Jean sent us a post reflecting on their journey from Panama City to just over the Andes. His second-half of their flight to Tabatinga will hopefully be posted by tomorrow.
An early start from Panama was needed to get us to Leticia in the southern corner of Colombia before dark. The cool morning air (28°c) allowed a reasonable climb over the high ground at the end of the runway and as we turned on to our heading Panama city was presented in its early morning glory. We spent the first ten minutes of the flight in absolute awe and amazement. That incredible man made canal joining two oceans and splitting two continents has brought about the evolution a huge city.
Lots of Spanish on the radio and a constant climb settled us into the flight. We levelled off at 10 grand and served breakfasts. Starbucks coffee and Oreos, not nutritious but does the trick.
A bit of water to cross and then the Andes. Cruising at that altitude it was odd to think that if we maintained that level we would not clear the mountains that we could not yet see ahead. And so the journey started getting interesting. Over land now the puffy stuff started punctuating the sky. The very lush vegetation covered every inch of land that man had not scared. The hills started to grow up to us and decisions to tweak our trusty 914 into climb configuration started happening.
As always our little turbo charged red head responded keenly and hauled us up to 13 000ft without hesitation. This left the first range of granite peeping at us through the layer of clouds safely below us. Once we were clear we descended back to 10 000ft to avoid cloud, but were well aware that we would need to climb another 5000ft to clear the next bit of rock. The sky was filled with various formations of clouds which hid the mountains, or at least the panoramic views of these incredible mountains. So rather than seeing a long stretch of mountains in the distance that you are going to climb over, you start seeing foothills growing up to you as you pass over gaps in the clouds. Of course our lovely glass cockpit shows red contour levels on the gps page were our butts will be 500′ or less over terrain.
And so in good time climb mode is set and we meander our way through those tall, ever growing charlies, using any bit of lift we encounter. Now and again we would fly through a chosen few and they would gently boost our climb rate for a while. As the gps indicated that we were nearing the peaks of this gigantic sculpture of time we could start seeing it in between the forest of clouds. Now that strange seat position gets taken up by both of us. It is a position of serious observation, readiness and possibly nervousness. It reminds me of how my dog “Flight” sits in the plane for take- off. Upright and very keen to see what is going on outside. We don’t have forelegs to lean on so we lean against our shoulderstraps.
Things were comfortably tense. This very green, solid and very high bit of planet was now getting very close and we were not yet quiet high enough to keep it out the cockpit, so a little less sky above us was needed. Up at 14 000ft (density alt of 16000ft) our red headed turbo was still styling but the air for our prop to bite and our wings to work in, is VERY thin. The crest of this unbelievable mountain was now close and clearly in site and we needed just a little more to clear it. We were so close that we could see the texture of the grass and scrub. Eaking out every bit of climb we could with an escape route always in place we finally got overhead the summit and leveled off. This was a fantastic experience and place to be. Beauty beyond words. We savoured every moment as we weaved our way between the clouds and mountain features that surrounded us. Almost immediately we began our descent to avoid cloud and left behind us this huge formation and took with us an unforgettable memory.
And now for the ocean of forest……………………………