550km Flight Peter Pharoah 201071208
It's Official, we found the Middle of Nowhere...
You never know what's on the other side unless you go and take a look... And that's just what I did on Friday when I set off in my Swift-Lite E from Rheenendal in Knysna and ended up in a goat field somewhere in the Free State.
Following a nil-wind take-off, I headed straight for the Outeniqua mountains, eventually made it across then passed Uniondale and Willowmore. I headed north north east reaching a height of about 13000ft over the Valley of Desolation outside Graaff Reinet then set course for Colesberg but chose to cut the corner to Gariep. I wanted to continue north but the route was blocked by storms so instead headed north west along the Orange River. Finally six and a half hours later and after covering 550kms, nature terminated the flight when the heavens opened and I was forced to land in a goat field in the middle of nowhere.
I spent the next two days 'sleeping rough' mostly in the company of goats who felt sure that they needed to see the view from on top of the glider...
Luckily the farmer, Zirk Botha, who encountered me in his field in the pitch dark on Friday night chose not to shoot me but took pity on me, bringing a very welcome flask of coffee, some delicious rusks and a somewhat dilapidated tent to protect me from the icy howling winds that had picked up during the night. Every gust that came through, I would hurtle out of the tent and sprint through the duwweltjies (Devil Thorns) to hang on to the glider so that it didn't take off without me in it.
The following day dawned scorching hot and the temperature ultimately rose to a blistering 48C. I set up my solar charging kit and realised that although the sky looked epic, I was not going anywhere until I had recharged to at least 50%. It was hot, dry and dusty and not much to do except make friends with the goats and be sure to keep them away from the glider. I managed to find cell signal at the top of the little koppie and called home which alleviated the boredom temporarily. It felt strangely surreal to be sitting in a field in the middle of the arid Karoo knowing that I had flown all the way from the southern Cape coast.
Time dragged by endlessly until once again, Zirk, the farmer saved the day by turning up that evening with a beer and a delicious roast beef sandwich. He took one look at me and politely suggested that I was welcome to go back to the farmhouse (about 5kms away) for a shower but I declined saying I'd rather stay and look after the glider... I didn't trust those goats at all!
Sunday dawned clear and bright with little sign of any wind, so I was marginally concerned that I would have to spend another long day and night in this rather unforgiving field. I had managed to contact Tracey (my wife) again and we arranged that she would drive from Wilderness to Gariep dam to meet me there.
The weather gradually improved and at around 2pm on Sunday afternoon, I managed to get airborne and hooked straight into some lovely thermic conditions. Unfortunately the conditions didn't last but I managed to scratch my way for the 100kms back to Gariep and we were finally reunited at the airfield where a group of glider pilots from Europe were holding a flyaway, they seemed to be totally bamboozled by my Swift-Lite E, a seemingly strange apparition and initially speculated on the possibility that it was a drone coming to spy on them.
I was exhausted but in high spirits even though I looked somewhat disheveled and dirty so after storing the glider in a hangar for the night, we headed off to a lovely boutique hotel to wash down and sleep.
Can't wait for the next adventure!