Saturday, 28 May 2011

MAY 21 – DAY 61 Overlander Roadhouse to HOME

The morning dawned clear but cloudy.  The rain had all but stopped by 8pm and no more was forecast however it didn’t look good.

We breakfasted in the roadhouse at 6 am with the traveling truckies and were back at the aircraft by 7.00am.  The red mud had all but dried up but we were left with red soled shoes – just to prove we had been out in the “red” North West.  Kev was pretty confident that the strip was firm after the rain however we checked our wheel imprints as we back tracked to the far northern end of the strip. 

Her last sleep out
The girl looked lovely against the rising sun as we trudged, once again, back to the airfield.

Just as we were climbing in 2 travelling motorcyclists stopped to take photos and video us as we departed.  We do hope they got good photos as we lifted off at 7.48 into the still cold morning air.

We knew we would have a headwind on this leg and sure enough our groundspeed was 76knots. L And what was there to see – Nothing – Yes again nothing.  However, one can see beauty in nothing if you look hard enough.  I reckon the aboriginals must see their earth from a height otherwise they wouldn’t paint dots as they do….

We climbed higher and at last achieved 90knots. Whew it was still going to be a long stretch to Geraldton.  We finally arrived at 9.30am to find a blustery cold wind blowing.  We quickly refueled the aircraft and joined Beth and Dave Perks for a quick coffee.  We were supposed to stay with them last evening but hadn’t got there due to the bad weather.

Finding the airport all closed we had to drive into Ger-town for a cuppa.  Luckily for us a Dome had recently opened on the foreshore and Beth insisted that we enjoy something to eat with our coffees.  Dave ordered the big breakfast and “to keep him company” Kevin ordered the same whilst I enjoyed a muffin with my huge cappuccino.

We were getting phone calls and messages from the home front impatiently awaiting our arrival.  I had given the time as between 12 and 1pm however that looked like it was to be later and later.

Alkimos wreck
Finally departing Geraldton at 11.45 I amended our ETA Home to 2 pm approx.  With the head wind stronger at height and quite bumpy, we elected to fly 500 ft AGL over the beaches and water, where it was much smoother.

I searched in vain for my last sighting of dolphins on this trip and only managed to view one pod through the muddy coastal waters.  I also spotted the ship wreck along the beach though it was less and less visible every year.

We reached the far northern perimeters of Perth’s suburbs and I was amazed at how far it stretched from the city centre – such a vast drawn out city along the coastal plains!

I was definitely getting impatient at our groundspeed – it had gone past 2 pm and we weren’t there yet.  We overflew Macca’s place and he came out to wave – Yay – Hi Macca and Di!

Then there was home in the distance – very dry and desolate of grass – but Home anyway.

We buzzed over the top to take in the lovely green mown lawns and the family eagerly awaiting our arrival.

Lexus and Ajax greeting me
All family
Kev did a greaser of a landing and we taxied in and I jumped out nearly before the prop stopped rotating – and who was first to greet me? – Ajax No, Pixi (No – she wouldn’t even come near me) Sarah – No – she was just arriving back down the driveway. No it was Lexus – Nikki’s gorgeous dog. Then Ajax and everyone else crowded in.

What a lovely homecoming. Jude Foster was there to take photos (thanks Jude) as well as all the family including that gorgeous grandson Bailey.  Kev’s Dad John and Meg arrived shortly after (they had been unwell – but made it anyway). There was lots of buns and lovely food to enjoy with our coffee and I even received some late birthday and Mother’s Day presents.
Happy Family

How great is it to be home from such a wonderful epic trip.

Friday, 20 May 2011

May 20 Exmouth to ??? via Carnarvon

Spoiling us even on our last morning, Stevie cooked bacon, eggs, mushrooms, tomatoes and toast for breakfast. Mmmmm (diet here Kevin comes).  Just for the record I ate cereal and toast!

Down at the Light Aircraft field we untied and loaded her up then took the compulsory family photo.  We just love visiting the Exmouth family and hope to see them again soon. J
Leigh Carmen Andrew Stevie Kev Kirsten and Vicki


Departing at 9.18am we overflew the field then over the beautiful Cape National Park Ranges toward the Ningaloo reef and beaches.  The beautiful gorges and valleys are an unseen wonder of the world and following those the beaches are a pristine example of white sandy beaches with turquoise water.  The beauty of what lies beneath will remain in our memories for ever.

Gorgeous Ningaloo beaches

shadow at 500 ft agl

We arrived at Carnarvon exactly 2 hours and 10 minutes after leaving Exmouth and quickly refuelled before checking the weather forecast again.  
Arriving Carnarvon

The old Carnarvon terminal

We were lucky enough to only have 10knots headwind even though the forecast was 30 knots.  Climbing higher we even got 10 knots tailwind which helped us immensely. The radar that morning had shown nil rain however a phone call to a friend at Geraldton had advised that it was raining for 30 minutes.  We waited for 30 minutes then headed off again.

Turning inland we headed past the part dry huge Lake “Collins” trying to track as short a distance as possible for Geraldton.  Approaching Hamlin Pool the visibility ahead started to grow darker and before we knew it – we had to turn around away from the approaching rain squalls.

We checked out a station strip but it looked very muddy and had a road across it half way down.  We turned inland as a roadhouse with a strip was only about 10 nm away.  Approaching the rh I spotted the strip on the western side and it looked in good condition.  We flew a precautionary pass to check it out then prepared for a r h circuit to land just as another squall got us. 

Overlander Roadhouse - 1 night unexpectedly
Luckily for us the strip was firm and Kev stalled her on safely.  We walked to the roadhouse and enjoyed a coffee whilst watching the weather passing.  Back at the plane and checking the radar it was obvious that we would not have clear skies for the next leg of 1.5 hours to Geraldton. We were grounded on our last day.  We had to book a room and stay at this Roadhouse.  Apologies to our friends whom we were going to catch up with in Geraldton.

We had told our girls that we would arrive home tomorrow in time for Bailey’s first birthday party on Sunday.  We really didn’t want to miss it and didn’t want this bad weather stopping us getting there.

May 19 Exmouth snorkeling Turquoise Bay

I slept in (oops) and therefore missed the trip to the airport to collect Andrew.  Kev went with Stevie as he needed to purchase mo-gas to top up the fuel as no Avgas was available.  They popped into collect the test equipment which would be used for checking for the presence of ethanol in the mo-gas.  However upon meeting Rolo (the owner of the local maintenance operation) he offered some avgas at $3.00 per litre.  70 litres was pumped on board which had us set for the trip to Canarvon – fantastic.  No messy decanting of jerry cans was necessary – which would have taken hours.

Back home I had washed clothes and prepared for the day’s snorkel outing.  Stevie had prepared a variety of fresh rolls and fruit – all packed in the esky with ice.

Leigh and Carmen came with us as Andrew and Stevie had plenty to do at home.

Driving north almost to the tip of the peninsular we followed the road around into the beautiful Ningaloo National Park.  The grasses were long and very green with a backdrop of the stunning cliffs of the ranges behind.

We arrived at beautiful Turqoise Bay, quickly unloaded and joined the other beach bums on the small strip of sand – as it was high tide.

Leigh and I were the first to snorkel, then Kevin and I, then Leigh and Carmen , then Leigh and I again – and it was far more vivid and with a huge variety of fish and coral than I remembered.  (Sorry east coasters) The visibility and colours far outshone what we had seen on our Whitsunday snorkel adventure some weeks prior.

The photos from the underwater camera will not be available until we return home and get them developed – hopefully soon and hopefully they will work out!!??
Nephew Leigh Millington

Back home, tired but very happy, we showered and rested until feasting upon a variety of bbq’d meats and the lovely cod (caught by Leigh) served with salads, all prepared by Stevie and Andrew and cooked to perfection by Andrew. 

Andrew and John
Andrew's mate John joined us with his lovely Stinson model aircraft - what a little beauty!

Plans: – only 2 legs to an overnighter at Geraldton then HOME – by Saturday 21st May. Oh how exciting – we are very ready to go home after an epic adventure.

Will this blog get finished?  I do hope so – dear readers.

May 18 Port Hedland to Exmouth

 Departed Pt Hedland at 9. am and tracked over the muddy irregular coastline to Karratha.

We heard an incoming call from a Qantas airline RPT so we maintained 500 ft agl to keep separation and after a few moments we saw it slide diagonally past our windscreen at 2,500 ft – a magnificent sight – and I was too slow with my camera.

We turned left (southward) and the miles soon slipped away on very smooth air.  There wasn’t much to look at unfortunately except a few islands – one of which was iron ore coloured.

Approaching Karratha we requested a right turn to view the Burrup complex.  Passing by the huge gas burning tower gave us quite a bit of turbulence.  One area was obviously under construction and this is where my eldest brother, Phil works.  I had emailed and sms’d to let him know we were coming through.  I think he was on night shift so would be asleep.

Arriving at Karratha, we were kindly directed to the GA parking area by the controllers and immediately pilots came from everywhere.  We refueled and then were invited inside for a coffee by Kylie and Mike from Karratha Aviation Services.  Thanks everyone – lovely hospitality.

We departed K at 12pm watching a huge iron ore train passing the airport then turned left overland.

The winds were rather ordinary and a bit lumpy so we climbed up to 4,500 ft to overfly Onslow and onto the Gulf.  In preparation for the water crossing to Exmouth, we climbed again to 6,500ft.  Beautiful smooth air gave us a view across the water to the Exmouth peninsular in the distance.  Beginning our descent 13 miles out we slid down at 120 knots to overfly the field and approach onto runway 18.  In the final stages of descent we passed 2 PC9s in formation inbound for Learmonth.  Not a soul came to greet us as compared to Karratha. 

Upon checking my messages I found missed calls and messages from Andrew.  Stevie hadn’t received our sms about being 2 hours later than originally planned and was desperately searching for us and getting worried.  She had driven to Learmonth hoping we had landed there but we had arrived safely at the Exmouth ALA.  We unpacked, tied her down and had taken our luggage to the closest exit gate when Stevie arrived to collect us (with freshly purchased prawns).  We felt bad about them having so much unnecessary worry – always a concern when flying across country.
Exmouth Light Aircraft airfield

Back to their home, we feasted on freshly peeled prawns with fresh bread whilst Stevie traditionally fussed over us.  What a gorgeous sister-in-law she is.  Andrew was in Perth for an appointment and would be arriving back early next morning.  We spend an easy relaxing afternoon catching up with Kirsten and Carmen (nieces) to hear that Leigh (nephew) was out fishing with his boss (good boss eh?) and had caught a 900mm cod – very suitable for dinner tomorrow evening.

That evening we dined on marinated lamb shanks with baked vegetables all perfectly prepared by Carmen – a great cook.

May 17 Broome to Port Hedland

As the Hotel does not serve breakfast we walked into Johnny Chi Lane to a cafĂ© that was open.  Many workers were finishing their egg and bacon rolls whilst we ordered raisin toast, fruit salad with yoghurt.

Chris collected us to take us to the airport and view the Stinson.  Deanne came over as well on her way to work.  They were very impressed with our mode of transport with Chris vowing to get his license – one day soon.

Bye Broome

coastal cliffs

Departing Broome at 9.25am we were given a right turn over the town before tracking south over the water.  The swirling sandy coloured water showed nothing of it’s depth nor of any possible fish life lurking under there.

We climbed to 2,500ft and once again had a tail wind of 15k which stayed with us all the way down the coast to Hedland.

Arriving just after midday we were afforded hangar space in Keith Russell’s operation (Golden Eagle Airlines) and joined Keith and Mary for coffee and catchup.

Keith escorted us to their home in South Hedland and left us with a car to explore the Hedland sites during the afternoon.

We purchased a take away lunch and sat in the town centre park immediately adjacent to the wharf.  There were 18 ships waiting at sea to come in however no movements happened whilst we sat there.  We then drove through the new subdivision of South H – Pretty Pool and viewed the 2 storey houses mainly constructed from colourbond.   

We then drove out to a local attraction Rocks On (or was it Off?) to see local stone ornaments, carvings and jewellery as well as imported stone artifacts.  Much to Kev’s disgust I found a lovely little tray with gum leaf styled handles and purchased it.

Rim Engineering truck at Hedland
We visited Alan, Maca's representative in the NW. Maca is our wonderful sponsor for this trip.

We dined with the Russells at the 4 Seasons restaurant where I enjoyed a calamari and chorizo salad. Kev dined on a lamb salad, Keith enjoyed a chicken pasta dish and Mary’s choice was bbq ribs.  My meal was exquisite in variety of tastes and very enjoyable.

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

May 16 Broome – Sightseeing

We were kept awake during the night in the backpackers dive by mice rusting around in our bags. YUK.  We got out of there as quickly as possible and walked down to the Roebuck Hotel and went on the waiting list for a room.  We left our luggage and walked into Chinatown again to enjoy a coffee.  We soon had a room available so went back to check in – Oh how nice to have a clean airy room. (he he)

Back into the town we purchased bus day tickets and caught the bus for a tour of the town, Cable Beach and surrounds.  Kev needed to buy another av. chart so headed off to the airport whilst I wanted to wander through the myriad of clothing, souvenir, art galleries and pearl shops!  We parted company – he went one way whilst I browsed and browsed to my hearts content.  We met again to have lunch – Kev a meat pie (again YUK) and I enjoyed a berry fruit smoothie. 

Wandering happily from one pearl shop to the next I was amazed at how big all the pearls were in 95% of the shops.  With their huge price tags of course.  I cannot wear neither large rings nor earrings and love the creamy ivory coloured fresh water pearls.  I finally found some drop earrings and studs at a reasonable price and was very happy with my purchases.  Kevin wasn’t so happy L.

Kevin had not finished at the museum so whilst waiting for him to return I just HAD to try the homemade icecream shop. One chocolate and one peanut butter brittle scoop totally appeased my sweet cravings and I enjoyed it whilst watching the passing parade of Broome’s various coloured residents.  When Kev returned, he too just had to have an icecream, the same.

The next stop was the Japanese cemetery which was very well maintained despite the damage done by vandals. 

We had our photo taken by a passing gent who turned out to be a Buddhist monk – a good sign?

 Back on the bus we went to Cable Beach for the famous sunset.  We had about 1 hour walking on the vast sand due to it being low tide.  We watched the 3 trains of camels heading off on their sunset ride.  I loved taking photos of the snooty looking good-looking camels. 
Camel rides on Cable Beach

Crab art on Cable Beach

The sun started setting and all I can say is WOW.  Though the staircase to the sun was not hugely evident however we were blown away by the variety of colours as it set.  Yes another tick off from the Bucket List.

We caught the bus back into town to go to the Sun Open Air Movies.  Rio – a kids movie was showing at 6.20pm and we arrived just in time for the start.  If you liked Ice Age, go see it – very funny.
Kevin and Chris Wright

Outside immediately after the film we were met by ex Army Nasho Service days’ friend, Chris Wright.  Kevin and he hadn’t seen each other in approx. 35 years however knew each other by sight the minute they set eyes on each other.

With his friend, Deanne we set off to Matso’s Boutique Brewery Restaurant where, (luckily for us) it was Curry Hut night.  Kev elected to order otherwise and chose salmon whilst we received serves each of the prawn, beef and vegetable curries served with rice, papadams, a yoghurt raita and chutneys.  We tried the Ginger Beer (alcoholic) whilst Chris enjoyed his stout like beer.  A great evening catching up on each other’s lives.

May 15 Kununurra to Broome via Lake Argyle & Bungle Bungles

I must have known we needed an early departure and woke up at 6am.  Cherise had popped into town and brought back croissants for breakfast.  YUM YUM A few more kilos!

After enjoying jam and honey on the warm croissants, packing up our gear, loading the car, saying our goodbyes to Tay and Stu, Cherise took us out to the airport by 8am.  It still took us 1 hour to untie the plane, pack our gear in, lodge a flight plan and SAR, check everything, get her started and warmed up before we finally departed lovely Kununurra.
Friends in the bathroom

Airborne amongst a gaggle of Alligator Airways going on their first Bungles tourist runs of the morning, we blundered our way around the rivers until we found the Argyle Lake Dam wall.  The view of the vast expanse of water of the Lake was nearly impossible to describe – being (apparently) 3 times larger than Sydney Harbour it stretched ahead and around us on both sides as we flew down the length. 

Lake Argyle Dam

Lake Argyle as far as we could see

Leaving the Argyle we flew another 60nm over fairly mundane country until we came to the Bungle Bungles.  It’s hard to imagine why these formations popped out of the earth in the weird and wonderful shapes we see today.  But it is a very striking sight that was well worth the wait.  One more tick from the Bucket List.

After the Bungles we tracked for Halls Creek for fuel.  Once again the country turned back into small hills with sparse vegetation.  Arriving at Halls we took a little flight over the town and then landed with quite a strong crosswind and some turbulence.  Kevin was kept on his toes working hard at keeping Big Bird on the tarmac and even kept to one side in case she ground looped.  But thankfully we maintained fairly straight and quickly taxied off to the parking area and fuel bowser.

The bowser was adjacent to a beautiful large tree – very picturesque. We re-fuelled quickly and were nearly ready to go when we were invaded by a busload of Kings Canyon tourists who had been in the Bungles overnight.  Many of them including the pilots came to photograph and ask questions about the Stinson.

Departing Halls at 11.40 we set our heading for Derby.  This was a long leg of 2 hours and once again the ground below was flat and (boring).  Yours truly went to sleep and only woke up about 20 minutes out from the field.  Arriving there at 1.45pm the large strip could be seen easily and lots of hangars showed it was a busy little airport.

Whilst there a float plane arrived to take passengers to the Horizontal Falls.  It was obviously a popular attraction.  Due to the time of the day it (PIC) was decided that we didn’t have time to fly up to the falls approx 80nm north and then fly coastal onto Broome before night fall which was 5.20pm.

So we headed south over the vast mud flats of Derby and then a direct line to Broome.  Obtaining a clearance into the airport Kev requested a left turn to view the bays around Broome.  We flew over Roebuck Bay, over the wharf area at the point and then turned to see the beautiful very long Cable Beach.  What a magnificent sight.  Well worth the diversion for any pilot to fly around Broome.

We landed on the 3 mile long strip and were given directions to the GA parking area.  No sooner had we shut down when Kevin’s phone rang and it was John Carder – engineer from  Golden Eagle Airlines (formerly from Jandakot) who had stayed at home with us some time previously. He was working in a hanger adjacent and seen us land.  His welcome lift into town was appreciated and he joined us later for dinner.

Into a backpackers accom., we soon realized we had made a mistake in booking it and tried to get a refund so that we could book elsewhere. However the attendant did not have the authority so we had to suffer the disgusting showers and toilets and stay for the night.  We got out quickly and walked around China town in the lovely cool evening joining John C at the Roey for the carvery.  The servings of beef and pork were enormous and the choice of veggies great.  I enjoyed a veggie dinner whilst the guys ate heartily of their meats gravy and all the trimmings.

Stinson Reliant SR8C VH-UXL

Stinson Reliant SR8C VH-UXL
over Perth city (Photo: Greg Hill)

About Us

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Flying farming couple who live on 135 acres. Kev is obsessed by aeroplanes. Vicki is devoted to horses and White Swiss Shepherds.