The Very First Impressions...
It's been for all and everyone a very short night. This is saturday November 17th and following weeks of hope and desillusions, this is finally our "D Day". We got in touch yesterday with our "pathfinders" and were able to locate them in Croatia, close to the border with Bosnia. They're supposed to get on the road this morning and reach Rajlovac within an hour or two before the rest of the team.
Back in Franceville, Patrick D, Pierre, Jean-Pierre 2 and Olivier leave at 4 in the morning using Beatrice's car. Only team member to remain in France to handle logistical liaisons and keep in touch with embassies and local administrations, Beatrice insisted on driving the team to the airport.
In Roissy Airport, Jean-Pierre 1 and Sylvain both coming from the Aisne Region, meet the team.
Checking in, Pierre almost get stuck as his high density all aluminium suitcase weights 14 pounds over the authorized weight. By chance, the other luggages are much lighter and he does not have to leave behind clothes, gloves, socks and other stuff he carries. The team is to transit via Budapest, except for Patrick D. whose plane ticket, booked later, takes him to Vienna. Uneventful flight, tight security measures, in Budapest, and a 2.30 pm arrival in snow covered Sarajevo. French Embassy Military Attaché Colonel Pierre Arnold is waiting with Mister Linneman, the german civilian admisnistrator of Rajlovac air base. Patrick D arrives 15 minutes later and we all board with our luggage the german van and head for Rajlovac. The Pathfinders still cannot be reached despite our many attempts. The roads are fairly cleared and we make steady progress. Soon, the air base comes into view. We pass the entrance and the check point manned by Albanese soldiers and a few hundred yards to our right, deep in snow, "our" plane, "The SNAFU Special", surrounded by three red figures. Our Pathfinders are already here and working, clearing the wings from a thick layer of snow. We meet and greet each other. A true home coming. They could not answer our calls, the albanese guards having confiscated their mobile phones. They tell us all about their trip as we walk with Mister Linneman to our billets. We'll be staying in a building quite close to the plane and next to the hangar we'll be using to store our spare parts.The rooms are simple but clean. Hans, who is fluent in german, gets all the informations we need for every day's life : time and place to eat, internet etc... Meanwhile, and as the daylight fades away, the team gathers around the plane as to get acquainted. 30 meter wide... she's quite an impressive sight and everyone wonders if we'll be able to go through our task. As for tonite, everybody's tired. We have dinner just before 7.00 pm and we all go to get some rest. The night is cold, and the ground is frozen and slippery. Tomorrow, we'll have to dress warm.