So the next day we arrived at the airfield and were greeted by a glorious morning. We set off at 09:00 in his trusty Jabiru, heading towards Tulbagh, then Ceres to see the snow. Despite flying a fair amount this winter, I hadn't yet been to see the snow, so I was quite excited.
Airfield at Tulbagh
Tulbagh/Worcester Valley with Ceres ahead
When we got to the Matroosberg, I was a bit like "Well? Is that it?" I always envisaged the Matroosberg to be a huge mountain range (ok, sitting at FL075 and looking down at the mountains might've made it seem a bit smaller than what it actually was), covered in snow (just the peaks had a dusting of white powder). You'd think that with the cold weather we've been having, the place would be covered in snow. Nope.
The coldest OAT (outside air temperature) we had was 6degC.
On we went, to the quaint (not) town of Lainsburg. It's been almost a year since I flew a very similar route on my way to deliver the Cubby to Wonderboom. And I thought 'How the heck did I survive all that with no one to talk to?!' . Lainsburg hadn't changed; still just a speck in the middle of nowhere.
Lainsburg just right of the nose
Then it was on to Ladismith. A new location for me, I never realised how close it is to Lainsburg. Cute town, decent-looking runway, and some green fields breaking the monotony of the bush-covered, rocky, inhospitable terrain we'd had below us since Tulbagh.
The terrain that lay ahead
You don't want to go down here
Snow on the mountains near Ladismith
Runway at Ladismith
To the west. Some snow in the distance, and a bit of green below
It's truly amazing watching the landscape change. Upon reaching the mountains near Riversdale, it was like stepping (or flying, as it were) into another world; south of the mountains were lush green fields, smattered with bright yellow canola flowers, and rivers, and happy, welcoming terrain. Look behind you (north of the mountains) and it's barren and brown, with no where to land.
'Dividing mountains' at Riversdale
Looking back. Green mountains, brown beyond
Looking forward. Much more inviting
That always plays on my mind in places like that: Where will I land if the engine coughs? It was something that I asked myself a lot on my trip to Wonderboom. Another thought on this flight was mountain waves, and dangerous turbulence you can't see (which is what the presentation was on). The most we encountered were a few barely noticeable bumps.
With the town of Riversdale in sight, we descended for the field. The original plan was to visit George, but we decided we needed a break, and we'd already heard enough "Avic so-and-so's" bombing along (students from AIFA, based at George and Oudtshoorn).
I can see the sea!Overhead Riversdale airfield, we determined that both windsocks were missing (we found one lying on the grass next to the parking area), and guestimated the wind direction.
After conducting a runway inspection, we landed, played "Dodge the bushes growing through the tar of the runway" and trundled over to the parking area.
Runway needs some mowing
Only when we had lined up for take off did we see how uneven the runway was.
Another trip down memory lane; the last time I was at Riversdale was two years ago when I obtained my CPL.
And we're off!
Not keen to spend time climbing, we stayed between 1500ft and 2000ft AGL most of the way back. Following the N2 with the occasional detour to look at farmstalls and possible landing spots (dirt strips used by the cropsprayers), we wound our way past Heidelberg, Swellendam and Caledon, spotting a Turbo Thrush along the way (such majestic aircraft).
The Blue Crane Farmstall just outside Heidelberg
Swellendam with their airfield in the foreground
Patterns in the crops look almost like Celtic Knots
At the base of the mountain, a crop sprayer can just be seen (look for the white stream of chemicals)
Dirt strip near Riviersonderend
It was such a beautiful day we decided to hit the coast. Good thing too, because we saw another crop sprayer near Botrivier (I'm crop sprayer-crazy), and 7 whales near the beach by Kleinmond! I had forgotten it's still whale season.
Crop sprayer below us
Sometimes it gets turbulent and flying above the mountains is unpleasant, but today it was as smooth as silk. So we hopped up over the mountains, which gave us some more landing options (that didn't involve water) should the need arise.
Routing to Gordon's Bay. Nowhere to land there
Beautifully clear, we could see across False Bay
Cutting the corner by the Steenbras Dam, we scooted down the coast from Gordon's Bay to Strand, then headed home.
Home Sweet Home