Up around 0530 (wonderful sleep in!) great breakfast with chopper crews, with sound of Super Pumas powering away at first light, taking transfer crews to oil rigs far off coast.
Lots of photos around microlight with Truscott crew waving us off; beautiful day!
Took about 2.15 hours to get here; uneventful, apart from Richard often looking down at swampy conditions along coast, identifying lots of huge logs of sea crocodiles; must be crocodiles he assures me; I think I have discovered his greatest unhappiness; ending up in the water, not with sharks, as he always has his trusty container of shard repellent around his neck, but CROCODILES- big, salt-water beasts that cannot be deterred, once on a collision course with our soft, yielding pink flesh!
Hot on the ground as always, but very welcomed by Shelley and Ken, arranging refuelling for us after a quick and very welcome pee. Whilst waiting in heat for fuel truck, feeling thirsty and hot, Shelley comes across tarmac with can of ice-cold Coke for me; huge, huge temptation, only overcome by quickly putting it on floor of microlight for when we reach Darwin, still some five hours flying away.Richard took off one of our extra fuel tanks; now only 3, but plenty fuel for remainder of flight to Darwin; better air flow to oil-cooling radiator with one tank removed.
Spoke to Jon on mobile; him being pressured by Darwin gang of press/media/TV crews, all wanting to get images of us landing in time for evening TV news across Australia; explain will not be easy!
Faker 100 flees in from Perth, just three flying hours away; makes me realise how far we still have to fly to get to Sydney!
Flight to Darwin long, but didn’t seem like five hours, I guess after relief of long sea-crossing just yesterday, and relief of knowing broken back of flight now; lumpy, turbulent conditions most of time; difficult for me keeping on track; Richard doing much of leg. Great reception when touched down at Darwin Airport; ATCA guided us toward-standing by fence, with loads of media excitedly waving and yelling at us, cameras rolling, but Immigration officials escort us to clear formalities before they interview us, with me shouting “TIGER” as we go past them, embarrassing Richard as always!
Once inside cool, air conditioned \immigration/customs area, being interviewed by very nice Australian woman and ever-polite Immigration man, we joined by Quarantine man, with all three hinting that, whilst great flight undertaken by us, not exactly correct procedure followed regarding route into Australia, then flight to Darwin.We explain flight plans submitted and cleared, and talking to Melbourne, Perth and Brisbane officials by phone yesterday; quarantine man worried we may have brought in insects or disease into country from Indonesia; looks at tiny microlight, totally open, and realises no fly could have survived the 70-mph wind scouring every crevice of body during flight, recognising probably superfluous to spray aerosol insecticide “inside” aircraft.
Takes a while for officials to clarify “procedures” we followed flying into the country, and why we didn’t fly direct to Darwin from Truscott without refuelling; finally, all sorted, and we go back out for long TV interviews with media people, representing all major news networks from around world, and we realise the media see it as a major milestone for us to have reached the Australian continent; we start to think so as well!
Great to see Jon Cook again and soon microlight safely hangared in Canadian Helicopter Company hangar, just as it gets dark.
We bump into Magda Buchholz, representing Guide Dogs in Northern Territory, who has been looking for us since mid-afternoon, refusing to leave without her wonderful, heart-felt welcome. We both get a wonderful hug, and are presented with little crocodile souvenirs, much to Richard’s relieved laugh- the only one that got near to him, with me explaining his allergy to her!
We are soon being driven to our hotel by the great CHC manager here, Peter Lymn, explaining it is now the largest helicopter company in the world, with some US$1 million in contracts a month being generated just in this region!
Darwin we realise is small, about 120,000 inhabitants, mad on fishing, with only about four main streets to the town.Peter drops off Richard, Jon and I at our hotel, and we twist his arm to have a couple of beers with us- my introduction to Coopers Pale Ale, one of Australia’s best kept secret from us Pomms, and, even before we dump our gear in our rooms we have several ice-cold bottles together, served in the bottle surrounded by Styrofoam insulators, keeping the beer ice-cold, not warming up on our hands- those Aussies really know how to focus on the important things in life, hey?!The evening finishes with |Peter heading home, refusing our offer for a steak, and us eating great steaks at an outside restaurant down the road- man, it is SO GOOD to be in Australia- we ARE on the home straight now!!!
Sleep quite late, but a very contented little boy!