Sunday, May 20, 2012

A new day dawns in Durban

This is my bedroom view of Durban.. managed to catch the moon too. Awesome!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Emirates update

You will recall that I lodged a complaint to the Advertising Standards Authority regarding an advertisement of Emirates that promised an upgrade to Business class if I bought tickets by the 30th November. And then having purchased the tickets I got no upgrade!!! About 30 emails later and after we had already returned from our trip - the 4 of us went to Athens on Emirates - I have had some joy. I had in the meantime bought tickets for my ex-wife to go to Dublin return, and for my son to go to Seattle return. Emirates promised an ugrade to Business on one of the legs for Lynn as well as one of the legs for my son.

Ok, it's great to get this commitment from Emirates, and Lynn thoroughly enjoyed her upgrade. Mark is still to fly to Emirates in June. I got his ticket confirmation recently and it still says economy, but this time I am hoping Emirates will keep to their word.

Complaint Ruling - Guilty

With regard to the complaint I had lodged with the Advertising Standards Authority, they have made a ruling and found Emirates guilty of contravening clause 4.2.1 of Section 11 of the Code and Emirates have been banned from using that advert again. Mine was not the only complaint received and the Authority upheld each of the complaints and said that Emirates "is starting to exhibit a pattern of contravening the provisions of the Code ... it is hoped that this pattern of behaviour will subside, as it may well result in sanctions being imposed" on Emirates.

So it is good to complain when you do not receive what you have been promised and I am still amazed at how such a large company can do this to the public (so far without sanction).

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Beautiful Durban

April/May are really just stunning months to visit Durban. We have incredible weather, hot, but not humid and with cooler evenings. Always my favourite time. Here's a stunning sunrise I captured from my bedroom sliding door... isn't this the best way to start the day? Also, the moon has been super close to the earth and we have seen a bigger, brighter full moon the last few days... just rising up out of the sea before our eyes.

Friday, May 4, 2012

We've been away on an amazing flying adventure

The last 10 days, we've been on a journey to the southernmost tip fo Africa in our aeroplanes. We've had some awesome moments, over hill and dale, mountains and skimmed treetops, through and around clouds, mist and rain, around Table Mountain and the furthest and highest from home I have been in our Sling since getting my PPL licence only a week before we left. We've used R4200 fuel, at an average of 14 litres of 95 unleaded mogas (car petrol) per hour, 25 hours of flight time, covering 3600 kms at approximately 9,7 litres per 100 kms.

Our Airplane

Our locally made top-rated airplane Sling registration ZU - ZDL (Zulu Delta Lima, short for KZN boys Dave and Llewellyn)

Here are some photos of the highlights:

Most scary moments - coming over the Baviaans Mountains and finding a blanket of clouds on our route forward... dived through a gap in the clouds and found rain and mist under, dropping to 200ft above the treetops of a huge forest and finding the sky was fast falling on us. Managed to make a dash towards the sea and a diverted landing at Plettenberg Bay which was fortunately still approachable.

Over the mountains and diving below the clouds
Best meal - Huge seafood platter for 4 for R300 at Angelo's, Cape Agulhas. Best quality and best value and great staff.

Best flight - Flight around Table Mountain and across the Cape Peninsular. Spectacular views at close proximity including Chapman's Peak Drive, Robben Island, Hout Bay, Sandy Bay (:-)) and Fishhoek.

Click on the link here for the video clip rounding Table Mountain to Camps Bay

Best accommodation - Self-catering apartments at the Knysna Waterfront, followed by the Villa @ Cape Agulhas where we had the light from the Agulhas Lighhouse just below sweeping through the room every few seconds. Kept the curtains open and absorbed the experience. Did you know that every lighthouse has it's own secret code (light pattern - Agulhas: one long, followed by two short bleeps of light) and it's own unique paint job... either thick red strips, thick white strips, red/white/red, white/red/whilte, all white etc - so that sailors can distinguish each from the other?

Highest Peaks - Baviaans mountains at Joubertina and Stellenbosch Mountains - climbing to 7500ft is not the higest our airplane can go, but the highest I have been in ZDL, scraping over the peaks and wondering where we could go and who could reach us if there was any problem!!! Not much chance!

Biggest mountains - yes, this big and thousands of feet to the bottom below us

Furthest over the sea - never been more than 500m out to sea, so flying out towards Robben Island in Table Bay and then False Bay to get to Somerset West under Cape Town International Airport Approach instructions at 500 ft above the waves, was the furthest out I have been. Can't imagine the guys from The Airplane Factory, who built our machine, flying for 29 hours across the remotest ocean and islands of Tristan da Counha (the world's most remote) from Rio to Cape Town - brave souls!!!

Best Sushi - definitely 34 South at the Knysna Waterfront. Amazing sushi crumbed and deep fried. Where has this been all my life!

Best Hospitality - Jaco de Vos (local dentist and son) in Port Alfred. This is what makes the aviation community so special. Close knit, friendly, helpful and hospitable. Thank you Dirk and Jaco for looking after us. And Tracey and Justine from Mossel Bay were incredible. All 6 of us squashed in the car and carted fuel to and fro and enjoyed 2 bottles of tequila over a braai, then rolled into bed there. Love you lots girls.. we will return!!!
Tracey knows how to cook, braai, drink and laugh
Best Beer - Kowie Gold, Pilsener (locally brewed in Port Alfred on the Kowie River) and Mitchell's Forrester (brewed in Knysna)

Best Attraction - Cango Caves, Oudtshoorn. You have to do the adventure trail!

Biggest cloud - leaving Oudtshoorn for Mossel Bay we were not sure if we would get over the mountains. Chatting to Marc in ETD behind us I said I think I can go around this giant cloud in the sky. So we sort of swerved right, missed the looming mountain top, swerved left again heading straight for another mountain then climbed around and up and we were past. Sjoe!!

Stongest winds - usually a 30 kts (55 kmh) wind is hectic, but this one reached 70 kts (130 kmh) en route from Port Alfred in the eastern Cape back to KwaZulu-Natal... but our little plane handled it. For some parts of the journey we put on the auto-pilot as it handles turbulance better than holding the stick yourself. Pilots tend to over-react whereas the auto-pilot makes smaller micro-adjustments which give you a smoother flight.

Best landing strip - must be Port St John's where you have this huge mountain with a tar runway on top, and on take-off Lee had to first chase the cows off.

Port St Johns
Best Airfield - Stellenbosch. Beautiful green grass and tarred runway in front of breathtaking mountains. Good ablutions and nice clubhouse and pub.

Best Mates - our good buddies Marc and Lee in their Yellow Submarine. It's not always easy to travel with other folk, but we had 10 amazing days of riotous fun, many drinks and good chatting around the dinner table and in the sky.. especially when I wasn't sure if we should plunge on through the clouds or turn back!!

Marc, Dave, Llewellyn, Lee at Stellenbosch

For the full story and all the photos, click on this link here  and scroll down my flying blog from the end to day 1. Thanks for reading. It's amazing that over 1000 people have read the blog this past month!!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Oudtshoorn and the Cango Caves

I last went to the Cango Caves in Oudtshoorn probably when I was a kid of about 15. I also never did the adventure trail up the tight crevices and crawling on your tummy. All this was to change with our Sling and Savannah trip to the Cape.

The Cango Caves are at Oudtshoorn, a short flight from the coast at Mossel Bay or George. Flying the route the George Air Traffic Controller reported an "Incident" saying that I infringed on his TMA airspace flying a tad above his 3000ft limit. My planning software says the limit was 4500ft at that spot, so will deal with it.

Anyways Oudtshoorn was awesome, we stayed at a great guesthouse within walking distance of the restaurants and took a taxi-tour to the Caves, about 30kms up the valley from the town.

The flight over the mountains, was also incredible and the next day we continued our journey between the valleys of the Klein Karroo and Karroo to Steytlerville... see story to follow.

Arriving at Oudtshoorn airfield

The entrance to the caves

Guesthouse Terra Blanche in Oudtshoorn

An evening on the town

I saw an ostrich first!

In the caves - 3kms of tunnels


Over the mountains - again

Mossel Bay visit

We ended up meeting with Marc and Lee's friend Tracey and her daughter Justine 3 times on our journey - first when they drove from Mossel Bay to join us for a meal and drinks in Knysna where we waited out the rainy weather, then refuelling the next day in Mossel Bay, and again on our return trip when Tracey kindly accommodated us at her house in Mossel Bay.. baking for us, braaing and much drinks and laughter later. Thanks for the toing and froing to the petrol station and spending some good times together!!

Our meet and greet at Mossel Bay with Tracey

We beat the weather to get to Mossel Bay flying into a 360 deg rainbow

Mossel Bay lighthouse

Our onboard GPS shows Mossel Bay - en route from Knysna via George CTR airspace

Mossel Bay

Justine had to sit with the petrol as we were 6-up in the car

I saw the moon first at Tracey's house