Yesterday we towed the trike down the road to the airport behind our car the wing and the rest of our stuff followed in a small truck. There's still seems to be no way of contacting the Dutchmen who are renting the MAF hangar so we're using one next door which belongs to the Kilimanjaro Aero Club courtesy of Michael Braasch, and all the loose bits can go in a lockable shipping container.
It took most of the day to assemble everything and get all the cameras fitted. I've never had so many as we have on this trip; there's a recorder under the seat which Andy Anabel from Cam-Ara has arranged so the pilot can switch between four cameras, one looking forward, one on the wing tip, a wide angle one on the control frame looking at pilot and co-pilot and one mounted on a rear suspension leg looking foreward. Mark has also brought some video kit switchable between a helmet-cam and one on a bowsprit sticking out of the front of the wing and looking down on the trike. We also have a stills camera with a wide angle lens mounted half way down the wing.
Seeing as I've flown over my two other big summits with Angelo d'Arrigo who is no longer with us, it seems reasonable to put "Spirit of Angelo" on the machine. Leandro, an Italian pilot who flies a 12 seater twin which is usually based in Arusha but has been here for a few days did the translation for me and it's now on the nose of the microlight.
Unfortunately it doesn't seem like the weather pages are working on this website which is a bit of a nuisance as they're designed to give us a customized view of the winds at high level. However, because we're so close to the equator and we've chosen the right time of year there are no jetstreams or any other difficult weather like we had with Everest and Aconcagua and pretty much all we have to do is watch the mountain. Since we've been here it's been beautifully clear practically every morning for the first couple of hours after sunrise and then it gradually clouds over. Winds at the summit are light, perhaps 10 or 15 Kt.
In the evening we went to Kilimanjaro International Airport to collect David and Janelle Barker. The plane was a bit late, but it's a civilized airport and they were through immigration and Customs in a few minutes. As we walked to the car we warned them to prepare for one of the scariest drives of their life, but besides one big accident between a car and a truck which were both on their sides in the bushes there wasn't much traffic and it was an uneventful journey. This was in contrast to our drive to the airport an hour or so after sunset when there are still a lot of people and animals about. The road between Moshi and Arusha is quite busy and the traffic all does things which, if there was a highway code in Tanzania, wouldn't be recommended in it. The cars without lights are one of the obvious dangers, but there are people and animals all over the place and anything can happen, in fact it is generally recommended you don't drive at all at night.
Mark and I got up early Saturday morning to make a test flight without oxygen to see the machine was working correctly and as it's quite hot here, to check there were not going to be any nasty surprises with engine temperatures. We took off from Moshi which is at about 2700 ft AMSL an hour or so after sunrise. It was beautifully calm except for a few light bumps as we passed through an inversion at about 9,000 ft. Everything worked as it was supposed to, one has to be careful with the throttle for the first few thousand feet so it doesn't get too hot, but we climbed to 14,000 ft which was about freezing level. It wasn't quite such a clear day as we've had all week and there was scattered cloud at several levels but the summit above us was clear.
Kilimanjaro is a great hump of a mountain with two peaks, Mawenzi is the lower and more rocky of the two and Kibo is a more classical volcanic cone with a crater. The 'saddle' separates the two peaks and the highest point is on the south side of the Kibo crater rim at 19340 ft.
On our test flight Mark and I got high enough to see far into Kenya out over Amboseli to the hills beyond, in fact when I got back there was a text message on my mobile from Safaricom welcoming me to Kenya although we must have been a good ten miles from the border. The flight gave us a good chance to review our strategy for the main one over the summit. Wind is always from the North East at this time of year and Moshi is to the south of the mountain, so our plan is to climb anti clockwise around the mountain and approach it from the windward side over Mawenzi. The thing to avoid is getting into the lee of Kibo where it could conceivably be quite turbulent, otherwise I expect it to be rather calm as unlike the other mountains I've flown over which are surrounded by other ones nearly as high, Kilimanjaro is a 'stand-alone' mountain and there's nothing for hundreds of miles which could generate any turbulence.
We plan to make our first summit attempt tomorrow morning.