The car has developed something of an African habit of not starting; the battery isn't very well attached and you have to open the bonnet and wiggle the wires a bit. I did try to tighten the bolt up but it has no thread and I'm loath to replace it with an expensive aircraft bolt from my spares. A couple of times the car has just stopped as everything goes dead while we're going along so if it gets worse I may have to fix it properly. At least it makes passers by smile when a Mzungu has to open the bonnet to start the engine.
At 11.30 on friday I did a talk about Everest, Aconcagua, London-Sydney and a little bit about this Kilimanjaro trip to the lower sixth at the International school in Moshi. It was probably the worst talk I've ever done as for some reason the video would show on my laptop screen, but not on the projector, so we had to go through some photos and miss out all the interesting video bits. Once I'd finished, I tried to get the video working, and at last it did, but of course it was all out of synch with the overall flow of the talk. At the end, there was a sort of stunned silence, I'm not sure if they thought I was just completely mad, or just the worst speaker they'd ever had.
Immediately I'd finished I had to dash off to Arusha to pick up Eve who'd come up from Dar and Mark returning from his safari in Ngorongoro. David and Janelle have gone on for a few days in the Serengeti and we won't be seeing them again on this trip. In a way, it was rather unfortunate that Eve and Mark were both there together otherwise I would have flown there to pick them up rather than having to risk that awful road again; and it might have been faster too.
We returned to the hangar at Moshi intact and got stuck into a bit of weighing of things. I'm afraid to say that even by removing one of the oxygen bottles and having Eve as co-Pilot, I'm still too fat to get the whole thing below 450 Kg wheras Eve and Mark, who's nearly 20 Kg lighter than me, were inside with a comfortable amount of fuel and we didn't have to remove the video kit either, so who should be having a crack at the record in the morning wasn't a difficult decision, albeit a bit disappointing for me. I briefed Eve on the intricacies of the masks and oxygen system and we then retired to Mark's hotel for a few 'Kilimanjaro' beers.
With various other visitors, Noel and Nell had a very full house that night and it was a bit of a squeeze getting Eve in as well, but she didn't seem to mind getting the sofa; Mark stayed back in his old room in the AMEG lodge hotel. Eve and I were up before 5 to grab a quick coffee, drive the rocky road down to Moshi, collect Mark and get to the airport before sunrise.
The weather wasn't as clear as it's been, rather a lot of cloud about, but still plenty of holes for them to climb through, though we'd no idea if the summit was clear. It's been getting more cloudy every day we've been here even though everyone says the short rains are over and it should now be very clear every day. We've seen quite a lot of rain on the mountain in the afternoons though luckily the road to Noel and Nell's seems to dry out quickly enough for our car to get down it.
After quite a lot of faffing around they were off at 7.15. After they'd left I chatted with Fons who had come down to the airport to see whether a World record would be made this time, but they were back rather quickly, less than an hour. We had to wait until they'd taxied in and got their masks off to know what they'd done. "Twenty four thousand and something feet" said Mark, "and I had some trouble breathing out of my mask" said Eve, they'd obviously had a reasonably dramatic time, but perhaps that's what breaking World records is about because even before we had a chance to look at the flight recorder trace and corrected it for local pressure and calibration it looked like they had comprehensively beaten the existing record of 22,556 ft (6876m) by way more than the 3% margin of 23,233 ft (7082m).
As it looked like they had a record in the bag, Fons rather magically produced a bottle of South African champagne and we toasted each other for the achievement.
A while later Noel, Nell their children Jamie and Harry turned up to see how we had done. With them were various other people including Jo Russell and her daughter Tara who's moved from boarding school in Dublin to the International school in Moshi which is several thousand miles nearer where they live in Mufindi in the south of Tanzania. Tara had a bad fall from a horse a couple of weeks ago and was unconscious for an hour so before she moves into the boarding house at the school they are staying with Noel and Nell at Lyamungo for a while. Jamie bravely volunteered for a ride with me in the machine and we had a short and gentle cruise around the circuit before he asked if we could land now. Once we were down he said he would definitely be having another go next time they come to England. Tara came for a ride over the international school - it was very cool, and then I took Noel for a ride over some of his coffee to see how his new circular irrigation machines were doing. For some reason I always thought those things were driven by turbines so the speed they circulate is directly proportional to the water supply, but in fact they're electrically driven and with an irregular voltage tend to be stopped for a while but still pour on water. The net result from the air is a sort of fan effect where some plants are doing a lot better than others which have had less water.
At the end of all this the lady from the airport came out with a bill for the landing fees. It was five dollars a pop, which I didn't mind, but the additional 5,000 shillings for each 'passenger' seemed a bit steep since I'm not allowed to carry paying passengers and we hadn't gone anywhere. Her argument was that the parachutists operating on the airfield pay it, so we should too. There was no arguing that they're a commercial operation but we're not, it was just rides for friends or family, and in the case of Eve and Mark's flight, both crew. Eve said she never pays it in Dar, but I think half the trouble was that a very official looking Tanzania Revenue Authority official receipt had already been filled out which probably can only be undone with great difficulty, so either we paid, or the airport lady did. Reluctantly, I paid up.
The hard work was not over though, now it was time to derig the machine, tow the trike down the road back to MTC with the wing balanced on the roof of the car, and pack it all back into the crate, tube and barrels on the veranda of the office there. It was hot and sweaty work but at least this time there were three of us doing it, it was a solid two-day job when I was preparing everything in December ready to send it to Tanzania, but with three of us working hard at it, we were done by five in the evening.
Later that evening Noel and Nell took us all out to El Ranchero, perhaps a rather inappropriately named Indian restaurant, but the food was delicious. Having been up since five and working hard all day, we were all completely knackered by the end, we returned Mark to the AMEG Lodge and looking foreward to a good lie in in the morning, Eve and I wound our way back up the rocky road to Lyamungo.
Just before I went to sleep, my last thought was MUST LOSE SOME WEIGHT, after all, I used to weigh 80 Kg or so, my beautiful Wife Nicky, with a bit of determination has lost an astonishing amount of weight, so I can too. Then I can have a proper crack at this record.