Well the wind did not die down to a dull roar, in fact it roared all night. Tracey got very little sleep. We were up at 6am and checked the weather, a strong wind warning for Sunday. So today would be our only chance to get out of Chilli beach for at least a couple of days. We roused the camp into action and packed up our gear. Low tide was 10am, and then the runway would be clear. After a quick brekky and briefing, Ted, Steve and Tania helped us to bring the trike back onto the beach, then haul the wing out from the camp ground onto the beach and join the two together again. It took a bit of mucking around, mostly because the wind meant we had to be very wary of it getting under the wing and it getting away on us. Once assembled, Ted & I got ready to go. Tracey sat out this leg, not comfortable with conditions. We started up about 8.15am. The runway had cleared of water and all looked as good as it was going to get. We taxied back as far as we could and gave it the herbs…. Roaring down the beach, the wing didn’t sit level until around 30knts. I waited until I had 60knts airspeed before rotating, to take into account the strong crosswind we had. Just as I pushed the bar out to rotate, we hit the edge of a shallow creek, bounced and then she leapt into the air and away we went!
We followed the coastline around past Portland Roads and over towards Mosquito Point. The hills are all rainforest and run right into the sea. Lots of swamps with lilies and tea-trees and beautiful colours sheltering behind the beaches. The wind has sculpted the vegetation so that the trees look like they are flowing up, over and around the faces of the ridges. Conditions eased as soon as we were away from Chilli beach. The observations this morning when we checked had Lockhart River was nil wind! Where we sat, less than 20k’s away, it was blowing 15knts or more!
We hit our turnpoint to Moreton Station and tracked across towards the ranges. We could just make out the sliver sands of Shellbourne Bay through the haze to our north. The visibility wasn’t the best, probably around 30NM. The vegetation changed constantly under us, going from tropical rainforest to savannah dry lands in no time at all. The range we were approaching and had to go over to get to Moreton looks a lot like Mt Mulligan, west of Cairns. A sloping base leading up to a cliff top ridge, and trees, trees, everywhere trees! Not many places to put down around here. I climbed to 4,500ft to give us a few more of the not many options we had. We could see Moreton Station airstrip from about 15 miles away. It is huge! We could have been a 737 and it would be no problem! Our guide book had all sorts of obstacles to look out for, but we could have landed cross ways! A little thermic coming in, just enough to make sure you are concentrating and down safe at around 9.30am. Taxi to the arrivals hall and secured the trike. Still can’t get over how beautifully maintained the airstrip is, if only they were all like this one!
A short walk through the bush brings you out at the main camping area at Moreton. It is lovely with big shady trees and plenty of space to throw a tent. We met Rod, the caretaker and not long after the phone rang. It was our ground crew checking we had made it and to say they were leaving Lockhart and on their way.
Ted and I settled in to wait. I thought I was a champion sleeper, but I have met my match in Ted. He lay on the bench and slept for a ½ hour. Then he lay down on the ground and slept for nearly 3 hours! The truck loading the backhoe didn’t wake him; the campers driving in and out didn’t wake him, me shuffling through gear didn’t wake him. In the end I was starving so I bought lunch and woke him up at 1oclock. Then after the support crew got here, he set up camp and went for another snooze! Champion effort that! The others arrived about 2.45pm, after a good run from Lockhart. The road is cut to pieces after yesterday’s rain from the turn-off back to the PDR. Moreton is a worthwhile stopover. Very friendly people and pleasant camping. The Wenlock River flows beside the station (and looking at the photos, through the station in the wet) There are scrub pythons here, as well as Cus Cus (didn’t see any). As well as beautiful red shouldered parrots grazing the lawns as the sun set. A shower has improved everyone’s outlook on life and washed away a little of the sand from Chilli beach. (Amazing adhesive properties, it is still sticking to the trike after flying for an hour at 120kmh!)
Plan tomorrow was to go to Shellbourne Bay, but the weather means we will go straight up to Heathlands from here. It’s a shame as Shellbourne would have been a real highlight, but it is just too dodgy to go with the wind forecast as it is. Steve tried to get a star trail photo tonight, but was thwarted by high level cloud. Team effort for tea. A sort of mashed potato rissole onion pizza. Tasted a lot better than it sounds!
Bob & Tracey
North of Portland Roads.
Ranges on way to Moreton.
Moreton St arrivals hall.