The monsoons had been stalled over Bangladesh and the Bay of Bengal, which made us re-think our route of flying from Lahore to Chittagong. Eddie, Ahmed and I conferred and decided that it may be best to avoid the whole thing and just proceed to Columbo, Sri Lanka and then go across the Indian Ocean to Kuala Lumpur. Ahmed also advised us to avoid the Indonesian air space as an over fly permit could take upto two weeks to get. With these decision made, Eddie and Ahmed, who by now had started growing cob webs waiting for us to re-start our trip (Eddie’s words), set about to getting our over-fly permits, landing permits, handling arrangements, fuel availability and other logistics in place. Meanwhile, Tipu- Haris’s cousins husband, who is a doctor, was busy poking a hole in Haris’s arm to get an IV going so Haris could be nursed back to health. While the good doctor was setting the IV up, Haris was making a video with his iPhone ! These kids…..
Another day of rest meant that we got invited to another iftaar and that meant another opportunity to get sick. I know that is a cynical view, but after getting sick with food, that is the only way Haris and I started thinking. One of my school time friends called and was insisting that we go to the famous Lahori food court and that their food was absolutely safe. I had to quite forcefully tell him that we are no longer discussing food options – however, we could discuss starving options because that is what Haris and I must start doing so we can get back on track with our trip around the globe. Towards the end of the day, Haris felt pretty good so I filed our flight plan for the next morning to retrace our steps and go back to Karachi so we could launch for Sri Lanka.
We had planned to depart for Karachi at 8:00 AM, but after calculating our fuel requirements, we decided to take on some extra fuel to plan for the next leg from Karachi to Columbo. The reason for this decision was that we could only buy barrel-ful of Avgas in Karachi, so I had to plan for fuel in 200 liter increments. However, in Lahore, we paid for the fuel buy the liter. Therefore, we bought enough fuel in Lahore that would allow us to buy two barrels of fuel in Karachi and still have enough to reach Columbo. With the extra fuel, we managed to depart Lahore around 8:45 AM.
Immediately on departure we were cleared once again for 11,000 feet and vectored towards our destination. The reason we always seem to be flying at 11,000 feet is that we have run out of oxygen and we would need oxygen at or above 12,500 feet. So, Haris and I decided that we may be OK flying at 11,000. So far, this has worked well for us and we will keep trying to get a refill as we travel along. Maybe, by Australia we can get the oxygen tank filled…..
The day turned out to be quite hot. At 11,000 feet the outside air temperature was 65 degrees F. As we flew over Multan and Bahawalpur areas, the temperatures jumped another 5 degrees. This reminds me of the time when we were growing up. During the summers parents would send their kids to hill stations, where the air was crisp, clear and cold. But since my cousins lived in Multan, we were sent to Multan where the temps could top out around 120 degrees, but for some reason, as kids we never felt the true impact of those temperatures. It is only now that I have started thinking about temperature in those terms. Due to high temperatures, the visibility was poor and the pictures I took with my iPhone while Haris was busy with fuel management, were of quite a poor quality. From Multan, all the way down to Nawabshah, the terrain below looked inhospitable, barren and very uninviting. But as is customary, Haris and I kept looking for and discussing a place for an emergency landing. As we neared Karachi, we were cleared for a descent to 6000 feet. The temperature at that altitude was 85 degrees and the vents were throwing out hot air. We had to restrict the ram-air flow from these vents to reduce the misery. The controller initially gave us instructions to get established on the localizer for an ILS approach into 25L at Karachi, but then changed his mind when a faster plane came up behind us. We were forced to do a 360 degree turn to allow faster traffic to go and so we had to get established once again on the ILS 25L. Haris likes to hand fly the ILS approaches and does an excellent job of it. This approach was no different and he disconnected the auto pilot at the initial approach fix and hand flew it down to the runway. After a very good landing, we headed to the refueling and parking areas. Once Haris had shut down, we set about the task of requesting fuel for an early departure the next morning. Two barrels of Avgas were delivered and it took us another hour to get all of that fuel hand-pumped into the four wing and one cabin tanks. After the fuel fiasco in Al Ain, we have decided to refuel on arrival and not wait until departure, that way we may have better control of our departure time and consequently a little better idea of our ETA and slot times at destination airports.
As we departed Karachi and Pakistan, upon reflection, it was a tremendous feeling. But, my biggest disappointment and regret remains not being able to visit my alma mater. Lots of Sargodhians have rationalized it by posting their comments and some have been more loyal to the king than the king himself in their rationalizations and justifications, but the fact remains, I – could – not – visit – the – school – I – so – dearly – wanted – to – visit. Having travelled half way around the world and remaining unfulfilled – no amount of rationalizing or creative reasoning will white wash this feeling of extreme disappointment……and no, I will never get over it as this was a once in a life time opportunity that has been lost for ever ! Since we all have a perspective, I do too and NO ONE knows the true emotional value I had attached to the trip to Sargodha…..