The Log of Huenu Solsona
Huenu Solsona was the first person to be allowed on one of the team´s expeditions as a passenger. Breaking their strict rule,
Olivier and Mike took her along for the ride through Argentina and then Peru. Read Olivier and Mike´s Daily Logs at this time to see what they had to say about their time with Huenu and the new experience that
this was for them.
Here follows Huenu´s Story, as told by herself:
HOW IT ALL STARTED
It all happened on the 1st of April in the small town of ´San Martin de los Andes´, Patagonia, Argentina....
The rumour had spread rapidly and reached my ears: two pilots, a world expedition, flying machines..... Not exactly sure of what all this was about, I still thought it was
worth making it down to the Youth Hostel kitchen to get informed!
Surrounded by a bunch of excited and enchanted Argentinean girls, Mike and Olivier
were not hard to spot amidst all-Latin blood. The two adventurers sat telling their story of the trip that had started less than a month ago and that would take them around the world.
For those of you who have not had the chance to meet these two pilots, let me tell you something: Mike and Olivier are courageous, adventurous, widely travelled and
experts in the field of microlighting, BUT, as if that was not enough to get you going, they are bloody good looking too!! So naturally, pilots or no pilots, we fell into a deep
and long conversation straight away...
It turned out that the guys and I had a couple of things in common - I am Argentinean but have lived in South Africa for 6 years and in Switzerland for 3, and,
because I was travelling for 6 months, my next destination was going to be Lima, Peru. Since my dad lives in Lima now and they were going to be there at the same time as
I, I offered them to stay with us. The offer was accepted.
REUNION IN LIMA
My dad Felipe was probably more excited to receive Mike and Olivier than I was, and
the whole arrival was organized with the aeroclub near Lima, the press and other funny people. It was a great welcome for them and I was happy to see them again.
After two days in Lima, I joined them to go to Macchu Picchu where we had an amazing time visiting the town of Cusco and the
incredible Inca ruins. As I soon learned, culture trips are not the only thing that get them going...they also really like to party!! And
despite our rather big age difference, I felt as if I was on a night out with my old buddies. So, when the question was popped (no,
not marriage but an invitation to join them for a couple of days on their expedition), I did not think twice!
FLYING WITH THE BEST
If you think my dad or my brothers or my friends were jealous, you could not be more spot-on right! Think about it...there I was, all
of a sudden, on the back seat of this awesome microlight, flown by no-less than the ex-microlight world champion, wearing the
coolest North Face gear and other high-tech equipment, on a 4-day trip of what will be the longest microlight expedition in history!
Was I scared? NEVER. Mike and Olivier have flown over more than you and I have probably seen on TV! Turbulance? Thermals?
Winds? Mountains? Sea? Just pop one of those words the geography teacher taught you at school, and they will tell you how to
handle it in the air. However, you can be sure that when classified either in the ´wild and crazy´ or the ´calm and conservative´ list,
they are both very much on the latter one. And wouldn´t we also be with a target of 44.000kms to reach?
31st MARCH ´99 - A NIGHT OUT IN THE DESERT
The first day of flying took us over Lima (incredibly huge city) to the coasts of Chancay, about 130kms north from where we left off.
Flying at around 2.500ft at an average speed of 100km/h, this took us approximately an hour and 20 mins. We (or rather they)
picked the most unbelievable spot to spend the night - at the top of some sand dunes overlooking the sea and the distant city lights
. Not a soul in sight; just the bright glowing of a full moon behind the misty skies of the Peruvian coastline. What a night!
After a great dinner (Olivier is a good pilot but he is probably a better cook!), we lay our sleeping bags under Mike´s wings to avoid
the night´s dew. I slept like a baby....and had the dreams of an angel...
Two complementary personalities
Morning comes and what happens? Mike, being a married man with a steady job, has his things in more or less an orderly fashion and can thus pack all his stuff at a relatively
good speed. Olivier, on the other hand, being a single man (although often not too single) and a nomad at heart, goes about this packing thing in a whole different way. No matter
how hard he may try, Mike is always finished first. This becomes obvious when you see Olivier arriving wherever they might land and casually spreading his jacket, pants,
gloves, helmet, etc. as far from each other as they can be spread without loosing sight of them. Strange enough, the only item lost so far was a pair of Mike´s socks!
1st MAY ´99 - OVER SAND AND SEA
The sand dune´s slope turned out a little steeper that we thought as we all awoke a couple of feet down from our original positions. But the sun was shining and we had
coffee - it would be another great day!
After some shaky filming from my part (no need to mention useless details but in the future I shall never again forget
the ON button!), we took off for some incredible flying over sand, sea and silver skies.
We landed at Chimbote´s airport after a 4-hour flight and decided to call it a day since the wind had picked up a few knots. While
Mike and I went for petrol to town, Olivier stayed behind making friends with the airport guards. With his broken but understandable
Spanish, he always manages to get people smiling. His friend-making technique is reinforced by ¨the cigarette offering¨ , which no-one turns down (which is also how we always ran out of cigarettes!).
As can be expected of the peruvian hospitality, we got offered an empty room next to the microlights, a toilette with showers and hot water for coffee. Everyone was friendly and willing to lend a hand.
A heroes´ welcome
Four days with Mike and Olivier were enough to see how people react when meeting them. Both are humble and don´t boast about
who they are and what they do, but as the conversation unfolds, the amazement and respect they evoke is innevitable. Soon enough, everyone is in complete awe.
At Chimbote, a group of 10 people were waiting for an aeroplane to arrive. Amongst them was a priest who could not help himself
blessing the 3 of us and making a little prayer in front of the guys´camera to protect us in the air. Most people have never seen a
microlight before, but they all understand that what Mike and Olivier are doing is one of the best examples of the description of the words ´Extreme Adventure´.
2nd MAY ´99 - A COMMERCIAL / MILITARY AIRPORT
When you fly and tune into a radio frequency, you can hear everything that is being said on that frequency to no matter who. From the air, we could see that the airport they had
guided us to had 6 Mig 29´s parked outside and looked seriously like a not-too-friendly military base. Still we were assured to land there.
After a smooth landing by my companion Mike, we turned left into the military base...and all of a sudden, a deafening loud voice on the radio shouts: ¨Stop, stop, reverse!¨. Olivier
, who was a mere meter from touch-down, pushes his trike´s bar as far as his body would allow and takes off again in a half daze, completely clueless of why on earth we could land
and not him. Sure enough, the guy at the control tower was shouting at us who had not seen the commercial airport to our right and were about to get shot by entering into Peru´s airforce field!
Once safe and sound at Chimbote´s aeroclub, we could not believe our luck - it was the one and only day in history that the local television had come to do a report on the
aeroclub and they were delighted to film and inteview us. Of course, I was there as a mere passanger, but I got swallowed into the cameras as a translator and adventurer myself.
And sure enough, that night we all appeared on Chimbote´s local TV show!
A flying home
I was amazed to see how much the trikes can carry in such little space where every corner
has its function. It´s not the Hilton but it sure is more exciting! Food is bought on an on-going basis and the parafin-burner works just as well as mom´s kitchen. Sleeping is
pretty comfy too since they both carry their little blow-up mattresses and latest North Face sleeping bags. They can catch the local radio stations with their mini stereo and believe it
or not... they even have their own shoe polish!!! That´s without mentioning tools and repair equipment. When a tiny piece of Olivier´s radio broke and couldn´t work anymore,
I thought ¨Man, oh man...now what?¨. Olivier smiled and said: ¨This is so great - I finally get to use something! See Mike, we don´t carry all these repairs for nothing.¨
A SAD FAREWELL
At Chiclayo we had stayed in a hotel (yes, luxury!), so in the morning we hurried to the
airport and were airborne at 8.30am. It was a short and sad flight to Piura but we flew high with the sun on our faces and I got a chance to bid farewell to the sky...
Since we had been denied permition to land at the local airport, a lost little runway had to
do. A small committee of people was waiting for us there and the exchange was quick and smooth - Huenu came down, bag went up. I had never been more jealous of an inanimate object before...
I saw my two friends fly off into the distant horizon, and with them went a little part of me. I miss them to this day, but seeing they
are well on their way to Central America, we´ll have to wait a while before we open that bottle of Gato Negro for our reunion.
Fortunately, the flying part does not have to wait so long...I am already taking my first lessons as a Microlight pilot here in Peru! It
still gives me a rush...
I wish Mike and Olivier all the best for the rest of their trip and I deeply thank them for the great times we spent together.