Turbo-Beaver Ferry Flight
Travel Dialogue Continued
Tamanrasset Algeria: Our First Fuel Stop Destination
We take off early in the morning to avoid the morning traffic departing Lagos, and only climb up to 8000 feet to try to enjoy the view. We plan to fly up the River Niger to Niamey. On route I hope to see the Kainji Reservoir, a man made lake on the River Niger, but the persistent cloud cover obscures our view. We only see the River Niger when Kano Air Traffic Control makes us cross from west to east to cross the Nigerian border into Niger by the crossing of their choosing. I try to argue that making the severe dog leg to pass east of Sokoto will run us low on fuel reserves, but to no avail. Having the full 3 hours reserve is important to us as our first leg is 10 hours. We try to play the game.
After the initial excitement of crossing into Niger and being passed over to Niamey Control I switch seats with Klaus and decide to take a nap. The scenery is getting less and less green and more rugged. I don't know how long I am asleep, but I wake up in a fog. Actually, to be specific, I woke up in a sand storm. We had flown right into a sand storm at 8,000 feet. Before we realized what was happening we had lost our HF radio, our VOR, and later we found out our DME. Without the luxury of a clearance from our HF contact in Niamey, we issued ourselves a climb up and out of the blowing sand to 12,000. Somewhere in this storm we are to cross from Niger into Algeria.
We fly out and over the sand storm before actually crossing the northern
Niger border. Making the border hop with no radio communications makes us
slightly nervous, but the alternative of turning back is less appealing.
The air to the north of the storm is clear and we can see perfectly for
miles. As the sun heads for the horizon the yellow and red warmth of the
light stretches across the desert floor, making the landscape less
formidable compared to the harshness of the glaring noon day sun earlier.
We finally make radio contact with Tamanrassat, our destination fuel stop,
and they clear us in for a long approach. They make the same mistake they
all do. They assume Learjet speeds and can't figure out why it takes us so
long to get there.
We were too late for dinner, but much to our delight the hotel restaurant
brought us out a bottle of very fine nationally produced red wine, sold
for the benefit of tourists, together with a tomato salad. The wine and
the rich ripe tomatoes wash away the sand of the desert storm and left us
feeling the warmth and glow of the sunset we had witnessed earlier. We
slept good and woke late. Coffee, fresh bread, cheese, and green grapes
We leave Tamanrasset before the heat of the day gets too much. Even by 10 am we are looking at near 40C on our outside air temperature. The air traffic controller gives us our requested 12,000 feet ASL and we climb slowly with a full 13 hours of fuel. We can see 2908 meter Tahat clearly in the distance nestled in the Ahaggar Mountains. It is considered one of the most desolate areas in the world and we can see why. Our track takes us almost straight north across the Sahara. Rock and sand as far as the eye can see. In fact, to my surprise, much more rock than sand.
Story and Images by John S Goulet
Alicante Spain and Southampton: North Africa to Spain and across Europe.
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Where all our flying is cross country.
Last modified on April 21th, 2013.