Sunday, 9 December 2012

I flew a plane today – in Nueve de Julio

Getting new travel ideas

I’m starting to get lathargic, lazy, call it what you will but after some 6 months on the bike it is getting difficult to keep going, and the longer I stay somewhere, the more difficult it is to leave.  Especially difficult if it is in a place you really like, such as Rosario.  For my third visit here I stayed a much shorter time, but this was still just over a week.  In this time thanks to Juli I went to a free bar opening, an asado, ate tons of ice cream, sunbathed, swam in swimming pools, and generally relaxed.  I also had the metal welded back on the engine.  I’m choosing not to write much about this though as it cost a lot due to it being aluminium and needed the bottom end taken out and rebuilt, it truly is an ugly job.  The bike aint so pretty now, but at least I can keep going.

This is after cleaning off the expoxy just before the weld job
So on the 7th I finally packed up with no real destination in mind other than as far south as I could in one day, which incidentially is not far if you don’t leave until 1:30pm.  I was heading for Bahia Blanca, but after being held up by some tractors as well as an accident I only managed 300kms before the day came to an end.  So I aimed for a small agricultural town called Nueve de Julio and turned on my GPS to see what camping options were about.  

Amazingly 3 came up.  Not so amazingly, the 1st place didn’t exist at all, and neither did the 2nd.  This turned out to be the local Aeroclub, where small planes are used to spray the crops and at weekends people from Buenos Aires come down to learn how to fly.  I never needed to look for the 3rd place though, the guy who cuts the airfield grass told me to ask the flight instructor if I could put my tent up anyway.  He neglected to tell me the instructor was about to take off, so I had to run down the airstrip to catch him as he fired up the engine.  I'm sure it looked comedic as I chased the plane down in my bike gear.  After a confusing minute of conversation while I crouched under the wing, the instructor told me to put the tent up right next to the airfield and use the clubhouse showers, all for free.  A massive stroke of luck.  

Not a bad place to pitch up
But if this was lucky, then meeting Lucas and Chelo was nothing short of amazing.  Every weekend they both come down to Nueve de Julio from Buenos Aires to build their flying hours up so they can become commercial pilots.  They’ve a long way to go as you need at least 900 hours to start to get work, but I'm sure they will do it.  Within 5 mins of meeting them they invited me to go out that night, and as it was a Friday this turned out to be big night too.  The people in Nueve de Julio are a really social bunch and I must have met over 20 people that night.  I was invited to go out to bars, houses, asados, pool parties you name it.  Needless to say after meeting so many great people, I didn’t get back to my tent until 7am.

Another tough night out...
Playing with the best fiat ever made

Pool Parties...
The following days I basically hung around either the airground meeting many of the pilots or going into the town to hang out at my new friends houses.  It was as though I had lived here my whole life the warmth of the people here, I was even getting by with my poor Spanish.  Its great, no matter which house you are in you don’t have to wait long until lots of people turn up and a party starts.  It definitely helps that the weather is hot and many houses have swimming pools.   I get the impression there is a lot of money to be made in farming here, there are only 3 houses to each block and they all consist of the main house at the front, then a courtyard, followed by a building for parties/asados, then a swimming pool and finally a building at the back for storage.

Another night another house
Asado at the Aeroclub, can't say I love the cow intentines
If all this was not enough, on Sunday Lucas asked if I wanted to go up in the plane, so I obviously took him up with the offer.  It was a small plane with just 2 seats and I had to squeeze into the back seat.  We had a bit of trouble starting the engine and as it only had one engine powering the one propeller I wondered if it was a good idea after all, but after some minutes the engine started and we taxied off.  Being such a small plane you feel connected to every movement and as we took off the wind threw the small plane around a bit, but I’m told this is normal for small planes.  So once up in the air we flew around the area and looked down on 9 de Julio, free to go whatever direction we wanted.  I was completely enjoying this and the fact I didn’t have to share it with screaming babies as you do on a normal flight, when Luca told me to take hold of the controls.  Amazing, but didn't have a bastard clue what to do.  I only had the controls for a few seconds, but I still count it as flying a plane.  Starting to get crazy ideas for my next trip once I’m done with the bike.  You know only need 40hrs experience to get your private pilots licence, easy.  

Imagine getting on a plane and seeing this face as your pilot

At this moment I am the pilot, for about 10 seconds that is
Taking the controls
Nueve de Julio

Finally though after 3 nights at the airfield I finally dragged myself away on the Monday, but it was tough to leave.  I’d had a great time there and all completely unexpected.  I’d gone from trying to find a place to sleep for a few hours, to flying a plane and hanging out with some great people who I will stay in contact with.  Hopefully I’ll pop down again in a few months when I return to Buenos Aires.  What a great weekend.  (Incidentally, as I left the town I saw that the 3rd place on my GPS list was a real camp site, but I am so happy I never went there.  I had one of my best weekends of my trip all because of the wrong information).

Update: just a couple of weeks after this happened in the same plane, luckily all were ok. Plane Crash in 9 de Julio

The main plaza

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