I did make it safely back to the USA for which I am thankful. Steve (one of the pilots) flew to Guayara on Nov 20 and we then took off Sunday morning for the city of Trinidad and ultimately Santa Cruz. We had to do Trinidad because we needed to pick up a couple passports which two of the missionaries had been trying for about a month to have returned to them so they could travel. Kody, one of the passengers on the plane was one. He really needed to get his back from the government office because his plane was leaving for the U.S. Monday morning, about 9 hours after my flight. Thankfully the Immigration office sent someone to the airport in Trinidad with the two passports (one for another missionary back at the school). Blessing number one.
We arrived in Santa Cruz after a wonderful flight. If all Mooneys are like the one we flew in, I'm sold. It was comfortable (for the most part). I had pretty good leg room (not that cockpits are spacious).
Some pictures of the Mooney and our flight:
Steve loading the cargo with Kody helping.
This is the Cessna 182 stationed in Guayara for use with medical flights. They hope to get the flights back up and running soon.
The Mooney is a rather clean aircraft (drag wise). It is good for transporting personel and cargo over distances. Steve was able to get the burn rate down around 7 gallons per hour (we were at 65% power, but then we had about a 40knot tailwind which got us up to just over 200kts/hr = over 230mph) on our flight, which was quite nice.
I just got my stuff in up front and plugged in my headset (on the right)
View of the control panel. It is nice that the plane has two different GPS systems.
A reason I didn't sit in the back... The front seats did move forward once we got in though the backseaters had to get in first. I was the last one in since I was by the door.
The cargo. Thankfully we each had an allowance of 50lbs/person for luggage. The rest we had to ship via a local airline.
We are loaded up and almost ready to push the plane out of the hangar.
The Bolivian jungle below. The province of Beni is flat jungle so there aren't really what you'd call landmarks.
A quick look around the cabin. I was using my camera for this so the video quality is not that great. I was hoping I could see some of the instrument data in the video, but can't.
You can also see this on YouTube:
First attempt at a cabin photo...trouble in the back though... Pictured: Steve on the right front and Kody in the back.
Well, out of the two photos everyone got in. Pictured, me, Keila, Kody
We landed in Santa Cruz after a rather enjoyable flight. After we went to the apartment and dropped off our stuff Kody, Keila, and I then went out to an internet cafe and a pizzaria!!! Mama mia! The pizza was nice (advertised as NY style pizza). That was a blessing, a chance to relax a little.
Around 8:00pm someone called a taxi for me to take me to the airport. My flight left at 12:15AM. I wanted to get there in plenty of time (I don't like getting to airports late). We waited and waited - no taxi. Called the taxi company again and cleared up a little confusion on their end (Keila had called for a taxi the next morning and they thought the taxi for me and her were the same one) and they said a taxi would be there shortly. Well, around 9:20pm or so, Richard and his wife to live in the apartment (more like a house) and help the travelers to pass through the GMI apartment/compound gave up on the cab company and flagged down a taxi. Another blessing! It was 9:30PM when I left the apartment for the airport which was 30 minutes away.
We were driving along and finally got on the road heading out of town towards the airport. My driver was working his way through traffic when we came upon a semi. We were in the left lane (not there are what we'd recognize as traffic rules though they do have traffic rules) and the semi was in the right just ahead of us. My driver flashed his lights and honked and proceeded to accelerate past the semi. Well, I don't know what was going on in the cab of the semi, but the semi ended up slamming into our right side, smashed the whole side of the car in. Thankfully no injuries. My driver sped up and to get out of the situation then pulled over to take a look...he wasn't too happy but the car could still drive and we were ok, another blessing! Thankfully he kept on the job and we kept driving. Down the road a ways we stopped at a toll booth and asked the operator where the airport was (this was the taxi's first time to that airport). We drove past it!!! I was already looking at the time pondering where he was taking me and praying that we'd get to the airport in time.
I knew most of what I was going to have to do when I got to the airport and I wanted enough time, enough time for me to do the various booths - checkin with the airline, airport tax booth, exit tax booth, airline booth again, security, immigration (plus pay a fine for overstaying my visa), gate, and a new one for me - airline security (first time for me ever being searched by airline security, but maybe AA doesn't trust Bolivian screening as they searched everyone boarding the flight). Well, we turned around and finally made it to the airport at 10:30PM. Another blessing! I wish now I had taken a picture of the taxi, but I wasn't in the mood to hang out. After getting everything done that I needed to (except for the unbeknownst airline security check) I got to the gate just after boarding had begun...wew. God is good.