George’s daily journal from N5831R’s round the world adventure
23 May 2016
0857 Local 0557 GMT
Left Rethymno this morning. Took the coast road to Heraklion, our airport in Crete, really the only choice. We will depart tomorrow morning for HEMM in Egypt, process through customs, purchase some fuel which is said to be more than a dollar per liter less expensive than elsewhere, and then continue on to 6th of October airport HEOC on the outskirts of Cairo. We have been advised that HEOC is daytime only so we must arrive before sunset, which drives our schedule for the day and requires an uncommonly early departure. We have also been advised that it is closed on Monday and Wednesday, which has been driving our schedule for the past few days. We chose to remain in Rethymno an extra day rather than try to make Egypt on Monday, and I am so very glad we did. More on that in time, but I can say here that if you ever have a chance to lodge at the Palazzino di Corino in Rethymnon, you can thank me later.
Today in Heraklion, we toured the Palace at Knossos, a restored ruin of the extensive palace and dwellings from the several hundred years prior to 1300 BC and the Archeology Museum in Heraklion just around the corner from our hotel, an unremarkable but not inexpensive business hotel chosen because of proximity to the museum and the airport.
And for the past few hours, as I write this, we — which really means Adam — have been working to deal with all of the exigencies involved in crossing over to Egypt tomorrow. He has had continuing difficulty getting the worldwide data bases he needs — and to which he has subscribed — from Jeppesen and is far more forgiving of those difficulties than I would be. We are planning to fly into HEOC, The 6th of October airport in Cairo tomorrow, and we don’t have a Jepp chart for the airport. Adam found one in the Egypt AIP (Aeronautical Information Publication. We have made regular use of those documents for each country.)
So we have wondered why the airport is closed Monday and Wednesday … Well, tonight we find out that it is basically because the area is used as a firing range on those days. We note that HEOC is virtually surrounded by military operations areas. Those of us who fly in North Carolina are accustomed to MOAs and Restricted Areas. We are home to Fort Bragg, Simmons Army Air Field, Pope AFB, and Seymour Johnson AFB. North Carolina may be the third most powerful nation on the face of the earth. So military operations are familiar to us, but this is another world and the rules are different. So, we arrive Tuesday.
Our contacts in Cairo, Eddie Gould and Ahmed Hassan of G.A.S.E. (General Aviation Support Egypt) tell us that if Cairo vectors us over or toward Cairo we will fly over the Pyramids at about six thousand feet, our only chance to see them from the air. But if we are vectored into HEOC from the desert to the west we will miss the pyramids. We also find that HEOC is a VFR-only airport, no instrument approaches, and given the density of military danger areas surrounding the airport, we will take the vectors offered and leave the Pyramids for another day — from the ground.
Right now, we are in the hotel room trying to devise a flight plan that will at least be accepted by Egyptian air traffic control, since Ac-U-Kwik informs us that flight plans filed online through EuroControl are routinely rejected by Egypt. Does that mean that we have to find an alternative means of filing from Heraklion to Mersa Matruh? Adam is knee deep in all of his sources, trying to get definitive information in a world that seems far from certain. We have our Egyptian permit number, so there is a good chance that we will be permitted into the country, but how to file a flight plan from Heraklion to Mersa Matruh (HEMM) that will not be rejected remains unclear. We are in email contact with Eddie Gould of G.A.S.E., who will file for us the second leg from HEMM to HEOC, but we need to also work that flight plan out tonight and pass it along to him so that he can get it filed by whatever means tomorrow. It should not have to be this difficult, this confusing, this idiosyncratic. Adam has been planning and researching for months if not years; he has consulted others who have made similar journeys; he has acquired all of the information sources; and still problems of this nature keep us up late at night when we should be dreaming of the pyramids — or of sitting around the hotel pool tomorrow evening with Eddie, our man in Cairo, and a cold beer.
Meanwhile, the sun has set, but before it did I stepped out on the hotel balcony and snapped these few photographs of Heraklion at dusk. They show the harbor sweeping from north, through the city to the east, and around to the south.
Far below our fourth-floor balcony, boys in a schoolyard are playing basketball, a full-court game flowing back and forth, with only the occasional pounding of the ball and its ring off of the rim drifting up to us as the sun sets.