After our success of early sunday morning we found it impossible to refill the oxygen bottles until monday morning, so we could not make another summit attempt until Tuesday. Noel and Nell very kindly invited us all to sunday barbeque up at their lovely house deep in the coffee plantations at Lyamungo quite far up a rather rocky road on the higher slopes of Kilimanjaro. It was originally built in 1920 by a greek planter and even today has a rather unusual and very pleasant veranda supported by fluted greek columns. They took it on a couple of years ago as a wreck and added quite a lot onto one end which makes it a strangely long house. Most of the original part is made of mud bricks several feet thick and it has very high ceilings which keeps it cool. The garden has some magnificent Makufi trees in it, a kind of Accacia, said to have been planted there at the same time as when the house was built, but strategically placed so you have terrific views of Kibo peak one way, and Mt Meru, another extinct volcano about 40 miles away in the other.
We were introduced to a few of their neighbours including Fons and Sylvia Nijenhuis who run a flower business sending hundreds of thousands of tiny rooted plant cuttings to Europe each week as well as a lot of flower seeds. It turns out that this is the same Sylvia whom I'd been given as a contact who might know where I could find the Dutchmen who have rented the MAF hangar so I'd actually already spoken to her on the phone a few days before. There's still no sign of them.
While the Tea and Coffee which Noel grows have been a part of Tanzanian life for a hundred years, the flower business is relatively new but it seems there is an almost insatiable demand from Europe and the whole business has become an important part of the economy of East Africa in the last ten years or so. Of course the whole thing relies on good logistics, especially with cut flowers which inevitably begin to deteriorate the moment they are harvested, so producers are looking to have their product in the shops in Europe within 48 hours. Here, you have Kilimanjaro International which has a cold store large enough to fill a 747 freighter and there are even bigger facilities in Nairobi and Dar which are only six to eight hours away by refrigerated truck. The sheer volumes are astounding; you can get 70 tons of cut flowers in a 747 freighter and two leave Nairobi most nights - that is literally millions of stems.
We refilled our oxygen on Monday morning for another attempt early Tuesday. In fact this might be our last attempt because David has invited us all to go on a Safari to Ngorongoro Crater from Wednesday to Friday, so we decided to have a go at the World Altitude record. It's presently held by my Czech friend Jan Bem and his wife Jana and stands at 6876m (22556 Ft). Given the performance of the machine on our Sunday flight this seemed reasonably possible, but when we started weighing everything it became rather obvious that either the machine is too heavy or I'm rather too fat, and in any case Mark should have a go at flying over Kili so the plan was for him to do it with Janelle.
Although there was no serious flying, monday was a busy day because we did some stuff for Seeing is Believing, the charity which Miles Hilton-Barber and I flew to Australia with. This is the same machine, so I'd offerered to help promote SiB while we were here, and Juanita Mramba, Head of Corporate Affairs for SCB Tanzania had come up from Dar to coordinate things with Gaudence Shawa the manager of the SCB branch in Moshi.
The first thing was a press conference out at the airport where we explained to the Tanzanian press and TV what we were doing and what an amazingly worthwhile job SiB is doing, and she pursuaded a couple of the journalists to join in with their value of being Courageous and have a ride around the block. One of them had some very sharp shoes and a bit of a wobbly leg, but I tried to be as gentle as possible! While this was happening, Juinata got talking to Janelle about how one of her colleagues had taken up the coreageous challenge and will be participating in the Kilimanjaro marathon later this year, perhaps she could be equally corageous by taking a microlight ride? I understand Janelle rekoned this was a good idea, so my last passenger was Juinata, she seemed to enjoy the flight, though in my view it was a bit of a bargain compared to running a marathon.
After lunch we visited Mwereni Primary School which has has about 600 day school children and a unit for 43 blind and albino children who board there. First of all I was asked to plant a tree in the grounds of the school on behalf of SiB, a singular honour I've never had before, I hope it survives. We were then shown around a remarkably well equipped computer room where they train the blind children computer skills using the same sort of technology Miles uses so well. Internet is quite good in Tanzania so it really is a way for them to get to grips with the outside World. Then we met all the students in the main hall. Juinata made a speech on SiB and I briefly tried to impress on them the idea that if a blind man can fly a microlight all the way from London to Sydney, then they can do anything. The then performed a traditional dance for us and a group of the blind students sang a charming song. All schools in Tanzania seem to have to scratch for resources so the Bank also donated various items; foodstuffs, cooking oil, soap, exercise books and pens for the boarding blind students.
The final event of the day was a dinner with all the staff of the Moshi branch of SCB at the Impala hotel. They were all absolutely charming, and seemed to particularly love Mark. In fact Mark is a bit of a hit with Tanzanians as the staff of the AMEG hotel where we've been staying all seem to love him too.
We were up early for the flight on tuesday morning. Mark and Janelle were all dressed up, Weights were calculated and they were off for their record attempt. An hour or so later they were back, eager to see what they'd done, but Mark was a bit doubtful as to whether he'd done it, but I couldn't check until the machine was safely stowed back in its hangar and we'd returned to our hotel where I could download the flight recorder.
They got to 22,903 ft which is more than the existing record of 6876m / 22,556 Ft but unfortunately a new record must beat the old one by 3% which is 7082.28m / 23,233 Ft so they did beat it, but not by enough to make a World record claim.
Fons and Sylvia invited us to dinner at their lovely house to comiserate. Tomorrow we are supposed to be going off to Ngorongoro for a couple of days. I've been to Ngorongoro, it's a fabulously beautiful place, but having camped at the bottom of the crater which isn't allowed these days, I'm not sure a luxury lodge is really my idea of Africa so I've decided to stay behind and play with my machine. Although it's hot here, which isn't ideal for altitude attempts, I'm convinced it can do better than this so I've decided to stay behind and tweak it some more and make at least one more test flight; but who will be the passenger?
Fons put his hand up first, After I've delivered everyone tomorrow to Arusha airport I'll play with the machine and we'll have another go thursday morning. Fons is not exactly small, so it will be an interesting test.