The Policeman

Friday 25th June 2005

We were out of the 'hotel' before they got the chance to threaten us with an Indonesian breakfast and soon on our way back to the airport. We planned a full day ahead with the help of a character in the control tower. He had greasy black shoulder-length hair, a dry sense of humour and spoke with a rolled cigarette hanging from the corner of his mouth. He asked after our stay and we gave a big thumbs up, but expressed some reservation about the accommodation.
'You lose some and some… you do not win.' He concluded.

We took off east over the regatta. The mouth of the river/estuary/canal was teeming with boatlife: dayboats, good sized yachts and tall ships. Ross snapped away with his SLR camera as we banked right over them and headed south and then west.

The morning's flying took us in a straight line that joined the dots of the German and then Dutch Friesian islands. The blue and grey of the sea, the green and gold of fields and beaches stretched before us. After a couple of hours we were getting near our lunch spot, Ameland, one of the Dutch islands and we descended to take a closer look at the beaches. One of the truths of long beaches becomes even more obvious from the air: people don't stray far. They cluster around the first bit of sand they touch. We would fly over a mile of beach without seeing a soul and then come across half an acre by a car park with a hundred oily bodies on it.
We landed on a shortish grass strip and as I paid our dues, Ross ferreted out some ice-creams and water to complement the sandwiches that we had brought with us from Kiel. It was a roastingly hot day and we were left with no choice but to eat the ice-creams as we walked, washing them down with some water and a large veal escalope sandwich.

The beach was as promised from the air, long golden sands with almost nobody on it. We walked along the water's edge and looked for a suitable place for a swim. The charts had given strict warnings about the natural wonders of these islands, the delicate ecosystems were not to be disturbed unnecessarily by low flying. We decided against a swim because it all smelt and looked a touch too natural. Pungently natural, it was hard to identify exactly what it was, guano perhaps. Whatever was causing the strange smells and colours in the sea was doing a bloody good job of protecting their waters, they would remain free of two flying grockles for that day at least. We turned inland and walked along a bridleway and side-stepped more natural contributions.

On returning to the airfield we were greeted by an immaculately turned out uniform. I thrust out my hand and announced over-confidently, 'Tristan Gooley, Pilot in Command' like this is what was expected or something. He responded in a similar fashion, like he now felt that was what was expected of him, introducing himself as a member of the Dutch Aviation Police. In a charming and professional way he then gave our papers a really good going over. He then recommended another airfield nearby, wished us a good flight and sent us on our way.

We made our way around the sensitive wildlife areas and through a special air corridor before turning south. The visibility was shocking and I was forced to ask the controllers to use their radar to keep a lookout for us. Holland blurred into Belgium, which again went largely unnoticed. As soon as we were over France things changed. The controllers were more gallic, more pushy, showed more flair. They routed us around Lille in an assertive but suave way and we turned West with their permission.
By the time Le Touquet runway was in sight it was very welcome, we were down to about 6 usable gallons of fuel out of 48.
The sun was noticeably hotter now that we had come south, but the heat had an unsustainably humid feel to it. So it was to prove.
Ten minutes after finding a place to stay in Le Touquet we were swimming in the sea and five minutes after that the first thunder rumbled along the beach. Before long the place was awash, later it rained with impressive aggression and the thunder moved overhead and then into the restaurant we had chosen for supper. It felt like a bit of an ominous drumroll for the end of the trip.

Taking off in the morning over the armada that was 'Kiele Woche'.



Not a bad spot for lunch.



Ross doing a bit of planning. Actually maybe he's just hiding from the policeman.

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