It takes all kinds to make a world, however I cannot understand people who dread retirement. There’s time to read all the books and travel to all the places, if the pension holds up, that you hadn’t time to read and travel to when you were working.

In my early life I never thought I’d see Africa. We flew to Johannesburg and took a plane to Maun in Botswana to fly up to Xakanaka, a camp in the Okavanga Delta, to see wild life.

Boarding our plane at Johannesburg for Maun

Different kinds of tyre!

Maun Airport waiting for baggage

Our plane to Xakanaka; Hilary and airport employee

The Bush from the air

I was always unsure about small aircraft. My uncertainty was confirmed for me when a two seater plane landed in a field near our house in a village in West Wicklow. The pilot came up the road carrying a petrol can and asked if there was a garage. When he had filled his tank he offered to bring up some of the children who had come to look, for a spin over the village. Some went, but not our children! When he was ready to continue on his journey he asked in which direction was Wexford. The headwaters of the Slaney rose in the foothills of the mountains opposite the village. ‘Follow the river’ advised an astute bystander ‘and you can’t miss it.’

I knew a talented cabintmaker who had a passion for flying helicopters. One day he ended up in his helicopter dangling from a tree and was lucky enough to survive to fly again.

You see above the photograph of the small plane in which we flew from Maun to Xakanaka, our camp. I gritted my teeth and off we went. I was feeling quite confident until we landed on the way at another camp to drop two of our four passengers. On the ground there was already a small plane with passengers sheltering in the shade under one wing. One of two fuel leads had become blocked and there wasn’t enough petrol in the remaining tank to get the plane to where it had hoped to go. Our pilot explained and said that the one tank in that plane would be plenty to get us to Xakanaka so we would swop planes to let the stranded pilot have ours. ‘Not on your life,’ said we, ‘fly us to Xakanaka and then you can come back.’ He did, and we arrived in one piece.

Plane with blocked fuel pipe

Landing on ‘runway’ at Xakanaka

Xakanaka Airport Fire Department and Medical Centre.

22nd November 2011

Unknown to me when I posted the above on 22nd October 2011 a crash had occurred eight days previously according to the following report which was drawn to my attention on 21st November:

The crash of a Moremi Air Cessna 208B Grand Caravan on Friday, October 14, 2011 in the Okavango Delta region of Botswana, in Southern Africa, has left 7 persons dead and 4 others in critical but stable condition according to reports.

Unconfirmed reports are that the aircraft crashed very shortly after takeoff during the initial climb from a strip at the northern edge of the Okavango Delta, about 25 minutes flying time from Maun, near Xakanaxa Camp. The crash was the first fatal accident in several years and has caused shock throughout the local aviation community.

None the less one is probably at greater risk travelling on Irish roads than flying in small aircraft in Southern Africa.

See: Grand Caravan Crash (Examiner)


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