Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Day 6

Day 6
The earliest start we have had on the trip so far. The trike engine started at 6.10am. First light was 6.24am. We were worried about the noise, but the road crew starting their truck at 6oclock meant no-one could hear us. We taxied to the far end of the strip and warmed up. Take-off was 6.25am just to make sure we were legal. We tracked slightly further east than planned, as the cloud base was a little low further north. We hit the coast near Lillyvale Station and turned left. The GPS recorded our speed around 60knts. Not as fast as we expected, but good progress. The coastline from the air is spectacular. It is difficult to tell where the land stops and the ocean starts, it just seems to blend together. We seen a couple of wheel tracks north of Port Stewart and that was the only sign of civilization we spotted all the way to old Lockhart River. We had beaches under us a lot of the time, so plenty of landing options, but the 912 kept purring away happily.
Cloud base got progressively lower the further north we went. At one stage we dropped to just 800ft to get under a bank of cloud blocking our path. We could see that beyond the cloud, it was clear with excellent visibility all the way up the coast; otherwise we would have turned around. The wind was also getting stronger as we approached our waypoint turn for Lockhart River. The original flight plan had us going behind the hills to pick up a track that leads to Lockhart River. We couldn’t see the tops of the hills, so plan ‘B’ came into effect! Plan ‘B’ involved staying out on the coast, avoiding the showers inland and then cutting the corner of Lloyd Bay and over the Jetty at Lockhart, then on to Chilli Beach. We rounded the last hill of the Heming Range and got a straight downwind run over the beautiful sweeping river arms and majestic mangrove forests of the Lockhart River delta. Got a bit bashed up by the rotor coming off the range and it would have been nice to have more height,  but when flying you take what you are given and do the best you can. Over Cape Griffith we could see a shower of rain envelope Chilli beach, and another bank of showers developing out to sea, on a direct line to Chilli Beach. We discussed the plan and decided that we would track as close as we could to the camping area, but if the rain got too close; we would land further down the beach and taxi back. Chilli beach is an excellent place to land a microlight. Its kilometres long. We timed our entry perfectly. A low pass along the beach to check for obstacles, a quick turn into the wind and down on the beach, splashing through a couple of shallow creeks. The wind was around 15knts, due to the gust front pushing out ahead of the rain.
We taxied back to where we thought the camp ground was and Teddy and Tania were there to greet us. They were just as glad to see us as we were to be there. The wind was very strong this morning and they all thought that we wouldn’t get through.
Lucky our ground crew was there as we had only a few minutes before the rainstorm hit us. We stayed sitting in the trike and the others helped us to keep it stable until the worst of the gusts had passed and we could secure the trike. We pushed it up under the trees and tied it down. Once we’d looked at the tide chart, we went back and took the wing off and bought it closer to the campsite, as tomorrow morning’s high tide would have been very close to the wing. Tracey and the others decided to head into Lockhart to scrounge a shower and wash some clothes. I stayed at camp and watched the trike and set up the tent and bits and pieces.
The washing clothes thing didn’t work out, but they did some exploring and found a café at Portland Roads, only 5ks away. Salt and Pepper Calamari beats stale honey sandwiches hands-down! The balcony even featured a live Crocodile show, just off shore and right near where the other lunch guests were about to get back in their dinghy! We had the cameras ready, but the croc was a no-show…Our host explained how the area does not have many crocodiles, as it is relatively poor habitat for them. Of course, relatively few does not mean none at all. The Portland Roads café is a real find and you should call in if you are up this way. Lockhart River apparently isn’t a real find and might be best avoided, if possible. The rain came and went most of the day. Just long enough to get everything organized, hatches battened down in camp and then it would stop. Our shiny new tent is not as waterproof as advertised (is anyone surprised by that?) and so we have some drying out to do. The wing and trike are safe and the camp is just behind the beautiful beach, if only the wind would back off to a dull roar, everything would be perfect. Not sure what is happening tomorrow, we need to consult the weather and make a group decision in the morning.
Bob & Tracey.
Chilli Beach

Lockhart River Jetty

Portland Roads

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