Southern Africa Flying Safari

User: christopherjohn
Dates: 29 Jan 2012 - 19 Feb 2012
Duration: 2 weeks, 6 days
URL: http://goo.gl/Uq5WY

Flying expedition in a Cessna 182.

With Christopher and Gaynor, Johnny and Annabel.

Starting from Brakpan near Johannesburg in a rented singe engine Cessna 182, we spend two days getting a local CAA licence endorsement, and then fly to Botswana followed by Zimbabwe for Victoria Falls.

Tracking west to the far north of Namibia on the Skeleton Coast, the trip then heads south stopping en route several times in Namibia before reaching Cape Town. Thence east to reach Dundee via East London and Margate for a visit to the Zulu war battlefields at Rorke's Drift.

February:
1, out 3 Guests of Basil, Antoinette Hersov in Joburg
In 3, out 5 Meno a Kwena, Botswana
Botswana
In 5, out 6 Ilala Lodge, Vic Falls
Zimbabwe
In 6, out 7 Omashare Hotel, Rundu
Namibia
In 7, out 9 Serra Cafema, Skeleton Coast, Namibia
Namibia
In 9, out 11 Mushara Lodge, Etosha Pan, Nambibia
Namibia
In 11, out 13 Little Kulala,
Namibia
In 13, out 15 Cellars Hohenort, Cape Town, South Africa
In 15, out 16 The Loerie Hide B&B, East London
South Africa
In 16, out 18 Fugitives Drift Lodge
South Africa
In 18, out 20 Joburg as guests of Hersovs

Sunday 19 Feb 2012 12:34

The forecast for today was lousy with rain and later thunderstorms between us in Newcastle and Joburg. As we needed to be back in Joburg today sometime, we had no option but to rent a car for the 4 - 5 hour journey on pot holed roads, a less than enticing end to the 4,500 mile journey round southern Africa. The flight would have taken only 90 minutes.

We took the rental car to the airport for a last check that everything had been left secure on India Juliet before we planned to set off on the tedious drive to Joburg. The rental company had agreed to send a pilot to recover the aircraft once the weather had improved.

The cloud did seem to be lifting somewhat, although the much higher ground to our north was still clagged in with stratus.

We also needed to leave the aircraft full of fuel so spent a further half an hour topping up the tanks.

It was still getting brighter and some sunny breaks appeared to suggest we had a chance of getting through. Glen, in Joburg, confirmed it was CAVOK and advised we climb to a minimum of 8,500 feet to clear the higher ground on our track.

We arranged for the rental car to be taken back to Avis and decided to take off as soon as possible.

Climbing on full power, we reached 8,500 feet and about 1000 feet above the clouds. As the ground rose beneath us so did the cumulus clouds and started rising even faster as the sun warmed the land below. Now talking to Joburg control, we asked and were granted a further climb to 10,500 ft. Cb's (thunderstorms) were starting to form both left and right of our track but still some way off.

Once clear of the higher ground we descended into an area of haze and generally poor visibility beneath the cloud base. But by then we were nearly there. Following a railway line we found our way to Brakpan, our starting point and now our final destination.

The rental company, Sky Africa, were mighty pleased to have their aircraft back.

Posted: Feb. 19, 2012, 10:34 a.m.

Saturday 18 Feb 2012 15:03

Newcastle diversion due bad weather. Would have to climb to 8,500 feet to clear high ground ahead and just not possible.

Posted: Feb. 18, 2012, 1:03 p.m.

Saturday 18 Feb 2012 14:30

Weather looked a bit brighter so got a lift back to nearby airfield at Dundee. Cloud base still too low so checked into local B&B (Chez Nous)

Then cloud lifted again an hour later so sped back to airfield and took off for Joburg as weather reports show weather good there.

After 20 minutes flying at low level towards Joburg we had to divert to Newcastle, Natal as black clouds ahead were down to the deck.

Landed at Newcastle and chose to spend the night at Haggard Lodge, site of property once owned by author Rider Haggard.

Hope weather will improve tomorrow. Aircraft rental company supportive of our decision to delay return on safety grounds.

Posted: Feb. 18, 2012, 12:30 p.m.

Saturday 18 Feb 2012 6:28

Weather has changed. Heavy thunderstorm last night and still raining this morning. Hills in cloud. Next stop is Joburg, journey's end, but forecast is for rain and thunderstorms for next few days. Impossible to fly at the moment. Another thunderstorm hit Joburg an hour ago. Will have to discuss options with aircraft rental company. Dundee where we are parked at the moment is 1.6 hours flying time to Joburg.

0630.

CJS

Posted: Feb. 18, 2012, 4:28 a.m.

Friday 17 Feb 2012 10:46

If Rorke's Drift has gone down in history as one of the greatest feats of heroism when 137 British soldiers, many sick, repelled an attack on their hospital by over 4,000 Zulu warriors, then the battle of Isandlwana is said to be the greatest defeat ever suffered by the army of the British Empire. 1357 British soldiers lost their lives when attacked by a massive Zulu army whose skills had been greatly underestimated.

Posted: Feb. 17, 2012, 8:46 a.m.

Thursday 16 Feb 2012 14:19

The Air Squadron had visited Rorke's Drift on the way back from Cape Town in 2003. There is a plaque in the dining room to commemorate this event. Since then David Rattray had been tragically murdered in 2007 and his son Andrew was now giving many of the lectures. Nicky Rattray still runs the lodge and has vivid memories of the Air Squadron visit when about 20 aircraft had all landed at Dundee together.

The stories of Isandlwana and Rorke's Drift are still as compelling as ever. Andrew left hardly a dry eye in the house as he recounted the individual stories of heroism and loss of life that resulted in the award of an unprecedented 11 Victoria Cross medals in 1879.

Posted: Feb. 16, 2012, 12:19 p.m.

Thursday 16 Feb 2012 12:04

The weather along the eastern seaboard with the Indian Ocean had been iffy with plenty of low cloud at times. But this didn't matter as we could fly as low as we needed to along the beach without worrying about hitting anything.

From Margate at sea level, we were heading inland into much higher ground. We were going to have to climb up to 7,000 feet to clear the hills.

To begin with the cloud seemed to lift at the same rate as the rising ground so we were able to negotiate a route by avoiding the highest ridges and still stay below cloud level. South Africa has a strict regulation that VFR rules (which we were bound by on this trip) prohibited flying above a layer of clouds unless it was 3/8th or less coverage. So we had always to have plenty of sight of the ground underneath for the simple reason we had to be sure of getting back down again without descending through cloud and possible hitting some high ground in the process.

After 45 minutes, we had to climb up through a whole in the clouds as they were no longer high enough for us to clear the ground ahead. Just as we were thinking that we would have to possibly retrace our steps to find another hole to come back down through, suddenly all the clouds evaporated and we could see for miles.

Dundee is the nearest strip to the lodge at Rorke's Drift so we landed on the 1300 meter asphalt runway at an elevation of 4220 feet.

Posted: Feb. 16, 2012, 10:04 a.m.

Thursday 16 Feb 2012 9:19

Margate for fuel. Friendly, efficient, quiet and located just south of the Durban TMA.

Posted: Feb. 16, 2012, 7:19 a.m.

Wednesday 15 Feb 2012 15:44

After a quick refuelling at George, and overflying Plettenberg Bay, we continued up the east coast.

Port Elizabeth let us through their busy airspace and we were asked to climb, then descend and change directions a few times as we were co-ordinated with their commercial traffic that were mostly internal South Africa flights.

The cloud began to thicken and the visibility deteriorate, presumably the effect of the warmer Indian ocean that was on our right, having left the colder Atlantic behind.

East London is a centre for lots of manufacturing, with most of the leading German car manufacturers having large factories both for domestic consumption and export. There have plenty of domestic commercial flights but we were given a straight in approach for runway 11.

The marshaller parked us next to a large cargo jetliner which made us look ridiculously small in comparison.

The refuelling lorry was alongside almost as soon as we shut down so the we were through the busypassenger terminal building in no time.

This is just a night stop before continuing to Dundee tomorrow for the Zulu battlefields.

Posted: Feb. 15, 2012, 1:44 p.m.

Wednesday 15 Feb 2012 10:02

Stellenbosch is a real general aviation field with friendly people. The runway at only 760 meters keeps it that way. The windsock was requiring a gentle up slope departure so to be sure of getting airborne in time, we held on the brakes at full power for a moment or two before releasing and then found we had plenty of runway left when we became airborne

The most southern tip of Africa is not the more dramatic Cape Point but Cape Agulhas and we headed in that direction just to prove the point by rounding it so we could tick the box.

Low level flying along the beach towards George and Plettenberg Bay over waves breaking a good distance from the shore onto an endless sandy beach looked like surfers paradise but none were to be seen. Maybe the shark warning flag that had been flying at Muizenberg beach in Cape Town was a good reason not to swim in such a remote spot.

George airport has quite a few scheduled flights bringing second home owners and tourists from Joburg. The previous day there had been a light aircraft accident with the two on board seriously injured but alive in hospital.

We dropped in for a quick refuel, paid the landing fee of £20 and were off again in 45 minutes heading for East London via Port Elisabeth.

CJS

Posted: Feb. 15, 2012, 8:02 a.m.

Wednesday 15 Feb 2012 9:02

Cape Agulhas

Posted: Feb. 15, 2012, 7:02 a.m.

Monday 13 Feb 2012 12:10

We had another 2 hours of remote desert area to cross before getting closer to civilisation near the Cape. A flight plan of three hours, with search and rescue, required reporting points in the plan every thirty minutes. As navigational aids were few and far between, we used long/lat coordinates instead.

As we grew closer to Cape Town the pressure started to mount. It had been a while since we had been under radar control with our every move being monitored. We had climbed a few hundred feet to clear a rocky outcrop when an air traffic controller ticked us off and we descended smartly, being unaware that we were in range of radar.

Stellenbosch is a few vineyards outside the town and easily spotted. We checked the wind using the main airport's ATIS and then the windsock and positioned for a cross wind landing.

A hub of general aviation activity, Stellenbosch had invited the Air Squadron contingent as special guests to their annual show in 2003, so it was good to be back.

Two days in Cape Town and then heading up the east coast towards Durban. The weather is likely to change and become more humid and with thunderstorms a frequent occurrence particularly in the afternoon.

More photos at

http://goo.gl/Uq5WY

CJS

Posted: Feb. 13, 2012, 10:10 a.m.

Sunday 12 Feb 2012 12:05

Why Uppington? It is renowned to be one of the hottest places in South Africa. But it also one of few custom entry points outside the main airports such as Durban/Cape Town.

We seem to have left the dusty private sand or calcrete strips long behind us now. Uppington is another military base built for the Angolan war and now little utilised for commercial traffic and the occasional light aircraft. Nearby were parked a dozen Alitalia passenger jets waiting out the recession in the non corrosive dry air. The runway is still immaculate,long and wide, and built for Mirage jets among other military aircraft.

But where do German car manufacturers such as BMW, Mercedes and Volkswagen go to stress test their latest model in the highest temperatures over 40 c? Heavily disguised new models of famous marques can be spotted being test driven in the Uppington area and at very high speed on nearby public roads. They have a special dispensation to ignore the speed limits, with a sticker on the bodywork to prove it.

Next stop: Cape Town.

Posted: Feb. 12, 2012, 10:05 a.m.

Sunday 12 Feb 2012 9:37

Keemanshoop is an exit point for Namibia although customs/immigration clearance is by arrangement and a fee payable on Sundays which needless to say was the case on this occasion.

This was no desert landing strip on soft sand but another deserted airport with a massive 2400 meter asphalt runway built for military use in the 1980's. Traffic is minimal and they count themselves lucky to have two aircraft landing each day. The refueller said he had only had 4 customers in the whole of January. General aviation is suffering in these parts as much as it is everywhere else.

Customs were expecting us and so we were all sorted, including being refuelled, in less than an hour which is good going. The less busy they are the longer it usually takes to make things happen.

Ever since leaving Swakaopmuand, the engine had run sweetly without a moment of hesitation. Whatever the mechanics had done to cure its intermittent fault, it seems to have worked.

This was a our last stop in Namibia and we would shortly cross the international boundary back into South Africa.

CJS

Posted: Feb. 12, 2012, 7:37 a.m.

Friday 10 Feb 2012 15:35

Little Kulala is nearly all about the mammoth sand dunes that are coloured red due to iron oxide in the rocks that have been eroded over millions of years. A strong sea breeze of 30 knots has sculpted the sand into spectacular dunes that stretch from the beach to 60 miles inland. All the scenery is stunning and a magnet for photographers. The lodge is of a very high standard.

After an evening and a full day doing the sights and climbing Dune 45 (yes, these ones are numbered) another early start and we took off for Keetmanshoop, one of few customs exit points for Namibia.

The runway at Geluk (Little Kulala), so like many others, was mostly gravel so the engine run up had to be done on a patch of concrete to avoid damaging the prop. Leaning the mixture is a must at these higher altitudes to gain maximum power on takeoff although Kulala at 2300 feet was lower than others which had been at nearly 6000ft. The cowl flaps were left permanently open to cool the engine.

We had wanted to overfly the abandoned diamond mining town at Luderitz but it was proving too tight for the amount of fuel on board so we climbed to 7500 ft and headed for Keemanshoop instead.

Posted: Feb. 10, 2012, 1:35 p.m.

Thursday 9 Feb 2012 12:48

Swakopmund, that pearl of the South Atlantic, was as expected shrouded in a cold sea fog the following morning. At the airport, India Juliet had been checked over by a some engineers. The nose wheel oleo which had collapsed at Hartmann's Valley had been fixed. The engine had been test run and there was no clue as to why it had a habit, most flights, of missing a beat every now and then. The mechanic advanced the possible explanation that we had some some water in the wing fuel tanks even though none was showing up in the preflight checks.

So we took off heading south towards the airstrip for Little Kulala at Sossusvlei, amid the famous red sand dunes. Forced low by the 800 ft cloud bank, we flew along the coast past seal colonies and the odd shipwreck such as Cawdor Castle before turning inland over the dunes. They stretched for 60 miles inshore with no sign of habitation. With little chance of being able to pull off a forced landing in the hilly and soft sand below, we regretted not filing a flight plan with the added option of search and rescue.

The engine ran without a fault and once again we were looking for a sandy landing strip near a campsite. Luckily, Annabel's eagle eyes were the first yet again to spot the markings and a nearby jeep waiting for us. We planned to stay at Little Kulala for a couple of nights before heading for Cape Town.

CJS

Posted: Feb. 9, 2012, 10:48 a.m.

Thursday 9 Feb 2012 9:09

Opuwo was a refuelling stop and to retrieve the ladies and luggage from the Cessna 210 that had collected them from Hartmann's Valley as we had been concerned about the condition of the runway.

Flying over very rugged parched terrain we headed again for the Skeleton Coast where fog is a nearly everyday hazard. Sure enough, about twenty miles from the coast, we had to descend from 7,500 feet to 500 feet to get below a fog bank that had lifted into low cloud. We hit the beach and followed the breakers south passing what looked like a fairly recent ship wreck and thousands of seals that were congregated into many different breeding colonies along the shore.

We landed at Swakopmund for fuel and to spend the night. Plonked down on a stretch of desert along the shore of the frigid South Atlantic as a holiday resort , more often than not enveloped in a cold bank of fog each morning, Swakopmund makes Bognor Regis as inviting as San Tropez when compared to this place. Still, it is only for a night and we have found a mechanic to fix the collapsed nose wheel oleo and hopefully cure the engine of its heart stopping intermittent bad behaviour.

Posted: Feb. 9, 2012, 7:09 a.m.

Tuesday 7 Feb 2012 15:04

Serra Cafema 'campsite' is as far removed from roughing it in a leaky tent as it is possible to imagine. For this reason, as this account is supposed to be about a derring do flying safari, it is probably better to gloss over the comfort, service, design and facilities of this remarkable place in the middle of nowhere and focus on what was concerning us most. Namely, how safe was it to take off with four persons on board, all our luggage, several litres of water (5 per person is the legal requirement in Namibia) and 1/3rd fuel on a runway that was rutted and very soft and using the wrong sort of tyres.

The alternative was to get a bush pilot to divert to the camp and take Gaynor and Annabel plus all the bags to another landing strip where the same difficult conditions did not exist. Johnny and I would then fly to the same place and pick them up.

In the end caution prevailed and a Cessna 210 dropped in and scooped up the ladies plus bags. As some other professional pilots had been complaining about the state of the runway at Hartmann's Valley, the manager arranged for a sort of harrow made of chicken wire to be dragged up and down the runway behind a jeep so by the time both aircraft came to take off for Opuwo, an hour away, the soft sand was less of a problem.

Posted: Feb. 7, 2012, 1:04 p.m.

Tuesday 7 Feb 2012 11:39

Hartmanns Valley

Flying from Rundu in Botswana to Serra Cafema on the Skeleton Coast in Namibia, at the border with Angola, was a three and a half hour leg over mostly inhospitable terrain.

We lifted off the long erstwhile military runway at Rundu in the cool of the early morning and because of low cloud had no choice but to follow the river Kavango heading west at a few hundred feet. We stuck to midstream as we figured we were safe down to just above tree top level as the cellphone towers that are now ubiquitous in even remote parts of Africa were going to be on either bank of the river. After half an hour, we were keen to take a more direct track to our destination near the south atlantic coast so left the river and headed over miles and miles of heavily forested bush. Always on the lookout for an emergency landing site in the case of engine problem, particularly given its less than totally reliable performance recently, there wasn't much to choose from. The occasional narrow bush track with trees crowding in on either side, flooded plains and some long abandoned bush strips were just about it.

Just as we were thinking that the engine had decided to perform without a hitch, it stopped for just a second or two once again and then resumed as if nothing had happened. We needed to find somewhere to have a mechanic to check it over.

After a couple of hours, the cloud lifted and we climbed to be able to clear the mountain ranges that mark the dividing line between the fertile regions of Namibia and the desert that stretches to the coast. Now the landscape changed from just inhospitable to downright hostile as a result of eons of tectonic plate shifting that had left a jumble of jagged rocks that rose several thousand feet from the desert floor.

Hartmann's Valley landing strip, named after an early explorer, was never going to be easy to find. As it was just sand, and the same colour as its surroundings, it was marked with some white stones which could only be seen at close range. It was the Landrover jeep that was waiting to collect us that gave us a clue. Because of hills close by to the south, landings are always to the south as it has an uphill slope whilst takeoffs are to the north - pretty well regardless of wind.

We lined up for the southern runway and touched down on the desert sand. Immediately, India Juliet (the C182) started swaying from side to side and threatened to leave the runway altogether as the unexpected soft sand and deep ruts took us by surprise. We made it to the parking area and shut down. We discovered later that the nose wheel oleo had collapsed. Clearly we needed balloon tyres to operate on this type of surface and we started wondering whether we could take off again safely with four passengers, luggage and a fair amount of fuel with the soft sand acting as a brake. The C182 was a bit short on power for this type of manoeuvre.

Meanwhile we headed by jeep to the Serra Cafema campsite on the bank of the Kuhene river and close to the south atlantic shore.

Posted: Feb. 7, 2012, 9:39 a.m.

Monday 6 Feb 2012 12:14

Botswana is a great place for low flying. Few wires or other hazards to worry about but mostly open bush, swamps and rivers. Skimming along above the trees, at a couple of hundred feet at 130 miles per hour, was exhilarating. We kept an eye out for possible landing sites but these were few and far between.

Suddenly the engine coughed. Not a coughing fit or anything like it. But still enough of a cough to cause something of an adrenalin rush. Even Annabel woke up long enough to ask why the engine had missed a beat. We had no idea. Was it dirty fuel picked up somewhere en route? We didn't know but decided to climb a thousand feet to give us a bit more time to try to find a suitable landing site, probably a road, if the engine decided to quit altogether.

In fact the engine behaved impeccably from then until we landed at Rundu a couple of hours later. It may have been just a blip or it may have been a warning of a mechanical fault. Most probably the former.

Posted: Feb. 6, 2012, 10:14 a.m.

Monday 6 Feb 2012 9:00

Avgas was not proving to be always available even if the book said otherwise. Endless phone calls ahead to verify whether we could pick up fuel often as often fruitless. Usually, no one replied. So we took a careful check on our fuel state and consumption (50 litres per hour) before we set off to Namibia, following the Zambezi going west.

We stopped off at Katima Mulilo after an hour which appeared to be deserted with weeds growing in abundance out of cracks in the runway, but an efficient refueller suddenly materialised and we topped up the tanks giving us a further 6 hours of endurance. Several of these airfields in Namibia had seen better days and had presumably been paid for by South Africa when Namibia had been the frontline against the guerrillas in Angola (supported by Cuba/Russia) just to our north.

Posted: Feb. 6, 2012, 7 a.m.

Sunday 5 Feb 2012 15:29

Arriving in Zimbabwe at Victoria Falls, we braced ourselves for bureaucracy at its most stringent. We were Brits after all and no doubt the officials would be keen to follow the diktat of Mugabe and treat us as returning neo colonialists.

Not a bit of it. Whilst combining a long winded process of endless form filling in true African tradition, they could not have been more welcoming. Perhaps it helped that other tourists were thin on the ground so maybe we were considered as endangered species that needed protecting and encouraging. They charged loads of different fees including granting a temporary visa ($55 each), landing fees + airport tax + parking + temporary aircraft import licence + flight plan fee ($250). But all done with a smile that left us thinking we probably focus too much on the negative news that has emanated from Zim in recent years.

Posted: Feb. 5, 2012, 1:29 p.m.

Sunday 5 Feb 2012 12:04

Cruising at a few hundred feet above the Zambezi towards Victoria Falls is not the sort of flying that comes along every day of the week.

With Zambia on the northern bank, we were talking to the Zim controller at the local airport. We were instructed to climb to 3000 ft as we approached the falls themselves to give us separation from the commercial sightseeing helicopter, microlight and light aircraft traffic that were buzzing around below us. Known as the Flight of Angels, there had been a very unfortunate mid air collision a few years ago which was the reason for the stricter rules we were having to comply with.

Even at 3,000 feet, the view was spectacular as the Zambezi was flowing fast and the spray rose in a white cloud that could be seen from miles away.

Posted: Feb. 5, 2012, 10:04 a.m.

Sunday 5 Feb 2012 10:14

Kasane was the final stop in Botswana before leaving for Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe. We expected loads of paperwork and were not disappointed.

We were also going to fill up completely with fuel. We had been warned by James Hersov about what happened next so we were ready to stand our ground. The shifty looking refueller said he couldn't take a credit card. Why? 'It was broken'. Where was it? 'Somewhere over there', he gestured unconvincingly in the general direction of the airport terminal where we had spent the previous 45 minutes filling in forms.

We asked about paying in cash using South African rand rather than the Botswana pula of which we had none.. His hardly-done-by demeanour brightened up. Clearly that would be preferred. 'What about the exchange rate', we asked. He gave us a rate that was 35% below market. Stalemate. He clearly intended to pocket the difference of a hundred dollars or so. We argued we wouldn't pay. It was extortion. We wanted to leave. He knew it. Eventually another pilot, a local, turned up. Our saviour. He told the now once again very unhappy refueller that he was a rip off. Once again we demanded he find his credit card machine that he had told us was broken and somewhere in the terminal apparently in pieces being repaired.

Lo and behold, the credit card machine suddenly appeared in his hands as if by magic. No explanation as to how such a miracle had been achieved but we paid him using the machine which he now pretended he didn't know how to work and were off ten minutes later fully refuelled on the short hop along the Zambezi to Victoria Falls.

For more photos go to

http://goo.gl/Uq5WY

CJS

Posted: Feb. 5, 2012, 8:14 a.m.

Sunday 5 Feb 2012 7:19

0530 wake up call and then a short journey back to the airstip at Leroo La Tau.

It was the shortest runway so far. It was early morning so the air was cool and going to make the take off easier. The fuel tanks were only 1/3rd full so we were much lighter.

Even so, plans were discussed about at what point we would have to abort the takeoff if we looked like running out of runway before we had lifted off.

A quick drive in the jeep to the end of the runway and back to make sure it was all clear and then, having done all the power checks, we made a running start from the parking area onto the runway to gain maximum speed when full throttle was applied.

Starting with no flaps, firstly 10 degrees were added and then 20 when the speed had reached the green arc. India Juliet rose into the air and then was kept low, remaining in ground effect for more lift, until she was fast enough to be able to climb safely away for the one hour forty minute flight to Kasane.

More photos at

http://goo.gl/Uq5WY

CJS

Posted: Feb. 5, 2012, 5:19 a.m.

Sunday 5 Feb 2012 6:33

Men O Kwena is a well run tented safari lodge overlooking the nearby river Boteti, the banks of which are host to numerous elephants that come to drink and frolic at the water's edge. Prior to 2008 the river had been completely dry for fifteen years.

Posted: Feb. 5, 2012, 4:33 a.m.

Friday 3 Feb 2012 18:30

Leroo La Tau is a private strip. The first hurdle was to find it. This one was relatively easy as the chart suggested it ran alongside one of the few roads for miles around. Sure enough the 1000 meters of white compacted calcrete stood out against the hundreds of thousand of hectares of bush from 3 miles away

As it was unmanned, the first task was to do a couple of low orbits firstly to check the wind direction by spotting the windsock and secondly to frighten off any wild animals that might have chosen that particular moment to wander down the runway for an afternoon stroll.

All seemed fine and the power lines were clearly following the road and did not cut across the easterly end of the runway.

The Toyota Overlander jeep that had been been sent to pick us up was also visible.

Fifteen minutes after landing we were on our way to Men O Kwena campsite.

Posted: Feb. 3, 2012, 4:30 p.m.

Friday 3 Feb 2012 12:37

Polokwane, South Africa. Just a pit stop to fill the tanks completely as the runway is a long one (2560 meters) and the next even longer (3000 meters) so no problem for taking off or landing.

We also had to clear out of South Africa. We left the aircraft by the refuelling station and walked several hundred yards to 'arrivals', and told them we just wanted to leave for Botswana. Various forms had to be filled in and then we made ready to go back to the aircraft. Not so fast. A hatchet faced customs lady said we had to go and collect all our luggage first, put it through a scanner, and then carry it back to the aircraft still waiting patiently by the refuelling dock. Rather irritated by this, as the only people who might be blown up by explosives hidden in the bags were ourselves, we sort of half complied by bringing back just a couple of bags for checking and that seemed to satisfy the dragon who finally gave us the semblance of a smile and let us go.

Next stop is Francistown in Botswana, a flight of 1 hour and 40 minutes.

Posted: Feb. 3, 2012, 10:37 a.m.

Friday 3 Feb 2012 9:30

All set to go. Joburg had been the city we never ventured into, as our hosts the Hersov's lived at Morningside and the airfield we were training at was out to the south east, an hour away. Basil and Antoinette Hersov had invited to dinner James and his wife Lee as well as the Air Chief Marshal of the South African Airforce (SAF) who presents twice a year the ceremonial sword to the top passing out officer cadet. The sword had been given to the SAF by the Air Squadron when we had flown from the UK in 2003 all the way to Cape Town and back.

Preparations for the first leg of the 4,500 mile flying safari were now complete. All licenses and permissions done. A full flight briefing of the route had been given by the chief flying instructor. The aircraft had needed some last minute maintenance as the mixture control was too stiff to operate safely so was replaced. The battery was suspect so a new one installed.

Our biggest problem was weight. We had discovered the day before that the computer had churned out a weight and balance calculation that was hopelessly optimistic. To have any chance of remaining anywhere near within limits, so we had to dump everything that was not absolutely essential. Clothing was reduced to the bare minimum, potions and lotions shared, out went the SLR camera, various electrical gadgets and chargers plus most books and other reading material.

The plan was to set off as early as possible when the air would be cooler. This would give the engine more power and the propellor and wings more grip in the denser air.

At 0830 India Juliet (aircraft callsign) accelerated down the runway with reasonable enthusiasm but with about 1/3rd of the 1500 meter tarmac remaining, we started a slow climb up to 1500 feet above ground which was at 5300 feet above sea level. The first stop was to be Polokwane to clear customs out of South Africa before entering Botswana, a flight of 90 minutes.

CJS

Posted: Feb. 3, 2012, 7:30 a.m.

Thursday 2 Feb 2012 22:24

At last we now have our local licences - must haves if renting a local aircraft. In some countries, its nearly a rubber stamp and in others more of a challenge. This was the latter and after two intensive days from the early hours til late in the evening learning the local air law, getting to know the rules on controlled airspace, having the dangers of the hot and high climate drummed into us, filling in loads of forms, doing practice forced landings, navigation by stop watch, ruler and compass (nothing so useful as a GPS allowed), getting reminded of the risks of landing at remote bush strips, and all followed by a two hour flight test for each pilot.

The aircraft is the same type (C182) as we use in the UK. It is not exactly a spring chicken having been built in 1964 and the engine delivers less power which is a bit of a problem as with four on board, we are at the maximum all up weight allowed. So the ladies have spent most of today eliminating all the clothes and other paraphernalia from the bags that are not absolutely essential and have reluctantly managed to get the total down to an average of 8 kilos each.

Now that we have the licences, we can get going. So we set off to Brakpan airfield at 0530 tomorrow (Friday) for a flight to Polokwane to clear customs out of South Africa then Francistown to clear into Botswana and finally to Leroo La Tau, if we can find it, which is a small strip near to the camp where we spend the first night in Botswana.

CJS.

Posted: Feb. 2, 2012, 8:24 p.m.

Thursday 2 Feb 2012 12:18

This is the aircraft. Very busy with exams and flight check rides past two days and not finished yet. Dawn to dusk. Hopefully leaving tomorrow for Botswana. CJS

Posted: Feb. 2, 2012, 10:18 a.m.

Sunday 29 Jan 2012 12:53

Flying expedition in a Cessna 182.

With Christopher and Gaynor, Johnny and Annabel.

Starting from Brakpan near Johannesburg in a rented singe engine Cessna 182, we spend two days getting a local CAA licence endorsement, and then fly to Botswana followed by Zimbabwe for Victoria Falls.

Tracking west to the far north of Namibia on the Skeleton Coast, the trip then heads south stopping en route several times in Namibia before reaching Cape Town. Thence east to reach Dundee via East London and Margate for a visit to the Zulu war battlefields at Rorke's Drift.

February: 1, out 3 Guests of Basil, Antoinette Hersov in Joburg In 3, out 5 Meno a Kwena, Botswana Botswana In 5, out 6 Ilala Lodge, Vic Falls Zimbabwe In 6, out 7 Omashare Hotel, Rundu Namibia In 7, out 9 Serra Cafema, Skeleton Coast, Namibia Namibia In 9, out 11 Mushara Lodge, Etosha Pan, Nambibia Namibia In 11, out 13 Little Kulala, Namibia In 13, out 15 Cellars Hohenort, Cape Town, South Africa In 15, out 16 The Loerie Hide B&B, East London South Africa In 16, out 18 Fugitives Drift Lodge South Africa In 18, out 20 Joburg as guests of Hersovs

Posted: Jan. 29, 2012, 12:53 p.m.

Southern Africa Flying Safari

User: christopherjohn
Dates: 29 Jan 2012 - 19 Feb 2012
Duration: 2 weeks, 6 days
URL: http://goo.gl/Uq5WY

Flying expedition in a Cessna 182.

With Christopher and Gaynor, Johnny and Annabel.

Starting from Brakpan near Johannesburg in a rented singe engine Cessna 182, we spend two days getting a local CAA licence endorsement, and then fly to Botswana followed by Zimbabwe for Victoria Falls.

Tracking west to the far north of Namibia on the Skeleton Coast, the trip then heads south stopping en route several times in Namibia before reaching Cape Town. Thence east to reach Dundee via East London and Margate for a visit to the Zulu war battlefields at Rorke's Drift.

February:
1, out 3 Guests of Basil, Antoinette Hersov in Joburg
In 3, out 5 Meno a Kwena, Botswana
Botswana
In 5, out 6 Ilala Lodge, Vic Falls
Zimbabwe
In 6, out 7 Omashare Hotel, Rundu
Namibia
In 7, out 9 Serra Cafema, Skeleton Coast, Namibia
Namibia
In 9, out 11 Mushara Lodge, Etosha Pan, Nambibia
Namibia
In 11, out 13 Little Kulala,
Namibia
In 13, out 15 Cellars Hohenort, Cape Town, South Africa
In 15, out 16 The Loerie Hide B&B, East London
South Africa
In 16, out 18 Fugitives Drift Lodge
South Africa
In 18, out 20 Joburg as guests of Hersovs

Commenting is closed

Congratulations. I have been following your trip with interest and envy. All the best, David B

A frustrating and difficult couple of days to end your adventure. But well done to you all - we have followed your days with much interest (and jealousy!).
Martin & Annette

Hi Chris & Gaynor, cool trip and such a colorful 182! stay safe and have fun. Best, David & Val

It all brings back wonderful memories of our trip last year. Watch your step at Mushara Camp - we had to side-step a spitting cobra in the garden! Take care.
Martin & Annette

Hello All, What a trip! Looking forward to hearing all about it at our lunch. Vb, George

Hi Christopher and Gaynor What an amazing trip - SOOOO beautiful Check out the engine cough and have a wonderful time! Micky and Louise

Hi christopher contact me when u are in cpt my number is 0724791789 ruth mather

Look after your precious cargo. Love Oli