Rooivalks, GreatWhites and ElectricTrains!

Since my last philosophical take on swim suits, I have had an overdose of “bucket list
wanna do’s” becoming reality and have been really a busy little buzzer doing things on the basis that “a mans got to do what a mans got to do!”

Over the years, I have been privileged to be guest speaker, master of ceremonies, auctioneer etc at various South African Chief of Airforce Benevolent Golf Days. Handsome funds are raised and are, in turn, ploughed back into needy families of
Air force personnel that have been impacted negatively through whatever disability.
I have always been an opportunist, trying to never miss a trick and, as a result, was treated some years ago to a flight in an Impala fi ghter during a training session. That was special, so I ticked the box and moved on. Well, this year’s golf day saw another little ray of hope sparked when I saw a gap during a conversation with the Chief
of Airforce and scored every flight crazy persons dream: a trip in the mystical Rooivalk.

This mother of all attack helicopters was designed in South Africa and is so technologically advanced as to make it breathtaking! The two man crew sit in tandem and on September 3rd I sat in awe as the highly skilled, Major Paul Kempthorne, of 16th Squadron, put this mighty bird through its paces.

We fl ew from Bloemfontein Airforce base, took a quick tour of the city (including the new stadium) and then off “to play” beyond the city lights.
Over dale and glen, through river beds at high speed and low altitude, me upfront staring in disbelief at the rugged terrain moving beneath the rotor blades at high speed and the 20mm canon that was a part of my space.

I don’t condone war in any way, but it’s a fact that it takes place. It’s also a fact that this magnificent flying machine was never marketed properly and will probably be lost in the history records as an average fighting machine that was never really tested in terms of it true ability.
So with that little adrenalin rush, I decided that as I was going down to Cape Town to attend the Nedbank Cape Town City Marathon, it would be opportune to go to Hermanus to attend the whale festival and cage dive with the great white sharks in Graansbaai!

This was special! We boarded the boat “Sharklady” at 07h30 on 23rd September and set out on a blustery, cold and choppy sea. Once at sea, the party of sixteen divers were split into groups of four and given all appropriate instruction. I was in the second party and had my colleagues in stitches as the staff tried to squeeze me into a medium size wet suit as the large size would simply float my legs. It resembled trying to put a banana back into its skin!

The cage itself is very basic and not disabled friendly in terms of the width of the bars, as I discovered when I realised that my right leg had, at one stage, floated out of the cage – not much to eat I suppose, so sharky wouldn’t have been interested anyway!
We were treated to a most awesome encounter with four sharks, the largest being a 3.5 metre beauty with teeth that looked like knives. The piercing black eyes added to the chill of the water.

These incredible predators are simply awesome in every way. To watch in virtual silence as they glide past the cage within touching distance was an experience that will live with me for a long time. It is a shame that they have been tagged in such negative ways as they are beautiful creatures that command respect. I felt vulnerable yet privileged but was quite happy to get back onto the boat and back to shore.

As if that wasn’t enough in a single month, I was also treated to a ride on the test route of the Gautrain! Clearly there is an advantage in having been “Johnny come lately” on this project as Gauteng will eventually have the most technologically advanced railway in the world. The train is almost futuristic with really practical, yet modern seating configurations. It will make a huge difference to all who use it – and,
seemingly, it will be affordable. It is also disabled friendly, by the way.

As we set off, I wondered when the “clackety-clack” would kick in. It never did and within minutes we were cruising at a speed in excess of 150 kms per hour, in silence! Wow!
Again, this was special. One of the statistics that I remember is that the amount of earth moved in construction so far would fill a rugby field corner to corner to the height of 59 stories... that’s a mighty lot of digging!
All I can say is “roll on October” as September was a blast! ...............!

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