Up an hour before dawn, packing and preparing the aircraft, parked just outside our roadside pub in the middle of the Northern Territory; just total of 18 people here total; most just
Funny to be able to just walk outsie our room straight to the microlight- no hassling wih taxi's to the airport, filing flight plans etc- just jump in, as soon as sun touching horizon, stuff jam sandwich into pocket (breakfast not had time to eat!), ask pub manager to go up the main road to stop any huge road trains come thundering over us as we take off, wave cheerio to a surprising number of the places inhabitants who came to see us off, then gun the throttle, go roaring off down the road, with Richard yelling a bit during our fast taxi past the pub about road signs that needed to be avoided by the wing, then up, up into the air, in our beautiful balloon- no, I mean microlight, with the magic of a beautiful sunrise just touching the horizon.
We did a sharp sweeping bank around and down again over the little group of our new friends waving at us from the dark road, with camera flashes popping, then setting our compass towards Queensland, climbing away into the warm, Northern Territory air, already kicking mildly with thermal activity, like a frisky mare making mischief.
Almost immediately realised the aircraft was not pulling well, with the engine sounding, as Richard put it, " like a bag full of nails"! We talked through options, with Richard suggesing it was probably the quality of fuel, not being premium but low octane petrol.Decided to stop at Barclays Homestead, some 2.45 hours down the road to dump the rest of our fuel and take on board good quality.The landing was on conventional runway near the small settlement, then taxied the microlight up the road and parked outside the little shop and petrol station! Lady inside immediately recognised us as the pilots flying to Sydney, and someone organised some jerry cans to siphon out our bad fuel. Another lovely experience, meeting wonderful Australian country people, with all of their hospitality and friendship and kindness!
I got quite tired pushing the microlight around the petrol station and then away again, with Richard steering and calling out encouragement to go faster!
An hour later we were back in the microlight, after zipping up our thermal flying suits amongst the heat and the flies, before taxing away down the road back to the airfield and taking off again-what a joy not to file any flight plans!
We had already flown nearly 3 hours by then, and the weather had been fairly smooth. We almost immediately got into turbulent weather, and climbed steadily higher and higher, looking for calmer air-the air picks up all its energy from the heat radiating from the ground, and sometimes that energy dissipated and cools at 8-10,000 feet, so that is where we went, looking for a better ground speed and calmer air. We finally climbed to over 12,000 feet-temperature in the cockpit only 7°C, with the 70 mph wind chill factor roaring through us reducing it to just above freezing-I ended up shivering uncontrollably at times, with Richard grabbing my knees and legs and hugging me to try and warm me up, but determined to keep on climbing as our ground speed improved!
Why did we stay there?-good ground speed-about 65-68 kn-best we have had for ages!
Flew past Mount Isa, our original destination for the day, to a smaller town called Cloncurry: Richard could see the huge mining towers from Mount Isa 40 miles away when at 12,000 feet-great view Richard said!
Landed at small airport there, and almost immediately warmed up in heat of afternoon blasting off tarmac; feet still frozen, and needed time to wake up! Immediately was offered a hanger by Dan, a friendly guy who was servicing his littleCessna, that he uses to round up cattle! Also met some other helicopter pilots who use their machines to round up cattle as well-one of them flew his helicopter from Sydney out to them just a few weeks ago-able to give us valuable information about the quickest route to Sydney! Fuelled up aircraft and secured her, then dropped off at pub in the town-the Lady here called Billy refused to charge as for our wonderful state meals or accommodation to night-it is her contribution to our flight-her a husband seriously ill in hospital undertaking radiation therapy for cancer, yet still able to think about us and the blind people in the world-a truly wonderful, warmhearted, caring woman- God bless you |Billy, and bring healing to your husband.
Doing our best to reach Sydney by Sunday evening, ready for final flight around the harbour early Monday morning, before luncheon organised by the bank and lots of media interviews-very tired, but excited and amazed that we are nearly there-for so long it has just been a dream, and now, it appears we are only a few days away from completing our journey halfway around the world-I can hardly believe it.
Both Richard and I now very tired after some 46 days without a break, but determined to do our utmost to be in Sydney for Monday morning!
At an hour before dawn tomorrow, planning to be in the microlight and on the runway at first light, to make the most of the day-some bad weather ahead apparently, and over 1000 miles still to fly; heading for bed very tired, but full of optimism!
Thought for the day, inspired by Billy: If you have not often felt the joy of doing a kind act, you have neglected much, and most of all yourself.