I’m up early once again, the mere sound of Glenn’s tent unzipping is enough to get me out of bed, even if the night sky is still untouched by the suns rising rays. It’s like the army all over again, I’d automatically wake at 5 am every morning for that was the regimented routine. I put together a round of teas for Glenn Mark and I, and Mark and Glenn negotiate over the computer, watching with worried eyes as weather systems advance on our location. Rain is on its way in the next couple days and will likely hold us up. A quick decision is made to bypass Emerald and cut south. Winds are pushing in from the coast, so Glenn’s thinking is that changing direction south will allow a few more days of travel, only having to fight crosswinds, rather than meeting the systems head on in a fight for Emerald. This also means that we are sacrificing highway miles up north, so we’ll have to find more down south before we cut across to Perth.
With the early morning leave from Barcladine, I’m not so eager for a breakfast this morning as the weight of a deep-fried seafood platter is still sitting in my stomach. Glenn makes a successful flight first down to Blackall, where I get in a much needed swim at the local pool. Day upon day of sitting in the Nissan has stiffened my back, the mere act of turning to look out the window to find Glenn high up in the sky is almost becoming painful. The good swim does wonders to loosen up my muscles; I’ll have to make use of pools more often when they become available. Glenn’s evening flight sees him land in rodeo grounds just past the town of Tambo, offering up an excellent spot to set up camp. After a good meal cooked by Mark, I take the opportunity to sit out under the big sky, taking in the mass of stars that come out in the Outback sky. It really is amazing how much more you see out here, and I take every chance I can to do some star gazing before fatigue gets the better of me.
The next morning, Craig and I walk the Paramotor out to the truck pullout over on the highway. It’s another stroll through long grass; the injection of adrenaline from the threat of the legless menace is more than enough to wake whatever sleep was still in my eyes. With the wing set out, Glenn hits the starter and gets nothing but a click. Within a split second, I know what is about to happen. A furious tirade of profanity spews from Glenn’s mouth as he continues to hit the starter button to no avail. He thinks the battery is dead and Craig runs back through the wet grass while Glenn and I stripe down the Paramotor. Craig is back in a flash and we button up the Paramotor with a fresh battery. Glenn hits the starter button once again, “CLICK.” Boom goes Glenn, he’s so mad that he can’t even string different words together, just constantly yelling out “f@#$, f@#$, f@#$, f@#$….”
We pull everything over to camp, and start to strip the starter off of the Paramotor, however, there is a special technique to get it off and we decide that it is easier to just do a full engine swap with Marks motor that is stored in the truck. Another hour later we have swapped motors, but the wiring harnesses are different! Another long while of cutting, soldering and shrink wrapping, and we’ve managed to get Glenn’s machine tip top once again, but we’ve lost a good portion of the morning. Glenn takes to the air with little effort and gets a good head start as we have a huge mess to clean up after the frantic search for spares, tools and stripping a new engine out its box in the trailer.
We catch up to him just before the town of Charleville. The name sounds familiar to us, and as we start to notice the signs of flood waters, we quickly remember why. It was Charleville and the neighboring town of Mitchell that were evacuated last week, making the news. The devastation of the surrounding area was immediately evident, all the paddock fences were covered in debris, trees had mud reaching as high up as ten meters in some cases and the bridge entering the town was destroyed, yet being a good six meters over the rivers current level. The town itself was saved for the most part as it sits on high ground, but environment all around the town was left in ruin. We spent our mid-day break here, making use of an air conditioned Road House as a refuge from the searing mid-day heat. This is also where we would say good bye to Mark for a couple of days, he’s off to Sydney to partake in an event put on by Tourism Australia where he can schmooze with big wigs and celebs while giving interviews to all the countries major news stations.
On our way out of town, we stop at the local fuel station to top up the LPG (Propane) for the truck, finding that the pumps are out of service. We top up all the Jerry Cans in hopes that we can make it to the next town on petrol alone. We drop Mark off at the bus station and book out of town after Glenn. The route we take back east once again follows the river that flooded, and from Mervon to Mitchell, the landscape and infrastructure is raped by the forces of the flood waters. The bridge in Mitchell fared even worse than that in Charleville, being washed away completely and we take a makeshift fording ramp across the now tranquil stream.
With Mark now gone, Glenn’s focus and determination is left nearly unchallenged as he pushes to make up as much distance as he can. His risk taking is getting more and more exciting for Craig and I on the ground as he makes some spectacular takeoffs, battling wind and obstacles. One morning, he climbs out into a field with a runway that is too short and just wide enough to fit his wing. With liftoff, he’s just kissing the trees on the left side, but not getting the height to clear the tree’s in front, cranking over on his toggles, he swings right and just clears the paddock, averting disaster by mere feet. It’s an impressive feat, however, Craig and I start to wonder if he’s maybe starting to push too hard, taking chances that are too large.
From Mitchell we push on to Roma, and Glenn is already on the ground on the outskirts of town chatting with a local. We pull up to meet Rick, a large man with large personality, shooting from the mouth and sporting a big gut. “I saw this UFO falling from the sky, and figured I’d come over and see what it was.” He is an extremely good natured person, inviting us up to the shop for a couple of beers, then even gave us his house in town that he was renovating. We set up the trailer in the driveway and had full use of the bathroom and fridge.
We knew that we’d likely be stuck here a couple of days, as the winds were forecasted to be high, and the hospitality of Rick was a welcome surprise, making us feel right at home and tossing us another beer once we were all set up, having a good long chat in the back yard before our beds beckoned us.