Morning Glory Cloud

Morning Glory Cloud
Morning Glory over Massacre Inlet (photo: Diane Davey)

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Winton Wanderings

I found myself wandering the streets of Winton today, looking for interesting things to photograph. For a town that started off with no trees, I found an amazing variety of them, many with beautiful flowers. I’ve included photos of some of these below.  There is one in particular I would love to find out what it is if anyone knows. It looks really nice and smells wonderful, especially in the evening.
Winton is not very large so my wandering didn’t last too long. One of the things I was looking forward to for the trip was spending a few afternoons reading a book.  I had 4 books I wanted to read, so I posted 3 of them to myself in Burketown and brought the smallest one with me.  It’s one my sister had recommended and is called ‘The Tall Man’ by Chloe Hopper. It is based in this general Nth QLD area and is about “the fatal collision between two 36 year old males, black Cameron Doomadgee and white Senior Sergeant Chris Hurley.”  I started reading it yesterday and I’m sure it’s a great book, but let’s just say that the first two chapters wouldn’t exactly make you want to run out and spend 3-6 weeks out here, let alone as female by yourself . So it had to go to the bottom of the bag before it freaked me out completely.  Sorry Michelle – I’ll read it when I get back.
So I had to get something else to read. There is a newsagent here so I thought I’d check it out. Choice was limited: Janet Evanovich or Justin Bieber’s unauthorised biography. I kid you not! You’d think the Bieber Biography would be the size of a pamphlet, but it was the bigger one of the two, so although I would have loved to find out more about my fellow Canadian (not), I had to go for Janet.
Forecast is still saying moderate winds for tomorrow morning. Apparently the Glory won’t come when there is a southerly, so I don’t think I’ll be missing out. Have book, can wait.

Some galahs flying at the airport this morning. Notice how flat and treeless the countryside is.

Trying out where best to put the new GoPro camera for the best view on the Glory. Bought this little camera especially for the trip and though I had lost it in Cobar. Thankfully found it going through the bags yesterday.

A part of "Arno's Wall", a local attraction. This man made a wall from rock from Opalton and a bunch of junk. Apparently council tried to stop him and after a number of years, gave up and made it a tourist attraction. They even built a park next to the wall: Arno's Park.

A flowering tree - looks a bit hibiscus like.

Dainty flowers on a large shrub

Lots of these in town, I think they're bougainvilleas - lots of different colours too.

Another flowering tree

This is the one I fell in love with. Magical scent. Tree is about 8 metres tall and has a few legume like pods. Would love to know what it is.
One for the petrol heads

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Too windy

In case you are wondering - I didn't forget to turn on the spot tracker. Unfortunately, the wind is still blowing  even stronger than yesterday so I decided the best place to be is on the ground. I have to admit, it was quite a difficult decision for me to make this morning. After yesterday's great flight, I was ready for more, I was really looking forward to getting back up above this amazing country. I'd have a tailwind again, a stronger one, so could even possibly make it to Burketown today - very tempting. But the strong wind also makes for turbulent conditions and take-off & landing can be tricky if the wind is strong and not in the same direction as the airstrip. Doing the trip by myself, there is no one to discuss things with, so I really have to rely on my ability to make the right decision, often with conflicting information which can be unreliable (sounds a bit like work!) As usual, it felt good to make the decision - funny how things just get easier once you make the decision.

The motel owner drove me out to the airport so I could check on the plane (no taxis here). The wind had been blowing all day and all night so I'm glad I had polished up my knot tying skills before I left Melbourne. Everything was just like I left it (you can relax, Geoff!)

I spoke to the folks at Burketown to let them know I'm still on the way. They said it hasn't been a good year to date for Morning Glories. Several people have packed up and left. I'm still hoping it's just waiting for me to get up there. Andrew and Ian got there in early October last year, so I think there is still hope. I'm really lucky to have the luxury of time - I get the feeling I'll need it on the way back too.

I've enjoyed the trip up to date more than I ever imagined I would. Sometimes I still can't believe I'm here, I'm doing it - and now it's just so close - from both geographical and fundraising perspectives. Thank you everyone for your support!

Big Day - over 500km

Today was another great day. With the help of a strong tailwind, I covered about 565km in a single flight. I had planned on stopping at Longreach, but was going so well, I thought keep going and instead stop there on the way back down. So I'm spending the night in Winton - the proud home of Australia's National Song: Waltzing Matilda. They even have a Waltzing Matilda Centre, complete with bronze statue of Banjo Patterson.

It was really interesting flying over this countryside. This area is where Qantas started up. Flying across the barren landscape (aka tiger country). I just cannot imagine what it would have been like for them flying over the same landscape all those years ago, but with no GPS, no maps, no air traffic control, not even any airports! It's quite remarkable when you think about it.

The motel owner was telling me how when he moved here, there were no trees at all in the town (I think he's been here for a long long time). It makes sense as there are not really any trees around as you get further from Blackall in this direction. Now there are quite a few established trees so it's hard to imagine what it would have been like. I can't imagine living somewhere with no trees.

I'm getting very close to Burketown. I've been looking at the maps today to try and work out if I can do the whole rest of the trip tomorrow. At this point, it is looking very unlikely. It would be a bigger day than today and I would need to get going very early, which will be a problem as there are no taxis in town and I'm relying on the motel owners to give me a lift back to the airport once they've done people's breakfasts. The afternoons up here are very hot and not very pleasant in the air so I'm avoiding them. Hot afternoons are best spent near a pool, I think!

The bit between Charleville and Longreach is very remote - I really admire those early pioneers who flew above this landscape.

Would not want to have to land around here.

Back to paddocks and scrub. Time for the in flight service

Winton has interesting wheelie bins. Wonder which one is recycling?

Part of a scuptural interpretation of Waltzing Matilda in town. 

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Rest Day in Charleville

Stayed an extra day in Charleville today. It was very foggy this morning so an early departure was out of the question and there were thunderstorms forecast towards Longreach. I've also been doing battle with a bit of a cold so hopefully the extra rest will help me see the back of it.

I wandered down by the river for a bit of a walk. There were lots of interesting footprints down there. I was strolling along quite nonchalantly until I saw one that I thought could have been a croc footprint. Didn't think there were crocs this far south, but wasn't about to stick around and find out (I asked later, there are no crocs here, but there have been some brown snakes around).

Last night's observatory tour was cancelled due to clouds. I still wanted to check out the observatory/visitor information centre. They had a few displays and a presentation which were quite good, particularly the meteorites, of which they have several samples which they let you handle. I also went and had a look at the bilbys. The 'Save the Bilby' people have a base here. There is an enclosure with a bunch of bilbys hopping around - they're so cute. The 'Bilby Brothers' were featured on Australian Story a few years ago. Quite an amazing story how 2 guys effectively saved this little creature from extinction.

I also caught up with a couple of glider pilots on their way back home to Narrabri/Lake Keepit from from Burketown. They didn't get any Morning Glory this year, but they have been up there before a few times and have caught the Morning Glory on previous occasions. It was great to speak to them about catching the glory wave and get their tips and tricks as well as their advice on what to avoid to stay safe.

Having trouble loading photos tonight. So not sure if they will appear.

Foggy morning in Charleville

Down by the river - lots of birds and evidence of other creatures

Not sure what made this, the track had this 'two footprint together' every 1/2 a metre or so

It think thisis a wallaby

Thought this could have been a nasty one

Checked on the glider. The cabin temperature with the canopy closed went through 60 and was still going up before the LCD screen went out. this photo was taken as it was coming back down.

Storms brewing on the horizon towards Longreach

Monday, September 27, 2010

Tropical Charleville

I went to sleep last night thinking about what the weather would do today. The bureau website forcasted clear skies and fine weather in Charleville, whilst the aviation weather (NAIPS) forecast was sounding less promising. Interesting as I believe they both come from the same place - go figure. The morning's updated forecasts did nothing to clarify things, so I thought going to the airport and having a look myself would be the best thing to do. Cunnamulla had clear blue skies and virtually no wind. I could see a few small clouds on the north horizon, so decided to give it a go. Before leaving, I reviewed the maps in detail to make sure I had a few options should things change.

Staying clear of rain is particularly important for gliders, including the motor glider I'm flying. The airfoil of the wing is affected by rain (and bugs, hence the importance of cleaning them off at every stop). If the wings are wet, the glide performance drops and the stall speed increases, so you can understand why it's so important to plan accordingly to avoid flying in rain.

There were airfields scattered all along the route, which was comforting, as the clouds were building up a little bit as I got closer to Charleville. I requested weather from Brisbane Centre on the radio to make sure all was well at my destination and they informed me that Charleville was CAVOK, meaning fine weather.

I landed at Charleville and the air had that stormy feel about it. It's hot and humid (thought the hair straightener would come in handy out here!). I could also see that the clouds were buiding up and there was definately going to be rain. I had been looking forward to Charleville so the decision to stay here was an easy one. As it was still early in the day, I took the opportunity to repack things a bit and do the normal fiddle around thing with the motor glider before heading into town.

There is an observatory here which I'll be checking out tonight. Should be able to see stacks of stars so far away from city lights. I'll probably spend tomorrow here as well given the forecast. I may duck out for a quick fly or glide in the morning if there is a good weather window and a break in the schedule for the airliners.

Better sign off and get some dinner before everything shuts! It is the country after all. I've got a few options tonight at least. My options last night were roast pork or roast beef at the only place in town that was open. I chose the pork, and it was really nice!

Photos from today:

Fine weather out of Cunnamulla. Notice airstrip just below the centre of the photo running left to right. There were quite a few bush strips along this leg.

What a great place to spend a Monday morning!

The Falke wanting to play chicken with the Qantas jet.

Wonder if the Falke will get bigger if we add water?

Brisbane Centre's version of CAVOK (wtf???)

Scary looking clouds. Glad we're on the ground!

Every good country town has something up on a pole.

... and a few nice old buildings.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Made it to Queensland

Leaving Cobar this morning was difficult because this was where Phil (my husband) and I had to part company. He headed south back to Melbourne to return to work on Monday and I continued to head north. He came around and waved me goodbye in the air, which was a perfect send off.

We maitained radio contact for a while, but after a few crackly transmissions as we flew away in our separate directions, it was clear that I was on my own for the rest of the trip. I would have loved to do this trip with Phil but this time it was not possible. I'd like to think we will make the trip again together someday.

I landed briefly at Bourke to top up with fuel, then on to Cunnamulla, crossing the Queensland border on the way. It is getting much warmer up here. I'm now flying in just a t-shirt and need to keep up the sunblock. It is almost unbearable on the ground with that nice new bubble canopy. I had a camelback malfunction taxiing at Bourke with the hose of the camelback coming off the drinking part because the hose got so hot. It was rather refreshing. Today I was cruising mainly around 4500 feet. I covered about 325km at an average speed of around 70kts (130km/hr).  Here are a few picture highlights from the day.

Phil waving me off before heading back to Melbourne

Bourke, and some of the back of it

The Bourke terminal had some great historical photos of Nancy Bird. This one of her having engine trouble with her brand new Leopard Moth. The British plane struggled in Bourke's heat. Nice flying outfit Nancy!

Crossing the Queensland border - now just need to the other side of the state.

Some good lift in Queensland! - nearly 800 feet per minute (variometer bottom right).

There is even still some green out here - very unusual and very beautiful

Cleaning off the bugs at the end of a good day's flying

Changes in lattitudes, changes in attitudes - a shop in Cunnamulla

The Cunnamulla Fella

Another great day!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Tocumwal to Cobar

What a fantastic day! Flew nearly 500km today from Tocumwal to Cobar, stopping in at Griffith (see the tracking link on the right for the route on a map). The countryside is amazingly green. It is usually a big dust bowl so it's quite remarkable. Here are a few pics I took today:

The countryside is so green! Looks like I'm still in Victoria, but this is actually central NSW about 100km south of Cobar.

Refuelling at Griffith before having lunch.

A bit of Griffith style philosophy with lunch.

Back in the air, paddocks getting bigger and bigger

If you were wondering what was going through my mind today...

Ready for more tomorrow!

Phil has to be at work on Monday so he heads back home tomorrow and I'll keep going on my own. As we were leaving the airport, someone from Burketown flew in. He said there are quite a few people up there already, but no sign of the Morning Glory yet. I hope it's just waiting for me to get there to come out!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Trial Run

Today ended up being the perfect day to depart. The fog forecast allowed for a second cup of coffee (gee, I'm really going to miss good coffee!). We got to Bacchus March, loaded up the plane and headed north. There were a few whispy clouds about, left over from the fog, but they cleared up gradually up to the NSW border where clear skies awaited.

The plan was for Phil to fly me up here (Tocumwal. The Falke was still here) then I load up the Falke and we head off to Lake Cargelligo in company (Phil in the Pacer, me in the Falke). We got here a bit after lunchtime and started loading up the Falke. Mike had left the shiny new canopy off to make this process easier. Despite having done a practice pack earlier in the week, it still took a while to ensure everything was secured and that nothing could foul the controls.

A few people dropped by to wish me a good trip which was really nice. We chatted away and ended up having a late lunch. It was so nice to feel the sunshine again after a Melbourne winter. Probably a bit too nice...

We ended up deciding to stay the night here at Tocumwal and to leave in the morning. Leaving Phil for 5 weeks will be really hard for both of us, so I wanted to make sure we had a nice last weekend together before I left without rushing around. So a nice relaxed night in Tocumwal seemed like the right thing to do. It is his birthday weekend after all!
Stand By You Airlines

Happy Birthday Phil!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

One more sleep!

Tomorrow is the big day- I'm all set to go!

I've spent the last few hours trying to embed the spot tracking into this page but I've given up. Instead I've included an image with a link to the spot tracking page. The spot tracking page will be displaying where I am in real time through my spot sattelite tracking device (have posted about this nifty gadget earlier). It also allows me to send predefined messages to a list I've created online.

That means you can click on the map on the right at any time (once I've left) to find out where I am. The spot device sends a signal every 15 minutes or so. Give it a go!

The plan is to get to Lake Cargelligo via Griffith. Phil is flying me up to Tocumwal, where I'll hop in the MotorFalke and we'll then fly in company until he has to turn around and come back in time to go to work on Monday.

How exciting!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

More Preparations

I should have posted this update before the last one so it's a bit out of synch, sorry about that. I wanted to put up a bit more about the preparations and include a few photos of northern Victoria from the last month or so to give you an idea of what it's been  like.

These two photos were taken at Wahring Field, just north of Nagambie. This is where the MotorFalke is based. As you can tell by the photo, it was very wet up there. It took 4 men and I to pull it out when it got bogged near the hangar. Luckily the strip was ok. There was much more rain in the area after these photos were taken so lucky we got the glider out before it was too late!

How do you get a MotorFalke over a puddle?

That's really bogged!

In addition to the canopy work I mentioned in the previous post, the Falke also got a polish (washing all that mud off from the Wahring take off!) and a shiny new compass:

New compass so I don't get lost.

Having the canopy off also make the engine checks a bit windy - especially at full power

Engine at idle - canopy off

As I drove home from Tocumwal, the water levels were still high, but at least they appeared to have stopped rising. Let's hope the skies stay clear for a few more days so I can get away.

Tocumwal foreshore

You've just got to love Tocumwal - it's made for gliding!