Story and pics – Jean Tresfon

In part 1 of this photo essay well known Cape gyro pilot and environmentalist Jean Tresfon described the flight from cape Twon’s Morningstar airfield to the remote Koppieskraal Pan in the Northern Cape.

The 2023 Kalahari Bundu Bash Flying Adventure is a fly-in of aviators and their aircraft on a salt pan in the middle of nowhere in the incredible Kalahari desert region of South Africa.

The venue, Koppieskraal Pan, is a privately owned 13 km long mud and salt pan located 63 km southwest of Twee Rivieren, the gateway to the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, and adjacent to the better known Hakskeen Pan, the venue for the Bloodhound land speed record attempt.

The smooth flat surface of the pans makes for a perfect landing strip in any wind direction, so pretty much any aircraft can join the gathering.

Organised by the Mocke family in Upington, the Bundu Bash has been running every couple of years since 1987 and then, for many reasons, stopped a decade ago after the 2013 event.

This year the next generation of the family, siblings Eben and Gavin Mocke and Yolande Mocke-Combrinck, decided to revive the event and pulled off a remarkable gathering of 79 different aircraft and 127 pilots and crew.

Attendees bring their own tents and sleeping gear, and generally sleep next to their aircraft, but that is where the camping ends and the glamping starts…

There’s a massive marquee tent setup with a full restaurant and bar inside, complete with white linen tablecloths and beautiful table decorations. Coffee and tea are available all day and a sumptuous breakfast, lunch and dinner are all included. The quality of the food was simply outstanding! And of course there are piping hot showers, flushing toilets and all the other amenities required, even charging stations for electronics and an ambulance and paramedics, thankfully not required.

Over 40,000 litres of water and 12,000 litres of fuel have to be trucked in for the event, together with everything else.

The entire setup is dismantled and taken back to Upington afterwards, leaving the pan exactly as it was before the event. The level of organisation and preparation required is mind-boggling, but the Mocke family were up for the challenge and this year’s edition was just incredible.

So what’s the whole point? Apart from just a love of aviation, the Mockes enjoy showcasing and sharing their magnificent part of the world with aviators from all over the country. Three days spent flying over the beautiful red dunes of the Kalahari, spotting herds of the iconic gemsbok, springbok, bat-eared foxes and a huge variety of other game and birds goes by far too quickly.

The camaraderie and “gees” are a major part of the event. Pilots being pilots, there is non-stop talk about flying and aeroplanes. Almost everyone offers others a chance to fly their aircraft and I usually leave the event having flown a variety of planes and gyrocopters, and of course also having given the same opportunity to many others. This is such a diverse gathering of pilots, with a vast experience base. The opportunity to learn and grow as a pilot is a major drawcard.

After three unforgettable days of flying and socialising on the pan, the vent draws to a close and it’s time to fly home again.

The faster aircraft get home in just a few hours, while for others it is a full two days of flying just to get back.

The Kalahari is a strange place. At first glance it seems to be a dry, barren and inhospitable environment, yet it keeps you coming back for more. For weeks days after getting back to Cape Town, I keep finding my thoughts drawn back to those beautiful red dunes and fiery sunsets.

A massive thank you to everyone who played a part in making this year’s event such a memorable occasion, from the organisers and their large team of helpers, to the people that flew in from far and wide and were the reason for the event itself, and of course to my wingmen on the journey to and from Cape Town, it was truly a pleasure flying with you guys!

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