Yesterday we stopped in at the Stellenbosch air field to watch some vintage planes land. Unfortunately we were not in time to see the last plane land, despite a published ETA of 11am on the FaceBook page the planes landed early. There must have been a tailwind or something. We actually hadn’t intended to go at all but as we had a spare few minutes before heading into Cape Town for a family braai we decided to go and have a look. My step-dad had mentioned the event more than once to me, and as he couldn’t be there himself I thought I would at least make the effort. I am really glad we did, what an interesting collection of old planes, and what an amazing experience their trip must have been.
So what were we actually looking at? The Vintage Air Rally that ended today (the 17th December officially) was the first of its kind, a race over 5 weeks that began in Crete. The planes taking part all had to be built before the 31st December 1939. The route followed in the footsteps of the pioneering flights of the 20s and connected some of the most beautiful and evocative points on the continent, taking them initially from Crete to Egypt where they were the first planes allowed to land at the Pyramids of Giza in 50 years. Onwards from there through Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana and finally South Africa. They were even eventually cleared for low level flying over the Vic Falls, at 500ft, which must have been spectacular even though the water levels are sadly very low at the moment. All in all a distance of some 13,000 kilometres. Amazing, although the logistics and practical arrangements quite baffle my brain.
As you can imagine they faced challenges along the way, from mechanical failures to bad weather plus the inevitable delays caused by bureaucracy and paperwork. The event seemed to draw classic car enthusiasts as well (throughout the race), we saw several at the airfield in Stellenbosch yesterday. I was thrilled to read that the organisers are also working with the charity BirdLife International to raise awareness about the plight of the African vulture. Each pilot has paired themselves with one of the endangered vultures (7 out of 11 on the edge of extinction) and at each landing the teams have highlighted this issue. There is even a stuffed toy vulture mascot (I see on the FaceBook page) that has taken turns to travel in a different plane each day (space permitting).
I snapped a few pics as you can see, but there are some fantastic aerial shots on News24. For the full story, and all the blog updates during the event, visit the official website at www.vintageairrally.com.
*featured image: one of the planes landing as we arrived at the airfield