Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Australian Adventure: Log 8

The cold dew, Road Trains and Rail Trains kept me up for most the night, but I roll out of bed as soon as I hear Glen moping around in a morning crank. After a series of takeoff miseries with Mark yesterday, we hope that we can get him up in the sky early today. By 6 am, he’s harnessed up and ready to go, but like yesterday, the winds are dead, and moving all over the place. Morale is low, for the whole team and Mark needs a good takeoff to give not only him, but the whole team a lift in spirits.

With the Parajet spinning, Mark gets off to a slow run and struggles down the field, his sail is pushing him from left to right to left again. He’s two thirds the way across and still stumbling. Finally with a great blast of throttle, his feet come up, the Paramotor sinks and just kisses the ground, the three of us hold our breath as he skims out of the freshly cut Cricket pitch and into the long grass beyond. He lifts out of the long grass, but directly ahead, a stand of trees look him straight in the eye. With throttle maxed, he splits between two trees, just grazing the right tree with the tip of his wing, and lifts into the safety of open air. A huge sigh of relief and pleasure comes over the three of us left on the ground, nervous chuckles of what could have been. Had Mark caught one of his guide wires on the branch he hit, it would have been disastrous, ripping him around and dragging him out of the sky.

Glen rushes back to his Paramotor, with a nervous grin, barking away, “Jeez, that guy is going to give me a god damn heart attack,” followed by the usual swearing and cursing that regularly spews from his mouth. He throws his Paramotor onto his back, powers up, and shoots into the sky with a fair bit of difficulty himself, taking an uncharacteristically long run to get up, the dead air playing havoc with everyone. However, now it was time for the drama’s to hit Glen. His motor bouncing the throttle, something didn’t seem right, then the issue went away and the two floated off into the distance. However, as Craig and I broke camp, we start to hear the familiar drone of the Paramotors coming back. Glen does a quick fly by, yelling at us that he’s lost his flight computer, a little handheld screen that displays GPS, Compass, Direction, Altitude and such, a rather important and expensive bit of kit. Craig and I scour the takeoff path as Glen comes in for a landing, cursing and yelling his frustrations. Glen and Craig continue to run back and forth on the field in search for the little black computer, while I scan the video footage for a clue, not are found. On my way back out to show Glen the footage, maybe he can see something I can’t I stumble upon it just around the starting area, sitting neatly in the grass.

Carrying his Paramotor back to the takeoff point, Glen try’s to start his motor to get back in the air with Mark who is circling above. Whah, whah wah. The battery is dead, and another stream of profanities spews from Glen’s mouth as he dismounts once again. Craig and I rush to the camper and break open the spares box. Thankfully a spare battery is sitting there and we rush it over to Glen’s machine hoping that it came with a good charge. After a couple failed attempts to start and frustration rising, Glen finally sparks life into the Parajet, and rockets in to the air with the upmost of anger. We cheer as he gains altitude and swings by, his attitude turned 180-degrees kicking his feet in the air with joy and cheering us on. We’re back on the road, back on task.

After a refill at an airfield in Pentland and more takeoff dramas for Glenn as the wind just will not keep in the same direction, they finish off a good mornings flight in the equally small village of Torrens Creek. We make our way back into the village centre, a bar and gas station, and find parking in a field next to the bar with power, and we head in, Mark is buying a round for thanks, as are patience with his liftoffs kept a pressure free environment. The inside of the bar is unique to say the least, the bartender is working on a Harley in a garage off to the side and meets us inside the bar, which is covered in felt pen autographs and graffiti, flags, photos and mementoes of passers buy. The bearded bar keep at first seems annoyed that we interrupted his Harley time, but after we buy a round, he’s deep in conversation with Glen, who has a knack for getting to know everyone he meets. Many subjects are covered, why we’re here, what the weather is like, how far down the road the next towns are, but what peaked my attention most was his talk of killing three large snakes in the last couple days in and around the building. “Yup, big Blacks they were. Gotta watch out for them, this is real snake country, and they’ll kill yah quick. And they’re vicious too, they’ll attack you!” My phobia, while being controlled at the moment just took a real hit. It didn’t help that when we left the bar, I was buzzed by a hornet about 3-inches big and found a beetle up against the wall the size of my hand. Everything in this country seems to want to kill me; everything is bigger, meaner and poisonous. And everywhere I look, nature is fighting itself. Bird in particular are constantly screaming, fighting and keeping me up all night. Even as I write this, some big white Parrot is screaming out its death throes as it is slowly devoured by something evil behind the leaves of the tree on the other side of the road. Australia is such a beautiful place, yet so raw and viscous at the same time. I love and despise it at the same time.

We move the launch area out to an old abandoned World War II airstrip just on the other side of town. More dramas plague Marks engine and we’re spending another night on the ground.


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