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Journal of a Seaplane Cruise Around The World
Part Three: Asia

Thursday, November 8

Bombay to Cocanada 0930 LAND CONCANDA (Flying time 7 hours, 50 minutes - 1 hours fuel remaining)

Across India in a Day!! -- We were overjoyed to see the ship hop into the air so easily again, with its 200 gallons of fuel - most certainly the paint and polish job on the floats has done the trick. We circled the Royal Indian Navy and jazzed a 5-gun salute, and then turned across Bombay Harbor in a climb. The first hills were too high, and I had to go around. Bob was busy working out a course to Poona, and soon I could see the Western Ghats plainly ahead, and began to follow "on course", deviating only to catch rising currents of air. The sun was hardly ahead of us in rising, and the mountains stood out in shadow to the east. They were lovely as the light began to creep along their serrated surfaces. Of volcanic origin, they are visible only because of the vertical weathering which has gone on under the resistless influence of 200 to 300 inches of rain each year. Tall chimneys, huge houses, capitols, whole towns even, can be imagined in these rocks. They are not high, 4,000 feet at the summit, but the deep ravines and vertical faces make them boldly beautiful. The railroad soon appeared from the left, electrified its full run to Poona. Just beyond the divide, which is only 30-40 miles from the coast, two large reservoirs lay spread out like blankets for Asulinak's use if needed; their drainage is carried through a tunnel to give Bombay its drinking water. Only, like all wise cities of the tropics, she chlorinates it heavily before serving; and I, like equally wise tourists, insist on boiling it also!

A great plain lay ahead of us, and as the Ghats slipped behind, and only an occasional rampart stood up to remind us of their presence, we espied Poona to the right, under a layer of smoke. We were on a small stream which flowed eastward. The straight line to Cocanada was 70 miles (or more) shorter than the Bhima-Kistna river course. - Should we go straight, or follow the rivers, upon which landings could be made only with high probability of a smashup? Once I thought to go the short course, but it would be entirely a "dry" route, and at least the rivers offered security to life, if not to the machine. India has been crossed by seaplane on very few occasions: the R.A.F. fliers did it this summer; and an English pilot seems to have done it some time ago. Pinedo also, in part. No one has ever followed this route, so no advice was available. In the end, I chose the Bhima and followed it as shown on the map. The country was surprisingly changeless. It lay on a base of volcanic lava (the largest single flow in the world, so Dr. Fermor later informed me). In the lower portions near the Kistna junction, large vertically cut groups were seen, resembling fortified towns, and several times I checked with the map to be sure that these actually were not cities. The towns were nearly all walled, and some were moated. In the center of each was a fortress, with broad scarp. Once I saw what looked to be a dam in the river; but saw later it was the road bridge, and water was pouring over it the full length. I was quite alarmed over the great numbers of large birds, mostly buzzards, for they paid no attention to the plane, and I had to be constantly on the water to avoid hitting them. A buzzard might break a propeller blade, or tear the fabric off a wing.

Down to the Kistna junction, the land was arid but cultivated throughout, and these people pay taxes to the richest man in the world, the Nizam of Hyderabad. The Kistna soon zigzagged into a deep gorge, lined with jungle as far as one could see. This lasted about 150 miles, and only two or three houses were seen, and very rare trails, the whole distance. A flock of white animals (goats; wild animals are never white!) ran at the sound of the plane. We were too high to see the jungle formation, but had we been lower would have noticed the very large leaves on the teak trees. These areas are filled with monkeys, great snakes, panther, tiger and elephant. Lions are present only in Kathiawar, the peninsula we skirted between Karachi and Bombay - they have been killed off elsewhere. The jungle was quite open, and did not look dangerous; but the river ran a swift course in its gorge. I was rather glad to see it open out above Bezwada, where its delta joins that of the Godavari.

The radio difficulties are explained in the day's log; Bob deserves a hand for locating the trouble so quickly, and for removing the motor-generator in flight (I gave Zig Templeton mental thanks for insisting that we keep dual controls, for the m/g was under the left seat), and for setting it in operation again. We had a doubtful weather forecast from Nott's radio station at the R.I.N., but the weather was clear, with 50 m. visibility, the entire distance; -- and no rain.

We were both tired long before reaching Cocanada, but the sight of the great delta lands intrigued us, for this coastal belt holds the most concentrated population in the world. The fields were bright green (paddy, the plant from which rice comes), and were dotted with giant palms, and mangroves. Irrigation was consistently carried out. The most surprising feature was the frequency of the towns, about one for each square mile. Population estimates are difficult when you do not know the standard of living, but I should guess that each housed from 1,000 to 5,000, and some as high as 50,000. There being no farm houses, the land around belonged to these people; it was all in rice; and rice is planted, each crop, a sprig at a time by hand! We followed the Godavari downward from Rajamahendry, looking for good landing stretches in case Cocanada was too lousy. Most fascinating towns, with thatched roofs. I do hope the pictures are good, for the sun was getting low. Passed a French town, and then saw Cocanada - it was inland a more or two, but joined to the harbor by a canal. The Shell barge was outside, with a big wind sock to help us land; the swell was rolling in from the N.E. but the wind was from the west, so the landing was a pushover: landed parallel to the swell and slipped into the wind.

Harry Ferguson, the Shell Agent, came aboard and advised us to anchor at the Shell installation, so we taxied down the 200 foot wide canal, hand in hand with tall slender lateen-rigged boats (some sailing, some poling or towing) to moor by 3 kedge anchors, a bow line, a stern line, and a shore line! The channel was so narrow, we had to be close in shore, and a storm is surely in the wind! As safeguard against the "Eingeborenenbooten" of which Gronau complained so bitterly, a jolly boat was anchored out just beyond the wing tip, with a lantern, and four native guards were installed (one had 4 different war ribbons!) But fueling had to be done too, and after this was over, we were about collapso.

Our hosts were kindness itself. Ferguson explained that the town has no hotel; -- 58.000 pop. and 30 Europeans. We were welcome to one of his bungalows. There was no dissension! We went ashore to have tea -- Mrs. F. a bright, pretty Scotch girl, plied us not only with tea, but sausages and eggs and cakes and sandwiches. Baths were at hand, but in this tropical spot one must rush to beat out the local inhabitants; I lost by 3 spiders and a lizard, all drowned of course. Once Bob commented pleasantly on the unusual wall decorations, but they promptly moved, and he learned that half a dozen lizards have a habit of symmetrical placement. The week before, two highly poisonous snakes had been killed in the living room . . . Bob tried a short wave contact with the R.I.N. but it failed; we dined at 9:15 with the Fergusons and had an enjoyable evening in spite of weariness. F. was a war pilot, and has as souvenir a model plane constructed of metal from Baron von Richtofen's bus!

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