• Posted on: 24 October 2013
  • By: JB

JOHN RUDLING knew he was in trouble when the engine of his Robinson R22 helicopter spluttered and lost power just five feet into the hover – not because he was making an unscheduled touchdown, but rather because of where he was.


The aircraft is operated by G4 Helicopters, at Margate Airport, and, since the loss of the company’s R44 earlier this year, it was the only means of keeping the students busy. There was another problem. The R22 was on a verge near a very deserted beach on the rugged Transkei coast – not famous for its roads or communications.


Some idea of the work and materials which were required to get the damaged R22 from its crash site on to the back of the truck for transportation to the nearest road.

After a cursory inspection, Rudling realised that the aircraft was not going anywhere in a hurry. The engine had blown a valve. “I called the chairman of the Margate Light Plane Club, Des Potts, to see if he could organise some technical assistance. It would soon be getting dark and a night in the bush seemed inevitable,’’ he told me.

Members of the club rallied and soon pilots Dean Riley, Gordon Gray and Sachin Meda, and their aircraft, were thrown into the rescue effort. Supplies, materials and club members were flown in to assist.


The loading completed, the journey begins.

A plan was made to airlift the R22 off the beach and place it on a nearby road where it could be trucked back to Margate. Quoted costs soon put paid to that option. “But even so, we were still never going to get that aircraft out of there,’’ said Rudling, a part owner and flying instructor at G4 . That was until Mntafufu farmer, Gordon Date, happened along.

Suddenly things started to happen. A truck appeared, a local headman provided overnight security for the helicopter, labourers were made available and food and accommodation appeared from nowhere. A trailer was borrowed from local farmer, Revell Saint. “But we needed a plan. We were about 14 km from where Revell’s trailer was parked. We had nothing more than a Land Cruiser truck, some scaffolding planks and harnesses.


Everyone holds their breath as the truck begins a climb towards the forrest.

“The salvage was coming together. We could possibly drive the chopper out, but only if we removed the blades and the tail boom,” said Rudling Again Farmer Date came to the party. He had a small boat which could carry the boom and blades on the river to a point close to the road.

Club members got to work stripping the aircraft of its long and dangly bits and built a makeshift ramp on the truck. Eventually with the help of countless farm labourers, the chopper was hoisted on to the back of the truck and secured.

“’Now came the really difficult part. We had nothing more than a bad excuse for a road, sometimes reduced to a pathway, to take us over the hills and through a forest. We were going to have to hack our way out. But,” added Rudling, “there was no way in hell that I was going to drive the truck.” Irrepressible Gordon Date again stepped up to the mark. It was his truck and his farm. He would do it.


Hacking their way through the bush, the team inches the truck forward.

‘’I more than once thought the chopper was going to fall off the truck. I also, more than once, thought the truck was going to roll over, but they never did.’’ The group of men trudged along next to the truck, lifting branches out of the way or cutting them down as Gordon manoeuvred the unwieldy load through the thick vegetation and over the rough track, with the vehicle often leaning at a precarious angle.

It took more than three hours for the expedition to travel the 14 km to the main road where the aircraft was transferred to the trailer and driven back to Margate.

“Never in my life have I encountered so many people so willing to give selflessly of their time and expertise and not expect anything in return. Gordon did not work on his farm for five days to help us. Revell bent over backwards to lend us equipment and three of our pilots gave up their time and fuel to bail us out. Not to mention the ordinary members who dropped what they were doing and flew out to help us retrieve the chopper. I am truly blessed.’’






Success. All that remains to be done is to transfer the helicopter on to a road trailer and take it to Margate.

Sea Shells B&B

Accomodation offered

  • B&B, Dinner B&B, self catering, & backpacker facilities.
  • Short dist​ance to the beach. Experience breathtaking walks, great fishing, swimming, snorkeling. A great place 
  • for a great holiday.

CONTACT Annette OR Geoff

Geckos Place

Cozy self catering cottage with awesome view only a stones throw away from Long Beach.
  • A rondavel accommodates a couple and small child. Lovely little kitchen and spacious bathroom including bath and shower.
  • A large comfortable three sleeper caravan in quaint setting with electricity.
  • Campers come and relax in a stunning quiet setting, with plenty of bird watching. Electricity and fridges available. Above with ablutions. Competitive rates. Your hosts Jackie and Louie
  • Tel 047-5641237 Email: Or click here: Send us an email Rates available on request.
  • umThombe Kei River Lodge

    umThombe Kei River Lodge is situated on a 160ha private nature reserve along the banks of the Great Kei River. Accommodation is offered in rustic thatched chalets, each with magnificent views of the river. The chalets are fully self-catering and sleep four to six people (camping is also available). The pulse of the River is felt in everything here: whether you are gliding along in our kayaks, hiking to hidden pools, fishing for the legendary cob, or simply watching sunset turn the cliffs to gold as the crowned cranes fly home to roost. Please note: The lodge is situated on a remote private nature reserve. Road access can sometimes be difficult, especially after rain, and is recommended for 4x4 vehicles only. Equiries: Telephone: 082 570 6000 Cell: 083 255 9693 Fax: 086 608 2570 Postal Address: PO Box 67 Kei Mouth 5260 Physical Address: Dunneden Nature Reserve Kei Mouth Eastern Cape

    Mbotyi River Lodge


    Tel: +27 (0)82 674 1064
    Satellite: +27 (0)39 253-7200
    Satellite: +27 (0)39 253-7201
    Satellite Fax: +27 (0)39 253-7202

    Situated at the mouth of the Mbotyi River and tidal estuary is Mbotyi River Lodge. Nestled between the rolling hills, lush tropical forest and the warm Indian Ocean, it is the perfect venue for anyone looking for a peaceful and tranquil holiday or for the adventurer wanting to explore the many beautiful and wild treasures this coast has to offer. The upmarket rooms in the lodge consist of en-suite double and twin bedrooms in either wooden cabins or thatch bungalows.


    At the Bulungula river mouth your will find the isolated and stunningly beautiful Nqileni village, home to the award-winning Bulungula Lodge and the pioneering rural development NGO, the Bulungula Incubator.

    the Bulungula river mouth

    See for more information on Bulungula Lodge.

    See for more information on the Bulungula Incubator.


    Buccaneers Lodge & Backpackers

    Buccaneers, along with the rest of the Wild Coast backpackers, make for what must be the best backpacking experience in SA.

    We cater for all kinds of travellers of all shapes and sizes from those on a budget to those looking for a little luxury. Find out more about our accommodation, adventure activities and facilities on our website (address below).

  • Phone: +27 (0)43 734 3012 | Fax: +27 (0)43 734 3749
  • Website:

    “Most travellers will have undoubtedly heard of Buccaneers long before they make it to Cintsa. Many consider it the best backpackers in South Africa” LONELY PLANET

  • Mbotyi Campsite

    Telephone: +27 (0)39 253-7201
    Fax: +27 (0)39 253-7202

    Mbotyi Campsite is a joint venture between the Mbotyi community and Mbotyi River Lodge. The Campsite is managed by the "Mbotyi Campsite Trust".

    It is an upmarket venue with electricity, purified water and 24 hour security. The property is fenced and provides safe, off-road parking. The campsite has been left as natural as possible and the tent sites have been terraced for campers. It is advisable to book a site suitable for the size of the tent you wish to pitch.


    Yellowwood Forest Campsite

    Contact: Sean Rohm

    Tel: 043 8411598

    Cell:084 5822601

    Email Address:


    Yellowwood Forest Caravan Park and Campsite in Morgan Bay is set in a beautiful garden on the bank of the Inchara River, 1km from the beach.

    Enormous trees and lush riverine vegetation surround this peaceful place. A bird watchers paradise, offering a quiet, intimate place for nature lovers.

    The campground has a choice of shady tent sites and electrical points are available. A rustic thatched bush camp, tucked away on the riverbank, is a perfect hideaway and our loft gives you a birds-eye view of the trees.

    Morgan Bay Camping

    On the banks of the Inchara Lagoon overlooking beach and sea, the Morgan Bay Park is bound by beach and lagoon. Each site is approximately 120 square meters with braai facilities. Electrical points are within 20m.

    All the sites are within 120 meters of the ablution block which has hot and cold showers and a bath for the ladies, along with hairdryer points and washing up facilities.

    The camp sites are within walking distance of the shop (one kilometer away), from which fresh bread is baked daily. The Hotel is half a kilometer away, where one can enjoy a meal either in the hotel or a fantastic pub meal over looking the sea. Children can also get cold drinks, ice creams as well as a few sweets.