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Around the World Challenge -- Leg three End

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As I sit waiting in the Balkhash airport, my translator looks around nervously. He keeps smiling at me, but it is a fleeting smile, filled with anxiety. "Your pilot friend, this Hawkeyes? He will be shortly landing?"I think to myself that it had better not be a short landing, but realize to say so aloud will only cause confusion. "Any moment now" I tell the man.The Kazakhstan guards that line the airport don't look nervous, only determined and they hold their rifles with no nonsense grips. They haven't looked at me since I landed here, but I know they see me all the same. This is crazy, I think. Why did I agree to participate in this Around the World marathon when I'm not familiar with this area? Indeed, I didn't even have time to study the charts, and will have to rely upon the skills of the navigator/translator, Gregory, who was assigned to me as soon as I arrived.It's clear the Kazakhstan's think this is an insane American project, and they are none too happy with us here, but at least they've been friendly. And Gregory was so pathetically eager to fly this leg with me it was quite touching. Since he says he's been flying in these parts as a teenager in his father's military jet, I have to believe I'm in good hands.Finally there is a sound from the west, and Hawkeyez' plane comes in for a perfect landing. I don't even stop to greet him, but push the throttle of my Baron to full and we are off before Hawk even cruises to a full stop.Almost as soon as we are up in the air Gregory relaxes, but now it's my turn to be nervous. The skies are completely overcast, and there don't appear to be any lights in any direction. Not that it would help much, since visibility seems less than a mile. And the headwind we are facing made it impossible to fly any faster than 170 knots, which means our original destination, deep in the heart of Mongolia, is not even a possibility.I tell Gregory to give me the alternates, but now all grasp of English seems to have left the man. He looks at me with a puzzled expression, so I repeat myself, and then a broad smile spreads across his face."What does it matter?" He tells me. "As long as I'm out of Russia, who cares?"I want to say a dozen things to the man, not the least is that there is a difference between Kazakhstan and Russia, at least technically nowadays, but I have the cold sweaty realization that it doesn't matter now. Not only is the man an imposter at being an interpreter, but he doesn't know the first thing about navigation.We are flying southeast, which is good, but I can see nothing around that gives me any bearings, which is bad. We pass vast lakes (or is it the ocean?) but nothing that appears to be any kind of civilization is at hand.I turn on the GPS and start scanning around. I finally see something that looks like it might be an airport, and it looks like it's within our range. "There!" I point angrily to Gregory. "Is that an airfield?"He looks back at me evenly. "Is it in Russia?""No," I answer.His broad smile does not provide me with any assurance. "Then it is an airfield!" he declares triumphantly. We land just before dawn. Unfortunately, the airport is UAAA, and we are still in "Russia".

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Reading this was great. I loved it. But for all that it does not tell me where in Russia? And if indeed it is the truth and the BATON is here for grabs? So the pilot seems to be finished with his leg but I don't know for sure or where? Did I miss something here. Great report. Great PIREP.

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I guessed I missed it. I guess it does tell us. UAAA. I got the baton and am on my way to somewhere.Lowell

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Mike, any chance you can edit the subject of your thread so that it doesn't confuse people with the actual Round the World Tour Part 4 thread?I'm trying to be sure and start each "official" thread out a certain way.Thanks.

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Sure -- I was actually waiting for you to post the "new" thread but you never did (I thought you were going to do it last night), and the other thread was getting *very* long.I was also waiting to get my screen shot in. So I'll post it in the "other" AWC thread.

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