As has become our custom at Free Flight Academy our 2017 season started with a trip to Wilderness and Porterville in sunny South Africa.
Arriving into Cape Town we rounded up everyone at the airport with an unusually large bag and set off to Hermanus. This pretty seaside town has become an ingrained part of the trip, as it’s the best way to break up the journey to Wilderness and recoup after a long haul flight.
The next day we set off early doors for Wilderness hoping to be in time for an afternoon flight and we weren’t disappointed. As we rolled round the corner of the headland leading into Wilderness we were presented with gliders soaring the Map of Africa and landing on the beach. After a site briefing we were up and away and although it was light the guys made a couple of lovely orientation flights ending with ice cream on the beach next to the landing area.
This turned out to be a great introduction to Wilderness and despite a couple of days with cloud and morning drizzle it was the start of a lovely week where everyone flew the big three sites.
We had two great days at Sedgefield, which gave the guys a chance to practice their thermalling during the day, before enjoying some amazing evening soaring looking out over the coastline of Wilderness and the Indian Ocean. Paradise Ridge lived up to its name with some of the guys flying for over 3hrs and additional flights at the Map of Africa provided the usual fun of soaring a coastal road just feet above cars and lorries beeping their horns below.
Wilderness is an incredible spot and whilst it offers some fantastic flying we admit we also go there for the after dark activities! Wilderness has some of the best restaurants and having travelled all over the world, to this day, the Girls Restaurant in Wilderness still holds the number one spot with Fiona Akis and I. The selection of fine foods and even better wines ensures the evenings are a genuine part of the overall holiday experience.
Our next stop was the farming town of Porterville. Porterville boasts a series of long ridges running for more than 50k + in each direction. The 4.5hr ride is a stunning journey into the heartland of the wine regions and always gives us a spectacular view as we come over the mountain pass into Tulbagh and beyond to Porterville.
We always stay at the Flyers Lodge in Porterville and on arrival we had a sunset site brief before heading back for a BBQ steak South Africa style.
Dasklipp is the house launch site, however due to some unusual strong easterlies the first few days were spent flying from Picketberg. Despite the change in launch we had a good couple of days with most pilots warming up and being able to leave the ridge and push XC by the second day. Akis took the first takers 38k down the ridge and the XC window was open.
By midweek normal service was resumed at Dasklipp and given that over half of this years group were with us in South Africa in 2016 there were plenty of PBs and personal XC scores to settle. A blinding effort from every single pilot made mid week the best XC we had with almost the whole gaggle going with Akis over the back to Citrusdal 35k away. Unfortunately any further distance was cut short as a strong west wind was coming up the Citrusdal valley and the group made a sensible decision to land early and avoid the wind.
Our last two chances at some more XC were blown out as the strong west wind kept coming but despite the annoying late week winds we had a great time. South Africa offers so much and it’s always been a holiday within a flying holiday so non-flying days are never boring. This year we hiked to a waterfall and a swimming hole before setting off for some lunch and wine tasting in the lush green vineyards of Tulbagh and Riebeck. The region around Porterville has some of the tastiest Reds and Whites and an afternoon sampling them all is well spent.
At our Friday night steak feast the Biltong Cup 2017 was proudly awarded to Martin who not only had the biggest distance but broke a PB to boot. It was a close run contest though with many contenders for each category, all receiving due praise, silly handshakes and a trophy full of marshmallows.
Same time next year then?...........