A Walk on The Wild Side

Here’s some Kodak moments, all captured during a short break to the Transkei Wild Coast.   This first waterfall was on the road into Mtentu, where we were greeted by a blustery SW wind, with drizzle and a sharply declining mood, fearing that we might have several days of this. Our cabin was the last in the row and nearest the beach – the Honeymoon Suite I guess.         To be off grid for a week was sheer bliss and what a superb place The Wild Coast is. For one to move from say the northern bank of one river to the southern bank of another might be 25kms walking on the beach, but its a 100km and 2hr trip inland and then back down to the coast by road. This inaccessibility coupled to absent infrastructure means zero people and as a result it is truly wild, as the name denotes.   Down to the Mtentu River we go ……….. and across and then this last pic shows the ‘road’ home to Mtentu Lodge.     By chance on our first afternoon we were introduced to the inimitable Ivan Hilliar, a legendary character of some repute amongst local folks. An ex Durban resident who elected to exclude himself from the ratrace, moving off the grid and to reside in the midst of the Transkei coastal locals. Expecting some eccentric recluse, Ivan surprised us with his most congenial, warm and welcoming nature. We soon struck a chord and with Ivan’s ever ready hearty laugh in hand, he voluntarily led us on these two delightful and memorable hikes. Most notable here is that Ivan walked both hikes barefoot!             A walk on the wild side is amazing, with not even a middel mannetjie track to be seen, only a foot/game path and thanks to the absence of mankind, there is not one piece of litter to be seen, which is unbelievably refreshing. Several K’s from Mtentu is the Nkambati Falls, dropping directly into a bay of the ocean and these “several K’s” really do just melt away, unnoticed in one’s distracted delight of the amazing settings.        The Transkei even has a floral diversity of it’s own and to think...

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The Brotherhood of Aviators – a wee story

There is proof that the Brotherhood of Aviators is alive and well and is thriving on the KZN north coast. I had a ‘call out’ from my employer, for me to deliver a pump from Durban (Camperdown) to Sodwana Bay, where he was involved in a fishing competition and a meagre 360kms from home. This would have been something of a marathon in a weight shift Trike, but an absolute breeze in my little Rainbow Cheetah, besides what more could a man ask for – to go cruise the easy coastal flying, during working hours! In addition, prevailing weather this time of year would have the outbound leg with the wind abeam and the return leg as a tail wind. Well we’ve all heard about the “best laid plans of men and mice”; on the outbound leg we found 10knts of headwind, which necessitated climbing to 5000′ to find a marginal tailwind – a regularly found phenomenon on the S.A. east coast (but that’s the subject of another technical story), all this in clear skies and ‘hands off’ flying. Bliss. Upon arrival at our planned destination the airfield was rather alarmingly devoid of any human activity and there began what was the first in a series of challenges. With my passenger now hastily punching out an SMS to Gary, who had ‘commissioned’ the flight, I did a precautionary pass of the field, the first need being to chase a few zebra herds away and of course to do a runway inspection. We didn’t like what we saw, very long grass, which despite it’s length revealed several patches of dune type sand. We gave up risking a landing on this precarious surface, especially since there was no one to meet us and we flew north by only 2kms to buzz the lodge, in the hopes of alerting Gary of our arrival. The decision was then made to fly some 5kms inland to the nearest village runway at Mbazwane, in order to regroup and to establish proper comms. The transition from the silky smooth coastal air to that of some vicious thermals over the flat land was marked and I was happy to join a left downwind for 06 Mbazwane, especially after 3+ hours in the...

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SSG Ferry Flight

This is in order to share with you the arrival of our wee Rainbow Cheetah – registration Sierra Sierra Golf, a personalised ‘number plate’ crediting the primary contributors who made this event possible – Steve, Schatzie & Greg. SSG has been in the making since October and on Monday 19th December myself and able airman Roland Stedman flew Kalula to Jo’burg and spent this week ‘hands on’ in the final stages of the building and completion. This was a great experience, being able to have involvement in the evolvement of such a well engineered and masterfully built little aeroplane. Most impressive is Rainbow Aircraft’s dedication to excellence, their complete commitment to their product and the professionalism with which the assembly plant is run. Good times were had with the Vladimir and Alexei Chechin, which included Alexei’s great hospitality and Vladimir’s comfort at having someone continually peering over his shoulder whilst he finished buil ding SSG. On Friday 23rd at 11h00 and after a very thorough pre-flight SSG was taxied out by Vladimir to runway 21 at Springs airfield. Bristling with cameras and with my heart in my mouth we witnessed the awesome moment where SSG put space between the landing gear and the ground. She flew a treat and this gave justification to Vladimir’s confident nonchalance, where he had previously stated that he’s launched 60+ such new Cheetah projects and “they all fly – after all why shouldn’t they, they are designed and built to fly – right.” Giving further testimony to this statement was the fact that only the most minor tweaks were needed in the aircraft’s trimming, in order for Vladimir to sign her off. Roly and I loaded her up, filled the fuel, emptied the bladders and at 12h30 we taxied out for the <500km ferry flight home. With 110hrs+ of Cheetah flying time and having just witnessed the building and the test flight, I was without a shred of anxiety as the throttle was drawn to full and we blasted off. After a courtesy orbit overhead, I pointed the sharp end towards Emoyeni and set power for ‘cruise climb’, this to gain height and lessen the impact of the Freestate midday thermals. The flight was fantastic, just below four eights...

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Is this “The Wheels Coming Off” or the “Doors Off?”

In learning of the acquisition of a new aeroplane my friend wrote to me the following: “Carelessness, incompetence or neglect. You are incapable of one of these mistakes, don’t let the other two bite you” So I wrote back: OK Jay, I know which ones will bite me and I’m such I smug bastard that I recently went out and tested the “incompetence” one – and I now know that’s not the one that’ll bite me. I was alone and on the climb out of Ballito airfield (Kwa Zulu-Natal), after a beaut morning’s ‘Tour de Coast’, when without a shred of warning (other than flying in some severe turbulence caused by a 40kph NE) the right hand door just blew off! It didn’t do the classic ‘pop’, retreat, open, etc., it just blew right off! What made the morning quite interesting is that despite it’s explosive departure, it suffered immediate separation anxiety from it’s parent (my wee aeroplane) and didn’t part company entirely. It jammed itself between the wheel spat and the wing strut, presenting the fullest possible resistance to the airflow. Speaking of anxiety, my own anxiety precipitated an instant poephol flutter where the nought was red lining at a higher rpm that even what I’ve seen done by a Rotax 582. Anyway, there came an overwhelming desire to deal with this “competence” thing you mentioned, because the rudder of the little aerie (nicknamed Chiquita) is about a quarter the size of the door, and at this point the door was the supreme commander of directional control. With left rudder pedal hard enough that it was indenting the mat and full power (I’d already briefly and fruitlessly tried a reduction of power) she settled into an almost straight trajectory, to where I was no doubt going to crash. Sorry to interject with a minor observation here, but at this stage the poephol’s wild rpm must have caused it to seize, because it just clamped rigidly closed. Nevertheless, when taken to full thrust at take off, this little aerie needs quite a bootfull of right rudder to make her go straight i.e. she inclines left and the full power at this point almost made for equilibrium between the lodged door and the full deflection...

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