I think GPS technology is amazing. The ability to be able to see where you have been and which direction you need to go via a tiny little box of electronic trickery is almost magical. The scenery we tracked across on today’s flight from Moreton Station to Heathlands is pretty much featureless. It has no mountains to track towards. There is only one road that is followed for a short distance. There is only one cattle station on route. So we were relying on the little black box of tricks more than we normally would and it almost led us astray…
Take off from Moreton was around 10 to 7am. Steve and Tania came up to video the take off. The strip is so long it took us ten minutes to taxi to the other end! As soon as we lifted off, the wind was trying to push us back again. The route to Heathlands was crosswind so our speed was around 60knts across the ground. It was clear all around when we left Moreton, but soon enough the clouds came in, forcing us lower than we would normally be comfortable with. We still had plenty of options, so we continued on over the trees and termite hills. Moreton is around 150ft elevation and Heathlands is around 450ft, and it is very noticeable when you reach the plateau that Heathlands sits on, as the trees get smaller and large areas of grass and termite hills start to dominate the landscape.
The GPS ticked off the miles and around 45minutes after leaving Moreton, we spotted the Heathlands Ranger Station. Problem was, the GPS told us we had another 8 miles to go before the strip. We thought that maybe it wasn’t Heathlands after all, but the area ahead was shadowed by clouds, so we couldn’t tell if there was an airstrip there or not. We knew which direction the strip should be facing, and it was right across our path. We flew on another few minutes, keeping an eye out for anything that looked like an airstrip. Tracey spotted it just off to our left, about 2k’s away. The GPS was still stubbornly sticking to 3NM (6km) in front of us. So a good example of everything we have read about cross country flying, which basically says look out the window and don’t rely totally on the magic box!
The landing at Heathlands was interesting. The wind sock told the story of strong wind on the ground, but coming straight down the strip. We sort of hovered over the end of the strip a little while, and then gently set down at the Western end.
We tied down near the windsock, carefully choosing the angle so the wind flows across the wing; this stops the wing from being lifted by the wind from either the front or rear. I have been very impressed with how stable and secure the wing is when the base bar is on the ground.
Grevillea trees and termite hills surrounded us as we used just about every rope on the tie-down kits and every peg. The trike is tied down in eight different places. We put the Billy on and waited for our support team. When they arrived, we had to re-pack the cars. The plan was to camp for two nights at Eliot Falls, so Tracey and I needed to fit in the cars. We eventually got in, although it was pretty uncomfortable (not as uncomfortable as walking, so not complaining too loudly) the bypass road has the worst corrugations of the whole trip. This section of the bypass road isn’t particularly scenic, so it’s not as though the scenery distracts you from the bumps. They are doing a lot of work near the Captain Billy’s Landing turnoff; but the rest of it was rubbish. The campsite at Eliot falls is anything but rubbish. The falls have been a real highlight so far and just the tonic we needed. Everyone has gone a bit berserk with the cameras, so the results should be amazing. The water in the creek glows it is so clear, and cascades over the rocks into beautiful sandy beaches just perfect for swimming and lounging about. There are even Venus Fly Trap vines growing in the trees beside the creek. Delicate ferns and sundews grow in the gaps in the rocks. It’s amazing how quickly the vegetation changes once you are near water. This river is spring fed and the whole area sits on a sandstone rock base that soaks up water and then releases it slowly, so the rivers flow all year round. Away from the creek; the environment is very dry and quickly changes to Eucalyptus woodlands.
The fruit bat colony that lives on the banks of the river put on a spectacular show as they left for the night. Tania took some video of the bats swooping down to the river to drink. There are thousands of them; we think they are little red flying foxes. There are plenty of people here, but the camp is well set out and very quiet.
So we have two days for the wind to die down while we camp here. Hopefully we will be able to get to Bamaga and leave the trike there and see what the weather does next.
Bob & Tracey
Leaving Moreton St