Saturday, December 07, 2013

Cape Town to Goodwood Day 36: Skirting the Mediterranean

Tracey and crew leave Cairo today (10am local time) for Mersa Matruh after a visit to the Pyramids yesterday. "The aircraft underwent general maintenance yesterday with the Stearman doing some taxi trails (to the massive enjoyment of the assembled crowd of aviation enthusiasts) and of course a wash and shine under the Saharan sun," says General Aviation Support Egypt on its Facebook.
Like Mary Heath the team plans on taking the shortest possible route across the Mediterranean and so will fly along the coast of north Africa to Tunisia before setting off on the 230 miles to Sicily.
Mary Heath was delayed for longer - her plane was locked up in Heliopolis with the British authorities unwilling to let her fly the Mediterranean without an escort. She had enjoyed her time in Cairo. "Everything in Cairo was lovely from the bazaar to the Pyramids by moonlight. I enjoyed tennis at the club at Gezirah and everybody was most interested  in what one could tell them about aviation."
Nevertheless, she wanted to push on. "It was not until I wired to Mussolini, addressing him just as "Mussolini Italy" that an escort was arranged." Mussolini agreed to put a seaplane at her disposal and so she set off  for Sollum on April 15.
"Flying north-west for a time, I struck the coast at El Mayad in an hour or so. Dotted about the desert below me, I could recognise Bedouin encampments with their characteristic black tents."
She circled Mersa Matruh where Cleopatra had kept a villa "in the old Roman days". After six and a half hours, she reached Sollum "the little frontier port of Lybia" with its aerodrome high on a cliff behind the town.

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