First day of flying in Timor Leste started with a trip to Suai, to the very south of the country. Having 4 weeks off from flying, I knew I’d be a bit rusty, coupled with working in controlled airspace with a foreign accent and much different landscape, I’m glad Mike was there to guide me along.
Compared to Arnhem Land, flying above Timor is like drive through the streets of Dili… sensory overload. All the ridges, valleys, cliffs, rivers, all dotted with little villages or solitary houses makes for never a dull moment looking out the window. Not that I should have been spending too much time looking sideways, as I had to be constantly monitoring my height to know if I would clear the next ridge or not. Then there’s the sense of touch… as my bottom leaves the seat, or as in I can’t physically grab that altimeter knob that I want to change as the turbulence pummels us around as we skirt around the lee side of a mountain. I had felt my share of turbulence in Arnhem Land, but the only time I’d experience this sort was when I’d ventured too close to a thunderstorm and scared myself silly. Mike assures me that this is fairly normal for this time of the year. I’ll think twice before serving refreshments along that route!
So that was from Suai to Maliana squeezing between the Indonesian border an
d a mountain. We went to Malinana so I could be checked out on that airstrip and route. I tried out my very limited Tetun on some kids who came to look at the aeroplane. At least they understood me asking “how are you?” We took a different way back to Suai (thank goodness).
Back at Dili was a quick turn around to take a couple of medical type people (yet to ascertain their vocation as of now) to Atauro, an Island off the north coast of Timor. It was so hazy we couldn’t see the mountainous island until we were three quarters across the water. The strip was undulating and rough with power lines running parallel in close proximity to the strip which brought to mind my first ICUS instructor’s voice about maintaining centreline. The water off the coast was something else to behold. The Bremmer Island of Timor (an Arnhem Land reference). The two photos I got didn’t do it any justice.
Back at base we had lunch and was justly warned by Mike to not hoe in too enthusiastically into the chilli that accompanied the meal. I know I’m not the most macho chilli eater out there, but I’d like to see my Aunty Di eat that.
We were called at 4:45 for a medevac from Oecusse to Dili. Apparently a man was having breathing difficulty, but unfortunately we didn’t have the time to get down there and back before night fall.They will have to wait until the morning… if he lasts the night. So we prayed for him and the family, then went home. If he makes it through the night, I will be up before dawn for a first light departure for my first medevac.