We enjoyed staying in Rada Tilly, a small little town South of CR, it was safe and the people were friendly, and although we spoke no Spanish we were always helped along the way, be it ordering food in a resturant or buying goods in the supermarket. In the hotel, the housekeeper spoke little English but we used Google translate with her when we came unstuck. We drove to a lovely but neglected seaside resort called Caleta Olivia which could be a beautiful beach if people took timeout to clean up the many plastic bags we saw floating around. I don’t think that people deliberately left it unkempt, but I think that with much unemployment in this area, picking up rubbish is not a priority for most residents. We found a decent looking hotel that did an amazing warm seafood salad, and a refreshing homemade lemonade drink.
We stayed at this location for three days enjoying, the setting, the beach and people. With the help of Martin, Sebastian, Tinti, and local pilots from the CR aero club we planned our next leg to Rio Gallegos and final routing to Falkland Islands/Malvinas. Taking into consideration the changeable weather, the harsh gusting crosswinds, the 400 miles of flying over open ocean and not many alternative routing options other than to return back to Comodoro Rivadavia or go down for a dip in the sea!!
The vantage to our next stop to Rio Gallegos was not as inspiring as previous legs along our route, as it appeared to us that much of the landscape was desert like with oil rigs or diggers blotting the countryside. At first stayed inland as this was the direction we had planned, but along the inland route the winds had picked up and were either blowing us, in a sideway fashion so we had to crabbed along, or becoming turbulent and shaking us around. We continued for about 30 minutes or so, on this uncomfortable path to follow our planned routing, all the while viewing many salt lakes, sand storms, and flat terrain. As we progressed along our course, we talked about wanting to aim for the coastline, because whenever we have flown over the coast the wind is usually less severe and it has always been interesting viewing. Chris has got beautiful shots for his Face book page when we have flown over high sea cliffs, and it can be interesting to see different rock formation from an airplane. However as soon as we were was almost directly on target for the correct heading to Rio Gallegos, South of San Julian along the coast, the wind changed to a head wind, in which it felt like we were hardly moving. This went on for about an hour or so along with gusting winds leaving us being pounded about. I was feeling drained and exhausted from the turbulence, and although I knew “this is Patagonia” the norm for local pilots, did it really need to be bumpy ALL the way along OUR route!!!! We reassessed our routing and realized if we flew at a safe distant further out over the ocean, we would have less head winds and gain more speed. After a while this strategy was working, we had picked up speed and the ride was much smoother. I began to feel less bothered at the odd bump in the sky, and began to look out of the window and focus on the scenery. At first I noticed what a beautiful shade of blue the sea was, and then I looked at the white caps which were enormous, and started to feel very vulnerable, very scared, and very silly!! I asked myself “what the hell do you think you are playing at?” You have just finished your master’s degree, you have a great job with the airlines, are relatively healthy, why did you think WE could complete this mad trip to the Falkland Islands/Malvinas, EVERYONE has told us along the way we are crazy?” I remain silent, the sea, and looks angry and cold. I look at Chris who also seems to be also focusing on the sea. We fly along not saying much and finally head towards the airport, and although usually I like to do the landing, I tell Chris to do it. The wind, and the sea have deflated my confidence in making this trip and I want Chris to be PIC for this bumpy landing.On the ground we both quickly disembark the airplane, trip has been jarring and we both feel the need to stretch and fresh air . We do the usual paperwork palaver but need to fuel up asap, as we are not staying at this main airport but going on to an aero club(which does not have fuel)nearby to hangar our plane.Sebastian from CR aero club has kindly organised this for us and the pilots and members have generously agreed to allow us to keep our plane in their hanger. After waiting for over an hour to get fuel at this main airport and more messing around, we are able to take off and land at the aero club five minutes away.
We were welcomed by the delightful Jose and Juan who give us a tour of their aero club and flying school, they also helped us put our plane away into their historical hangar This hangar was used by the pioneering airmail (Aeropostale) pilot Antoine de St Exupery many years ago. He would fly from Paris to Tierra del Fuego and all points in between creating links with France and developing an airmail postal service. Chris was not only blown away by this detail (as Exupery is one of his hero’s) but honoured that our little plane was going to be housed in a hanger he used for the night.
Juan and Jose were very hospitable to us; Juan kindly gave us a tour of Rio Gallegos, took us to our hotel and promised to pick us up in the morning so he could help us with our airplane. We have been so lucky with most people we have met along our journey, they have been so giving, so approachable, and open hearted. I am very grateful and appreciate the warmth people have shown us, as it has re-enforces my faith in human nature.