Refueling is not routine

We thought readers might enjoy this entry from Brad's online journal. He filed it one day after the story at right.

We got a late start from Bamako, Mali, because the refueling crew were all at the security office getting new ID badges.

So I showed two earnest young men how I use the laptop and satellite phone. They were fascinated. People also are very interested in the digital camera. Once I take a picture of someone, then instantly show them the picture, everyone wants to have his picture taken.

The flight here was uneventful, including a long stretch over the Sahara. The story really began on the ground here.

They had no aviation fuel in Nouadhibou, but Arthur's plane also runs on plain auto fuel. So after much fussing and haggling over price (the equivalent of $5 a gallon), we waited for an hour until some guys returned with a plastic barrel filled with 60 gallons of gas in the trunk of a little old taxi. Its rear bumper nearly dragged on the ground.

Then the problem was how to get the fuel up into the wing tanks? We waited some more until somebody found a five-gallon jerry can and a hose.

The assembled Mauritanian men, many of them in lovely white robes, took turns sucking on the hose (followed by much spitting) to siphon fuel into the jerry can. The can was then passed to another guy on the wing, who funneled the gas into the plane. This took more than an hour.

My contribution was holding the funnel and the flashlight. I reeked of gasoline. There was a break when the call to prayer was heard from a minaret in the distance, whereupon the men slipped off a way, took off their shoes, faced Mecca, and said prayers. I found this very touching and said a little Allahu Akbar (God is great) myself.

Three hours later, Arthur and I were taxied to a very plain hotel where we had a late supper of sole (the only thing we could understand on the menu). Fortunately, there were no candles on the table. We smelled strongly of gasoline, and were potentially quite pyrotechnic.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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