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Northern Peru

14MAR - 17MAR 2020

Flights from Santa Rosa (SERO, Ecuador) via Chiclayo (SPHI) to Trujillo (SPRU) and Lib Mandi (SPLX)

Still Saturday, March 14th. South of Guayaquil, there are no clouds anymore, I have been told. Well, this was not exactly true. There were still lots of clouds when I took off in Santa Rosa (SERO), but it definitely got better the further south I came.

Storms develop further east, over the mountains or even east of them. My path was clear of them. The chosen Peruvian port of entry was Chiclayo (SPHI), south of Santa Rosa. But the Cordilleras are too high, I had to fly further west and planned via URA to stay outside restricted areas.

Mountains divide the wet Ecuador from the drier Peru. After crossing the border, the land gradually becomes drier.

Still many fields. Intensive agricultural usage. But visually drier. I heard the Humboldt Current, bringing cold water from Antarctica to South America's west coast, is responsible for the dry climate and deserts on Peru's and northern Chile's west coast.

Chiclayo. Looks like a desert city to me.

After landing, someone told me to stay at my plane until the doctors arrive. Had to wait half an hour, then they came. The Corona precautions are now extended every day. Lots of questions. I think they were looking for reasons why I shouldn't be allowed into the country, but they didn't have them. Customs was no problem and immigration stamped my passport. Travel restrictions are now announced by more and more nations. The USA closed their borders for flights from Europe, the new epicenter of the pandemic. Meanwhile, most airport officials wear protecting gloves and mouth covers, not only the doctors. For the first time, I was wondering how long I will be able to continue with my trip? I didn't stay in SPHI but continued to Trujillo (SPRU). No fuel in Chiclayo, so refueling out of my jerry cans. I never know, if they like it, so I do it when nobody is looking. But there is really nothing unsafe about it, I never spill fuel while doing it.

Peru doesn't care about loadsheets, their specialty is the General Declaration. A flight of a foreign aircraft within Peru without a GenDec? Not possible! So we made one. Paid my bills and took off.

There are many restricted areas in Peru, which have to be circumnavigated. Some extend far beyond the coastline, requiring single engine aircraft like mine to fly over the ocean, sometimes even out of safe gliding distance to the shore. Not good. Chino is right, that he doesn't like that.

In the last days I haven't flown much along the coast, so I enjoyed it. Weather was nice, flying is fun.

Typical for Peru are deserts with these white structures. Saw many of them. Later learned they are chicken farms.

Approaching Trujillo (SPRU). Third flight today, time to call it a day and rest.

Booked a nice looking hotel close to the beach and found me in the middle of a party zone. It was Saturday night and the party was going on all night long. Maybe the last party for some time, as the President closed all bars and clubs the next day.

These are natural colors. The whole sky turned orange at sunset, this is a picture looking east (!). Trujillo's beach is popular for surfing. Lots of surfers in the hotels and hostels along the beaches.

Sunday, March 15th. The Peruvian pilots must have contacted some of the airport folks and they supported me. They had Avgas in Trujillo (which was the reason why this airport has been recommended to me) but they were not allowed to fill my jerry cans. Had to fill them via the drain valve and then refill the wings. I wanted to fly to Chimbote next, as was stated in my permit, but Chimbote is closed this Sunday. Wait a day or fly direct to Lib Mandy (SPLX), 300 miles, flight time 3:30? Lib Mandy is 20 miles south of Lima International and there is no weather available for it, but Mitch told me the weather there should be the same as in Lima. Go/No Go? Everyday these decisions. What could happen? Well, worst case would be that I have to land in Lima and refuel there. Try to avoid it, Mitch advised. It will cost you a lot if you go there. But this is only money. It is a safe option, so I decided: Go!

Along the coast, going south. The Panamerican connecting the few cities north of Lima. In the background, the Andes, always in clouds and slowly coming closer to the cost, narrowing the desert below.

It was the last flight of my trip, but at that time I didn't know it. My plan was to continue to the south of Peru the next day. I tried to fly straight to save fuel and checked the gauges and my calculations regularly.

Weather was good. Few clouds in my levels, but hazy below.

Passing Lima International.

Looking left: Lima. I wished I would have time to visit that city.

South of Lima. Some low clouds and hazy, but no problem to continue.

Landed on Lib Mandy's runway 14. The exit to AeroClub and flight school is at the approach end 32.

Parked in Lib Mandy. I thought only for a day, but everything changed when the Peru's president spoke that evening.

Monday, March 16th. Peru's President closed the borders for foreigners, as so many other nations did these days, trying to contain the virus. It may still have been possible to fly to the south and leave Peru, but Chile may close their border anytime, making it likely to get stranded somewhere. And Argentina had already closed their border, it was impossible for me to finish my trip. I decided to go home. At 4 AM, after a few hours' sleep, a taxi picked me up and drove me to Lima International.

I wanted to fly to my family in Buenos Aires, but without an Argentinian passport or DNI, it wasn't possible anymore. LATAM didn't give me a seat. The planes were all full anyhow. Many people tried to fly home last minute. I checked my options and decided to try flying home to Germany via Mexico. Mexico's president had not closed its borders for foreigners and I got one of the last seats of an Aeromexico flight to Mexico City. It took me 5 weeks to fly from Acapulco to Lima and 5 hours, to fly back.

The world I knew was disappearing. Working for the aviation community all my life, it was sad to see this fantastic global transportation system collapsing. While waiting for one of the few remaining Lufthansa flights out of Mexico, I had time to think about what is happening. It is not looking good.

Tuesday, March 17th, 14:30. Back in Frankfurt. Picture shows the Lufthansa fleet grounded. Runway 25R is used as parking space. Flight schedule is reduced to 5%.

62 days since I left Frankfurt at January 15th. The trip is not over, N5581M will not stay in Peru forever. Luckily, Chino found a temporary storage for her in one of the hangars. She is waiting there for better days. Days, when the borders are open again. Days, when we are allowed to fly again.

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