The ride to the airport the next morning was an eye opener. The night before we could tell that the city we were driving through was not what you would call cosmopolitan but in the daylight it was even worse. Everywhere you looked you saw nothing but extreme poverty. Garbage was everywhere and thousands of shoe less and shirtless young men waded through the knee deep flood waters brought by the annual monsoon rains, dodging old trucks, buses, rickshaws, tuck tucks, (the little three wheel smokey taxis) Almost nothing was new and shiny and everyone was wet. The sobering ride was capped off by the most tragic sight I’ve ever seen. We came up to another endless pile of garbage and in the middle of it was a naked man squatting on his heels and staring off into the distance. As we passed him I could tell that he wasn’t reliving himself, he was just sitting there with a completely blank look on his face. I realized that I was looking at someone who’s life score was zero. The man had nothing, no clothes, no possessions, nothing, not even a grain of rice. Yet somehow he’d managed to survive, so far. As we left him behind I looked at Stuart and asked if he’d seen the man. He had and I could tell that the sight had affected him as well. I’ve seen sights like that all over the world and it never fails to remind me just how lucky I am.
The flight to our next stop in Thailand was a hazy, cloudy, misty, foggy mess. The entire area seemed like a big damp sponge but there were no thunderstorms so I was happy. That is until we crossed into Burma/Myanmar. Usually when you cross into another country you are handed off to that country’s air traffic control center and crossing into Burma was no different except that when I tuned into the new frequency I was surprised to hear the controller speaking a foreign language. Now it’s not uncommon for a foreign controller to speak his or her native language to a pilot who’s a fellow native. But this guy was speaking some strange language to English speaking pilots. As I waited for a break in the constant radio traffic I realized that the controller was actually speaking English! His accent was so bad that I couldn’t understand him at all and when I finally got a chance to report my position his replay was incomprehensible. The conversation that followed was so frustrating that I can’t do it justice. The bottom line was that I was routed almost one hundred miles out of my way and only saved when another controller took over and allowed me to point the Caravan in the right direction.
The rest of the trip was pretty routine. We dropped Jack off in Thailand and spent the night at his beautiful home before continuing on to Singapore. The last day was perfect for flying which was almost a let down after the challenges we’d overcome on our half way around the world trip. I tried to get Stuart to wring out his new plane a bit, you know steep banks, stalls, wing overs, because the next time he flew it I wasn’t going to be there to keep him out of trouble. Also, the best way to get used to a new aircraft is to see just what she can do, you know, push the envelope a bit. I called ATC and asked for a slight deviation around a build up and after receiving permission told Stuart to point directly at a big billowing cumulus cloud a few miles ahead of us. I wanted Stuart to fly as close to the cloud as he could before banking away sharply. (when I mean sharply I mean about a ninety degree bank) then when just clear of the cloud bank back the other way in a bank that was just as steep. The object of the lesson was to really get to know what your aircraft can do because someday you just might need to do something other than a nice easy standard rate turn. But alas Stuart wasn’t having any. His turns were nice and smooth and boring. I tried a few more times to get him to really put it over but he just kept flying nice and smooth and mellow. Oh well.
Stuart’s landing at Singapore was the best of the trip, only a small bounce, giving me hope that he might be able to handle the big old Caravan all by himself. Stuart asked me if I needed a night’s rest in Singapore before flying home but I assured him that I’d be OK just hopping on a plane and heading home. It would’ve been fun to spend the night but I’ve been to Singapore before, it was at Halloween, so hard to beat that party, and there was no reason to make Stuart pay me for another day and the cost’s associated with that. So after a grand total of six hours on the ground I was on the way home with another half way around the world trip under my belt and a nice tip in my pocket (thanks Stuart!) Before leaving Stuart told me that he was moving to the US next year and he’d be calling me to help him fly the Caravan back again. I told him that we’d have to take the route through Russia so that we’d make it a complete around the world trip. How many guys can say that? He looked dubious but I’ll talk him into it.
The final push.