The first-ever attempt to fly the legendary Cape to Cairo route in a paramotor along the east coast of Africa over a stretch of 12000km and 13 countries.
Who is Olaf Bleibtreu?
I´m a South African/German who was very lucky to grow up in Cape Town (South Africa) and have adventure manifest itself very early in my life. I thrive in a challenging and raw environment where we are enticed to embrace the hardships for the motivation of feeling alive in an otherwise numbing path of least resistance. From dog sledding guide in Norway, Overlanding in East Africa, Sailing all over Europe, to solo trekking in the Himalayas and Africa, anything to get my heart pumping.
Cape to Cairo Paramotor Expedition, please introduce us your project? And how this whole idea started?
Cape to Cario Paramotor project was first conceived in 2017, on a solo hike up the Fish River Canyon in Namibia. I had been flying Paragliders for about 6 years and my feet were so saw of all the sand and rubble that every day I daydreamed gliding over this inhospitable place and relieve my feet of their duties. My fascination with the Cape to Cairo route and my love of Africa spawned the idea of doing not only fish river canyon but the entire east coast of Africa in a paramotor. This project quickly became an obsession and soon I was getting my paramotor licence, started buying gear, planning a route and gathering funding. The plan was to start in Cape Town in 2020 April and head up the East coast of Africa. We had some interest in shooting a documentary film and highlight some awesome social and environmental projects along the way. The plan was to fly all the way and become the first paramotor to fly this route. Have 2 support vehicles on the ground that follow me as close as possible. We had estimated about 6 months for this adventure and the general idea was to fly only in favourable weather and take it slow. Taking time to capture the people and connect with identified social projects. We didn't want to consider this a race.
When and where did you start? And what was the original plan?
We had to move the start of the expedition a couple of times due to Corona Virus but decided to go ahead in December 2020 as the crew had assembled and delaying it further would have stalled the project completely. Knowing the risk that corona could stall the project again we were positive about our chances. We lifted off in Cape Town end of December but unfortunately, corona cases did spike and the Covid-19 measures were quickly reintroduced. By mid-January, we were in lockdown again with borders closed. As we were mainly wild-camping and flying exceptionally beautiful and remote places none of us was concerned with transmitting or catching covid. As the lockdown got extended and borders weren't opened we decided to limit ourselves to South Africa and make the most of it. We flew the best and most scenic places in South Africa capturing some beautiful scenes which will hopefully help us in securing funding for the Cape to Cario Paramotor Expedition once Corona is in the past.
What does the whole situation of your expedition looks like today?
The Project is on Ice at the moment. The rest of the team had difficulties leaving South Africa but have all successfully managed to get home. South Africa and the world is still in partial lockdown and travel between countries stays difficult. One of the most challenging parts of the expedition even before Corona would have been border crossings. At the moment there is, unfortunately, no ability to plan what border are open in what capacity. Up until that point, the project is on halt.
You are locked down in your country now. PPG equipment and van life. Describe us the way with your whole crew. What places have you been to?
When the Team left I decided to continue my Journey and fly some of the epic places we visited before. I stayed in Johannesburg for a while and repaired my van and did small repairs on my paramotor. Then I set out solo, wild camping all over the interior of South Africa. Flying the great plains and the Drakensberg and Maluti Mountain range, circling Lesotho twice. Then I made my way down to the east coast into South Africa's most unspoilt and rural shoreline, the Transkei. This is a paradise for paramotoring, with a warm ocean filled with fish and warm and hospitable people. I'm planning small paramotor trips from here. Hike and fly adventures flying spots of absolute spectacular natural beauty. Probably for the first time.
How much time did you spend in the air? And what was the most remarkable place you have flown over? Or where would you recommend flying in a post-Covid free world?
Since I lifted off in Cape Town I've spent around 150 hours in the air. We had quite a lot of bad weather and were dealing with a cyclone of the coast of Mozambique for a while which brought loads of rain and wind.
I've flown so many remarkable places but the one that stands out is probably flying over the Tugela falls in the Drakensberg. I climbed to 4600 meters asl and flew the insane Drakensberg ridge which drops 2000 meters at some point. Tugela Falls is the second-highest waterfall on earth and makes for a breathtaking view. Unfortunately, my camera cut out for that exact moment. haha...
I would definitely recommend flying the wild coast in South Africa. Beautiful coastline with huge cliffs and rolling green hillsides. Stunning beaches and a real sense of authentic Africa. Plus perfect landing and launching fields everywhere! I'm actually planning to put together a 6-7 day adventure paramotor expedition along with this coast post covid world.
You have been flying with our FLEXOR since December. How do you get along?
Flexor is a dream to fly. Super easy and controlled launch. Good penetration into the wind. Great handling and a nice range of trims with great flare authority. I flew quite a lot of difficult areas. From arid and thermal, to windy and gusty at the coast. Super high elevation around the Drakensberg and I never had a collapse or any situation where i felt uncomfortable with the wing. It has really built my confidence and I trust it with my life.
What's your plan for the future? I guess everything depends on the pandemic situation... so is there plan B?
It really does depend on the pandemic. I really hope we can go back to normal soon. I´m still processing that the Cape to Cairo expedition is not going to happen this year. All my other backup plans have unfortunately also been cancelled due to corona so im gonna live in my van, look for crazy spots to fly and think to myself that this is actually not to bad.
Thanks for the interview. Stay COVID negative but positive in your heart!