So this past Monday I had quite the experience. I flew out to Kongiganak and I've been here ever since. The day started like any normal Monday Traveling Day. I got up and hurriedly threw together the rest of my gear, because it had gotten too late on Sunday night to choose finishing packing over sleeping on my to do list.
After taking care of some odds-n-ends at the DO (District Office) I had a coworker drive me and the gear out to Yute Air for the time-honored tradition of sitting around at Yute Air all day long. The standard procedure here is to show up and offload the truck at the dock. Go inside, tell the lady at the counter that I'm here, and then head upstairs to Brothers Pizza for the AYCE pizza lunch special. After lunch, the thing to do is to sit and read a book for an hour or so, then put in headphones and listen to some tunes for maybe an hour, and then go to sleep until one of the girls wakes you up and says "your flight is cancelled, go home." I had checked the weather on Kusko.net, and it said the wind was 40 knots out on the coast here. One knot equals 1.15077945 miles per hour (approximately). This being the case, I figured that the flight was pretty unlikely.
Evidently I figured wrong.
About the time I pulled out my book after my pizza lunch, this pilot, an older guy with thick glasses whom I'd flown with before, started calling my name. Making our way out to the plane, I asked him how the weather was out on the coast, as I'd seen high winds forecast. He said "Aaagghh, not too bad. I was out in Kipnuk a couple hours ago and there was a little ground blizzard. Up in the air it's fine." I figured well, he's an old-timer, he's been doing this a while, he knows what is what.
After flying for 20 minutes or so, the view up in front of the plane was a looming gray thing. After another 15 minutes we were in the gray thing and couldn't see the ground. Once in a while we'd get a little bit clearer spot, and I could see that the ground was pretty close by. The wind was really ripping by this time, and the 207 was jumping and dipping like crazy. Meanwhile, the GPS on the instrument panel said we were at Kongiganak. We couldn't see anything though. I was thinking to myself "Okay psycho. Turn the plane around, we'll try again tomorrow." But no. What I saw was Wall-Eye pulling his head down and squinting at the GPS, repeatedly, and trying to figure out where next to steer the plane to try to find the village amidst the blizzard. I was at this time hoping there wasn't anything tall in Kong for us to smash into, since the GPS claimed we were there. Plus, as my friend Lee at the TO (Tundra Oasis) once pointed out, sometimes clouds have rocks in them.
What happened next was very bizarre. The pilot turned sharp to the left, and soon we were at a right angle to the wind. We got down even lower and I could see the ground. Relative to the ground, the wing out my side was leading the way. Literally, we were flying more sideways than forward. The side window was the new windshield. We spotted the runway, made a crazy circle to double back to it, and somehow managed to touchdown, with the plane tipping, dipping, and skipping all the way. I guess that's how you get to be the only person to land in a village on a particular day. Everybody else had sense enough to not try it. I've got to commend the pilot though. I think that it was a needless risk to land here Monday, but he did demonstrate exceptional flying skill in doing so.
As we unloaded the plane, the wind was blowing so strong that I had to catch my big backpack as it tried to blow away. By the time we got into the school, everything already had a layer of snow blasted onto the side of it. As soon as I got in here, I heard the VHF radio in the school office, and it was a pilot radioing from another airline, checking on Kong's weather conditions. The local agent told him "It's not goot. Zero zero, go back."
Anyhow, I made it. Dick R. Kiunya Memorial School, home of the Wolverines (BOOOO!!!) is an older school, and way overcrowded. On the first day here it was a real struggle to find a place to store my stuff. I slept in a classroom and then had to put away my sleeping bag/air mattress and everything else before there would be kids all over everything.
Tuesday, in my quest to find a place to store my stuff, I discovered a new home for myself. It may not be pretty, but it's relatively secure and private. I was even able to sleep til 8:30 there this morning, which is nice since my classes are all taught after school here, and my nights become later than I'd like. In my next posting I will take you all on a little tour of my new home.
For you folks back in civilization, enjoy the March Madness. I do wish I could be watching. I love sitting back and watching hours of college hoops in March. Good luck Bucky.