Thursday, June 24, 2010

Day 9

Day 9
Someone wise once said that you should know when you are beaten. The weather has beaten us, and we are wise enough to know when we cannot win. We rang our designated responsible adult this morning (thanks Dee) and via the satellite phone, she gave us the forecast for the next few days. Strong wind warning, Strong wind warning, Gale warning. 25-33knts.
So we have decided that with less than 65nm to go, we cannot fly to the tip of Australia.  The weather was always going to be the major player in our trip and so it has come to pass. All our plans and planning included the phrase ‘depends on the weather’. It is simply not safe to fly our little aircraft when the wind is half as fast as we are!
We have flown 90% of the way, over some astonishing country and through tough conditions. We learned a lot about ourselves and our abilities as well as our limits. All of this has combined to make the decision to stop flying for the next few days an easy one. We will repack the cars so that we are a little more comfortable than yesterday. Some gear has been left at a secret location that looks a lot like Heathlands airstrip, but probably isn’t. This will give us enough room to fit two more bodies in the vehicles.
Teddy generously allowed us to use his car to drive the 70ks back to Heathlands from Eliot Falls so we could secure the trike. With the winds as they are, I was not confident that even 8 different tie down points would be enough. When we got to the trike, it was sitting serenely in the howling wind, not moving at all. It was nice to see we predicted the wind direction correctly, but didn’t change our decision that we needed to fold the wings up so that it cannot go anywhere if the wind changes direction. This took a bit of trial and error, as we have never done this before and is probably something we should have thought of before the trip. Anyway, it all went well and soon enough the wing was de-tensioned and the battens pulled out. We folded the leading edges in behind the spats and wrapped them in tarps and secured them with duct-tape. With the trike tied down safely once again, we reluctantly turned back for Eliot Falls. We stopped at Heathlands ranger station and let them know what was happening.
Back at camp, we headed for a swim to cheer us up. The water is just beautiful and it’s so nice to just sit back and soak a little while. The cameras came out blazing again as the sun set over the falls. The sight of the flying foxes heading out was again spectacular, they are just amazing animals. Luckily, Steve forgot to bring his guitar, so he couldn’t sing a song around the camp fire to cheer us up. This probably would not have improved things, I’m guessing. Instead we sat around inside the vestibule of Steve and Tania’s tent chatting, eating chocolate and listening to the rain showers scud across the country. The wind can be heard gusting through the trees from hundreds of metres away. It will be quiet and serene, then the wind starts to rise in pitch as it can be heard coming closer and closer through the trees, the hiss of the leaves rubbing together as the air swirls around the them, branches bending to take the strain then the gust hits camp, blows any loose items over or away, messes up everyone’s hair leaving us looking like we’ve been dragged backwards through a bush, and then everything is serene again for another few minutes. Every 15 minutes or thereabouts, a burst of rain will be added to the cacophony of the wind, wetting everything under the tarps that has been blown loose by the wind and just as everyone has settled down and got their hair organised, away we go again….
Bob & Tracey
On the way to Heathlands

Wrapped up safe (we hope)

Heathlands, as far as we will fly this trip.

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