02 January, Dakar Senegal. Funny how no matter how many times I have flown to and from everywhere around the world, not once did this thought ever occur to me. The thought was prompted by the pilot in charge of SAA flight, 207 on the 28th of December 2012. We were delayed (grounded really) for over an hour at the OR International Airport in Johannesburg. A first for me. There was something wrong and providence made sure that I was seated on the window seat with a direct view of the source of the problem. The pilot muttered something about a part getting stuck in the left-wing engine of the plane while they were checking to see if there is enough oil or some thing along those lines. While that was happening, water was guzzling out of the engine, it seemed there was an oil leak too as two pick up trucks pulled over onto the tar mark, with sacks of soil. Men in emergency flat jackets poured the soil on the ground – a technique used to absorb oil spillage. One of my first reports as a journalist involved an oil leak over Barry Hertzog, the driver had lost control of his oil truck hit the curb an accident which flushed oil down on empire street, and stalling peak afternoon traffic. A man in a paper-thin white jump suit looks closely at the tool box left lying on the ground , his colleagues join their heads with him they laugh, shake heads and the whole thing does not seem so serious. The pilot fills in the blanks. We are still delayed, now waiting for a spare part, so we are waiting for the spare part, but first we need another part to remove the part that is still stuck inside the area of the engine where the problem is, after it has been removed, the new part will be lodged in, and then since we have also lost some fuel, they will pump the plane with more jet-fuel, just to be sure. It’s a one way eight-hour flight with one stop. My destination. The procedure could take anywhere between 15 to 30 minutes. The pilots’ reports which were frequent, every ten minutes or so, were prefaced with unfortunately. With that there are a number of questions floating through my mind, will we ever set off? Can’t we just change planes, what a lot of work that will entail, how long will it take? Worse still what if we do take off and then the problem is not properly fixed? For sure I would have been extremely nervous had it not been for the view from seat number – 64k. The the technicians working on the plane didn’t seem vaguely worried. If body language is anything to go by they could have been putting up balloons for a child’s first birthday party. Pa de koi. The irrational part of me reasoned that perhaps this is my opportunity to make a decision about my life, approach the cabin crew and tell them I am now getting off because I am not sure if I will make it to my destination, there seems to be a problem, which so far was quite well communicated to the passengers on board, but I for one would rather be on solid ground. Glad I nipped that thought in the bud. Because in no time all was cleared and we were well on our way to the sky. There goes my chance of getting out of the plane. Sure there’s really nothing to be done now. I have said my loving goodbyes. I am at peace.
So once we reached cruising altitude, our very informative pilot tells us. “We expect to have a fairly good flight, with the exception of some turbulence expected over the equator” Now that is something I have never paid attention to before. I will be crossing the equator, that imaginary line we learn about in geography,which separates the world as we know into two parts. The Northern and Southern Hemispheres. Regions closer to the equator generally don’t have a change in seasons as the area around the equator remains more or less in constant relationship with the sun. It’s an imaginary line. We use it to understand where we are in the world, who we are when we are. Sailors of old make jokes about it, but it was (is) still a right of passage.
“The Earth’s gravitational pull is slightly weaker at the Equator due to its equatorial bulge. The slightly weaker gravitational pull and momentum of the spinning Earth makes equatorial regions ideal places for space launches. It takes an enormous amount of energy to launch a satellite or other spacecraft out of the Earth’s atmosphere. It takes less energy (rocket fuel) to launch in lower gravity. It also takes less energy to launch when the spinning Earth is already giving the satellite a push of 1,670 kilometers per hour (1,038 miles per hour)”.
There was a lot of turbulence over the equator, no more than can be expected on any flight no matter how long the duration. My heart landed with me as we hit the tar mark in Dakar We made it. So I am left with no doubt still even now. I am alive and happy to be so. I thought I would write something more on the Esoteric side of things, something deep and enlightened about the equator once I started to think about it. But I guess I have left my profoundness back in the Southern Hemisphere. Here on the other side, the city was empty, the Great Magal of Touba, an annual pilgrimage of devout Muslims coincided with the new year celebrations. So everyone was in Touba, okay not everyone but most people and everything was about the Magal of Touba. It’s an important annual pilgrimage for Senegalese people. I was glad I was not among the millions of people who go there to pay tribute homage to Senegal Spiritual and Revolutionary leader Ahmadou Bamba. It’s a different world. Last year I went after the New Year celebrations and came back having lost my worldly attachments to beauty, youth, dignity and most importantly money. Because I didn’t go this time, I expected nothing of the sort to happen, until of course I tried to draw money at a local ATM – the bank card didn’t come back. This time though, I let it go without a fight.
Words fall out of my fingertips, and I am still even now trying to say something quite profound. It takes less energy to launch a space craft on or near the equator. Less energy to get things done. Less energy to be me. Why should we resist… why should I? Makes me think, many of us have flown over the equator more than once in our lives and yet we have never given it much thought. I suggest we coin a new term ” I am over the Equator with…. ” fill in your choice of words. Because however the turbulent our crossing over the equator(was) is – it is also the center, the core, the perfect circle, always constant and in harmony with the Sun. However imaginary, crossing this line is far more conceivable than going over the moon.
I for one am Over the Equator In love!