On a normal, sunny day, October 18, 2018 in the Free State province, South Africa, I met Valérie.
I was spending time at the local airfield in Bloemfontein when I saw a beautiful classic Super Cub taxi in on the ramp. I saw it had a November registration and that just made it extra special to me since I knew it had to be a long way from home. Having a love for taildraggers and flying one myself, I simply had to head over and take a closer look.
I walked over towards the fuel bay and to my surprise here this lady was with her airplane. Her accent also was a give-away that she was not local. She planned to continue her journey the following day. I offered to arrange for her airplane to be parked inside a hangar for the night, safe from all elements. Once the plane was cared for and tucked away, I enquired whether she arranged transport to her accommodation.
She asked if there were taxis available, but this is Africa and it’s only a small local airport, so I offered to transport her to where ever she needed to be. She had a long flight behind her and offered that we go somewhere for lunch before she tucks in for the night. Now I knew I would have time to ask all the questions I was dying to ask!
I was amazed by what she was planning and how far she had already come. I thought to myself: here this seemingly ordinary, middle aged woman is flying a Super Cub from Europe, all the way around the tip of Africa and back, all on her own. That’s astonishing! I wanted to hear more! I was amazed by her experiences and learned how she started flying and the reason why she would be doing this all by herself. What it all came down to was very simple – she loves flying!
I have the utmost respect for what she has accomplished so far on her journey. She is an inspiration and motivation to so many of us who daily live within our comfort zones. One can easily be mistaken by this seemingly ordinary, warm and kind hearted lady. She is tough and determined with an adventurous soul.
We did some final planning for her route the following days and I made a few phone calls to arrange for fuel. Yes, in Africa that’s something you have to do sometimes.
After lunch I took her for a scenic drive around Bloemfontein – a city with a small town vibe. After a quick stop at the shops to get her some essentials, I made sure she was happy with her accommodation. I also offered to be there the following morning to give her a ride to the airfield, open the hangar and make sure she is ready for the next “flap” of her trip. When a woman like this visits South Africa, she deserves South African hospitality at its best.
I found my time with Valérie something to hold on to, a memory to cherish. I believe that sunny day in 2018 was no coincidence. Her life story has taught me that I am capable of so much more than what I may ever think.
Valérie and I still keep contact and check in with a message from time to time. I’m sure it will continue to be like that for a very long time.
Valérie, may you fly proud through the skies of the world and arrive safely wherever the Compass may lead you.
Smooth skies and happy tailwinds.