I was invited by Etienne Oosthuizen to join him on a trip to Loxton at the Nelspruit Air Show. this in the days I was just getting interested in flying but after this trip the seeds were sewed for me to get my PPL!!
Etienne had volunteered to do some flying for the Bateleurs as the Endangered Wildlife Trust was doing a programme to establish just how badly the habitat of the endangered riverine rabbit had been destroyed in the Loxton area as they want to revitalise a few select areas to ensure the sustainability of these little creatures. We flew out of Pyramid Airfield at 8h30 on Sunday 26 en route to Tempe. The weather was good and we both looked forward to the “adventure” ahead. We made reasonable time to Tempe even though we had a 10 to 15 kts headwind all the way. We stood in the que to fill up at the pump as a few PTAR competitors were also there. (Eish, they serve good
coffee at that place).
Baron and Pilot we met at Tempe
We flew out of Tempe at about 14h00 and because we were only expected in Loxton at about 17h00 we decided to do some low level flying over the Karoo and enjoy ourselves. After an hour or so the cups of coffee we drank at Tempe started play it’s part and we needed to make a “Noodlanding”. We looked for a private landing strip or even a suitable private farm road would do. We found one and were able to do the necessary.
With the bladders lighter we took off again and wound our way slowly to Loxton. The aerie was so quite that we were able to do some serious aerial game viewing without disturbing the animals. Besides the springbok, gemsbok and other game species we were lucky enough to site an aardvark! All too soon we landed at Loxton and we were met by the EWT researchers as well as a local sheep farmer and aviator, Mr Jan Wiese, who owns the only hanger at the airfield. Jan invited us to join him for supper the following night as the team from EWT had organised a poetjie for us for Sunday night. The following day’s activities were discussed and we eventually fell into bed at about 22h00.
Ons het lekker gekuier. For those of you who, like myself, have never been to Loxton it’s a beautiful Karoo town with a community of about 65 inhabitants. The church is in the centre with a circular road around it and there are four other roads that enter the circle at 90 degrees to each other. If you should travel more than a 100m away from the church, in any direction, you will be out of the town. There are no petrol stations or shops in Loxton. The only place to buy fuel is at the local co-op. Loxton is ‘n klein dorp. Hey, I forgot ….there is a bottle store!
The Kitfox is a two seater so while Etienne flew the researchers around while I walked about with my camera in hand. The weather is only good for flying in the early morning and late afternoon as Etienne was required to do some low flying along the river banks amongst some seriously rocky terrain. The lady researchers had also never flown in a small plane before. The Kitfox proved to be an ideal aircraft for this purpose (low and slow) and we spent 3 nights in Loxton. The EWT team were delighted with the services that Etienne rendered (free of charge) and confirmed that they had achieved far more than what they had expected.
While in Loxton we made contact with Boet Laubsher but we were unable to fly up to his farm as time was against us. (Sorry Boet – next time) We flew out of Loxton on Wednesday morning and headed towards Port Elizabeth as I had an appointment arranged for 11h00 on Thursday morning. Now the debate was “Where are we going to stay overnight”. I have a place at Plett and Etienne has a place at Cape St Francis so accommodation was no big deal. Out of the blue Etienne announces that he has got a good mate in the Baviaanskloof area and this mate has a private airstrip. For those of you who never knew there was an airfield in Baviaanskloof the details from EasyPlan are:
Zandvlakte Guest Farm Lat/Long: S33 35 20.00/E024 09 49.00 Mag Variation: 25 deg W Elevation: 1410 FT RUNWAYS 16/34, 800m x 30m, gravel NOTES No low flying through valley. Caution game on runway. Landing fees.
We wanted to phone his mate to inform him of our intentions but alas we never had the telephone number. No problem, we will just buzz the house and see what happens. True to form Etienne’s mate is at home so we go and land at his airfield. Magriet (the wife) drives to the airfield to see what has landed and Etienne informs her of our planed overnight stay. She never hesitated in saying that we were most welcome. Just then, Piet (the husband and Etiennes mate) arrives with his bakkie and there were hand shakes all round. The couple showed genuine pleasure in seeing us and Piet thanked us profusely for choosing him to spend the night with. The stage was set for a long night.
The time was now 16h30 and the local bottle store closes at five so we had to make haste. As we get to the “Algemene Handelaar” we see that it had already closed but that’s no problem the owners opens up again so that we can get what we need for the evenings “Kuier”. There and then the familiar click of the beer tin is heard soon followed but two more clicks. (Let the game begin). On the way back to the guest farm Piet tells us a story about how one of the local “boerseuns” tricked him into going to a bachelor party and that he would love to get him back. He also mentioned that there was a rumour that Nature Conservation wanted to buy the farmers out so as to establish a nature reserve in the Baviaanskloof area.
We decided that I would go to this “boerseuns” farm the next day and inform him in my best English that I was an agent for Nature Conservation and that I was there to negotiate a (ridiculously low) price for his farm (HKGK). As luck would have it, within minutes, the “boerseun” drives from the opposite direction towards us with his bakkie loaded with his folk and Piet stops to chat to him. Piet introduces me to the farmer and informs him that I was from Nature Conservation and I am doing a survey of the farms in the area so that a price can be established for the farms concerned. The expression on the face of the chauffeur of the folk carrying bakkie hardened immediately and the moermeter started to tick. I asked him what the name of his farm was and he gave me the name of his farm. I informed him that his farm was on the list I had and that permission for its confiscation had been promulgated in the latest government gazette. The gents face turned scarlet and his moermeter went deep into the red. He rattled off a list of adjectives and questions and when he eventually finished I said to him in my very best Natal accent “Excuse me Sir, what did you say?” This was just too much for him and he commanded Willie, who was sitting on the back of the bakkie: “Willie se vir die baas in engels wat ek nou vir hom gese het”. His moermeter broke and his frustration nearly caused him a serious case of diarrhoea. At this stage Piet, Etienne and I could no longer hold our pose and we burst into laughter. The occupant of the other bakkie did not have the same sense of humour as us. He shifted into first gear and left a dusty trail that disappeared into the distance. Score settled.
We then drove on to a little cottage that was on a neighbouring farm and Piet pointed out to us memorial plaques that were mounted on a mound at the back of the cottage. The plaques were in remembrance of two microlight aviators who had lost their lives while flying. The one was Alan Roy Honeyborne who lost his life in Chine on 28 May 2004 while trying to circumnavigate the globe in the world's smallest aircraft with his friend Ricky de Angrela and the other was Stuart Blackbeard who died 25 June 2002. Stuart (44) was a committee member of the Algoa Microlight Aviation Club and the Algoa Flying Club. The feeling of grief for these two pilots was profound and the experience was truly humbling. We rode back to the guest house in silence. When we got back to the farm house, Magriet had our supper ready for us and we tucked into a massive plate of “boerekos”. Eish, these ladies know how to cook. I went to bed at about 22h00 and Etienne followed many hours later.
The next morning (Thursday) we flew out of Baviaanskloof at about 09h15 after having, once again, an enormous breakfast and headed for FAPE. I made my 11h00 appointment and we flew out of FAPE at about 13h30. On the threshold we noticed that there was a RV6 just behind us. Just after take off we were asked to be on the lookout for a missing power paraglider and that a RV6 was going to overtake us. After reading this thread in the evening I found out that it was Horace Blok in the RV6 behind us. Unfortunately we could not make any meaningful contribution to the search as we saw nothing. We headed on for the Mazeppa Bay Hotel where we spent the night. (For those of you who are not aware there is a perfectly good runway behind the hotel). We met up with some folk who were doing the hiking trail but we managed to get to bed at a reasonable hour.
Mazeppa Bay Hotel
The next morning we left Mazeppe Bay at about 10h15 and headed for FAPA. The wind had got up during the night and we battled a 25kts head wind. At FAPA we filled up with fuel and supported the local canteen. A couple of student pilots were very intrigued with the little Kitfox taildragger and by the time we took off there was quite a gathering. We headed on towards FAMG and on the way we heard a lady pilot who indicated that she was on a conflicting course with us. Seconds later a British gentleman came onto the radio to correct the previous message and we switched to 123.45 and got chatting. To cut a long story short we organised to rendezvous at a little airfield in the middle of a tee plantation to have an early lunch. Eish - the power of aviation. The couple Eileen and Barry were from Margate and they had planned to go on a mini cross country but the weather never played along so they were just flying along the coast when they contacted us. We had an impromptu picnic and afterwards we decided to fly in formation back to Margate.
Once in Margate, Barry offered to take us into town so that we could fill our jerry cans with Mogas. Time moved on and Etienne felt that we should stay in Margate for the night as the weather was starting to close in. I on the other hand, suggested that we should push onto FAVG. After a few phone calls to the met office we agreed that maybe it would be better if we pushed on to Virginia. We bad our farewells to our newly found friends and headed for FAVG.
We landed at about 14h00 and Etienne tied down the plane while I decided to visit the gents. On my way out I found the “Wings Club” and ordered a beer as the thirst needed quenching. It was not long before Kevin Barker moved up to the bar. I recognised Kevin as I had been introduced to him at the recent Nelspruit Air Show. He mentioned to me that OGE (from Avcom) was sitting outside. I left my beer on the table with Kevin and OGE and went down stairs to go and help Etienne with our luggage. On returning, I introduce Etienne to the guys and another round of drinks was ordered.
While Etienne is getting the drinks I ask OGE and Kevin if they new of any B&B’s close by where Etienne and I could spend the night. OGE kindly offers to put us up for the night and then remembers he is on his motorbike and transport could be a problem. By this time OGE’s better half has arrived and she organises us two rooms at a nearby guest house. Things become very festive and it was soon decided that we all going out to supper together. Mr Barker is the convenor for the evening and he is soon on his phone organising people and places. Eish, HKGK again.