Du Toitskloof (DTK)

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Named after a French Huguenot refugee, and built by WWII Italian prisoners of war, the pass hugs the Hawequas mountains with Du Toits Peak the highest mountain at 1,995m.

I love that the site allows for a launch later in the day (than, say, Porterville), can only be the starting point for local flying, small triangles, or the classic “Hey Joe’s Run” where you land at a friendly brewery in Franschhoek, but also where you could start a 170km+ flight if you were to make it to Clanwilliam.

It’s a basic (IPPI 4) rated site, but that doesn’t make it easy, pilots have gotten injured (and passed away) at this site. This is for information purposes only, and not a substitute for an in-person site briefing. I won’t be held liable for stupid decisions, incorrect, or missing information.

Getting there 🚙

Drive (or park your car in Paarl and take an Uber) to the DTK launch / scenic viewpoint. I’ve done long cross-country flights from here, with my car parked for many hours with no issues, but I definitely wouldn’t leave anything in the vehicle. I’d rank it as OK. Some Uber drivers grumble since it is quite out of the way (and their chance of getting a ride back from there to a city is zero). Nothing that a little charm and cash tip can’t fix. Baboons sometimes visit takeoff, so don’t eat/show any food if they’re around.

Getting up: Wind and takeoff 🧭

The site works in western winds, even with a northern (up to NW) element, helpful going south, or a southern element (up to SW), helpful heading north. Strong thermals track up the mountain with force in summer; have your active flying game on.

Getting low: Turkey & XC landings 🦃

If you don’t manage to catch a thermal, turkey is a long strip of gravel road at the foot of takeoff, a bit to the south. To the south of this landing strip (left, when flying from takeoff to turkey) is a downslope, that isn’t obvious from the sky. Many pilots have hit deep sink here and landed in the short trees (that get quite a bit taller each year). Don’t set yourself up there.

From turkey the hike back to launch is steep; and in the summer heat it can get into the high 30s (the road used to be 4×4 friendly, but is now washed away in sections, don’t even try). Fly with adequate water, sunscreen, a hat, and so on. I’ve got a running challenge with Luke and Malan: all three of us independently bragging that we’ve got the fastest “fly & hike” time getting back to the top. It can take you anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour, depending on your gear and body type. Toggle satellite view on Google Maps (or similar) when you’re at the bottom to avoid a 2km (curseword-filled) detour.

If you are heading south, there are horse farms which you shouldn’t fly over or land on. See them in Burnair (you might have to zoom in a bit to see them in red). I also have them listed under Friends & Foes in the SA paragliding map. You can land right next to them, at the unplanted field at Element Adventures (in green on Burnair).

Further south from that towards Franschhoek, landing isn’t allowed on the fields in the Val de Vie security estate. There are many options however: fallow fields, next to (or on) farm roads, next to the R301, on farms etc. Just know how to spot and avoid vineyards and other expensive landing options.

Be friendly to farmers and farm workers. Apologise for landing there (you have intruded into their private land, after all) never attempt to climb over or damage wire fences (rather use gates or climb over at the fence poles). The majority of them are very friendly; I’ve been given rides more than once.

The author, getting a tractor ride back to the main road

Heading north, be aware of and avoid the farms with (deadly) buffaloes and large antelope at all cost (again, check the Burnair map or the Friends & Foes linked above).

Getting high: Airspace 👮‍♂️

Don’t mess around with these, violating them will put our sport (and your life) at risk. See the Airspace page for the specific ones you should take note of, below.

FACT TMA B

Right from the second you take off, you are flying underneath restricted airspace: FACT TMA B. Don’t go into it, it’s where the jumbo jets fly, and entering this airspace puts our sport at risk. You’ll be under this airspace heading north and south from takeoff. Make sure you know when you’re not in it anymore before you get higher than 1372m ASL.

FAP38 (Krantzkop)

There is an explosives test site to the north of DTK. You’ll have to be very high to not enter the airspace, otherwise, you’ll have to fly around it.

FAD159 (Ysterplaat)

Be on the lookout for military helicopters in this area. Just stay clear of them, it’s FAD (not TMA, FAR or FAP).

Getting windy 💨

When flying north, the wind usually picks up at Voëlvlei dam until after the wind turbines past Saron. Be ready for this.

Getting beer 🍺

Heading north, you can crack a victory frostie at the Gouda Hotel, Porterville, Kardoesie, Clanwilliam (or keep a cooler in your retrieve vehicle).

Heading south, there is a small but manageable grass strip at the Hey Joe Brewery (landing here should earn you a beer from your flying mates, as you’ve successfully completed the “Hey Joe’s Run”). Mind the fence, wires next to the road, and rotor from trees and buildings.

About me

Werner van Rooyen

Formerly Business Development and Marketing at Luno (where we went from eight nerds in a tiny office to hundreds of people spread over three continents) and before that Marketing at PayFast. Currently investing, paragliding, and doing research, mostly in Mexico.