Holland-group XC Tour 2001

Group from Holland 1-16 December 2001

We are a group of 7 Dutch paraglider pilots and we want to fly a lot different flying sites and we hope to fly every day. Culture and nature things we only do on non-flyable days. We want a guide for 24 hours a day, who is a parapenter and knows all the flying places and the local circumstances. Our guide is to be our driver and also must arrange the hotels, etc. We want to rent a VW minibus, or something look a like, with a roof rack for our gliders.

Your group consists of:

André age 60 - more than 2000 flights - president of our club and is very ugly.
Frits age 52 - more than 500 flights - is a veterinarian and he smells like one.
Ton age 50 - an few hundred flights - loves to always change the daily program and we love to always veto him.
Willem (it's me) age 49 - more than 500 flights - knows everything better, has the biggest mouth but is the most handsome one.
Rob age 37 - more than 400 flights - the guy who looks to see which way the cat jumps.
Frank age 39 - more than 200 flight - we all envy him because he has a sabbatical year.
Richard age 29 - a few hundred flights - the baby of the group. He is to lower the average age of the group.

After some last minute shuffling of vehicle-hire companies, I have in my possession a VW Mini-bus and a trailer large enough for our 8 (+1 spare) gliders.

Friday 30 November 2001
20h00: I start the long drive towards Cape Town. I’ve decided to go via Bloemfontein, rather than through the Transkei. Sometime around midnight I reach Harrismith and I catch a few hours sleep.

Saturday 1 December 2001
04h00: I’m awake and back on the road. It's a long day's driving and by 20h00 I’m at Towsrivier, just out-side Worcester.

Day 1
I've had a good nights sleep, and by 06h30 Sunday 2001-12-02 I’m on time and en-route to the airport. Their flight is a little early. After meeting the boys and the usual drawing of money from a cash-machine and sorting out plugs/adapters for cellphone and radio chargers, we are ready for some orienteering. I take them up Table Mountain, to Lions Head where they insist on walking up to take-off, and then down to the landing field at La Med. We spent the rest of the afternoon sipping tall, cool drinks, and they watch, with interest, the local tall, hot women. We then do the 2hr drive to Porterville, and book into Rob Manzoni’s Paragliding Lodge.

About to go on the cable-car up Table Mountain. The view from the top of Table Mountain At La Med with Lion's Head in the background. Dinner at a restaurant in Cape Town.

Day 2
The boys are eager to go fly, and after a geographic briefing by Rob Manzoni, we head to take-off. Problem: It’s blasting over the back. Disappointed, we head behind the mountain for a scenic drive to Winterhoek. We find a little field and break out the gliders for some ground-handling. We head back to take-off around 2pm, to find it’s starting to come up the face. It’s crossed from the left, but still up the face! We get a site-briefing from Rob Manzoni and then lay-out our wings. Rob Manzoni will be driving recovery for us today. Wayne and Stacey Heuer arrive from Cape town. They both look well, and Wayne is keen to fly. Naomi and I launch 1st, followed soon by Rob. Naomi bombs-out while Rob and I climb out in a reasonable thermal. My purpose today is to fly with and watch the boys fly, in order to learn a bit about their decision-making, flying ability, strong and weak-points, etc. Rob decides to start heading North towards “Bumpy Peak". Frank, Fritz, Willem, Tom and Wayne take off in quick succession. Everyone gets low, and Wayne, Tom and Frank find a rough thermal over a field. Wayne gets up, but the others land. Willem and Wayne follow Rob and head down towards Bumpy. Richard and André launch, but both soon land. I’ve seen, everything there is to see regarding the Boys’ tactics, so I fly the 18km to “Bumpy Peak”, and go land next to Wayne, Rob and Willem, who are all ecstatic with their flights. That night the Boys’ celebrate their 1st flight and with copious amounts of steak and wine.

Packing the trailer at Rob Manzoni's house. Wayne & Stacy Heuer came to Dasklip for a flight. Launch at dasklip Pass, Porterville. Our Chairman: Andre' Wierenga.

Day 3
The Met report says South West, but it’s blowing North West at take-off. My instinct tells me it’s going to switch, so I brief the Boys’ in the direction of Citrusdal. I tell the Boys’ to hang-around in the sky in front of launch till the wind switches. At the last minute, I change my mind and tell them to head South, and if the wind switches, to come back and fly North. So they all launch. Rob starts to wonder a little south. Willem and the rest do the same. Everybody except Willem bomb-out a few kilometres from launch. I collect the Boys’ who have landed and get them back to take-off. Now the wind has switched to South West! They all launch again and head down towards Bumpy. Meanwhile, our trailer is showing signs of disintegrating, so I rush back to Porterville to find someone who can repair it for us. I find a tractor repair shop who undertakes to do the job and stings us R500.00 for his efforts. Willem calls me on his cellphone. He’s landed 30km South of take-off, near Saron. I collect him and then we drive towards Bumpy to pick-up the Boys. They all have flown 18kms to Bumpy and are very happy for it. Off we go the Bush Café, where more steaks and bottles of wine are consumed.

Pre-launch. Rob is ready to go. Ton in the sky. The view looking North.

Day 4
The snoring is getting to me, so last night I moved my bed outside. I wake-up to a dark, grey and ugly sky. I feel sick in the stomach as I’m so desperate for the Boys to have a decent “Porterville Day”. By 9 o’clock it starts to break-up and we see patches of blue sky. We get to take-off and I inform the Boys; that today is the “Big” one! A classic Porterville day!! I give them a briefing on the thermal tactics and trigger points A-La-Porterville. 10h30; Fritz and Naomi launch. Fritz bombs, but Naomi heads down to Bumpy. I go down to collect Fritz and then get radioed of an accident on take-off. It’s a tandem pilot from the Lemmings UK group, who has crashed, injuring his passenger. They call for a helicopter and tell everybody to stop launching. I get back to take-off and inform the British pilots the helicopter could still take another hour, so I send off the rest of the Boys. I then start driving to Bumpy. Richard, Fritz and André have flown about 10 km. Rob has landed on Piekerniers Kloof Pass; 28km from take-off. Frank is in Citrusdal at the Pub, having flown 35km. Ton is towards the constriction at 43,5km, and Willem makes it to the Constriction for 52,6 km. The Boys’ are in Heaven! However, our trailer is falling apart again, so we go in search of a hardware store to effect repairs. André buys a ski-rope instead, and trusses up our trailer like a sleeping bag. We go settle our account at Rob Manzoni and then drive the 2hrs to Cape Town. Andy from Blue Sky B&B (no relation) welcomes us and then whizzes us down to the local restaurant for steaks and (oh yes) yet more bottles of wine.

Eating at the old railway station. A good place to be: 1000m above take-off. Looking over the back towards Citrusdal. Collecting Willem at the Constriction; 52km from launch.
Andre and Richard eating again. Ton after a 43km flight. The boys with Rob Manzoni. Collecting Frank from Citrusdal after his 35km flight.

Day 5
After an excellent breakfast with Andy, we pop over to Rob Manzoni’s house in Seapoint, to pick up some Carabiners for Willem. The forecast is a strong South Westerly, so we head to Franshoek. Condition are strong, gusting to 34 km/hr. I launch first to test the waters. I radio down to the boys that the conditions are strong and they are launching into a gully which acts as a serious trigger right in front of take-off! Rob and Frank take-off next, but then it gets too strong for the others to launch. We land on the edge of the town. After a light lunch we say goodbye to Naomi and start the drive to Wilderness. While going through the pass, we witness Toyota filming their ad for the new Toyota Corolla. We stop in George for Dinner, and then check into Adrian Hepburn’s house sometime after midnight.

Tristam on the Matrix over the Franschoek Valley. Lunch at the Pancake Restaurant in Franschoek. Franschoek Pass viewpoint. Filming the ad for the new Toyota Corolla.

Day 6
We awaken to Blue Skies. After a little breakfast, we head up the hill to “Map of Africa”. Some of the Boys are a little grumpy, because they didn’t get to fly yesterday, so I am anxious to get them all into the sky and happy again. Well it turns out to be an excellent ridge-soaring day. The Boys; do numerous flights, sometimes top-landing and re-landing for practise. Around 2pm we go to the Holiday Inn for lunch, and them at 4pm we go back up to the map for a sunset flight. In total the boys each get around 3½ hours of airtime today, and are completely satisfied (and not grumpy anymore). We drive to a nice restaurant in the small town of Sedgefield for dinner.

Scenes from The Map Of Africa


Day 7
Another glorious day. We head out to “Paradise Ridge”. Conditions are excellent, so we spend 1½ hours soaring the beautiful ridge. Ton and Frank land on the beach and hike up, while Rob and Richard fly the 7km to Gerrikes Point and then land at Swartvlei Beach. We enjoy a light lunch and then drive to the Holiday Inn where we enjoy another 1½ hours of ridge soaring in front of the hotel and beachside houses.

Scenes from Paradise Ridge


Day 8
The boys decide they’ve done enough ridge soaring, so we drive to Knysna for breakfast and a quick look at “The Heads”, and then we start the 4 hour drive to the Valley-of-Desolation. We arrive in the late afternoon. It is blasting over-the-back and mother nature puts on a show of 5 giant electrical thunder storms in front of take-off.

The Heads and the lagoon, Knysna. An ominous warning on the way to Graaf Reinet. Fields and Mountains. The Valley-of-Desolation!

Day 9
We’ve Booked into Nita Gush’s Bed and Breakfast. We head up the hill, and as conditions are still light, I tell the Boys to have a short flight to the bottom. I go fetch them, and then we come back for the next flight. There’s a big storm cloud over-developing in front of take-off, so I tell the Boys; they probably have less then 2 hours before the storm hits us – most of the Boys’ thermal up and fly off in the direction of the “Ouberg”. Our predictions about the storm are correct, and shortly after everyone lands we are hit by one mother-of-all gust front. We drive back up to launch to watch the spectacle, till the rain drives us away. That night enjoy an excellent Ostrich braai!! Compliments to our chef; Frank.

Andre' with Spandau Kop in the background. Richard launches. Andre' and Fritz. Richard quickly packs while the gust-front approaches.

Day 10
The Boys; have attracted the attention of Graaf-Reinet’s local newspaper, who want to do a front-page article of them. Celleste, the Editor, stands by taking photos while the Boys do a few top-to-bottoms. Finally the day develops and Fritz and Frank fly down the Middelburg Road. Fritz does 12km and Frank 10,5km. We pack-up and start driving to Bloemfontein. After a “junk-food” dinner at the Bloemfontein Wimpy, we get to Plover Bed and Breakfast at 22h30. Charles from Plover has put up a “Welcome Paragliders” sign which adds a nice touch.

Andre' with Spandau Kop in the background. Richard launches. Andre' and Fritz. Richard quickly packs while the gust-front approaches.

Day 11
We are back on the road by 6h15. Breakfast in Senekal, and we reach Thokozisa about 12h30. Ryan Peo’s there in the Blue Sky bakkie to meet us. The idea is to use the bakkie to get up the Arthur’s Seat mountain. We attach the trailer to the bakkie and head for Arthur’s seat. It’s at this point, that our trip which was going really well, starts to go a little wrong... There’s been lots of rain, recently, so our “unstoppable” Blue Sky bakkie gets stuck in the first deep puddle. The Boys’ pull me out with the rope. We end up having really good flying in the Valley-release. After flying, we pick-up the Kombi from Thokozisa, and go off to the Country-Club for dinner. After dinner, the next problem arises; The road up to the cottage is really dark, and Frank drives the microbus off a small weir into the freezing river. There’s no way to get it out, so we all pile in and onto the bakkie and drive the 6km up to the cottage.

In the mud at Arthur's Seat. Willem on take-off. "The Boys" on top of Arthur's Seat. Richard prepares to launch.
Valley release flying. Willem, with the main Berg in the background. Glorious views. Sunset flight.
Frank prepares to launch. Fritz and Frank, with take-off in the background. Looks like cloubase is dropping. Frank ridge-soaring.
Robby and Ton in the sky. Robby watches Frank ridgesoaring. Frank up close. Frank after he drove the Kombi into the river.

Day 12
We make arrangements for a tow-truck to come from Escourt, to pull the Mini-Bus out the river. Next problem:- our trailer has suffered yet more damage. This time the entire suspension has broken free off the chassis. Ton gets into engineering-mode, and with the aid of a small saw, wire, and rock for a hammer, he and Richard construct a new suspension system. We drive down the hill to the minibus, which has just been removed from the river. The mini-bus seems none the worse after spending the night in the river, so we hitch the trailer and drive to Bulwer. We check-in to the Mountain Park Hotel. After dinner we’re all a little tired, so we get an early nights sleep.

Breakfast at Rod's Cottage. Inspecting the damage to the trailor. Ton & Richard constructing a new suspension for the trailor. Our engineer; Ton in action.
The following morning our Kombi is still in the river. Extracting the Kombi from the river. Back on the road The Mountain Park Hotel in Bulwer.

Day 13
We have a hearty breakfast and then head up the mountain. Conditions are light and thermic. We have great flying till about 3pm, when cloud base at the bottom, and then take a drive to Underberg for afternoon tea.

"The Boys" at the Bulwer 1000 take-off. Richard about to launch. Airborne! The views are beautiful.
Looking up at launch. Looking back at take-off. Looking North. Richard comes in for landing while Andre' watches.

Day 14
It's the final flying day! Conditions look a little Northerly for Bulwer, so after phoning around to check the conditions we head to Ngomankulu. Conditions are great, so the boys spend a few hours in the sky soaring and practising top-landings. A perfect ending to a perfect trip.

"The Boys" at the Bulwer 1000 take-off. Richard about to launch. Airborne! The views are beautiful.