Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

School fire in Bolivia


Last week there was a fire at the secondary school in Bolivia.
Here is a link to a blog that gives a good look at life and the mission of the school. http://rtswan.blogspot.com/

Thursday, September 1, 2011

En Route to Bolivia with Stop in the Upper Mazaruni

A word from Steve,

I'm sorry for the silence for the past two months, it has been busy. This post has been sitting as a draft for a long time being neglected. Here is a look at where I disappeared off the map when my visit home ended.

On the night of June 15 at the GMI hanger at the Collegedale Airport, David and Becky Gates and I loaded up in the  Twin Comanche departing for Bolivia.

The night was rainy with much convective activity(thunder storms).
    The flight from the Collegedale Airport to Opa-Locka airport in Miami started exciting because there was two lines of thunderstorms in southern Tennesee and northern Georgia. It is amazing how much safer flying in the US is. Air trafic control has radar that allows them to give you advisories of hazordous storms and guide you around them. Also a display on the instrument panel plots the current location of the storms and the aircraft on a map. These two things help avoid the storms.
    The plane also has an intrument that detects lightning strickes and plots the distance and direction of the strikes. However, this instrument was not functioning. The lightning strike finder is the only storm avoidance instrument that works in South America. We later had to navegate around another line of storms in the middle of Florida.


After flying over a small corner of the Atlantic through the night we made a fuel stop in Puerto Rico. Then we flew on to Grenada and dropped off some cargo for the radio station that is on the island. This picture is of the other airplane on the ramp in Grenada.

Sunset over the Caribbean Sea on our way to Guyana.

Early the next morning we headed to the airport. Behind David Gates it the 150 taildragger that he first started flying in Guyana with. Directly behind David is the the 182 that James Ash has been flying in Guyana. We flew the 182 out to the upper Mazaruni river valley.

A river we flew over heading west from Georgetown.

If visual conditions are not present then you must go up to 8,500ft to  clear the mountains.

The combination of instrument conditions and mountains makes the flying in Guyana more challenging than in the flat lowland jungles of Bolivia.

Here is the strip at Paruima.

This is the point at witch one must make the downwind to base turn at Paruima.

The Upper Mazaruni River is stained black by the roots of the plants in the jungle.

This is the school campus in Paruima..

On final approach to Paruima. That is the SDA church.

Short final to Paruima.

We dropped off two passengers, cargo, and fuel.

We picked up one passenger in Paruima and took off for Kiakan.

The flight between Paruima and Kaikan is about a twenty minute flight. The only other way to get between the two villages is a two day walk. 

On the walk between the two villages you must climb these mountains.


Villager heading to the Kiakan SDA church. We spent the Sabbath in Kiakan.

The Kaikan SDA church.

This is the house where David and Becky Gates lived when they moved there fifteen years ago. The black boards on the first floor is the highest that the river flooded while they lived there. They said that they moved the kitchen up stairs and paddled the canoe into the house.

On the Mazaruni.

We crossed the river in front of David and Becky's old house and were in Venezuela. It was interesting crossing the river and switching from English to Spanish. Here David talked with a man named George who has a general store. George is showing a Worshi for sale.

The Worshi is like a jungle backpack. All those silly Americans arrive with their backpack head straps around their waists.

Everything that comes into the Upper Mazaruni valley comes in Worshis, helecopters, or airplanes. Gasoline costs over $11 a gallon and bought and sold with gold by gold miners.

This is a seat in the store.

We went up a creek to where the jungle is being cleared to build a Bible school.

David Gates with the camera rolling. It was beautiful jungle.

A house along the creek.

Rush hour in Kaikan.

Untouched jungle gives the rivers the dark brown and black waters.

A water pump for a gold miner.

Our driver is named Rafael. Years ago he was in a hospital in Venezuela dying from Malaria because the medicine was not working. David Gates came and prayed for him and the sickness left him.

This is where we left the boat to visit the site of the future Bible school.

A jungle flower.

Wood cut and drying to be used to build the school.

Hiking to the school site.

One clearing for a building.

Leaf cutter ants at work.

Wood cut and drying.

Back to the boat.

A dug out canoe.

A house along the creek.

The Kiakan SDA church with the plane in the background.

David and Becky Gates singing with members of the Kiakan SDA church. David and Becky lived in Kiakan for four years and David flew 1,000 hours a year there. 

The objects hanging down from the tree are birds nests. The mating call of these birds sounds like a drop of water dripping into a drain. I can make a sound just like them.

The Gates' old house.

The Gates' next door neighbors.

A chicken coupe.

The Mazaruni River in front of the Gates' old house. The other side of the river is Venezuela, and the small clearing on the other side of the river is where George has his general store. I swam across this part of the river so that I could say that I swam to Venezuela and back.

The path from the Gates' old house to church.

Walking back to the plane after the Sabbath in Kiakan.

Sunday we flew from Kiakan back to Paruima.

The mountains between Kiakan and Paruima have rolling plains on top.

The view from the end of the airstrip in Paruima.

The people that live in Paruima keep canoes up stream from the waterfalls and canoes down river from  the waterfalls. Aside from flying the only way out of the jungle is in dugout canoes.

A waterfall on a river heading out of the jungle.

On the way out of the mountains on the way back to Georgetown.
Four days after leaving Tennessee we left Georgetown Guyana in the night headed for Bolivia. The flight was uneventful until over northern Brazil we encountered some storms with savier turbulence. Air traffic control down there can't aid you with weather avoidance, and in that part of the world there is no weather information collected for in cockpit weather displays. This is a situation where the lighting strike finder would have been handy in avoiding the worst turbulence, but thankfully by deviating away from the lightning flashes we were able to deviate around the storms. Later in the flight the sunrose over the Amazon to a clear calm morning. We landed at an airport at Guyaramerin Bolivia on the border with Brazil for a fuel stop. David was also going to meet with some of the volunteers at the secondary school out side of town. Guyaremerin is also the official base of the GMI aircraft in Bolivia. It is a very frequent point on the normal routes for mission flights in Bolivia.


This is the school's truck that picked us up at the airport and took us into town.

This is the highway between the airport and the town. Northern Bolivia has something that the folks in Georgia  are familiar with, red dirt.

A street in Guyarmerin.

Jerry on Jeff's old motorcycle. Note the aftermarket gas tank.

Some flowers that were on a tree in town.

This is the line to get gas to cook with.

This is the hangar at the old closed airport where we used to keep our planes and sleep. It is now a kind of parking garage. The old airport was in the middle of town and was closed when the new airport was opened just outside of town.

The school's truck at the hangar.

Mid day at the hangar.

The neighbor's house next to the hangar. They liked to play loud music till the roosters in the hangar started crowing.

The hangar is still the meeting place when people come to town.

This is the four star hotel July. July is the wife of the hangar manager and they live in rooms attached to the hangar. It recently got one more star when it got a bed. Most of the time that I was sleeping there while flying there was no bed, just a mattress on a tarp with a mosquito net hung from the wing of an airplane.

Jerry and Jenny going to get gas.

We left Guayamerin late in the after noon and headed south from the southern Amazon headed for Santa Cruz.

Five days after leaving Tennessee we arrived at my final destination and David Gates southern most destination on this trip, Viru Viru International in Santa Cruz Bolivia. Praise God for a safe trip. And then it was back to work in Bolivia for about a month and half.

Next on the agenda is a few pictures showing life in Bolivia while I was back in Bolivia this June and July.