Two little Cessna planes greeted us at the IDC hangar and there was absolutely no way all our gear would fit in both, let alone one of them. Thankfully neither plane was fit for the unusually stormy sky above. Our plane had not yet landed and we were due to take off in half an hour, but this was just the beginning. Our countless indestructible pelican cases and Himalayan trekking bags, designed for riding on the backs of yaks, tipped off the scale and brought on a very serious Créole discussion, the outcome of which was “it is not possible.” The next four and a half hours consisted of several more re-weighing sessions, discussions and scenario building exercises that ended with a frantic dash back to the domestic terminal with the full extent our gear clinging to the backs of three pick up trucks…. It had all the makings of a mega-dollar team building exercise. Having negotiated our way through the day with the extremely friendly Seychellois I pity the scientists and photo-journalists working with this much equipment in bad weather in unfriendly territories.
Although the prospect of sleeping on a runway, being attacked by mosquitoes and eating stale oatcakes may leave some feeling rather soggy, when the engines did finally fire up it was music to my ears. At 16h35 we took to the skies in a Beecham 1900 with all 1,515kgs, including our kit and the seven of us (including the missing guides), into a thick white shroud. We were surrounded by the impenetrable glare the entire way, opening up just in time for a far away glimpse of Aldabra and our stop-off island, Assumption. We landed at 19h00, with 25 minutes to spare before darkness; bearing in mind the closest other runway was sitting 500km away on Madagascar’s northern tip.
Island hospitality is always a treat, especially on the more remote islands, and we left the tarmac runway in favor of beds and fried chicken in the small Assumption IDC outpost (the only building on this desolate and destroyed island) and a few hours sleep before the light and the right tide would take us across the waters to our final port of call, Aldabra.