturesque night sky with sparkling lights. My view was of the sea and houses on the hillside. The evening was neither hot nor cold--just perfect. My fish grill on a lava rock was superb. It was a great way to end a day that had not started out very well.
Wednesday, June 16--Another wonderful day in Camogli
Around 11:45 AM, we set off on a hike. I had shopped the day before and bought some apples and other things for lunch. We hiked up to a village on a mountain far above Camogli. There were lots of steps! It so intrigued me to see gates and gardens and houses on the way up the mountain path. Occasionally there was a wooden door set in a wall.
People there are used to walking and climbing. We were going to walk out to a point in the sea but we took a wrong turn somewhere and realized we were heading up instead of down. But that was OK. We went back to a bench we had seen that looked out on the sea. We sat down and inhaled the gorgeous view. We could see Camogli far below us and the sea and the mountains with the houses dotting the hillside. We could just make out the runway at Genoa--about 20 miles away. What a view! We ate our lunch while enjoying the serenity of it all.
When we returned to our room, we rested a bit before taking a walk around Camogli. Of course, we couldn’t resist a gelati cone. The chocolate was fantastic as there was a hardened chocolate sauce mixed into it. Truly a chocoholic’s dream! Larry attributes our long, stable marriage to chocolate. He says that any time we disagree on something, he says to me, “How would you like some chocolate?”
Later, I sat out on our balcony enjoying the sun and the view. We had dinner outside on a terrace again tonight, but at a different restaurant. Once again, it was just beautiful.
Thursday, June 17--Back to Genoa
The next morning we checked out of our hotel and drove to Genoa to be close to the airport for the next day’s early departure. We arrived at the Airport Sheraton Hotel and checked in before going to lunch. Larry left to return the rental car and file his flight plan and also to have the plane refueled for the next leg. I did some wash and waited in the room.
Larry came in and said we were all set. We had dinner that night at the Sheraton. That had become our practice. We felt the food was safer at our hotel than at a local bistro so we usually had steak the night before a departure to be ultra safe.
Friday, June 18--Genoa, Italy to Athens, Greece
The day dawned clear. We arrived at the airport around 7 AM. We had been advised to purchase airline crew type uniforms to wear in the opposite half of the world. Governmental agents in those countries expect pilots to look official. They rarely encounter civilian pilots and don’t know how to treat them. They create delays until they can sort things out.
To play that role, we had purchased dark blue pants and white wash and wear shirts with 3 and 4 bar epaulets. Also, AOPA (Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association) makes official looking badges which we purchased for the trip and clipped to our shirt pocket. Although we planned to start wearing the uniforms in Athens, we thought it wouldn’t hurt to wear them when leaving Italy, especially considering the difficult situation we thought we were in.
Guess what, when we went to customs and passport control there was no problem at all. They both said that because we came from Ireland and it was within the EU, they didn’t need to stamp our form at all. We were out of there in no time at all. Whew, we couldn’t believe it! Maybe the uniforms helped a little, too.
We went to operations and paid our landing and take-off fees but, just before the van came to pick us up to take us to the airplane, someone came out and said there was a problem with our flight plan. When Larry was there the previous day, the flight plan was changed about 3 times before it was finally accepted. Now they said that our flight plan called for us to leave at night instead of in the morning. Larry made some phone calls to Belgium on his satellite cell phone and after about 10 anxious minutes, they cleared us for an immediate go. The van was called again and out we went to the plane.
After getting everything stowed, we climbed aboard. However, we were not out of Italy yet and there were more anxious moments when Euro Control took a while clearing us for departure. We were finally given our clearance but the route had changed again. It was totally different from any of the previous day’s routes. Oh well, we highlighted on our navigational chart, reprogrammed the GPS, taxied out and, with great relief, we were finally airborne.
It was a little hazy at the lower altitudes but when we leveled off at 11,000’, the sun was shining. We flew down the coast in smooth air. We flew over Positano and the Isle of Capri, which brought back fond memories of a previous trip. There were many farms along the coast. We went over some small mountains and headed south toward the heel of the boot. We ran into some clouds with light to moderate rain and some bumps. Nothing major, however.
We touched down in Athens around 2 PM. It is a gigantic airport where all of the international jets operate. Approach control vectored us around the area and lined us up for the approach to the runway. Landing was not a problem but taxiing could possibly have been. Our clearance was to take several different lettered taxiways and then to follow the blue line. Larry had given me a map of the airport that outlined the lettered taxiways but we were not sure exactly what kind of blue line to look for. However, suddenly there was a blue stripe in front of us similar to the white line on a road. It meandered along and led us directly to a “Follow Me” truck that was waiting near our parking area. Taxiing turned out to be a piece of cake.
After we parked, we were met by 2 representatives from Athens Aviation, our ground handlers. They drove us to their office to complete some paperwork and then out of the airport to catch a taxi. It was about an hour taxi ride to our hotel with the driver complaining about the heavy traffic. We talked about how heavy the traffic would be during the Olympics and also remarked how everyone thinks their traffic is the worst in the world.
I had researched Athens on the internet before leaving home to see what there was to do when we arrived. There was an area called Plaka that looked quite interesting. We decided it was too far to walk so we took a taxi. Plaka is the old town area of Athens where people lived in the shadow of the acropolis many centuries ago.
We had dinner at a wonderful restaurant in a quaint courtyard. They had newspaper articles which showed that Hillary Clinton had dined there recently. We ate there anyway.
Saturday, June 19--A day in Athens
In the morning, we took a taxi to the Acropolis. Wow, so much history! Acropolis means “upper city” and it was a place of refuge for local citizens in times of invasion. For the ancient Athenians, it was also the center of their religious life. The Parthenon is one of the greatest architectural masterpieces of all times. It is the paragon of classical Greek architecture. The temple, dedicated to the goddess Athena, was completed in 432 BC and was splendidly decorated. It was being restored when we visited. They were renovating many buildings in anticipation of the Olympics which would be held two months later. I don’t think the Parthenon made it, however.
On the other side of the acropolis is the rock of Areopagos where the Apostle Paul spoke to the people of Athens in 51 AD (Acts 17:22-31). We climbed to the top the rock. The marble steps had worn down over time and were very, very slippery. It is so incredible to think that those are places that are mentioned in the Bible.
We walked around and went through the Monastiraki area which is also an old part of town. We walked through a meat market and, oh, what terrible sights and smells. The meat is butchered right there, all out in the open and with no refrigeration! Whew, one has to have a strong stomach just to walk through that area, much less to purchase anything.
We went to the Plaka area again for dinner. I had a Greek salad and lamb kabob. Of course, all the salads there are Greek but I had the one that we consider the Greek salad with feta cheese, olives, etc. In Greece, it is known as the village salad.
Sunday, June 20--Father’s Day--Another day in Athens
After breakfast, we took a taxi to the Parliament and watched the guards (evones) go through their paces by the tomb of the Unknown Soldier. A band and more guards in Greek regalia came marching up the street. We took all that in for a while and then walked through the National Gardens. It was cool and peaceful. We came upon an area set up with chairs and an awning overhead. There were some people on a platform and it looked like they were getting ready for a musical performance. We sat down and waited. After about 45 minutes, they started playing. It was Greek folk music and it was nice to sit and listen. After about 6 songs, however, all of the music started to sound the same. After about 45 minutes, about 6 people came out and danced. We watched them for about 2 dances and then got up and left.
We found a little place in the park for lunch. There were 5 little girls (ages around 7-10) playing. Children are the same the world over. They were playing a game that looked like London Bridge. To pick the 2 to be the bridge, one girl was going from one shoe (each of the girl’s shoes) to the other chanting something. It reminded me of when I was a young girl and we had to pick a leader. We would all make a fist and go around the circle saying, “Eeney, meeney, miney, moe, etc.” The little girls were cute to watch.
After lunch, we walked past the Royal Palace and down to the stadium which the Athenians built in 330 BC. Larry said he remembered when that was built. It was renovated in 1896 for the first modern Olympics. Maybe that is what he remembered. It seats 90,000 people. This is where the flame would be located during the upcoming games. It also was the site where the marathon event would finish.
We then walked to Mt. Lycabettus and took the cable car to the top. You could see all of
Athens from that point. What a fantastic view! It was really hot at the bottom but there was a wonderful breeze up there. We took a taxi back to the hotel. The taxi driver tried to gouge us. His cab had a meter but somehow, it ran at 10 times the normal rate. We refused to pay the extra amount. We paid him a little extra to include a tip and simply got out of the cab. Later, we wished we had not even given him a tip.
Unfortunately, the computer crashed again. When we tried to turn in on, nothing happened. Unfortunately, we had left the new one on the plane. Oh well, there would be no more e-mailing in Athens. We decided to package it up, ship it home by FedEx and use the new notebook for the remainder of the trip. We were really glad that the data had been copied over to the new one back in New Jersey.
Monday, June 21--Another day in Athens
Although it had been 3 weeks since we left home, it seemed much longer. Around 11:30 AM, we hailed a taxi and set out in search of the performing arts ticket office. We wanted to buy tickets for a performance that night at the Odeion of Herodes, an outdoor theater built over 2000 years ago. The office had moved to another location. After a wild goose chase, we finally found the ticket office and bought our tickets.
From there, we walked many blocks to the National Archaeological Museum only to find it closed due to renovations. Our previous taxi driver had warned us about that but I guess we had to see for ourselves. We found a nice air conditioned café for lunch. After lunch, we took the metro to another museum. We fumbled around in the metro station a bit but managed to get where we wanted to go. It’s not easy when all of the writing is in Greek. That museum was closed as well (it seems a lot of them are closed on Mondays). We thought the only thing left to do was to find an ice cream store.
We walked over to the Plaka area and found a place where we could have pizza for dinner that night. We also found an ice cream store. It was wonderful to just sit and relax and enjoy the ice cream. We decided to walk back to the hotel. There was a very nice breeze and we were on the shady side of the street so it was quite pleasant.
When we arrived back at the hotel, Larry had received 2 Fed Ex packages--one from Sandi and one from Vince. Although we were anticipating them, it was good that they had arrived on schedule. We were leaving the following day to stay our last night at a hotel near the airport. One package contained navigational charts for Egypt and the other, updated navigational cards for the GPS and MFD. In planning the trip, Larry had forgotten that Egypt is in North Africa rather than the Middle East. We would need those charts for the next leg. We were thankful for the promptness of FedEx.
Larry went to the business center and sent T-shirts home that we had bought for Vince, Dad, Sandi, PJ and TJ. He also shipped the old notebook computer home. It would not do us any further good on this trip and it would be a few pounds less weight in the plane.
After a very good pizza dinner, we walked to the stadium to see the night’s performance. It was performed by the Netherlands Dance Company and they were very good. It was great to sit in the spot where people sat 2000 years ago and watched whatever it was they watched back then. We thoroughly enjoyed it and, afterward, took a taxi back to the hotel.
Tuesday, June 22--Our last day in Athens
Around 11 AM, we checked out of our hotel and took a taxi to the Sofitel Hotel at the airport. It took only about 45 minutes this time due to lighter traffic. We checked into the hotel and had lunch. Larry wasn’t feeling 100% so he took a short nap. I read a couple of magazines that were in the room (they were written in English) and then went down to use the computer in the business center. I couldn’t get a connection to AOL so I went back to the room.
Larry left to have the plane fueled and to file the flight plan. He came back about an hour later with all accomplished. We ate dinner at the hotel. Larry said he was feeling much better. That was good because we had a long flight planned for the next day.
Wednesday, June 23--Athens, Greece to Luxor, Egypt
6:45 AM was our wakeup call. At 7:45, our agents picked us up and took us to their operations office. Customs and Immigration had a separate location right outside their office. The agents were very friendly and we breezed through. Then, after signing some paperwork in the FBO office, they drove us out to our plane. The driver was extremely polite and helpful. Moreover, he wouldn’t even take a tip for all the help he gave us. He just wished us a safe flight for the rest of our trip.
Take off was 8:44. It looked like another great day to fly. After we crossed the desert, we flew over the Egyptian dessert--mile after mile and hour after hour. All we saw below us was sand and more sand. It was interesting, though. From time to time, it looked like there were roads and even rivers carved into the sand. It was a little bumpy so it must have been very windy down below. Sometimes, the sand looked like waves in the sea--all swirly peaks and valleys.
When we were about 20 miles from Luxor, I could see a wide green stripe that bordered about 1/2 mile on each side of the Nile River. It was truly amazing! All we saw for nearly the entire trip was arid dessert and here was truly a broad oasis on the horizon. When we entered the landing pattern, I could see Palms and lots of other trees and green grass. Coming in, we also flew over some low mountains but they were brown and dry. On one side of the runway I saw openings into the mountains with wire and concrete around them. We found out later that those openings are where the soldiers hid during the various wars.
We landed around 12:30. We were very surprised to see a gigantic bus pull up to the plane when we parked. I thought maybe we were parking in the wrong place and I kept looking around to see if there was a large airplane behind us with a lot of passengers. But the ramp agent kept directing us and he was definitely motioning for us to park. Actually, we were the only plane landing, so it had to be for us.
When we opened the door of the plane, it was like opening the door of an oven with a fan blowing in the hot air! Welcome to Egypt! When we got out of the plane, Mr. Anwar, our ground agent was there to greet us along with 4 other men plus a guard. We had 2 forms to fill out and had to give our passports to Mr. Anwar. Actually, 2 of them could have handled us very well but they all wanted a tip.
After getting our luggage out of the plane, it was quickly taken and put on the bus. After I filled out the forms and was standing there one of the men asked me if I would like to get on the bus. When we walked toward it, I said something about the big bus just for us. He said, “Oh, yes, we want you to feel welcome.” The distance from the aircraft to the terminal was no more than 600-800’ but we went in grand style.
The agent’s name was Mohammad Ali--like the boxer. He said that if we needed anything while we were in Egypt, to please call him. I asked about his family and he said he had 2 brothers and a sister. He was going to be married in 16 days.
After filling the plane with fuel, they drove us to the terminal. We were quickly ushered through passport control and customs. The agent gave our luggage a little look and we were on our way to our hotel with Mohammad and a car and driver. We made arrangements with Mohammad to have a driver pick us up the following day for a tour of the Pharaohs’ tombs. The hotel was a Sheraton and very nice for that part of the world. The accommodations were like little 2 room bungalows with a garden view.
We decided that since we didn’t know anything about the restaurants in town or, if there even were any, we would have dinner at the hotel. We went Italian that night. It is amazing how many Italian restaurants there are in every country in the world.
Thursday, June 24--A day in Luxor
After breakfast, we went to the lobby where Mohammad was waiting for us with a driver and a tour guide. We crossed the Nile (over a very modern bridge) to the West bank. Ahmed (our guide) told us the people are very poor on that side of the river. They live in homes much like in Bible times. In fact, that is what I thought the countryside looked like. People working in the fields, men on donkeys, women in long black robes, etc. Ahmed said that the families are very close. When a member of the family marries, they build another floor on the house so the family all lives together. They take care of each other. That is quite nice.
We visited the Valley of the Kings. Before we arrived there, along the road in one of the villages were 2 large statues about 75 feet high that were built around 1000 BC. One of the kings had a temple built and these statues were in the front of the temple. Some years later there was an earthquake and one of the statues received some cracks in the front. When the wind would blow in a certain direction, it would make a sound of blowing though the statue. People believed the statue came alive and were scared by it. They tore down the temple but left the statues.
The Valley of the Kings contains many of the Pharaohs tombs, tunneled into the mountains. These tombs remained a secret for thousands of years until someone discovered one of the tombs. Since then, many more have been discovered. When a man would become Pharaoh, he would decide where his tomb would be dug. He would have slaves start to dig the tomb at that time. The slaves would continue digging until the Pharaoh died. The slaves would then be tied and beheaded and buried along with the king. That was to ensure that no one would know where the tomb was located. That may not be enticing to us but it was considered an honor by the slaves to be chosen for that work.
The kings were buried with many treasures. Unfortunately, before the government started to protect the tombs, many of them were robbed and the artifacts removed. However, some of the items later found their way to museums.
The area is very arid and the tombs have been preserved exceptionally well over several thousands of years. Hieroglyphics and colored artwork on the walls of the tombs are still very clear. We could not decipher the messages but they were very interesting to try to read.
King Tut’s tomb is one that archeologists found before the grave robbers so all the treasures were still there. It is fortunate that it was also one of the larger collections of treasures so, in addition to a museum full of artifacts in Egypt, parts of the collection travel the world for everyone else to see.
We also went to the mortuary temple of Queen Hatshepsut, also known as Deir El Bahri. This was built out of the face of a gigantic rock. There was a huge staircase approaching from the front and we could enter the various large rooms all carved into the rock.
We drove to the Valley of the Queens but didn’t get out to enter the tombs. They were quite similar to the kings’ tombs, only smaller.
We arrived back at the hotel around 1:15 and had lunch. We rested in our room which was air conditioned and very pleasant after being out in the extremely hot sun.
After dinner, we went to a sound and light tour of the Karnak temple. The temple was huge! It had 134 large columns (8-12’ in diameter and I don’t know how high) with a line of rams and a sphinx at the entrance. The history of the 18th and 19th dynasties was narrated with dramatic sound and light effects. We walked through the darkened temple and stopped from time to time. At each stop was a narration with various lighting effects.
An Egyptian man took us under his wing (in anticipation of a tip) and showed us where to stand at each of the locations for the best vantage point. He stood with us until that portion of the narration was nearly complete and then he would advise us what to do next. It worked out very well so it was worth the tip. The entire show was very impressive. It appears that Karnak the Great did quite well even before Johnny Carson made him more prominent.
Friday, June 25--Another day in Luxor
In the morning, we sailed on the Nile in a small sailboat. It was a very pleasant experience. The captain of the boat was 23 year old Abdul. He started working on boats when he was 7 years old. He was engaged to be married soon. In Egypt, when a couple becomes engaged, it is a binding contract and they are considered to be husband and wife. They do not live together, however, until the marriage ceremony.
There were English cakes, cookies and sparkling water for us on the boat. It was actually a very nice lunch.
We heard good things about a restaurant in town (Marimes) so we decided to try it that night. When we left the hotel lobby, the taxi drivers hounded us to take their taxi. We told them that we wanted to walk. When we left the hotel grounds, the horse and carriage drivers were the next to badger us to get into their respective carriages. They wouldn’t take no for an answer but continued to follow us down the street. Then, when we got to the shops, the vendors were outside the shops enticing us to come in to buy their wares. Whew, it was something else!
We found the restaurant and while we were looking at the menu, the owner came out and told us about the menu and the history of the place. The restaurant was on the 2nd floor of the building, above some shops. Toward the end of our meal, the women who had recommended it to us came in and took a table near us. That gave us additional confidence. Actually, the restaurant did have good food so our first venture out was successful.
We then tried to take a nice quiet walk by the river after dinner--but forget it! Everyone was trying to get us to ride or to buy something. Larry thought to get everyone off our backs, we would take a carriage ride. Before getting in the carriage, Larry wanted to agree on a price with the driver. He would not give us a price. He said he worked for Allah and whatever we wanted to give him would be OK. Finally Larry said 50 pounds (about $10.00) and he said OK. When we climbed into the carriage, he wanted to take us to the bazaar. We said no shopping, we only wanted to drive along the river.
He would whip his horse to make it go faster and we felt sorry for the horse. After a while, he went down a side street and said his horse needed a drink. We thought that would be a good idea so we approved that. We were soon on our way again but this time he did go into the bazaar. Actually, it was a very interesting place with run down shops and people everywhere. After a few minutes, he stopped again and this time told us he would be gone about 2 minutes. The 2 minutes turned into about 5 and he still wasn’t back. Larry thought of getting out but we didn’t really know where we were so we waited. About 5 more minutes and the driver came out all wet. It looked like he had taken a shower, clothes and all.
Larry said we had seen enough and we wanted to go back to the hotel. So off we went. When Larry paid him the agreed upon price, he suddenly got this extremely sad look and talked about his family. Where was Allah then? Oh my, what a place.
We paid him the agreed upon price plus a reasonable tip and left him sulking.
Saturday, June 26--Last day in Luxor
The previous day, we had arranged for a horse and carriage to pick us up at the hotel at 10:00 AM. We were right on time and he was waiting. He drove us to the Luxor museum. On the way, we went down many little streets. What a lot of activity! It was a cacophony of sound and many unusual smells—both pleasant and awful.
On the road was a hodge podge of cars, minivans, bikes, horses and carriages, people walking and a few motorbikes. Everyone kept doing their thing--dodging traffic or whatever. No one seemed to slow down for anything. Our driver kept the horse going at the same pace the entire time. It all seemed to work somehow.
The women wear long black robes with their heads covered. They don’t wear veils there. There were a few women dressed in a skirt and blouse and the younger girls in long pants or a skirt. Some of the younger girls did not have their heads covered. The children wear what any child in America would wear--shorts, t-shirts and some little girls in dresses. The men either had pants and a shirt or a long robe. Some wore turbans on their heads. Once I had Little Red out and we were taking pictures and a child indicated he wanted him. I gave Little Red a hug and shook my head. I wished I had something to give the child but didn’t have anything. Probably a good thing, however, as that would certainly have attracted a crowd.
When we got back to the hotel and paid the driver, we were thinking 20 pounds for an hour as that is what we had agreed upon. When we gave him 100 pounds for 3 hours, including what we thought would be a really good tip, he put on the sad look. Larry reminded him that he had told us 20 pounds for an hour. He said “Oh that was for the first hour, the second hour it is hot and it costs more. Larry doesn’t fall for things like that. We did pay him well but no matter what you give them, they want more. It’s unfortunate as it gives tourists a bad feeling toward the country.
We relaxed in the room and packed to leave the following day.
We had dinner at the same restaurant in town again. It may be boring to eat at the same place but it was much safer than trying somewhere else where there may be a problem.
Sunday, June 27--Luxor, Egypt to Bahrain
We awoke at 4:45 AM for a 6:00 pick up at the hotel. When we arrived at the airport, Mohammad was there to greet us. It seemed as if we had arrived at the airport early as no one was in the customs office yet. We waited for about 20 minutes before someone arrived so we could clear customs and go out to the plane. They again had the large bus for us (I think that is the only bus they have). We took off around 7:10 and were over the desert immediately. We crossed the Red Sea and were in Saudi Arabia airspace. We told Little Red that it was named after him. He was very interested and sat up front looking out at it for some time. We finally decided to take him down because he was getting sunburned.
There was a reddish dust haze over most of Saudi Arabia. Although we flew at 13,000’, the haze reached several thousand feet higher. It was similar to the smoky haze that hangs over most large cities but it was an eerie reddish color. We were concerned that it might damage the engines or propellers but there was no indication of that when we landed.
Although there was virtually no population throughout most of Arabia, there were several roads to nowhere. Actually, they probably connected distant cities. They looked fairly new because they were a dark black in color. There was one large city in the middle of the desert that had many oil storage tanks located all around it. Obviously, it was a major oil producing center. I couldn’t imagine living there.
After 5 hours and 15 minutes, we spotted Bahrain’s runway. We were vectored around and landed about 12:45. After parking, a truck and Lincoln Town Car pulled up from the FBO and we met the handling agent. Larry wanted to refuel right then so they called for the fuel truck. As we were waiting, the handler asked me if I would like to go inside. He didn’t have to ask me twice. It was 104 degrees with a hot wind blowing.
I was driven to a lovely modern office to wait for Larry. Someone gave me a glass of water and some cookies. Whew, that was wonderful. About 45 minutes later, Larry came in. He did not look that uncomfortable because the humidity was so low. Our luggage went through security right in the office and then out to a waiting van. Then, we were off to our hotel.
Bahrain is a very modern city. Most of the buildings are high rise and there is a lot of new construction everywhere. The Hilton was an excellent hotel and a good choice for our 3 night stay.
We lost another hour due to time zones but it was not a problem. Whenever we landed, we were quite tired from rising early and flying for a good part of the day. We would generally have dinner around 7 o’clock local time, go to bed and wake up in the new zone’s time.
We settled in and I read about the various local restaurants. It seemed that most of them were in the hotels and the food was served buffet style. We walked across the street to the Sheraton for a seafood dinner. It was a buffet but the food was of very good quality! We usually avoid buffets because there is so much food and we tend to eat more than we would from a menu.
Monday, June 28--A day in Bahrain
Our room was on the executive floor so breakfast was included. After breakfast, we walked to the tourist office to get some information on things to do. It was a long walk and we had to ask several times for directions to the office. We finally found it and were given a few brochures. We took a taxi back to the hotel as it was very hot. We decided to go to the National Museum. It focused on the history of Bahrain and was very interesting and informative. Although a small island nation, Bahrain has been a banking and trade center throughout history.
We walked across a very busy street to the Diplomat Hotel for lunch. Afterward, we took a taxi to the Souk (the old market) only to discover that it closes for a few hours in the afternoon. We discovered that when we were at the tourist office, we were very near the market. We could have gone then but didn’t know it. It is supposed to be quite an interesting place to walk around and look at all the gold and listen to the bartering. Oh well, we walked around it and found a few stores open but no real excitement or bartering.
We went back to the hotel as it was too hot in the afternoon to do anything else. Larry went to see if he could download the photos. I think he wanted to send them to Vince along with our story about Bahrain for our website. Whenever we had a problem downloading information directly to our website, we would call Vince on the satellite cell phone and he would place a message on the web for us. Usually, it would state that we had arrived safely and would update the website soon. A few times, however, we could not access the web page so we sent our information along with a picture to Vince by regular e-mail. Then, he wrote the page for us and downloaded it to the website.
Men in Bahrain wore white robes with turbans on their heads. The turbines were either all one color or sometimes white and red calico. Women’s traditional dress was a long black robe as in Luxor. It seems that more women worked in Bahrain than in Luxor. At least they worked in the hotels. I didn’t see many out walking. I did see a few women with veils.
Tuesday, June 29--Last day in Bahrain
We had breakfast on the same floor just a few doors away from our room. We met Lydia, who worked in the breakfast room. She was from the Philippines. She was cute and very talkative. She had a daughter in Manila and would get home to see her only once or twice a year. I could not understand that but it was the best way she could support her daughter.
At 10:00, we went down to the lobby to pick up a rental car. It finally arrived and we drove out to the International Formula One Race Circuit. It was a brand new state-of-the-art race track. The first race on it was the Formula One Grand Prix held two months earlier in April. We met Giesha, the woman who is in charge of all of the track events. She was very interesting and informative and gave us an excellent tour. She took us up into the King’s royal suite where he entertains his royal friends and relatives during the races. She also showed us the press rooms and the racers’ suites. The press and racers have it pretty nice but not as good as the King’s friends.
Larry was dazzled by it all. I’m sure we’ll be back for a race some day but we will never see it from those suites. We had lunch at a fast food place on the way back. The roads were very good and there was a lot of homebuilding activity out in the country as well. Holiday Builders would do well there.
We stopped at a mall. There were 3 large malls near each other. We were surprised to see very modern clothing in the stores--tight jeans, mid tops, etc. We certainly didn’t see any girls wearing things like that. Even the girls working in the stores were dressed in the more traditional black clothing. Larry thought that girls must wear clothes like that at home or, possibly, under their long, black traditional dress.
We went back to the hotel to pack and get ready to leave the next day.
Wednesday, June 30—Bahrain to Muscat, Oman
We were now one month into our trip. We awoke at 6 AM and were off to the airport at 7:20. Our ground handlers gave us a very warm welcome and we were soon whisked out to our plane. So far there had not been a problem getting through customs anywhere. The uniforms and ID photos really worked.
It was a short hop of 2 1/2 hours to Muscat.
The hotel was right on the beach and just beautiful! The lobby was so ornate I couldn’t begin to describe it. The front desk clerks mentioned our being pilots and said they would give us a special room. We told them we really were married. They gave us a gorgeous large corner room. There were 2 balconies with views of the pool and the sea.
We ate at the hotel that night. It was Italian night, of course. The food was delicious and the restaurant had an elegant ambiance. A woman played the piano for our dinner music. It was very lovely.
Thursday, July 1--A day in Oman
Breakfast was a buffet and we only had the cold buffet of cereal and fruit, which is our usual breakfast. When the check came, we were very surprised as it came to $50.00 (that is for the two of us)! We thought that was a little heavy. From then on, we bought juice at a juice bar near the hotel and croissants from a bakery.
We hailed a taxi at the hotel. The driver was very friendly. He drove us to the Oman Museum and waited for us while we went through the museum. It was interesting to learn of the history of Oman. We read several names of cities that are mentioned in the Bible. I decided to read parts of the Old Testament again to see how it all fit together.
Our driver then drove us up to one of the forts that were built 300 years ago. After 1970, a new king took office and had many new roads built in Muscat. Before that, there was only one road in and out of the city. We also drove past the Sultans’ palace (I could live there) and the port of Muscat.
We took a short stroll into the Muttrah Souq which is the oldest traditional bazaar in Muscat. It is their version of our mall. I bought a souvenir spoon as a keepsake from Muscat. It was interesting to see all the gold and silver jewelry, clothing, scarves, toys and incense, etc. Shops are open from 9-1, closed until 4 and then open again until 8. These people are smart. They go home, have a mid-day meal and rest in the heat of the day. Their dinner is later in the evening and they take their time over a meal with the whole family.
In Oman, there is a dress code for visitors as well as residents. Most men wear a white robe (not a full as in Bahrain) and a hat. The hat is something like a fez without a tassle. The women again dress in black. I didn’t see any women with a veil. The visiting men must wear long pants and a shirt and the women wear tops with sleeves that at least cover the upper arms and skirt or pants that cover the knees. Any lesser dress is offensive to them.
We stopped for lunch at McDonald’s to see what that was like in Oman. It is very similar to McDonalds in the US. My chicken sandwich on was pita bread, however, instead of in a bun.
We went back to the hotel to work on our website. We e-mailed the story to Vince as we again could not get onto our website.
We had some ice cream in the hotel lobby. The lobby is over 100’ square and maybe 40 or 50’ high. There was a large bronze statue of a horse and Arabian rider in the middle. The back of the horse was facing us. When our ice cream came, we were talking and eating and when I glanced back, I was looking at the horse’s side. It took me by surprise and we then realized the statue was revolving very slowly.
We went to dinner at the Al Bustan Palace Hotel. Wow, what a hotel! It was gigantic, and very reminiscent of a Moorish castle. The meal was buffet again and Italian. It seems we went to a lot of Italian buffets but that seemed to be the favorite almost everywhere.
After dark, the city had many beautiful illuminated fountains. It was a very nice country to visit.
Friday, July 2--Last day in Oman
The morning was spent leisurely. We planned to take the hotel van to a shopping mall at noon but when we went down to the lobby, we discovered it didn’t leave until 5:00 on Fridays. Stores are closed on Fridays until 5:00. That took the air out of our sails as we had been thinking we would be in an air conditioned mall for 3 hours and could get some walking exercise. Instead, we walked over to the Hotel next door to see about lunch (just to eat in a different place) but that didn’t look appealing. We decided to take a taxi to McDonalds again because at least we knew what to expect there.
When we arrived at McDonalds, there was a small food store next door to purchase a few items for breakfast and lunch on our flight. Our taxi waited for us because it was just too hot to walk back to the hotel. We returned to our air conditioned room and prepared for the next day’s flight.
Larry faxed his flight plan to operations so we were all set for our flight in the morning. We had a little ice cream (of course) and tea in the afternoon, packed out things and had dinner at the hotel.
Saturday, July 3--Oman-Sri Lanka
Wake up call was 4:00 AM, the earliest yet. There was a full moon shining in the window. We ate a quick breakfast of apple turnovers and OJ in our room because the restaurant was not open at that hour. It was still dark when we made our way to the lobby.
After a short taxi ride, we were at the airport. We proceeded through customs and security without a problem and went down to find a van to take us out to the plane. It is interesting to note how different the various FBO’s are run. Luxor greeted us with a bus and Mohammad helped us every way possible. Bahrain had a very luxurious office and helpful staff but here at Oman, we were pretty much left to fend for ourselves.
Two trucks showed up when we were preparing to taxi. One came to get the chocks and the other to make sure we didn’t have a problem. That was a good ending, anyway. We were in the air at 5:45 and by this time, the sun was up and it was quite light. It was somewhat hazy but with no clouds over the land. We didn’t see any clouds until we were out over ocean. Those were the first clouds we had seen since leaving Athens and they were a welcome sight. A few days earlier, I had told Larry that I would never complain about the rain again.
As we were climbing out, the traffic controller said he noticed we were from Melbourne. He had a British accent so Larry said, “Yes, but Melbourne, Florida not Australia”. He said that he knew Melbourne, Florida. In fact, he and his wife had just bought a travel agency in the Melbourne Square Mall. His wife was there and he planned to leave for Melbourne in a few weeks. We chatted a while and then exchanged names and phone numbers. We planned to look him up when we returned to Florida. Sometimes, it seems like a small world.
Although that was probably the high point of this leg, the low point followed almost immediately. Larry would calculate the fuel required for each leg and then would add a 3 hour reserve. That is the amount he would have put into the airplane. We couldn’t just fill the tanks because the extra weight would reduce the safety margin on takeoff. We had no way of knowing the winds until arriving at the terminal the morning of a flight. They would usually give us our briefing folder as we were boarding the airplane—and once, they handed it to us through the cockpit window.
There was a stiff headwind out of Oman, even stronger than forecast, and our electronic fuel computer showed slightly over 3 miles per gallon. That was about half of the 6 MPG needed to reach Sri Lanka with our normal reserve and not enough to even make it with the fuel we had onboard. We thought it would get better when we leveled off at 13,000’ but it only went up to 4.2. That was still not enough to make our destination. Larry had a really sick feeling inside but tried not to make me aware of the full impact of the situation.
We could have diverted to India but the governmental red tape in India is so terrible that we were warned not to go there. That is why we were bypassing it in the first place and going to Sri Lanka. If it would have been complicated to go there as a planned destination, it would have been much worst to divert there. What to do?
Larry always tries various things until he gets something to work. After checking other indicators, he realized the temperature was quite hot for flying at 13,000’, especially at our weight, so we descended to 11,000. Our computer immediately read 5.2 at that altitude which would now be enough to make it. We felt much better. Later in the flight, we became lighter as fuel burned off, the headwind died and we actually picked up a tailwind. We breezed into Colombo with 2 ½ hours of fuel remaining.
After four hours into the flight, all was looking good, even after switching fuel tanks a couple of times. I don’t think I’ll ever get used to the sound of the engines when the tank runs out of fuel. It sure made my heart skip and it would also get Larry’s attention very quickly.
We landed around 5 PM local time (we lost another 2 hours on this flight). We couldn’t get fuel right away as we were told that the fuel was available but it was in a warehouse about an hour away from the airport. We would have to meet them at the airplane at 6 PM on Monday, the day before departure to refuel.
We made arrangements to stay at the hotel near the airport on that Monday night. That way we could sleep in a little longer on that morning.
Wow, what a ride into the city! Cars, trucks, busses, bikes, motorcycles and scooters driving on the left side and all vying for their space on the narrow, 2 lane road. And people crossed on foot every few hundred feet as well. It seemed there were no rules about passing or pulling over to make a turn. It was everyone for themselves. And what a lot of honking of horns! I don’t know how they did it but it all seemed to work because we never saw an accident.
On the drive into the city, there was one shopping bazaar after another and people were out in droves. It was Saturday night and I mentioned to Larry that it must have been that everyone shopped on Saturday night. Shortly after that statement, the driver said because it was Saturday, the traffic was a lot lighter than usual. We couldn’t imagine how a week night would have been.
The hotel came into view and we were relieved that it was so modern and nice. We checked in, changed our clothes and had dinner at the hotel. Our room was on the 16th floor. It had a large window that looked out on the city and the sea.
Sunday, June 4--A day in Sri Lanka
At breakfast, the waiter asked what we had planned for the day and we told him we wanted to attend the Dutch Church. I had read about it before we arrived. It is one of the oldest churches in Sri Lanka. It was built in 1757. The waiter pointed out the window at a steeple and said that was the Dutch Church and the service started at 9:30.
After breakfast, we hailed a taxi and went to the church. When we walked through the front door, no one was there but the pastor and his wife. We introduced ourselves and they said that the service didn’t start until 10:30. We decided to just sit and wait until it started. We sat and looked around. The building did look very old but it seemed to be in good repair. Around 10:00, a man came down the isle, turned the lights and overhead fans on and set out the microphone. He also gave us each a hymnal and a book with the service for the Lord’s Supper.
A few people started trickling in, mostly women. There were only about a dozen people including us when the service started. We found out later that, over the years, the neighborhoods had moved away from the city center and people found churches closer to their homes. Only those who felt a strong connection to this church still made the drive into town to worship there.
At least the sermon was in English. Afterward, they served the Lord’s Supper and everyone went to the front to receive the elements. They passed the bread and then passed the cup. And that is what it was--everyone drank from the same cup. The pastor would take a cloth and wipe the lip of the cup but we wondered about germs. Larry thought the alcohol in the wine killed any germs.
After the service, we met several people (actually, everyone that was there). They all were friendly and made us feel very welcome. The pastor wrote his name and the name of the church on a card and gave it to us. One woman and her mother were extremely friendly. The younger woman’s name was Shirin (Shir-een). Her mother wore a sarong and looked very regal. They asked us how we happened to visit their church. When we told them we had wanted to visit the Dutch church, they laughed and said we were in the wrong church! This was the Episcopal Church. The Dutch Church was a couple of miles away but they would be happy to drive us over to see it. We first thanked them and said we didn’t want to impose, but they insisted.
We climbed into their SUV (they had a driver) and they took us to the Dutch church. They found a warden and he said he would give us a tour. He showed us the cemetery first. There were a few tombstones we could read dated from the early 1800’s. Then he led us inside. We went in a side door and it led to the front of the sanctuary. We were quite surprised to see that the “Domanie” was standing in the front, preaching a sermon to a large congregation. We were led right down the side and all could see us. I was rather embarrassed. He then took us to the balcony. I think they thought we wanted to listen to the sermon. When we sat down, however, we could hear that it was being preached in Dutch. Also, we had been to a service already that was in English which we could understand. Beside that, the two women and their driver were waiting for us.
We went back down and exited through the front door so as not to disturb the congregation. The women asked about our intentions for the day and when we said we had planned to go to the National Museum, they exclaimed that it was only 2 blocks from their home. They invited us to go to their home to have a cold drink and then they would drop us off at the museum.
We accepted their offer and felt very welcome and special to be in her lovely home. When we settled down in the living room, her husband came out. We had a delightful time visiting with them and their son. The living and dining area was one large room with a stone waterfall on one wall. One wall behind the table was all glass looking out on a beautiful garden. There was a curved spiral staircase at one end of the room.
They had two sons. The one at their home normally was in Seattle but he had been in Cairo, Egypt on holiday. He had pulled a tendon in his leg playing rugby and it was in a cast. He was recuperating at home before returning to Seattle. Their other son worked in Orlando. How about that! They had been to Florida to visit their son and had visited Cape Canaveral. We told them the next time they are in Florida, to let us know and we would get together with them.
We had a wonderful visit and after about 45 minutes, they drove us to the museum. They showed us their neighborhood on the way. It was a beautiful section of town. They told us that if we could not get a taxi later, to walk back to their home and they would drive us to our hotel. It was a wonderful experience that we could never have anticipated earlier that morning.
We went through the museum. It was very old and dusty. It wasn’t in any historical order as far as we could tell. If it explained the history, it did not do it in our language and we couldn’t understand it. It did have a lot of artifacts dating back to around 1600 AD. A couple of rooms were devoted to Buddha, a prominent religious figure there.
Women wore long skirts and some wore sarongs. Actually, the sarong is very feminine looking, much more so than the pants, jeans, etc., that American women wear. We saw very few people in shorts--even the men wear long pants, despite the warm temperatures.
We had dinner at the Italian restaurant in the hotel that night. The seating was outside at the pool and it was very lovely. It was a very nice 4th of July—but there were no fireworks.
Monday, July 5--Our last day in Sri Lanka
We planned to check out of the lovely hotel and move to the airport hotel on that day. Larry had to file his flight plan and also have the plane fueled later that evening. It turned out to be a very good idea.
We updated our website and accomplished a few other things that morning. After lunch, we checked out and took a taxi to the airport hotel. The taxi driver took us on a little different route so we could see more of the countryside. There was also less traffic that way but it took about the same time. Children were getting out of school and they looked sharp in their various colored uniforms. Their summer vacation is August and September, slightly later than ours.
There was a cow in the road at one time but it didn’t seem out of place. There were lots of coconut palms. There seemed to be garbage everywhere. There were, of course, many cars, trucks and tuk-tuks. A tuk-tuk is a 3 wheeled taxi, based on a motor scooter. It receives its name from the sound it makes—tuc-tuk-tuk. There were some kids swimming in the dirty water that the cows drink from and who knows what else. I guess they are used to the water and, hopefully, they don’t get sick from it.
We checked in at the Garden hotel and the room was much nicer than we had anticipated. Larry left around 4:00 to go to the airport to file his flight plan and to fuel the plane. Hopefully, it would all go well.
Unfortunately, it didn’t. Larry arrived an hour and a half early to file his flight plan and pay the airport fees before the 6 PM refueling appointment. Due to all the inefficiency and red tape at the airport, neither had been accomplished by 5:40 so he asked to be taken to the plane to meet the fuelers. He got out to the plane a few seconds before 6 PM and the fueler showed 15 later--without the fuel. He said it was on the way. About 45 minutes later, the fuel arrived on a trailer in six 55 gallon drums along with a hand pump. They started pumping the fuel around 7:15 and finished a wing and a half before the pump broke. They tried and tried to get the pump working but to no avail. They finally got another pump. They said they had pumped diesel oil with it so Larry had them pump some fuel into a bucket until it was clean and then into a jar he had taken along. He checked the fuel and it seemed to be clean so they continued with the job.
Another heart-stopping moment—while the first pump had an accurate meter for measuring the amount of fuel pumped, the meter on the second one was broken. When they were pumping fuel into the auxiliary tanks inside the airplane, Larry had to stop them every so often and measure by sticking a ruler into the tank. There was only about 6” between the top of the tanks and the roof so he could not see in there with a flashlight.
After pumping fuel into the forward cabin tank for a certain amount of time, the level was about 10” from the top. He thought he would give them 2 more minutes of pumping and then check it again. Twice during the 2 minutes while Larry was checking his watch, someone came up to talk with the pumper and he stopped pumping for 15 seconds each time. When Larry had to decide whether to stop at 2 minutes or to add the extra 30 seconds, he decided to stay with the original time. It is really good that he did because, when he checked, the level was only 1/4” below the top of the tank. In another 30 seconds, it would have run over and spilled AvGas all over the interior of the airplane. We cannot even contemplate the disaster that would have been!
They finally finished fueling at 8:30. The Air Lanka representative then took him inside to pay the handling fees in one office and the airport fees in another. Finally, all was accomplished and he returned to the hotel. In the meantime, however, I was in our room wondering what had happened and why it was taking so long. I had thought he would have been back around 7:30 or 8:00. I started to worry and wondered what I would do if something had happened to him. What a relief when he finally walked in the door.
He quickly changed clothes and we took the elevator down to a very late dinner. We had planned to be in bed at 9 PM but we were just sitting down for dinner at 9:30. What an ordeal!
Tuesday, July 6--Sri Lanka to Bangkok
It was an early wake up call at 4 AM. We quickly dressed and went down for breakfast. We had asked the waiter the night before about breakfast and had told him we would be down around 4:30. He said that the restaurant at the hotel was open 24 hours a day so it was no problem. They had a table already set up for us with juices and slices of pineapple on a large plate. They also brought out a basket of bread and much more food than we could possibly eat. Sri Lankan hospitality!
10 minutes later, our taxi was waiting and we arrived at the airport around 4:50. The same gentleman who had been with Larry the previous day came out and took us to his office. He told Larry that there was a refund because Airport Control had charged us too much the night before. Larry, thinking that it would probably be just a small amount and wanting to get airborne said that it was OK and they could keep the refund. However, the refund was $120. They went to the office for the refund and, fortunately, it took only a few minutes.
We went through customs and baggage check, again without a problem. The security people were curious about our badges and uniforms. When we told them we were flying our Baron around the world, they were very interested. We didn’t know if they thought we were brave or crazy.
A small bus took us to our plane. It was still quite dark and even after preflight, getting the plane started and calling for clearance, the sun was nowhere to be seen. We had calculated it would be light but had misjudged due to the change in time zones. Although we preferred it to be daylight, we took off in the dark. It was beautiful with all the glistening city lights. Going through some small puffy clouds on takeoff was neat as the navigation lights of the airplane made the clouds glow. It was a while before we saw the sun come up but, when it did, it was a beautiful sight. It was worth taking off in the darkness for that experience.
It was a long flight and we had to use the HF radio for communication. That was very frustrating as there was always a lot of static and many pilots were continuously reporting their positions on the frequency. After our original radio check, we could not get Control to answer us. We didn’t know if the controller could not hear us or if our transmissions were not getting out. Every hour we were required to call in our position along with an estimate to our next position. Each time, Larry managed to contact another airplane and ask them to relay our position. They would and we continued on legally.
We arrived in Bangkok around 3 PM local time (we lost another hour). The airport was even larger than the one in Athens. When we were on final, I noticed an entire golf course located between the runways. We had never seen or even heard of anything like that before!
We were met by three people from TAGS, our handling company, and at least three from the service center where we had scheduled an oil change. After making the final arrangements for the oil change, we were in a mini bus with the TAGS people headed for the other side of the airport. They helped us go through customs and arranged for a taxi to take us to the hotel. We arrived and checked in at the Bangkok Conrad, a brand new hotel in the Hilton chain. It was ironic that the hotel was located between 2 embassies—the US and Vietnamese.
After changing, we went downstairs to see about finding a seafood restaurant. The concierge recommended a place frequented by locals and tourists. He not only wrote the name of the restaurant down but also gave the name and directions to the taxi driver.
We don’t think the driver found the correct restaurant because he had to ask directions several times before he came to a place and said that was it. We enjoyed the meal but our stomachs did not.
Wednesday, July 7--A day in Bangkok
I awoke feeling not so good. I didn’t go down for breakfast but Larry did. When he came back he said it was a good thing I didn’t have breakfast because it was a buffet and cost over $25. We rested a little and then decided we felt good enough to do a little exploring.
I had read about a house called the “Jim Thompson House”. It was a home (which really was comprised of 6 teak houses) built in the 1950’s by a man named Jim Thompson. He was from the US and was stationed in Bangkok during the war. Sometime after the war, he decided to move to Bangkok. He found the houses, had them dismantled and rebuilt together on one piece of property. Some of the houses were 150 years old. He also collected art and antiques. He moved into the house in 1959. Around 1961, he took a vacation to Malaysia. One day he went for a walk in the woods and never returned. He just disappeared as his body was never found and there were no clues to his disappearance. It is a mystery! We took a tour of the house and grounds. Jim Thompson was famous in Thailand for revitalizing the silk industry. There was a gift shop on the grounds that sold items made of silk. Larry bought a silk tie and we also bought a very special elephant, also made of silk. We thought that the Red Bearon could use a companion. They hit it off with each other from the word “Go”.
The people of Thailand are extremely polite. When they thank you for something, they place their hands together like praying and bow to you. It is a little unnerving—but nice. There is heavy traffic on the streets of Bangkok but you almost never hear a horn honk because they are too polite for that. Amazingly, the traffic moves along quite well—without the sound of horns.
People in Thailand have a difficult time understanding us just as we have difficulty understanding them. One of our taxi drivers was speaking English (we think) as we could understand every 4th or 5th word. He would say something and then laugh. We would laugh with him but really didn’t know what he said. Larry asked him a very simple question and he said he was sorry but he didn’t understand. That was funny!
The hotel was connected to a shopping mall with many restaurants so we had no trouble finding good places to eat. We had lunch in a neat hamburger spot called The Garage.
It was more like a Bennigans than a Wendy’s. It had gas pumps and other car things around the room. We rested in our room in the afternoon and had a light dinner at another mall restaurant that night.
Thursday, July 8--Another Bangkok day
We were both feeling well again. That was good because we had made arrangements for a driver and a tour guide to take us to the River Kwai. After about a two hour drive with our tour guide talking most of the way (fortunately, we could understand him much better than that taxi driver) we boarded a long tail speedboat and rode up the River Kwai to the bridge. Larry has wanted to ride in a long tail speedboat ever since seeing them in the old James Bond movies. They are amazing because the steering handle moves the engine, shaft and propeller in one rigid motion. That is the way they are steered.
We got out of the boat and walked across the bridge. The Japanese made the POW’s and civilians build a railroad from Bangkok to Burma during World War 2 and a focal point was the bridge. We also visited a museum and a cemetery. The cemetery had crosses for thousands of POW’s. More than 15,000 POW’s from several countries and 100,000 civilians lost their lives while working on that project. The museum had stories and pictures (mostly drawings) of that event. It was very sad to experience. Having heard about the movie, “The Bridge Over the River Kwai,” we had thought it was a romantic story. However, it certainly was not!
We then boarded a train for a one hour ride. It started at the bridge and ended at a place for a buffet lunch. After lunch, we went to Elephant Park. We could have ridden an elephant but passed on that because they smelled so bad. Instead, we put Little Red on an elephant to take his picture. The handler said for me to hug the elephant so I did. It had very course hair and was very prickly. It was a cute elephant but I like our silk one much better.
On the way back to Bangkok, Larry took a nap. After a while he awoke and our tour guide started talking again. He was very down on the government there. They have a king but he is king in name only. Back in 1782, the first king came into power. He was king Rama and there has been a king Rama ever since. The prime minister seems to be the person who runs the country and unfortunately, he is out for himself and not for helping his people.
There is a lot of graft, also. It seems everyone who has a business has to pay off the police. In order for anyone to become a policeman, they have to pay off others just to be recommended for the school. Then they make their money back by taking money under the table. That is quite a system!
Dinner at another Italian restaurant. What else is new?
Friday, July 9--Our last day in Bangkok
We went out with the same driver and tour guide. They took us to several interesting places. The first stop was the Grand Palace and Emerald Temple. The first king in 1782, had this palace and temple built. He wanted a temple right next to the palace so he wouldn’t have to go far to worship. The whole compound was very large. The story goes that the Emerald Buddha was found in the country somewhere and that angels from heaven had made it and put it there.
When we walked through the temple, there was a service going on. I can’t imagine sitting in a service or preaching with people streaming through. It evidently was a religious day. They have 4 religious days a week. Our guide pointed out that Christians worship only on Sunday. He made it sound like Buddhists are more religious. He also pointed out an area where there were other religions represented--Hindu, Muslim and Christian. He said the Buddhist religion is the only one that recognizes other religions and that you don’t see signs of other religions in Christian churches or in Muslim Mosques. Of course, it is because Christians worship a living God so there is no reason to have dead symbols in our church.
We then went for a boat ride on the Chao Phraya River. First we were on a canal with many houses lining the bank. Some of the houses were quite nice but most were just shacks. We saw kids swimming in the water. I can’t imagine the bacteria in the water with the garbage floating in it plus the sewage from some of the homes! Yuk!
We went to the royal barge museum. The royal barges are beautiful and only come out for very special occasions. The last time they were used, it cost two million US dollars to prepare them for use and then to clean them again.
Next it was the temple of Dawn. It is also a Buddha temple but with Hindu design. There are more temples than one would care to see.
The next stop was the gem gallery. There were gorgeous rings, necklaces and bracelets with rubies, diamonds, blue safires, amethysts, etc. We could only look. We didn’t have room for any of those things on the plane and couldn’t afford the extra weight (of course, we could have had them shipped home).
Back at the hotel we updated our website, faxed in our flight plan and packed for the next day’s leg. Dinner was at a Steak House, of course, in the mall.
Saturday, July 10—Bangkok to Singapore
We awoke at 5:45 AM and were in a car and headed to the airport by 6:30. There wasn’t much traffic at all on the streets at that time of morning so we arrived at the airport around 6:55. After a little confusion, we found the agent from TAGS. He got us through customs OK and we were at the plane around 7:45. The fuel truck was already there. They had a regular fuel truck so it was much easier than in Sri Lanka. Also, we didn’t need as much fuel. After calling for clearance and taxing, we took off at 8:45. Larry told me to watch for stray golf balls on takeoff.
We now had not only a bear in the plane but also an elephant. Ms Ellie and Little Red were still getting along splendidly. Little Red was glad to have a traveling companion and Ms Ellie was looking for a free ticket to the US. They sat behind my seat on top of our emergency kit. They promised to grab the kit if we ever needed to get out of the plane in a hurry.
It was a nice flight down to Singapore. There was some weather but we skirted around the clouds and landed around 1:15 local time (lost another hour). The Singapore airport situation is like nothing we had ever seen. There are 3 major airports, right next to each other, with their runways running in exactly the same direction. The approach plates warn you to be careful not to land at the wrong airport. We were careful to watch the GPS and MFD to make sure we landed at the right one.
Maybe because of all the traffic from 3 airports, there were a lot of airplanes in the area and the controller held us quite high until the last minute. Then, he sounded surprised when we said we could land from that high position so close to the runway. Well, Larry had kept cross-checking our distance from the runway with our altitude and, at a certain point, he dropped the landing gear and flaps and slowed down so we could descend in a hurry if we had to. When the controller cleared us to land, he just reduced the power and we dropped right in. Piece of cake!
After taxiing in, we were met by two men from Jet Aviation, our handling company. They brought up the fuel truck and waited for us while we refueled the plane. We rode in their van to the terminal. It didn’t take long and we were in a taxi headed for the hotel. The trip to the hotel was only about 25 minutes. After settling in and changing our clothes, we went out for a walk. The hotel was in a shopping area (very big shopping area) and there were many people on the sidewalk. We were looking for a place for dinner but we didnt seem to be in an area with restaurants. We ended up back at the hotel for a very good Chinese dinner.
Sunday, July 11--A day in Singapore
With the day being Sunday, we went to church. The previous night I saw a Presbyterian church on our map that was not far from our hotel. We looked up the church in the phone directory and called to find out what time the service started. They had an English service at 9 AM. The church was full and it was a nice service with lots of music.
We walked back to the hotel, changed our clothes and got a taxi to the Raffles landing sight, a riverfront tourist area. We had lunch outside overlooking the river and buildings. The buildings on the river are called shophouses. They were built between 1840 and 1960. They are tall narrow buildings built right up against each other. The shops are on the first floor and the living areas on the upper floors. They have different styles, roof lines, fronts and colors. A lot of them have been renovated and they are now quite expensive to rent or buy.
After lunch, we took a bumboat ride on the Singapore River. Bumboats were cargo carrying boats years ago. The merchant ships would anchor out from Singapore and the bumboats would carry the cargo from the ships to the shore. They used coolies to help unload the freight. Singapore means Lion City. Legend has it that in 1300AD, a prince from Sumatra landed on what was then known as Temasek and saw an animal he thought was a lion. He named the area Singapura--Lion City. Lions are though to bring good luck but, the interesting thing is that there actually are no lions on the entire island.
In 1819, Sir Stamford Raffles hoisted the British flag and set up the East India Company trading post. Before that, Singapore was comprised of fishing folk and Chinese traders. People from China, Malay, Japan and India arrived as traders while Europeans arrived as merchants. In 1867, it became a British colony. Singapore declared independence in 1959 and is a very prosperous little country.
After our boat ride, we walked to the Raffles hotel. On the way, we saw 4 girls in their graduation gowns. We stopped to take their picture. Little Red wanted to have his picture taken with them and they agreed.
At the Raffles Hotel we had a Singapore Sling where the original Sling had originated. It is a rather sweet tasting drink and we really didn’t care for it. The bar was old with dark wood. There were small paddle fans going revolving slowly and a large spiral staircase in one area. There were little birds flying in the room and pecking at peanut shells which were all over the floor. It was quite an interesting place.
We took a taxi back to the hotel and went out for pizza around 6:45. We sat outside and watched all the people going by. On the way back to the hotel, we stopped for an ice cream cone which was very yummy. It seems that we found good ice cream everywhere. Larry wanted to find a place with a large screen to watch the Formula 1 Grand Prix race so I went back to the hotel and he went out looking.
About 2 hours later, Larry returned. He had finally found the Mandarin Hotel where he was able to watch the race on a large screen TV with several Englishmen who were also Formula 1 fans. We went to bed around 11 PM.
Monday, July 12--Last day in Singapore
We had breakfast in the room and caught up on some e-mail and our website. Around 11 AM, we went to the subway station and took a train to Marina Bay, a resort area. When we got off the subway, it looked like not much was around there so got back on and went one stop back to Raffles Place. We had lunch at the Penney Black Victorian Pub on the Singapore River. The menu had a story of the history of the Penney Black.
In 1840 in England, it was decided that postage on letters would have to be paid in advance and a stamp would be pasted on the envelope. The first stamp had Queen Victoria’s picture on it and the background was black. On May 6, 1840, the first stamp was sold. They were cut at the post office and needed glue to adhere them to the envelope. The stamp that canceled them was either red or blue and in the shape of a cross. It was soon discovered, however, that the cancel stamp could be wiped off and the postage stamp could be used again. After 8 months, the stamp color was changed to red and that worked much better. The Penney Black stamp is very valuable to collectors because it was the first stamp of England and it is also very rare. After 160 years, we still use postage stamps, although there have since been thousands of designs and the price has gone up a bit.
After lunch, we walked around some and then took the subway back to the hotel. We bought some food for breakfast and lunch on the next flight. We wanted to make a quick getaway in the morning. Larry updated our website and also tried to download new software for our printer. There was a thunderstorm that afternoon. We were quite close to the Equator and Singapore receives a lot of rain.
We prepared for our next day’s flight. We were now 12 hours ahead of Florida, halfway around the world.
Tuesday, July 13—Singapore to Manila, Philippines
We awoke around 5:45, arrived at the airport and took off around 7 AM. It was an 8 hour flight to Manila. The enroute weather was very interesting. When we were boarding the plane, the weather package they handed us showed a large severe weather system to the right of our course. Larry remarked that he hoped it stayed where they showed it. Fortunately, it did. It lasted for over 200 miles and we could see the dark clouds with lightning. We were so fortunate to slide right past it without even entering a cloud.
Later in the flight, however, we encountered some large thunderstorms that stretched about 50 miles each side of our course. With the help of the radar, we were able to pick our way through without any problem. At one point, there were 2 large, red, pulsating cells on the radar and our course went right between them without a bump. How very fortunate!
The Philippine Islands are very tropical and there was a large thunderstorm waiting to meet us when we arrived on the far side of the airport. It also is a large International jetport and we were routed a good distance past it to get into sequence behind other airplanes. That was taking us closer and closer to the thunderstorm. Just about the time when Larry thought we could not go any closer and would have to make a turn away from the airport, the controller gave us a turn to the final approach course and we landed with no problem.
After landing around 3:00, we refueled the airplane for the next leg. The Baron has inboard and outboard wing tanks. When they fuel the outboard tanks, they automatically fill the inboards. Well, the fueler filled the outboard tank on one side and then opened the inboard cap to see if it was full. Of course it was and the fuel bubbled up out of that tank and all over the wing before he could get the cap back on. I tried to stop him but he did it so quickly, I couldn’t call out in time. They cleaned the wing but we had to pay for the spilled fuel.
The agents gave us a ride to the terminal just as the rain was arriving. Most of the storm missed us and we had only light rain. We called our cousins, Bob and Carol Kuiken, who live in Metro-Manila. They were excited that we had arrived and came to pick us up.
We were waiting in front of the terminal when we spotted them and we were all smiles and waving. It was so nice to see two friendly faces. They drove us to their home which is in a very nice neighborhood. We met their house girl, Valin (Vah-leen’). Her husband is Bong and they have 2 small children--an adorable family. They have a small apartment in the Kuiken’s home.
We had dinner at Bob and Carol’s home. It was nice to have a good home cooked meal but even better to see them again.
Wednesday, July 14--A day in the Philippines
We awoke at 4:45 AM to get an early start to try to beat the traffic. We left their home at 6:00 and drove to a gorgeous spot in the country. We rented 2 boats with 2 guides in each boat. They paddled us up a narrow river. Many times, they had to kick us away from rocks and haul the boat up and over places where the water was very low. I felt like I should have gotten out to help them—but we didn’t. A boat came along with a woman selling wide brimmed straw hats. Larry decided he needed a hat so he bought one.
There were beautiful high cliffs, lush with vegetation on each side of the river. At times, we could hear monkeys calling to each other in the trees but never caught a glimpse of them. Larry said he could understand them but I couldn’t
About 3/4 of the way, we passed a gorgeous waterfall. We finally reached a large waterfall where we could get on a bamboo raft and be towed out under the falls. Larry and Bob opted to go for it. They later said that, although the massage felt good, it actually hurt when the water fell from the tall cliffs and hit their backs. What a breathtaking spot it was!
The traffic there was horrendous! There were buses, jeepneys, cars of all sizes, motorbikes, and every sort of transportation all squeezed together on every road. It was very interesting to sit in the back of the car and watch it all. It took forever to go just a short distance. The drivers kept one hand on the horn while steering with the other. So different from Bangkok! What good the horn did was beyond me. The traffic had nowhere to go.
It was raining quite hard by the time we left the river. There was now a river in the streets. When it rains in the Philippines, it RAINS!
Bob then drove us to Faith Academy where he teaches 5th grade. Faith Academy is a school for missionary children so there are kids attending from all over the world. A large number of students board at the school but others live in the area. The school is on top of a hill overlooking the city of Manila. It has a beautiful view. Bob showed us his classroom. He was anxious to get the room ready for his students who would arrive in 3 weeks.
We had dinner at the Kuiken’s home again. Carol said it would be easier than to go out in the traffic to a restaurant (especially when Valin did most of the work).
Thursday, July 15--A day on Corrigador Island
It was another early wake up and we were off by 5:45 AM. When we got out to the main road, the traffic was already backed up. It seemed slow going but Bob and Carol seemed to think that we got out before it really built up.
We drove to a ferry dock and took the ferry to Corregador Island. A trolley took us around the island for a guided tour. No one lives on the island as it is a memorial to the men and women who served on it during World War II. However, there is a hotel. Bob and Carol had stayed at the hotel a few years ago and really enjoyed it.
Corregador Island played a large part in World War II. There are many memorials erected on the island in honor of the men and women who fought for country and home. It was a very meaningful and moving experience.
On the way home, we had dinner at Chili’s. It was exactly like the Chili’s in the states.
We had heard about the heavy traffic but we had no real idea of how bad it actually was. It took Bob 1 1/2 hours to drive from downtown Manila to his home, a distance of 7 miles. And that, he said was typical but could be even worse during rush hour. That has to be the worst traffic in the whole world.
Friday, July 16--Our last day in Manila
We slept in ’till 6 AM! Larry worked some on our website and I washed my hair. We had a very leisurely breakfast.
After breakfast, Carol showed us around the yard. It was quite large. Valin has a garden and she has 3 cages with pet birds. At least one was a Cockatiel but I don’t remember the types of the others.
Around 10:00, we left to go to the American cemetery. It is a cemetery dedicated to American and Filipino soldiers who fought and died in World War II. There are 17,000 graves with rows and rows of white crosses. In the middle of the cemetery, there are large walls with 38,000 names of men and women who died in the Philippines during the war but the bodies were never identified or found. It is a very beautiful and peaceful place but a strong sense of sadness hangs over it. Again, very moving and meaningful.
From there, we drove to see the church where Bob and Carol attend. It is a fairly new building, finished in 2002, and very modern. It was rather strange, however, when we had to sign in. There were security guards at the door and they looked through Carol’s and my purses. Carol said it is for everyone’s protection but they have to go through that every time they enter the church building. She also said that their mission recommends that they don’t ride public transportation alone.
From there, we walked to an Italian restaurant for lunch. They then drove us to our hotel. We had decided to stay near the airport. We wanted to leave early in the morning and it would take too long to drive from Bob and Carol’s home. We said our goodbyes and thanks for such a great time.
We settled in and Larry worked on our website. We had dinner at the hotel, steak, as usual for our last night in each country.