Slav armed us with weather details and acted as our SAR for this leg so we said our goodbyes and and lifted off into rain and marginal visibility. Our first fly through rain! We headed for clear skies about 20 miles south where the rain stopped but poor visibility and low cloud continued right through to Mount Gambier.
Our flight took us down the Coorong to Kingston where we turned inland for Mt Gambier. We could see however that the weather was improving south of this point so having flown around the Blue Lake and craters nearby tracked on for Portland. We arrived 2 hrs 15 minutes from liftoff and upon landing found we had lost another 30 minutes due to time zones.
Portland airport had a cute Nissan hut as an aero club and the same design as their terminal. We lunched in the aero club and chatted to a local fire bombing pilot who had been stationed there for 3 months.
After checking weather ahead of us and knowing that rain was following us we decided to fly direct to Avalon instead of overnighting at Apollo Bay as planned. After contact with Avalon to confirm arrival clearance we flew on to Warrnambool only 30 minutes down the track.
We commandeered their local flying clubhouse and whilst Sarah caught up with some school work Kev cleaned some of the Nullarbor dust, exhaust grime and oil from Lady Bird. If we had more time there we would have visited the Museum – everyone raved about it – maybe on our return journey!
The flying displays at Avalon were due to finish at 5.30 local time so we departed after much organizing of flight times etc. We tracked over the coast marveling at the cliffs, finger like peninsulars and tiny bays. The country side ranged from river flats to mountainous steep country.
The highlight of this flight was the 12 Apostles (well we only counted 9). We had to stay clear of the airways above this tourist attraction due to commercial tourist operators. We understood this pre-caution as 3-4 helicopters were buzzing back and forth with their paying passengers whilst we trundled past and got many fantastic photos. Absolutely Fan-bloody-tastic.
Sarah spent a great deal of time hanging all around the cockpit getting great photos of the coastline, apostles, funny shaped inlets like giant fingers and the weather ahead. We climbed over the headland past the lighthouse and down into Apollo Bay. The airstrip at Apollo Bay didn’t look as scarey as we had been told. The town looked very pretty.
The hills inland were very steep with one particularly vertical cliff face not far upstream from the town.
We continued up the coast until turning north inland to track west of the Avalon control area and onto our reporting point at Anakie. We had taken much time and care in reading the Notam which was quite logical. I had the radio frequencies written down as well as the relevant info. Due to the number of incoming aircraft expected the first rule was to listen to the Atis (area terminal information service), then monitor the Barwon West radio for instructions. The rule once again was to monitor – but not respond however we were lucky enough to get in the circuit pattern with a real “hillbilly or hayseed”. The pilot of a small high wing craft could not see the strobe that was set as a reporting or turning point. It was difficult to see however he kept on calling up and complaining that it might not be working. The controller was very polite despite him breaking the rules and finally acknowledged that strobes were “funny things”. “You see” he said. “Its like this – Now they’re working. Now they’re Not.” Well that broke us up laughing but the hick did not get the joke. Later we mentioned to the tower controller that the strobe light was rather difficult to see due to trees. His reply that it should be fixed next year – probably with a chainsaw.
We were left in the circuit pattern for over half an hour due to an Orion with a wheel problem. We were finally given a direct track approach to 18R which was a long dirt strip.