A crystal clear dawn welcomed me over the Nullarbor at my overnight port of Forrest. This historic stop has long greeted weary travelers criss-crossing this vast land. Whilst I may have arrived far better rested than my predecessors, a comfortable bed and home cooked meal worked absolute magic and I was ready to fly once again. However, the good rest did give me cause to think of the likes of Bert Hinkler; solo from England to Australia in 13 days. His leather-helmeted head in the breeze, a 'Times Atlas' on his lap, a small plane and very little else. If anything, for me, this flight has reaffirmed the enormity of that undertaking in 1928. I dip my lid to those pioneer aviators.
Wheeling back over the top of Forrest, I pointed the nose south and before long the unmistakable deep blue of the Great Australian Bight crept above the engine cowling. After a day over the inland, the white beaches and jagged cliffs of the coastline made a distinct change. At times the view was simply breath-taking. A strong northerly wind had the waves capping with white edges, though the water lapped calmly against the shore in the lee of the great cliff faces. I flew parallel to these beautiful stone walls and frequently saw trucks travelling the highway, hauling their loads east and west.
Cutting the corner overland and making for the head of the Bight, the terrain gradually changed in its tones and homesteads and farms began to increase in numbers. Evidence of agriculture continued to intensify as I neared Ceduna and the recent days of remote solitude hinted that they may be past. The Barkly Tablelands, Kimberleys and Nullarbor have all served to remind me just how vast this great land is. Flying over their expanses proved a wonderful experience with time to absorb and reflect upon the ancient land beneath me. However, for now, Ceduna called.
With the town out to my right on a point of land jutting out into bright waters, it made a wonderful setting for the arrival. The wind buffeted the Jabiru on its final approach, but it was nothing the little aircraft couldn't eat for breakfast. After a short break, some fuel and a call from the Port Lincoln Times, I was on my way again.
Clipping along the coast past Streaky Bay, I was once again in awe of the landscape this country delivers. The cliff faces were not all jagged; some had rounded crests. Not solely carved by crashing waves, but worn by erosion and prevailing winds. The yellow tones of the land met a myriad of liquid greens and blues. To my left, well established farmland prevailed, while ahead the first peaks I had seen for days jutted above the spirit-level-like horizon.
Port Lincoln now lay ahead on the eastern edge of the peninsula. Wonderfully positioned on the coast, the deeper blues suggested deeper waters lay beneath. With the choice three runways I was able to find one that was almost pointing into the 35kmh wind. Landed, fuelled and lashed down, the Jabiru was ready for a rest. I had just one more media commitment with Steve from the local newspaper before my day was done.
Tonight there is a BBQ with the Port Lincoln Lions and then tomorrow, another day winding eastward. Between those two events will be a good night's sleep in a warm bed, but I'll spare a thought for those pioneers who slept beneath the wings of their biplanes as they ventured forth across the globe. For them, the journey was about getting there. There were no guarantees about making it back.
Until tomorrow, keep safe.
Day nine will take me across the Spencer Gulf to the Yorke Peninsula and beyond to revisit two historic aviators. Tomorrow night I will call Adelaide home; the capital of South Australia and home to a fighter jet with a personal connection. Make sure you check back here for the next blog in the coming days. Or subscribe to my newsletter for the ‘alert’. Thanks again and I'll see you all soon.