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Friday, September 18, 2009

Solpe weekend at Estcourt!

Wolfy and I arrived at the Blue Haze lodge on Friday afternoon. The trip was quite uneventful, besides the million and one speed cameras that have been hidden in all sorts of placed, at Villiers at the toll-gate when the speed limit changes from 100 to 80km/hr, there is a camera hidden behind a shield that catches almost every car!!!
Saturday, a brilliant, sunny warm day, with good NNW wind 15-20km/hr just what we needed to start a great weekend.
Wolfy and I were expecting the group of the Durban Guys to arrive at the slope but no sign of them (?).
So the two of us we carried on and enjoyed the day. Soon after our arrival at the slope, we were joined by a group (6 or 7) of youngsters, shepherds from the nearby village. They were interested about our planes and watched eagerly the planes flying and whistling through the air.

Maybe watching too eagerly!!!!!!

Wolfy unpacked his planes, an Eish (not sure about the spelling), the ASW20 (3m) his DG-1000, the Zagi and all assembled he left them behind the trailer. He then flew the DG first and then attempted to launch his Zagi, however the wind was a bit gusty and not enough lift. The Zagi landed a bit below the edge, immediately one of the youngsters proceeded to retrieve the plane , very nice of him ....... and a 5.00 Rand reward!
I had a little hard landing with my DG and had to perform a little field-surgery. Wolfy and I where involved in the repair when I spotted one of the youngsters running away with great speed. I got up and inspected the area. I then asked Wolfy to see if he is missing anything. About 20 min later, after a nice lunch prepared by the Lodge-Chef, Wolfy went to fetch his DG and he noticed that his radio transmitter was gone, so his 4m Eish, so his 3m ASW, so his big leatherman knife, so his cigar lighter, so his cigars, so is LiPo charger .......all gone and the youngsters gone as well.

We got robbed!

I immediately checked my equipment and possessions but nothing was missing. We called at the Estcourt police station, within the next hour a police van with two policemen arrived at the scene. After compiling a thorough report (and that is without skepticism) they were really thorough in their investigation.
We then left with the idea the we would get back the next morning to investigate our-self about the whereabouts of the planes. It would be unthinkable for these kids to carry two big planes all the way to their homes, they must have hidden them nearby.

The next morning after having visited the police station at Estcourt (they promised that we could go along with one of them to investigate the robbery, but being Sunday I didn't think that this would materialize!), we decided to get one local chap at the Lodge, Cedric (waiter and tour-guide) to come with us as an interpreter . We arrived at the slope, no one in site (obviously!). Cedric had a brilliant idea, to ask some of the locals the whereabouts and where these shepherds boys are living. We got some very good information, there is a gang of these herds-boys that are involved in cattle theft and other illegal activities and they are harassing the local community. We got lucky, Cedric apprehended e youngster, about 12 years old, and after inquiring about his whereabouts on Saturday, he confirmed to have seen the whole scene, he cam up with the name of the main instigator and where he was living. Not long after an other 4 youngsters joined in the investigation. One of them, actually saw the thieves and knew about their hideout.
They even told us that the instigator comes from a family of gangsters that rules in the township and that he is responsible for many of the thefts and robberies in the area.

We found Wolfy's planes alright, the fuselages and wings all smashed, they only took the batteries, they didn't know what to do with servos and other equipment. They just vandalized the planes, took the radio control, knife, LiPo-charger (?maybe the green luminous color attracted them?), lighter, cigars and batteries.

Te same day, Wolfy went to the police station in Estcourt with all the information the we gathered during the day, the station captain was very pleased and would immediately start the investigation and apprehension of the culprits.

On Monday we got confirmation that the guys have been arrested, all the goods had been found in their possession and that on Tuesday they will appear in front of the court, other thefts and robbery matters have been discovered and additional charges have been laid against these thugs.

The local community was very pleased on our investigating success. The Lodge-Owner promised us that next time he will make sure that an armed guard will be present while we will be busy flying.

This is AFRICA, we must be aware all the time what goes on behind our back, make sure that you are in good numbers and that someone always is watching while the others are flying. Remember when you fly you attention is to the plane and anyone can take even your purse out of your pocket!!!!! Even if you think that a shepherd-boy could have no interest in your plane he will steel it just for the matter of!?!?!

We will be back again and will still fly at this wonderful site, the wind, the lift, the landing is fantastic., the grass is short and thick, just GREAT!

Have a good one!

Michel aka amzimmy, Zimmy etc etc


glenglider said...

Sorry for your loss and unpleasant experience at the slope - could not make it there either of the two days, and maybe just as well - I have lost planes on the slope already, but never to blatant theft. Are any of the airframes repairable, and did you recover the remaining goods once the culprits had been arrested?
Ciao - Glen

Piet Rheeders said...

Hi Zimmy,
I am really sorry about the events that spoil your weekend but next time you must make sure that you have at least 5 or more flying buddies (safety in numbers)with you.

Any way thanks for sharing this not so nice to remember weekend with us. I hope that our other slope addicts will take note of this and learn form the bad experience.
Simply do no trust any one and especially more so on a remote slope.

I hope that next year will make up for your bad experience.


Michel said...

Thanks Piet, Life is full of lessons and the best part the one CAN learn from it.

Ciao and good luck!

Michel said...

Glen, the fuselages were a total loss. The thugs broke in 100 pieces to get to the batteries (?) all the rest of the goods have been recovered by the police, Wolfgang is going there (Estcourt) on Wednesday on the way to the NATS to collect the items. Thanks for your concern and we WILL fly there again soon, with guard at R 50/day!!!!