Editor’s note; This blog includes content, such as OMG, that may be offensive to some of our more discerning readers who are, well, out of their teens. The material reflects the personal language of the author, who was acting on her own recognizance, and does not necessarily represent the official language of the GAAS team.
OMG! – as the texting generation says. What a day of flying we had! As usual we departed the Lodge on time, at least according to the DOT, within 14 minutes of schedule. And again as usual we said our long and heartfelt “thank yous” and “goodbyes” to our rangers and trackers. Then we took off to probably the greatest surprise of our flying scenery. The east coast of South Africa is beyond stunning. It was one “look at that” after another. Miles and miles of beautiful beach with some of the best surf in the world. Sand dunes that flowed north and south but also piled up into small mountains as they reached far inland. Steep cliffs broken at regular intervals by
gorges carved by rivers flowing into the Indian Ocean. The green hills were spotted with the thatch roofed round homes of the farmers and they were pink, or blue or aqua marine. And everywhere, cows on the beach.
We flew just off the shore and low, sometimes dropping down to barely above the waves where we watched the beach and the cows speed by in our lightening quick 100 knot beavers! I even got to do a lot of the flying.
It was spectacular and I think I have been bitten by the general aviation bug. As the only airline pilot in our “lodge” I have enjoyed watching the three beaver pilots plan each day’s flying, plotting their courses on the charts, doing their preflights and checks lists and then flying these beautiful, old tech, workhorses. I have more than once joked about “having my people” do many of these chores and also commented on how hard general aviation is but these guys are the real deal. They love to fly and they all do it very, very well. So well, in fact that they were celebrities at our next stop and last layover of the trip.
Port Alfred, is home to 43 Air School. It is the largest flight school in South Africa and all 300 plus students live right at the airfield. When we taxied in after Doug’s grease job on the grass strip our “flight of three” were greeted by about 100 students. They looked in the cockpits, asked about our trip and jostled to help push the beavers around the ramp into their spots for the night. A few of 21+ year olds even joined us in the Wright Room, their student union, for a debrief beer.
With only one more day for this “lodge of beavers” to fly together before being packed up and shipped home, I have to say it’s been a GAAS. We’ve seen the big five plus hippos and cheetahs and baboons and impalas galore and we’ve even seen cows on the beach!
Thank you Doug and Robbi, Mike and Kay, David and Polly and the rest of the crew for making this the once in a lifetime adventure we imagined it could be.