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Vanuatu to Cairns Fiji to Vanuatu Western Samoa to Fiji

 

Leg05 Port Vila.jpg (10711 bytes) Leg05 Matei to Port Vila1.jpg (11032 bytes) Leg04 Nadi.jpg (9818 bytes)

Live Satelite Image
Satellite data provided by The Living Earth Inc./Earth Imaging 1996, All Rights Reserved.

LEG 5: NFFN-NVVV, Nadi, Fiji to Port Vila, Vanuatu, 29 July 98, 2.8 hours

 


"John with our hostess from Qamea, Jo, in the boat on our way back from Qamea to Taveuni and the Matei airstrip."

We finally had to leave our remote Fiji island today, after three days of much needed R&R. Qamea was a great place to hang out and chill, and we met lots of interesting people. Jo, who owns the resort, is quite a character, having moved to and built Qamea 12 years ago, after living many years on Telegraph Hill in San Francisco, and living the high life travelling the world. Several other intersting sorts, including Daniel (ex-Columbian) and his wife Pam, who provided hours of amusement.


"Daniel, and crazy Columbian, and his wife Pamela, on the boat trip to Taveuni."

We left Qamea by boat at 8:45 a.m. and got to the Matei airstrip by 9:30 a.m. We were ready to go by 10:00 a.m. on schedule, but had to wait for the heavy air traffic to finish with this tiny, one-way strip. A Twin Otter, a Beech Queen Air, and two large, Brazilian turboprops all came and went in the space of less than an hour, and we had to wait until they were through before we left. The plane was parked in the grass downhill, with not enough room to taxi out, so we had to have four strong guys push it back up hill to a point where we could start the engines and taxi out. People were quite interested in the two crazy pilots flying this good-looking King Air around, and we chatted with some of the air taxi pilots, and later ran into one of them again in Nadi. Almost began to feel like locals… On the way out, we did a low pass buzz job on the Qamea resort to say goodbye, and then went on back to Nadi for customs and departure for Vanuatu.


"John with our new friends, Daniel and Pamela, in front of their Queen Air air taxi at the Matei strip. We saw them again in Nadi before departure (and beat them there despite all the traffic at Matei. Thank God for a fast plane!"

Our handler in Nadi was great, the same fellow who helped expedite our rushed arrival a few days earlier. He knew everyone and everything, and how to make things happen in a place that often moves slowly. It’s also amusing to be treated like "big iron" when we’re still really a pretty small plane. We had ordered catering, as usual, since Doug can’t stand going hungry (John doesn’t seem to need food or oxygen to sustain life). This time, a huge catering truck showed up, and gave us two "set ups" plus a box with the hot food containers for the ovens. We had to explain that our little plane not only didn’t have an oven, but didn’t even have a microwave. So, they had to go back, heat the meals, and return with them later. We were also directed to park at Gate 9, and were up on the Departures board as Ponceby Aero Ventures flight, departing for Vanuatu from Gate 9. Too much fun!


"Little Whiskey-Whiskey at Gate 9 in Nadi, just prior to departing for Vanuatu."

We added a quart of Exxon 2380 to each engine, the first time this trip. Turbines seem to use very little oil, and it always stays so clean and clear that you can barely read the dip stick, but after a hundred hours since the Phase I to IV we had done in Munich as part of the pre-purchase, it was time to add some oil. We also picked up a couple of extra quarts while it was available.

Down in these parts, one also has to spray insecticide in the plane 15 minutes before landing. After having gotten caught without this on arrival into Nadi, we tried to get a can like the ones the airlines use, but after numerous phone calls and trying, only Qantas had some, and they were unwilling to sell us even an almost empty can. We’ll try to get some in Cairns tomorrow. Meanwhile, we spray our little bottle of Deet to give the interior an appropriate odor, and so far that seems to satisfy the Quarantine officers (at least here in Vanuatu).

We keep being reminded of how nice it is to fly in a pressurized, air-conditioned plane. The temps have been quite high on the ground, and after spending an hour or two on the ramp prior to departure on each flight, it’s such a relief to be able to fire up the Cabin Temp Mode switch after engine start and get cooled down again. And it’s quite a shock on each arrival to open the door to the heat and humidity. Comparing this to our trip to Egypt last summer in my Bonanza is a stark contrast, and we’re quickly getting spoiled by all the creature comforts of the King Air (even with its plush interior ripped out to be replace by large, stainless-steel ferry tanks in the cabin).

The flight to Vanuatu was uneventful and short (2.8 hours), the HF worked fine, and we were able to go to VHF 150 miles out. It was so reassuring to hear a clear and competent Australian voice at Port Vila tower (the controllers at Nadi tower on Nadi Radio on the HF were often hard to understand). But while taxiing in at Port Vila, the controller gave us lots of phone numbers to write down for use in the morning, since much would be closed because it was their Independence Day. We’ve been running into these holidays everywhere we go it seems (Constitution Day in Samoa, Independence Day in Vanuatu, not to mention our own July 4th in the States). Must be something about hot July’s that makes people go revolutionary…

Our handlers are picking us up here at the Le Meridien hotel at 8:00 a.m. for a planned 9a departure for Cairns, Queensland, Australia. We had been debating going to Guadalcanal instead, since the winds aloft map we got this morning showed strong (65 knots) headwinds at FL180 near our route to Cairns. The southern jet stream is fairly far north (it’s winter down here), but a live conversation with a briefer at Universal suggests only a 15-20 knot average headwind component for the flight to Cairns tomorrow, so we’re back to that plan. We’ll fill the wings (474 gallons), and put another 250 gallons in the ferry tanks, which should give us a 1.5 to 2 hour reserve even if we have solid 50-knot headswinds.

From there we’re on to Darwin, then Singapore and then the Maldives for some more island rest. We’ll spend two nights in Singapore to take advantage of their modern facilities and telecommunications, and then three nights of rest in the Maldives (more beach, more Mai Tai’s). Then we’ve changed our plans to continue from there to Muscat, Oman, then Amman, Jordan, and then to Israel to visit John’s sister. From there, probably onto to Florence, Morocco, Gibraltar, Lisbon (for Expo ’98), the Azores, Newfoundland, and the back across the US. See an updated itinerary soon on the web site.

We’ll try to answer more e-mail and discussion postings in from Australia and Singpore, before going (potentially) offline again in the Maldives. We appreciate the many e-mails we’re getting, and will try to get back to you all at every opportunity.

Tailwinds, and bula vinaka. –D&J

 

 

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Satellite data provided by The Living Earth Inc./Earth Imaging 1996, All Rights Reserved.

Click near each end of the red arrows for progressive reports

 

Click the following Legs for Progressive Reports

Departure San Jose, CA
Leg1 San Jose, CA to Honolulu, HI
Leg2 Honolulu, HI to Christmas Island, Kiribati
Leg3 Christmas Island, Kiribati to Apia, Western Samoa
Leg4 Apia, Western Samoa to Nadi & Matei, Fiji
Leg5 Nadi & Matei, Fiji to Port Vila, Vanuatu
Leg6 Port Vila, Vanuatu to Cairns, Australia
Leg7 Cairns, Australia to Darwin, Australia
Leg8 Darwin, Australia to Singapore
Leg9 Singapore to Male, Maldives
Leg10 Male, Maldives to Muscat, Oman
Leg11 Muscat, Oman to Amman, Jordan
Leg12 Amman, Jordan to Tel Aviv, Israel
Leg13 Tel Aviv, Israel to Valletta, Malta
Leg14 Valletta, Malta to Gibraltar
Leg15 Gibraltar to Cascais, Portugal
Leg16 Cascais, Portugal to Santa Maria, Azores
Leg17 Santa Maria, Azores to St. John, Newfoundland, Canada
Leg18 St. John, Newfoundland, Canada to Bangor, ME
Leg19 Bangor, ME to Danbury, CT (to see Doug's folks)
Leg20 Danbury, CT to Meadville, PA (to see John's folks)
Leg21 Meadville, PA to Boulder, CO
Leg22 Boulder, CO to San Jose, CA
Epilogue Epilogue
  Current position of Ponceby.

Satellite data provided by The Living Earth
Inc./Earth Imaging 1996, All Rights Reserved

The E90 King Air "Ponceby"


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