Saturday, November 16, 2013

Cape Town to Goodwood Day 15: Heading for Lewa - rhino land

After safely arriving at Wilson airport  in Nairobi yesterday and a big party at the Aeroclub, Spirit of Artemis is on its way to Lewa, home  to the world-renowned Lewa Wildlife Conservancy today - the start of the team's third week of travel.  
Lewa, founded in 1995,  is home to over 400 species of birds and more than 70  varieties of mammal. Its rhino populations is steadily growing with the original population restored (the original purpose of the conservancy) and the black rhino re-introduced to areas which hadn't seen them for decades.
While she was in Nairobi, Mary Heath asked a local garage to remake her Avro Avian’s undercarriage and repair the petrol tank. She was annoyed to find that few of the telegrams she had sent to let the authorities know where she was ever delivered  - yet she still got the blame for communication problems.
‘Owing to her slackness in letting us know her movements, we are unable to keep pace with the vagaries of Lady Heath,’  one official file stated. 
This seems unfair; copies of telegrams she sent while in Nairobi to the authorities in Khartoum and Cairo as well as in Kisumu and Entebbe still exist.
After about a week,  she was off again, still with the Bentleys in tow. With the Avian heavily loaded, it took nearly 250 metres for the craft to become airborne, the longest run yet.  Ahead was the 3,000 metre Kijabe escarpment, an intimidating height for a small and overloaded plane. After a fruitless attempt to gain altitude, Lady Mary decided to make an 80 kilometre detour, following the railway line in hopes of finding an easier way over the top. Even when she did, she scraped over the hills by a mere six metres after lightening her load by throwing overboard her tennis racquet, some books and a pair of shoes. 
She stopped in Kisumu only to refuel before heading to Jinja on the Ugandan shores of Lake Victoria. That made her the first female pilot to fly over the equator, although (uncharacteristically) she doesn't mention this in her many writings.
Next would come the most challenging stretch of her entire flight...


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