(Interview with Daniel)

The next day, Mr Griffith helped us retrieve the plane. Or rather, he took with him 15 – 20 men with machetes and they helped by cutting away shrubs and bushes to make a runway. Fortunately, there were no tress in the way, only shrubs. Since I was the most experienced pilot, I flew the plane from there to the airport in Marsabit. In the evening, we had a great party!

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(Onni’s story)

In the evening, when we walked over to the building where we should sleep, we had not walked more than ten metres from the main building, when we stopped dead in our steps by a lion’s roar. We could only see a pair of eyes, reflecting the light from the building. The Police Commissioner came running out with a rifle and a lamp, but the lion luckily retreated. The following night, we walked straight into three buffalos that were standing right outside the door. Even that time, we got away scot-free. The biggest problem for the Police Commissioner was the elephants, who roamed around in the area, destroying the small garden that he had struggled to keep alive in the drought.

It was with deep regret that we left the nice family a few days later. Our next destination was Nairobi and we arrived there without trouble. Well there, we could read in the East African Standard that we had been missing and that searches for us had been on. We now had to tell the whole story to the press and the next day, there were flaming headlines on the front page about our rescue and our adventures.
Mary, who was waiting at the beach hotel in Nyale Beach by the Indian Ocean, did not know anything about what had happened to us until she read about the adventure in the papers.

(Interview with Daniel)

This trip to Kenya was great, the highlight of my life. We flew on towards Isiolo and then we landed in Nanyuki on the Equator. We stood there in the bar and toasted from the southern part of the globe to the northern part. The Equator ran straight through the bar there. We flew past Mount Kenya and it was very beautiful.
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Then we arrived in Nairobi. De wrote in the newspapers about the plane that had disappeared. They were of course glad we had got back. We stayed a few days in Nairobi. We stayed in hotel “New Stanley”. It was a one of those “with-it” hotels in Nairobi. All white farmers went there but the coloured people were not allowed in. No, that is how it was during that time, not like in Ethiopia where everyone could come and go everywhere as they liked.

Well, about the luggage, we had dinner jackets with us. We know that it was still an English colony, so in all hotels, if you wanted to go for dinner, you had to wear dinner jacket. So we had brought that. White dinner jackets.

We also went to a night club, I think it was called “Equator”. To be allowed in, you had to have been to a certain number of countries. Yes, it was rather fun. I remember that the band played “Tequila”- it was a new, popular tune at the time.

I was rather fit at that time. Lasse and I used to do handstands on the bar counter, both of us at the same time. The one who first fell had to pay. He was better than I was. I only won once. I was taller than he was so I could reach to put my feet against the ceiling. That was the only time I won.

After that, we continued to Mombasa and from there on to Malindi. It was only an around 20 minutes’ flight down to the coast. We had already booked us at the “Eden Roc” hotel. They had a private runway for the guests. Mary came down to Malindi together with Pihlkvist, another Swede. That is where we spent our holiday. Mary had flown with Ethiopian Airlines from Addis Ababa via Nairobi and on to Malindi.

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This was the only hotel along the coast that had a swimming pool and where you could go for a dip if you wanted to. You did not need a swimming pool, you had the whole sea there! I think it was one of the best hotels. You could also play squash and rent surfing boards, but we spent most of the time on the beach. Yes, we had a great time there! We used to meet at breakfast every morning. Pihlkvist was with us. He was one of those funny guys who always came up with funny expressions. If something tasted nice, he used to say “This does not taste of paraffin!” We were all at the breakfast table, except Pihlkvist, when Mary said “I think this tastes of paraffin… something tastes of paraffin”. We did not think so, but she may have been a bit choosy. After a while, Pihlkvist arrived and sat down at the table, starts eating and say “This does not taste of paraffin!” It was so funny and also to see how funny Mary looked!

We were later invited to a party at Hotel Sindbad. We had to wear dinner jackets. Lasse and I decided to fly in to Mombasa to buy black socks for our dinner jackets, because we did not have any with us. We took the Auster this time because it did not use as much fuel and the L5.

When we landed at the airport in Mombasa, we met some Englishmen from Nairobi. The also had an Auster. When you were in Africa with two private aeroplanes, you started talking to each other of course. We asked where they were going and they said they were flying south to Jadini beach. “We land on the beach there, so why don’t you come down and have lunch with us?” “Yes”, said we, “we just have some shopping to do first. We will be there later. How do we find you?” “You will see us. Just land on the beach”.

We went into town and bought socks and a few other things that we needed and then, just before lunchtime, we took the plane and went to meet with the Englishmen. But as it happened, we did not pay attention. We flew too far inland so we missed them and flew past. After a good while, we realised that we had flown too far. Too right, as I noticed that we had had an incredible following wind. I had not thought about that but you notice it when you make a turn. I thought “oops, we are low on fuel, I have to check this” I did not trust the fuel gauge so we had a dipstick. We were planning to land somewhere there and check with the dipstick to see how much fuel we had left, so we could be certain that it was enough. I landed on the beach but the runway was too short, so the plane tipped on the nose and hit the propeller so a piece of it flew off. It was a wooden propeller. So, what do you do when you are stranded out in the bush? I always had my tools with me. We stood there on the beach, wondering what we had done wrong. We had landed too far up on the beach and the sand was too soft. If I had landed closer to the water, the sand there was packed solid and we would have had as long a runway as we wanted. We could not continue with one long and one short propeller blade. It causes imbalance in the engine. So, what do you do?

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I will have to cut the other blade too, I thought. Fortunately I had a hacksaw with me so I set out to repair the blade. While we were standing there, some people came towards us. A couple of beautiful girls, actually. Bare-breasted. De were wondering what was going on. We could of course not talk to them but we showed what we were doing. We cut the long blade so that they were the same length and then we pulled the plane down to the water and decided that we could not stay there. We checked how much fuel we had left and decided that it was enough to take us to the Englishmen. We would certainly find them now! We will fly along the coastline by the water and then we will see where they are.

We were not sure that the plane would work, if it would take off. We had a long runway and I cranked up the engine and it shot up to max rpm because the propellers were short. I could only give half throttle power. We bounced along on the beach and so we finally took off. Lasse laughed. “Look! We’re flying!” he said. We flew some distance along the coast but we still did not see the aeroplanes, because they had pulled them in under the palm trees there. We agreed that this had to be it, because we saw tracks and a hotel, so we landed on that beach. I felt that the sand was packed solid and we continued along the beach. Then an Englishman comes walking along the beach. I opened the window. It was one of those hatches that folds outwards and I shouted to him: “Where is Jadini Beach Hotel?” He starred at us and said: “It’s over there, Sir” and walked on.

We finally met up with the nice Englishmen and got our lunch at last. We also got some extra fuel so we could fly back to the hotel in Malindi again.

In the evening we went to the party at “Sindbad”, dressed in our new black socks. I did not drink a lot. Neither did Onni, I think. I never saw Onni drunk, he was a moderate drinker.

Though that night another thing happened. I was asleep and in the small hours before dawn, Onni is knocking on my door. “Rundis! Up, quickly! You must fly to Mombasa!” “What? No, I don’t feel like flying to Mombasa now…” “Yes, now” said Onni and explained. The hotel Manager had gone to bed with a cigarette in his hand and fallen asleep. The mosquito net above the bed had caught fire and he was so bloody burned that he was unconscious. It was essential to get him to the hospital as quickly as possible.

Yes, I was game of course. I took the L5 this time; the propeller was not very good on the Auster. I remember, Onni and Lasse, it was those two who took care of the man and placed him on the backseat of the plane. He was unconscious the whole time. The buckled him in and so I flew to Mombasa while the others informed the ambulance there that I was on my way and asked them to come and collect him at the airport. I went with them to the hospital to see how things were and to talk to the doctor. He said that we had saved the man’s life. He would not have survived unless he had come in to the hospital so quickly.

I think I was the most experienced pilot. The others were not so experienced. Onni was a beginner but he got his licence. He was really good at navigation. He was very skilful. What he did later as well, with the Marathon runners. That was really something! But it was typical of Onni, he helped others to the front and it was he who did the work in the background. It was typical of him. He was a very kind person. I don’t think he was angry ever. No, I never saw him angry; on the contrary, if something happened, he always stayed calm.

Well, when the holiday was over we went flying. First we flew to Mombasa, Dar-el-Salam and then we stayed on Zanzibar, where we went swimming for a couple of days. After that, we flew to Kilimanjaro. Moshi was the name of the airport. Then we went back to Nairobi. From there, we were planning to fly the same route back home as we had flown there. We flew to Marsabit and met up with the Griffith family again and then came the worst part for Onni and Lasse…

We stayed over night and started in the morning after breakfast. We had agreed that this time we were not going to miss each other. We were going to keep contact with each other. We should not do as we did last time. But when we had flown a short distance, I see Onni and Lasse start circling and descend. I was wondering what the heck they were doing. I had no idea of what had happened. Suddenly, they just landed, right in the middle of the volcanic landscape! They found a spot to land on. I don’t understand how – it was unbelievable but at the same time lucky that the found a spot to descend and land on. Well, I will have to land as well, I thought. So I landed on the same spot. It was not very good, bumpy but it worked. “Well, you see”, said Onni, “the engine cut out!” It had jammed! ‘So they just had to land.

It was incredible that they managed the way they had! Well, what to do now? Not much choice but to go back to Marsabit. I could only take one person at the time so I said: “I will fly back to Marsabit and leave Aspliden there and then I will come back, pick up one of you and come back later to pick up the other one. Onni was the one to stay till last. That was typical of him, to send the others off first.

Well, they had survived, which was good, but we were not home and dry yet! They had a plane that they could not continue in and I could not take more than one person at the time, so Onni and Lasse were stranded out there in the bush. The next day, Griffith helped out with a lorry and people. It was not so far to the plane, bit still some distance. We all helped to lift the plane up onto the lorry.

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We took the plane to Marsabit and put it in their garden. I had no other choice than to continue with my passenger. We could not do anything to solve the situation at the moment.

Onni and Lasse decided to dismount the engine and take it with them and hitch-hike back home to Addis. They did get a ride now and then… with some old lorry that was passing once a week or so… but one distance they had to ride on donkeys with the engine under the arm…it took them a couple of weeks to get home.

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We knew they were alive and that they would make it, but it must have been a heck of a trip… to hitch-hike from the middle of Kenya all the way up to Addis. But they did arrive, unshaven but in good spirit. That was the end of the journey.

It took eight months before we got a new engine. We ordered a new engine from England, which was sent down to Nairobi in Kenya. I went down, mounted the engine and flew the plane back to Addis. That time I was alone. It turned into an adventure as well… I was not allowed to fly the same route back, so I had to fly an even worse route – back to Nairobi, down to Mombasa and the follow the coast line up to Somaliland – and that was much longer. But we can talk about that some other time…

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