Hello, Aviation 2016…
|With Charlie. Behind us is Echo.|
It has been one unhealthy break for aviation & I, the practical bit that is. But I am back in action. Passive action or whatever it might be referred to. My intention this year is to fly as much as possible, whether I am on the controls or not. I want to know these routes the way I know the road to Kerugoya. If I close my eyes for say 30 minutes at point A and open them 30 minutes later, I would know where I am to a Km approximately. That took years and so I start mine with aviation. Today we flew to Nakuru. The flight details will not be as “professional” & precise since it is not an instruction manual. I tell the story from the backseat perspective – the tourist.
After catching up at the apron, we conducted the pre-flight inspection and waited for clearance while chatting and taking pictures as usual. We checked the radios. My headset had issues since the microphone jack was not well fitted into its place. They couldn’t hear me, but I could hear them and only realized this on our way back. We took off at a little bit past a quarter to two pm. We were to fly to Nakuru, overhead and then fly back. We would not be landing anywhere. At some point, while plotting the route, I asked if Nakuru Airstrip is the one at Lanet and they said no. I had a feeling this was it. We took off on runway 07, flew above Carnivore then above Kibera and into the local area before leaving the zone and flew along the escarpment up to Naivasha. Then to Nakuru. It’s pretty much flying straight on a heading of 330 and 150 on the way back.
The interesting bits are the Kibera Slums when still within Nairobi. While directly above this area, you have a lovely view of Ngong hills to your left, the Ngong Racecourse somewhere below you and Kibera to your right. The city skyscrapers are an overtly impressive sight to the extreme right. A little while later, the settlement around the areas of Kawangware & Waithakacome into view and the green starts taking effect. A few greenhouses come into clearer view. A few telecoms masts come into view and this is what makes this route tricky to fly on foggy days or when the cloud base is low. At some point, you have the Bypass to your left and the Nakuruhighway to your right. You then see Limuruto the right and from there you are typically flying along the escarpment. Literally speaking keeping a safe distance from those ridges. For that stretch, you can follow the Mai Mahiu road down the escarpment. The view from this level – 8500ft gives you an excellent view of both the Mai Mahiu road and the Nakuru highway to the right. The evergreen forest around Kijabe & Uplands and the hilly escarpment is such an incredible view.
|HKP1 is at the middle.|
To the left of this stretch are Mt Suswa, The Longonot Satellite station and Mt Longonot itself. See, the good thing about these flights is you get to know the country well in relation to your map. The areas to avoid are that satellite area which is HKP1 on the map and Mt Longonot. Also, the road that branches left from Mai Mahiu is the road to Narok and one of our tourist destinations the Maasai Mara From there you fly easily. Flying easy is relative. From the weatherman, we expected headwinds of up to 20kts. This would have made it a slow flight and certainly bumpy. The flight was rough all right. The instructor showed us the two airstrips in Naivasha and we proceeded. There were two flights headed to Nakuru from the same company and we were in touch, checking each other’s locations and statuses. In aviation, we check by speaking out as well as looking out. Transmitting on an unmanned frequency where you can tell who is in the air with you, and basically, what they are up to. It is safer that way. The other aircraft – “Golf” was ahead of us. They took off before us and at the time we were abeam Longonot, they were at Lake Naivasha. We were flying “Echo”. So we proceeded and I enjoyed the scenery.
|You can see the Nakuru Highway. Tangent eeeh?|
Naivasha has grown over the years. Karagita, which is what Witeithie is to Thika or what Githurai is to Nairobi, is coming so close to being part of the main town. A few years back this was not the case. Even explains the recent real estate boom in Naivasha. Probably because of horticulture and floriculture. Slightly past the lake to the left was the Hell’s Gate Conservancy & the great Geothermal generating plants at Olkaria hidden behind the hills. If you have not been there, you wouldn’t know. SoysambuRanch from the skies is spectacular. It is so amazing I could fly circles above Delamere’s farm throughout the year. For instance, I did not know that they were “circular” in nature. I used to wonder how those overhead sprayers would drive through the farm and where their source of water was from. From 8500ft, I learnt that they are circular and the irrigation/ spraying mechanism rotates around a central point. On one side of Lake Naivasha are the famous flower farms, the likes of Karuturi, Oserian, Finlays, Elpis among others & the famous tourist resorts like Enashipai, Naivasha Country Club, Lake Naivasha Resort, Cresent camp, Crayfish, Sopa Lodge, Simba Lodge… The list is endless. On the other side, is mainly horticulture and this is where Delamere has maximized, and livestock as well. On one of those circular paddocks, I saw them roll those big straw rolls “like in the movies” that was so cool.
From here if you have no compass you can follow the Naivasha highway all the way to Nakuru. As long as you know your towns. I started checking out Gilgil, to the right it was pretty obvious, keen to note the weigh bridge, later the Military camps and the NYS camps to the right. On the left were the diminishing hills of Hell’s Gate Conservancy and then ahead Lake Elementaita comes into view. It’s pretty weird since it looks greener than Lake Naivasha if you are keen enough. A poorly maintained swimming pool comes into mind. However, this is the effect of the blue-green algae that thrives in Elementaita, one of the three saline lakes in the Rift Valley. It would be interesting to note that, one of its sources of water is Lake Naivasha. Underground, though. We then flew above The Great Kikopey Nyama Choma area and then Nakuru came into view.
Golf flew to the right allowing us to fly directly to the airstrip at Nakuru & thus gave us time to lead them back to Wilson. Call it Lanet. Because that is the general area. The jurisdiction of the great Chief Kariuki. There is a road to the right after pipeline Nakuru, at a place called Kiondo. That area where Shemeji Highway Resort is located. I do not know why they chose this name-meaning “basket” in Kikuyu. My guess is because of the valuable products coming into Nakuru from Ndundori – Potatoes, onions, maize et al. That road is the way to access the airstrip from the road. I, however, stick to the belief that the airstrip is for military use. It is right inside Lanet Barracks. Because I remember, we used to run along it at some point while in Lanet back in 2010. From the sky, it is one beautiful murram runway complete with navigation equipment an NDB (NU) & VOR-DME (NAK).
We then set course to Wilson. The trip back was uncomfortable for everyone. Apparently, I was the worst hit. I learnt that I should add painkillers to my flight bag. At some point, I unstrapped my seat belt to reach for the first aid kit, which was unfortunately out of painkillers. The weather forecast had predicted tail winds on the way back and we had expected the journey back to be faster. However, we encountered headwinds as well on the way back and this made the journey rough, we could not climb as fast as we wanted to reach 9500ft and we were slow. On a light note, I was blamed for being the heavy one here, if only they knew… That is when I realized my microphone jack was out of place as I tried to *speak for myself*. I fixed it and resumed communications. On the way back we discussed Soysambu ranch, the economy of Naivasha and how it has grown, why it is easy to land at Naivasha and difficult to take off on their short runways and etc.
The ride was bumpiest around Longonot. A mild headache coming through and airsickness knocking at my door. I did not even enjoy the view entirely and this time, Longonot was on my side. I tried looking for my sickness bag, which was missing, and I vowed to use my headset bag in the worst-case scenario – I could always wash it later. I cleared its contents and it was on standby. Luckily, for me, as nauseous as I was, I was on an empty stomach and this could not let me throw up. Therefore, whenever my muscles contracted, the best I could do was let out a yawnish kind of burp. WIN!!! I was grateful. Throwing up air. Awesome! While entering the zone, I was wondering when we would get back to Wilson. I couldn’t wait to land. When we touched down, I couldn’t wait to get out and walk home. Guess what! Immediately I set foot on the ground, I felt like I needed to get back in that plane and fly again.