Earlier this week I flew our newest Kodiak, Papa Kilo Mike Echo Foxtrot (PK-MEF) from Sentani, Papua to Tarakan, Kalimantan. Kees, from the MAF Wamena program, joined me on the ferry flight. We left Sentani bright and early at 5:30am (below).
To be honest, the weather was not really all that great the first half of the 1,500 mile trip. It was mostly cloudy with off and on rain. Most of the pictures I have from the first five hours are gloomy and dreary looking--which is odd, since these are some of the most beautiful, tropical islands in the world. Below, we're passing by the Raja Empat area, which is supposedly one of the best diving places in the world, but very hard to get to because it's so far from everything.
We only stopped for fuel once, on the gorgeous volcanic island/city of Ternate (below). About 20 minutes before landing the clouds opened up and the sky and sea took on a beautiful deep blue color.
Here we are passing along just to the south of Manado (in the distance, under the big clouds in the below picture), in Northeastern Sulawesi. It was pretty neat to see how the sky was mostly clear above the ocean. However almost every island had clouds directly above--which makes sense if you understand how the weather works. It was pretty fascinating to see it so consistent like that. I like watching weather, so long as I'm not fighting it too much!
As we passed to the south of Manado we flew just abeam a volcano that was still smoking a bit. Last week this sucker produced a pretty big eruption. Indonesia, located right along the Pacific "rim of fire," is home to over 17,000 islands, and many of the most active volcanoes in the world. We thought we might have to divert around this one after hearing the reports of it's eruption last week, but it was mostly quiet by the time we passed by.
The Celebes Sea was a deep, surreal, endless blue, interrupted only by the occasional shipping vessel.
As we approached the east coast of Kalimantan, we flew along several expansive corral reefs and small islands, still pretty far out to sea. These are pretty much untouched, as they're too far away from any city or town to be disturbed.
There's absolutely nothing like this anywhere near the island of Tarakan where we live. You may remember from previous posts that we've taken some trips to some islands to snorkel once in a while. It takes about 3 to 3 1/2 hours by speed boat to get to those islands, and these reefs are quite a bit further south (meaning further away) than those. But it's absolutely beautiful to see this sort of thing from 12,500 feet above. It made me want to jump out the window with a snorkel and see what's swimming around down there! Notice the deep blue channel cutting through the reef at the bottom, center of the picture. Keep in mind we're over two miles high when I took this shot--so that gives you some perspective as to it's size--the reef was huge!
As we paralleled the Kalimantan coast going north, we approached the islands of Maratua and Kakaban, barely visible in the distance, just below the clouds on the horizon. Those are two islands that I've been to, but I've never seen the huge reef in the foreground until I flew over it on Thursday.
We flew right between Maratua and Kakaban. Here, to the left was the island of Kakaban--the famous volcanic island that has a huge lake in the middle. It may not look big in this picture, but it's several miles across. The lake is famous because it's neither fully fresh nor fully salt water--but somewhere in between. In the lake live millions of jelly fish that are harmless b/c they've lost their stingers. It's very surreal to swim in there because you can swim among the jellies everywhere and hold and touch them without any danger.
And to the right of the plane was Maratua, a very long, but narrow, horseshoe-shaped island with reefs surrounding it on the outside and inside. There are several villages on Maratua and a few dive resorts, but they're too expensive for us.
Well, the flight went well, and we praise the Lord for safety, and for tail winds. We were able to arrive in Tarakan just before 3:00pm after about 9 hours of actual flying time. You may notice I have a beard in the picture. That's not my normal "look". My kids have been asking me to grow a beard for some time now, and I've resisted. However, a month ago when our previous attempt to ferry this plane was cancelled at the last minute due to further complications with clearances, I decided that I would stop shaving until the Kodiak finally arrived in Tarakan. So now I guess I get to shave it off. :-)
We arrived in Tarakan to a large group of MAF folks and people from the community, who cheered as the engine shut down, and then gathered around to hold hands in prayer, as we dedicated our newest plane to the Lord.
After some quick maintenance checks and tweaks on Friday, and a host of minor program mods and checks, Mike Echo Foxtrot will go right to work on Monday, joining our other Kodiak, Mike Echo Bravo (MEB), and our three 206's. We're very thankful for our second Kodiak, as our first has been working very hard (it's the highest time Kodiak in the world) serving the people here in Kalimantan, and is our most-requested plane. Thanks to everyone who made this possible, from the donors who gave money to purchase the plane, to the folks at our headquarters and hangar in Nampa who did a lot of work prior to the trans-pacific ferry flight, to the MAF folks in Papua and Jakarta who worked through a bunch of stuff to complete the importation process, and also to our own amazing maintenance guys and office staff here in Tarakan who've picked up the baton and will carry it from here on out. It's a giant team effort, and will be greatly appreciated by the people whom we serve!