A lesson in clouds

Trip Start Jul 28, 2012
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Argentina  , Cuyo,
Thursday, August 23, 2012

Brekkie at 6, check out of the hotel and we are on our way to the airport by 7. We are excited to be back on the move.  It will be a long day.  It is 700 miles to San Rafael.  We get conflicting weather reports.  One says a strong wind will come from the south, the other a strong wind from the north.  One is a strong headwind, the other a strong tail wind that will push us on our way.  Unfortunately we suspect we are more likely to encounter head winds.

Leaving Salta we climb 10,500 feet to get over the mountains and are pleasantly surprised to get a push from behind.  Our speed gets up to 150mph and we have the wind at our back all the way to our first fuel stop in Catamarca.

Departing Catamarca we are pleased to see the GPS register 386 miles to San Rafael.   We had been guestimating well over 400.  We should be there in time to enjoy the sunset over Patrick's recently refilled lake in front of his house.  As part of a water management system, every winter the river is dammed for a month or two causing the river and it’s extensive network of agricultural canals to go nearly dry.  Consequently, the lake that Patrick built in front of his house, that depends on river flow for its volume, goes dry as well.  Three days ago they opened the dam. Kuko emailed photos of the lake.   It looks amazing.  We are all looking forward to seeing it. 

In our attempt to regain elevation and favorable winds, we encounter nasty turbulence, that brings silence to the inside of the plane.  Fortunately, we climb through it after a few minutes and get a nice push that has us cruising around 125 nauts.  The landscape below has turned barren with Andean foothills rising from the floor.

A third of the way to San Rafael we encounter cloud cover that will cause unpleasant turbulence.  Patrick takes the little lady up to 12,500 and we enjoy a smooth ride at 130-140 nauts for the next 1.5 hours we enjoy fast flying.  Then 50 miles out from San Rafael we encounter snow as we descend below the cloud level. 

Atypically, the tiny San Rafael airport is bustling with activity when we arrive.  Kuko comes to pick us up and we head to Patrick’s to watch the sunset over the lake. 
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