Thursday, 28 April 2011

April 27 Mackay to Lakeside Airpark - Bloomsbury

Day 37 of our Trip

Having listened to lots of rain showers and high winds most of the night we awoke about 6am not thinking we would get out of Mackay this morning.

Garry & Hilda at Lakeside had telephoned in the evening to say that it was clear and the wind would be negligible in the early part of the day.

Departin Mackay in rain

Mackay city - murk beyond
Showered, packed and dressed we were ready to depart about 7.15 then we checked the radar forecast once again.  Our newly made friend, the generous Mike Jones dropped in just to make sure we hadn’t slept in.  We saw that there would be about a 10 minute break in the rain showers so hastily gave our goodbyes and jumped in the Stinson.  Obtaining a taxi and departure clearance it didn’t take long to complete the run-ups and with the oil temp at a safe level, we blasted off into the rain.  Turning right we could see clear skies ahead.  We could not, however, see an incoming aircraft to right of our track.  The tower advised it was past us so we turned for the valley between the hills.  The only visibility was the city beneath us but beyond that a wall of cloud.

Out to the coast we marveled at the start of the islands, the meandering rivers and the small coastal towns.  We passed Sarina Beach and lots of farm and bushland until we turned inland to the airpark.  Easily spotted from about 6nm out we made our incoming call, overflew the field for a look, then set her up for a landing from the south. 

Lakeside Airpark
The approach looked clear though hilly however there were fences on both sides of the strip.  It looked OK until the turbulence hit and we were jostled about with the cross wind about 5 knots.  Kev was working hard in the rough air when the cross wind just dropped which made landing easier.  It was an arrival that I won’t forget.  The total flight had only taken 23 minutes from Mackay.

Garry & Hilda came out to meet us with neighbour Peter.  We were immediately invited in for eggs and bacon breakfast on their deck.  And….. what an amazing location for their house!  The deck overhangs a huge 40 acre lake which is stocked with barramundi and home to numerous ducks, swans, egrets, jacanas (the lily walking water “Jesus” birds), kingfishers, turtles and other fish life.  It was a very tranquil setting especially with the Santa Gertrudis cattle and horses grazing on the surrounding paddocks.

After breakfast we were driven by Garry up to John Waymouth’s property about 20km up the road.  Driving around sugar cane paddock tracks and through a river crossing where the tyres starting spinning at one stage, we couldn’t believe that anyone could live out there.  Around a corner and up a rise we saw a helicopter parked next to a lovely old farmhouse.  John and Donna introduced themselves and their little dog Alfie – such a cute little crossbreed.  Whilst Donna and I went and visited her horse Princess, a neat dark brown stock horse mare, the men went for a fly over John’s property in his ‘copter. 

Donna showed me around some of the property in the Polaris 4wd then we went down to the paddock and brought Princess into the yard.  Inside the farmhouse, known affectionately as the ‘snake house’ the renovations and décor were very tasteful with lots of white cupboards, walls and with larger windows installed.  The house is known as the snake house due to a large python that resided in there prior to their renovations.

We enjoyed a lovely cuppa whilst the men flew around the 3 properties John owns.  Returning ½ an hour later with Hilda (they had been all the way to Lakeside and collected her in the chopper!!), the men had a drink then invited me for a fly in the chopper back to see the Stinson.

John Waymouth's Jetranger - my first chopper fly
I was a bit reluctant to fly in one as I never have, however Kev reassured me that John was a superb pilot with the most hours of any chopper pilot in Australia.  Donna agreed to come with so climbing aboard and strapping in, we were soon aloft and the feeling was pleasantly comfortable.

He took us on a tour of all his stock-Brahmans, hundreds of acres of partially cleared paddocks, manager’s residence etc, the surrounding rivers with rapids – all very beautiful country.  We also went down to about 20 feet off the deck and flew straight at a car coming in one access road – quite a hair raising experience for me – but not for the car driver as it was John’s manager.

Whilst flying Donna spotted wild pigs in one area by a waterhole, which we chased for a bit.  I was also shown another house - their retreat – I could only see the roof above the trees however when flying closer – the house revealed itself as a magnificently presented wooden ‘mansion’.

Flying back into Lakeside (with our lovely Stinson sitting there) we were offered the use of a car so we shot off to Airlie Beach to catch up with Alan and Margaret Jarrett (Sam’s parents) to make plans to see them later and also dump some excess luggage with them.  It was so nice to see them again.  Their beautiful home is set amongst exquisite gardens – very lush and wet but beautiful.  We hadn’t seen each other since Mill and Sam’s wedding 11 years ago.  “Thanks for storing our stuff guys”. 

The plans (being organized for us) were to stay at Lakeside until Saturday when we would fly into Shute Harbour airfield for a Sunday airshow.  If the weather permits we would book a snorkel on the island for the Saturday.  So after leaving Alan and Margaret’s (it was raining there) and driving to Shute, we introduced ourselves to Geoff, the airshow organizer and inspected the airfield.  It was absolutely immaculately designed and finished.  We had seen advertisements for house and land packages for sale on this airpark over the past few years.  It was great to see it in real life.

Back again, we met the 3 young horses that had been bred on the property.  We were then joined by Adele – another neighbour )and caretaker when Garry and Hilda are away at another property).  Peter, John and Donna joined us and we dined on mud crab entrée, followed by quick fried fresh barramundi washed down with Muscato – my favourite wine.  What a lovely evening.    

What an action packed day

April 26 Rockhampton to Mackay

It took us nearly 2 hours to breakfast, take down the tent and pack all the “camp” away.  Not long after breakfast a security vehicle drove up and asked Kev for his ASIC card ( a necessity on all secure airfields).  When we questioned if there was a problem, he was non committal because he had never had anyone camp on the airport before.  He had to check with the rules and regs!! Typical.

We luckily hitched a ride with a local pilot into town where we enjoyed a coffee then visited the Tourist I Centre.  The only place of interest open on a public holiday was the botanical gardens and zoo.  The map showed us that if we were dropped at one end of the gardens we could walk through them, the zoo and golf course and be about 4 km from the airport.

We were so impressed with the gardens which had been designed and planted by a local pioneer who bequeathed it to the city of Mackay after his passing.  The council has maintained the standard set and it was full of surprises. A Japanese garden, multiple fruit trees from many countries, an Anzac memorial and a children’s playground as well as hundreds of varieties of palm trees.  In many palms we observed ibis with their young.

Trying to crack his first coconut!
e also found a fallen coconut and Kev attempted to open it but no luck.  The fibres were too strong and we didn’t have the right tools. (We needed my Khan {GSD} – he used to open them for us when I was traveling with brother, Mill, some 25 years ago)

Surprise after surprise met us.  We found the Zoo was free to the public.  The enclosures were very well thought out and well maintained.  Some of the animals were koalas, kangaroos, echidnas, monitor lizards and lovely aviaries of birds.

Finally finishing our walk past the golf course we caught a taxi back to the airport and enjoyed a sandwich lunch before planning our next leg to Mackay.

Phone conversations with Garry Poole at Lakeside Airpark near Proserpine concluded that it would be wise to fly to Mackay and stay then attempt flying into Lakeside in the calm morning.

The flight from Mackay was very pleasant. We skirted a shower or two and enjoyed the vast estuaries with muddy water from the large amounts of rainfall they have experienced over the past 3 months.

Garry P had also invited us to his private strip about 65nm south of Mackay but he had just left that morning as his guests had eaten him out of barramundi and crab and also drunk his fridge dry!  The strip was easily located and looked a great place to stay but we left it to the wandering cattle this time.
Someone's own personal island!

Arriving at Mackay, narrowly missing a large flock of geese flying across the main runway, we were greeted by an instructor Mike Jones, who welcomed us and offered the use of a car even before we had shut the engine down.  “What superb hospitality”.

He also offered the use of a hangar with living quarters for the night which we gratefully accepted.

After a short drive around Mackay in the setting sun we were impressed with the lovely “queenslanders”, houses built up to take in the breeze and the old architecture of the city centre.  An invitation to have a drink at the Mackay Aero Club (VH-MAC) was taken up and though Mike had gone home we were introduced to 7 members who made us very welcome and gave heaps of ideas and information regarding the ongoing trip.

Ironic isn’t it?  Only 1 week ago my sister Lisa and partner Mike had lived here in Mackay and now they are down in Victoria.  They passed us whilst we were in Tamworth. 

So here we are in a hangar with rain pouring heavily on the roof making it almost impossible to hear the TV.  Freshly showered, fed and dry we are very happy with this setup. The Stinson, however, is outside in the pouring rain, much to Kevin’s frustration!!!
Not much we can do but hope she weathers the conditions without damage.

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

April 25 – Gympie to Rockhampton via Bundaberg

Unfortunately we had to leave today.  Kevin wanted to see the Local Museum early so Sam drove him into town whilst I rested and waited for Issy to wake up.  She finally awoke and we had a coffee (Sam and I – not Issy) whilst playing Mastermind.  Mill came around just as Kevin phoned to say he was ready to leave for the airfield as the weather was getting overcast and drizzly.

Sam and I finished packing the car, bought the last few essentials (dry ginger to go with the Scotch) and met the others back at the field.

The sky looked very dark and foreboding however the weather radar showed only isolated local patches of rain clouds with nothing to the north.  So even though it looked bad and was raining slightly we headed off for the next leg.

'Bye sweet one'
I was soooo sad to go.  Sam and I get on really well – like sisters and little Isabella is such a gorgeous loving 10 year old.  We never get to see each other very often. L

Rainbow Beach

Blue Lake on Fraser Island
Heading slightly south east toward clear air we made the coast and then turned north.  The weather ahead looked OK.  We passed beautiful Rainbow Beach, Tin Can Bay then over to Fraser Island.  Unfortunately the cloud cover made the beaches and water “not so” impressive but it still looked interesting to me.

We over flew the lakes, heaps of 4WD travelers, tourist parks, motels etc.  Except for the thick bush covering the island there was little to see except lots of other tourists.

Refueling at Bundaberg
We turned left again and headed back to the mainland overflying Hervey Bay and soon had Bundaberg in our sights.  We had made excellent time due to a 25 knot tailwind.

Having refueled the Stinson, moved her to a safe place and enjoyed our lovely sandwiches prepared by Sam, we then caught a taxi into town.  Our plans were to see the Bert Hinkler Museum, Botanical Gardens, Bundaberg Rum distillery etc etc but as it was Anzac Day (oops Dummies) nothing was open.  So the driver took us on a lovely tour around the city, past most of the attractions and then back via a different route back to the airport.  We were very impressed with the vast open streets and lovely building in Bundy.
Hedlow airstrip - US

Back at the airport we quickly loaded up, and shot off to the next planned stop which was to be Hedlow Field – a private field some 10 nauticals ne of Rockhampton.  Upon arriving at Hedlow, a precautionary pass showed an X on the ground adjacent to the cross strips which meant it was unserviceable.  Climbing back up to a safe height we replanned, quickly called Rockhampton for a clearance to enter and land there for the evening.

Upon arrival – luckily 1 minute in front of a Dash 8 RPT – we taxied to the GA area to find a row of empty open fronted hangars with lovely grassed areas in front.

Local aviators advised us to park down the line away from the others which we did.  It took us quite a while to set up the tent, table, cooker, chairs etc etc.  We dined on Butter Chicken (out of a can) with cous cous (out of a packet) washed down with dry ginger and followed by a superb piece of Sam’s almond/strawberry cake she had packed for us.

Campsite Rockhampton
Our view for the evening is the Stinson right in front of security lights, lit up windsock and the tower beacon going round and round and round in the dark.

Our music is the crickets and the hourly arrival and departure of RPTs.  He he.  How much sleep are we going to get tonight??

April 24 – Gympie Markets, Local Fly and 4WD

Yeeha – I was finally getting browse time around the markets.  Kevin’s love of these places has not yet been found (hehe) but we dragged him along with us all….Mill included.

And guess who found the first bargain?…..Kevin.  We had been astounded by Sam’s twizzle thingy which peels, cores and slices apples in one simple action.   Kev found one at the first stall of shed tools and bits and he bought it for $7.00 half the marked price. Still a bargain hunter.

I wandered around mainly looking for light cotton tops/skirts because the acrylic ones were still too hot.

Isabella found Tenterfield Terrier puppies and got to hold and play with the runt of the litter.  He was verrrrry cute.

Heading back to the airfield, Kevin had asked if everyone would like a fly around the town in the Stinson.  Everyone jumped at the opportunity and Issy was very excited.  All loaded up, belted in and away we flew enjoying the beautiful sunny day and the sight of Gympie from the air.  We flew over Sam’s house, Issy’s school and Mill’s property.
It was pure pleasure to see the joy on Isabella’s face.

Coming into land at Gympie

A very happy Isabella with Mill and Sam
(Not many photos from this day as the battery went flat) 

Back on the ground, the local instructor Jennifer offered us hangarage for the Stinson which was gladly taken up. 

At a local roadhouse we enjoyed a quick sandwich, hamburger, meat pie or chips – depending upon which of the healthy or unhealthy one/s you were…..

We attempted to drive up to the local lookout which went past the swimming holes.  It was very steep and muddy in areas which made the driving rather tricky but Mill’s Range Rover coped easily.  We had gone over 6 kms when we found a tree across the road which caused us to turn around before the summit.  A bit disappointing but the 4wheel driving was well worth it.  It was such an exciting trip – even back down.  Back at the swimming holes we stopped for a short rest and walk up the rocks to stretch our legs.

What an action packed day we had.

Back at Sam’s we found the silverside she had put in the slow cooker before we left in the morning had cooked to perfection.  We had fun drinking wine whilst preparing the main meal which was a potato bake, various veggies (prepared by me – big deal), parsley and onion sauce, then an exquisite almond, strawberry cake dessert which turned out perfectly. 

Ensuring that I served my own portions made me enjoy all the meal without being stuffed full. Unlike Kevin who had enjoyed full cooked breakfasts every morning and huge helpings each evening.

April 23 – Rattler Steam Train Gympie

We spent the previous evening suggesting pastimes for today and changing our minds constantly.  Finally we all agreed on the Valley Rattler Steam Train Ride from Gympie to Imbil.

The plan was to meet at Gympie train station at 10am however when Mill arrived there at 9.30 the train was just leaving.  We decided to reconnoiter and drive to Dagun and catch the train there. 

 It was only a short drive and plenty of other holiday makers were there enjoying the offerings from the station eg fruit smoothies, cheese and wine tasting.  It was a lovely little historic station.

The Rattler came puffing into the stop and we were allocated carriage A which had full width seating.  That was great because we could move from side to side as the view demanded.  The smoke and soot from the engine was very thick and occasionally came right into the carriage but it was fun until Isabella got some soot in her eye.  Luckily Mill with good eyesight and a damp tissue was able to pluck the offending piece out.

Isabella Mill Sam and Kev enjoying the train

Arriving at Gympie station I was so impressed with the building design and plants.  It looked really period and attractive. 

Gympie Historic Station
Upon being told that there would be a 1.5 hour turnaround we decided to drive back to Dagun and then continue which we did. Whilst waiting for the boys to return we wandered down the station to look at the tracks from the overpass bridge - only to note the sign which said:- "Number of persons allowed on this bridge at one time - Two".  We elected to stay on the ground. 
Gympie hotel and railbridge

On down the valley through the towns of Imbil and  until we came to a market day in Kennelworth.  We stopped for a quick browse and found mango yoghurt and some cheese.

Returning back to Mill’s car in Dagun he and I separated from the rest and stopped by his property to feed the cats – Biscuit (Barrell) and her son Boof -a big fluffy grey and white.  They enjoyed walking with us around the property to the gate, around the dam and back to the bus for a feed. 

Back at Sam’s we settled in for a rest while she slaved over the stove and prepared a roast chicken dinner with gravy for us.  She really enjoyed having someone to cook for.  We finished with apple pie, icecream and cream. 

Feeling very spoilt and full we went to bed enjoying the warm night of about 18 degrees.

Sunday, 24 April 2011

April 22 – Bli Bli, Woombye, Landsborough, Caloundra to Gympie

After a late start we set off with Barry and Ann for a lovely drive up the mountains behind Nambour.  Stopping at various look-outs along the way we were astounded with the breath taking views consisting of steep valleys, ridges and valleys as far as the eye could see.

Our first stop was Le Coq (A Rooster) café, gift shop, private car museum and nursery - something for everyone.  Ann and I separated immediately from the boys and browsed our way through the quaint gift shop – lovely items – I wish I had bought something, whilst Kb & Barry perused the vintage car collection.
At one particular lookout we could see cities in the distance, every point north and south on the coast and the ocean. 

We walked down to the lookout at Kondalilla Falls – a very eerie position overhanging the cliffs. 

Arriving at Lansborough we walked through quaint little shops and were fascinated by the candy making.  It was great to see this art has not been lost by the trades people. The experts were stretching and adding flavours to the candy and when finished it became chocolate filled crunchy bites of warm candy.  Mmmm what a flavour buzz.   
We also looked through the chocolate and fudge shop.  Taste buds drooling.

We drove on to a very popular picnic spot the Mary Cairncross Park, where we enjoyed coffee and homemade cake and biscuits (mmmmm – I forgot to get the recipes).  The main interest at this park is the access to various walks through the rainforest.  The walks took longer than we had left so we walked some way and returned.  We saw an adult and young pademelon and heard the green catbird calling in the area.  It sounded just like a baby’s cry.

As the plans were to see the Qld Air Museum at Caloundra before flying off to Gympie, we set off again, enjoying the fascinating scenery all the time.

There were over 40 aircraft, numerous engines multiples of display cabinets on all aeronautical paraphernalia.  Its variety and vastness is well worth the visit especially as it is maintained totally by volunteers.

Back to the Stinson in her tie down area, we untied and pulled her onto the tarmac to find the tailwheel almost flat.  Barry had brought his compressor with him to pump up a slightly flat main tyre, we knew we had, but then found the tailwheel valve stuck and had lost all of its air.

Ann & Barry our saviours at Caloundra
At that time Seth Lees, an aircraft model builder had joined us to view the Reliant as he was building a scale replica.

With Seth’s help and Barry’s expertise in remodeling a right angle valve fitting they were able to inflate the tyre again. Whew…..

Dragging ourself into the air at about 4pm we called Sunshine Coast tower for permission to fly through their controlled airspace.  At our suggestion they also allowed a pass down the airstrip at 500ft agl to allow them a good look.  What lovely people.
Noosa Head

We cruised up the coast marveling at the beautiful beaches and coastal housing.  Turning inland and overflying Tony White’s strip we noted rain ahead but luckily it was west of Gympie.  Within minutes we joined on a wide left base for rw 14 and settled back to earth.

Mill (Vicki’s No.4 brother) was there to meet us, collected our gear, tied the Stinson down and headed off to Sam’s for dinner.

Gympie Airfield

10 year old Ella rushed out to meet us.  It had been 4 years since we saw her last.  She had grown heaps – especially her hair – but she is still the same gorgeous looking blond giggly girl.  She leapt up on me and gave the bestest huge hug.

We dined like kings that evening as Sam had prepared a beautiful feast.

April 21 - Australia Zoo Beerwah

The ultimate in World Class interactive zoos.

Steve may be gone but his legacy lives on.

A selection of photos from the day.

Terri Bindi & Robert in Crocasseum

April 20 – Gatton to Caloundra

Leaing Steve & Beatte at Gatton Airpark

Wow – How quickly time has flown.  30 days into this adventure and still so much to do.

We spent an easy morning with Steve and Kevin talking about aeroplanes whilst Beatte and I talked about teenagers, daughters and in-laws.  Lots in common – very funny.

Watts Bridge Airfield

We enjoyed a lovely lunch of home made vegetable soup with warm bread.  Beautifully prepared by Beatte.  We then completed a rushed trip into Gatton for necessary supplies (another bottle of Scotch) basic food and something to settle my stomach which had been upset for some weeks. 

Packed and pulled from the hangar we said our goodbyes and climbed aboard to fly the short leg to Watts Bridge.  Watts was a ‘must see” on Kevin’s list as it is very famous and has very good airshows.
Qld Aviation Mobile Museum Watts Bridge



Descending into a lovely wide open valley with a range of steep hills behind we joined downwind for runway 12, landing on a beautiful grass strip.  Being a weekday absolutely nothing was happening except for an unmanned aircraft operating locally.  Having strolled around the clubhouse and soaked up the ambiance of the area for half an hour we blasted off to fly up the Wivenhoe Valley over the infamous reservoir (Brisbane floods), past the Glasshouse Mountains and onto Caloundra.

Glasshouse Mountain

Arriving at Caloundra

After trying to source a hire car I phoned Barry and Anne Spencer (Corrie’s parents) and they came to our rescue.  Having secured the aircraft, they collected us and drove to Bli Bli where we settled in to drinks and nibbles on the verandah looking down the valley towards Maroochydore.

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.