The adventure is underway, the heaps of rain that fell last night has soaked the airstrip, but that didn’t stop Mark and Glenn from lifting up into the air after yet another few early morning anecdotes from eccentric Roy, the airfield custodian. Mark takes a few try before he’s able to get up into the air, then Glenn lifts off in follow. Craig and I break camp and after another chat with Roy, a couple shots of the local Kangaroo, we’re off down the A6 in chase of the “Jellyfish in the sky,” as Glen and Mark quickly become known as. We are relieved that we are finally doing what we were supposed to be, and that we could now concentrate on the task at hand and not all the little worries about what could go wrong.
We’re headed for the prescribed landing point just past Challengers Towers, a gold mining city about 90 km down the road. Along the way we keep gazing in to the sky looking for the colourful wings and into farmers paddocks just in case. We see nothing for 70 km, then as we round a bend, there is Glen, circling above the road only a couple hundred meters in front of us. A quick look into the paddock to the left I catch Mark on the ground. We pull over, not knowing if there was a physical or mechanical problem that forced the two onto the ground well before the goal. Craig runs into the tall grass beside the road, jumps a fence and checks on Mark. I go to follow, but pull up short of the grass, in the back of my mind; I know that this is snake country, and that that tall grass is snake territory. I yell to Craig to ensure Mark is unhurt, he yells back, Yeah, he’s fine, just misread his fuel level,” and I get away with not having to venturing out into the unknown. There isn’t a whole lot I’m scared of, but one of my biggest frights is snakes, and Australia is home to eight of the ten most deadliest. We pack up the wings, lay the paramotors by the fence and shove off to Challenger Towers to get some food and internet.
Challengers Towers is an interesting mining town built during the gold rush, with classic Outback architecture. The people are extremely friendly and we are approached everywhere we go, asking what we were doing. “Whats a Paramotor?” After a long break at a caravan parking lot, Glenn and Mark came to the conclusion that the conditions were not clearing up enough for an evening run, and so we packed up and headed out of town, stopping at a tourist stop near a display mine shaft and wooden elevator tower to see if overnighting was allowed.
The mosquitoes were out, and as the sun dipped down to the horizon, a massive bat came flying over. Soon another one flew over, then a couple more. Glenn has seen this phenomena several times, and comments, “here they come, we’re going to see millions of the little bastards.” Sure enough, the sky was being blacked out with the dark wings of hundreds of thousands of bats. They were coming from the south west, and three main arms stretched over us, as the herds moved off to the East. What a phenomenal sight, it was rare that I ever get to see a single bat in Canada, and now the Moon was being blackened out by the sheer mass of Bats from horizon to horizon. After a good half hour of watching the spectacular sight, our stomachs started talking louder than the squeal of the Bats overhead and we pushed out to “6 Mile Bridge” where a camping friendly rest stop was found just on the other side overlooking the long bridge. As we pulled into the lot just up from the water, a warning sign read, “WARNING – This area is inhabited by Crocodiles!” However, the others did not fear these words, and to be honest, it didn’t bother me much either, my fear was of the serpents in the tall grass. A quick dinner is made, and we’re off to bed, Glenn and Mark not fazed by the proximity to the river and its rather large deadly inhabitants, and string up the hammock and tent once again.
The Next day, we’re up with the suns pre-dawn light, and get out to the motors just after the sun breaks. I know that I now will have to venture into the deep grass over to the paddock to help Mark and Glenn get up into the air. The other three trump confidently through to the fence not fearing the ground they walk, while I stumble along at a snail’s pace, carrying as much equipment as I can, so that I only need to make the unnerving walk once. I prod the grass with a long stick, but the ground is covered with old cuttings, disguising the bottom few inches. As I make my way to the fence line, the other three chuckle at my fear, however in the freshly munched grass of the cows paddock, I’m much more confident. Mark has a couple failed attempts to get into the sky, narrowly missing the barbed wire fence, then the wind changes and we need to relocate the runway up over the hill. With another attempt, Mark runs down through the paddock, ironically over the bleached bones of a dead cow, then loses his feet and comes crashing down to the ground. His Paramotor smashes into the ground, the rear frame bends and catches the carbon fibre prop. RACK… the black propeller explodes into tiny shards, pieces hitting me several meters away as I try to film the event. Mark has broken a prop, and the only spare we have left is 10 klicks down the road at the rest area, where we left the trailer.