We had some unexpected surprises from the trip organizer who turned out to be not exactly at the level required. However, we have an amazing group of people with us and we are now continuing essentially by ourselves. Lesson learned: never pre-pay anything.
On Thursday morning we flew 80 nm (0:40) to Kruger International, which was supposed to be just a stop to clear customs and continue to Mozambique.
That didn’t work out exactly as planned, we couldn’t get a clearance to fly to Vilanculos. The clearance was supposed to be prepared ahead of time by the trip organizer, but since he went AWOL, we had to take things in our hands. It turns out that apparently, 8 Cessnas and Pipers constituted an invasion force. The local ATC had to confer with military and the military decided us to be too dangerous. The following day, the weather in Vilanculos turned 1500 feet overcast, light rain and 5 km visibility. While we could get in in a 182, the smaller 172 in the group didn’t have a range till the alternate – and we still didn’t have the clearance. Finally, we regretfully had to skip Mozambique.
The following morning we decided to fly to Zimbabwe. There was no METAR nor TAF for our destination, Buffalo Range. Accuweather and satellite pictures were showing low visibility and ceiling below 1,500 feet, but that didn’t deter a determined group of aviators and off we went. Here is our flight from Kruger International to Buffalo Range airport.
When we got close to Chiredzi, the controller said visibility 300 meters, ceiling 1000 feet. You can see what happened next looking at my turn west within the CTR. I decided to fly to Masvingo, but after asking the controller, that field wasn’t much better – so off we went to Bulawayo, some 200 miles west. When the rest of the group decided to fly back south, towards South Africa border (good ADM: 180 degree turn, when getting into IMC), I turned out south also.
Luckily, 5 minutes later, the controller announced 3 km visibility – good enough for us – and we all managed to get into Buffalo Range. All except one, because Craig had engine trouble and decided to make a precautionary landing in South Africa – it turned out to be a non-issue. The 335 nm flight took 2:30, but it felt more!
After landing, we were rewarded by seeing zebras grazing on taxiways (see above).
Having 7 airplanes trying to refuel in Chiredzi has proven to be somewhat of a challenge due to the local equipment.
The guy on the left is hand pumping fuel from blue barrel to white barrel. The guy on the right is hand pumping fuel from the white barrel to the aircraft. The pilot is fueling the aircraft. It only takes about 15 minutes per airplane.
Once we all got fuel, went through immigration, customs, filled forms, paid fees, it was time to fly to Masvingo. The weather didn’t exactly improve, but hey, this is Africa.
As you can see on the profile view, terrain was rising, while the cloud deck – not so much, in other words, classical sucker trap. The profile view shows my valiant attempts to stay VMC, which were, let’s say, only partially successful. However, we all arrived safely to the destination, after 70 nm, 35 min flight.
We spent the night in the Lodge at the Ancient City, a pretty amazing hotel south of Masvingo and the next morning, before flying out, we visited Great Zimbabwe; a ruined city, which was the capital of the Kingdom of Zimbabwe during the country’s Late Iron Age.