103. Sunday 27th September 2009. Dust n heat n flying things…
103. Sunday 27th September 2009. Dust n heat n flying things…
Wednesday woke at my usual time of 6am. The weather forecast was for hot Northerly winds and a State wide total fire ban. As I left for my walk it was a little chilly outside but nothing unusual. As I walked there were occasional wind gusts that were quite distinctly warm. I guess that was a harbinger of how the rest of the day would shape up. Hot, dry, windy.
I noticed also that leaves continue to fall from the trees and the carpet of leaves is getting deeper. When I back the Virago out of the garage the leaves slip from under my feet. Nothing we can do until the rains come. The leaves will continue to fall and raking them will only mean the ground is covered again in a few days. Just wait.
Funny that here our leaves are falling in Spring whereas in the Northern hemisphere the leaves are falling during Autumn. Seems to me they are falling at the same time for different reasons.
Thursday we woke to a dust storm. This storm stretched from almost the tip of Australia all the way down to Melbourne and travelling East. We saw video footage on Tuesday night of Canberra being covered by red dust. Wednesday night we saw Sydney being covered by a thick red dust. The video showed the sky getting darker and darker, turning to night. Brisbane and the Gold Coast were the same although not as red but still darkening the sky and buildings becoming invisible. The forecast was for the dust storm to pass over us Wednesday night and Thursday. Sure enough, Thursday we woke to a hazy, dusty, pink smudged sun over the Conway Range. We closed the doors and windows to keep the dust out.
Friday night with a dramatic departure from our usual embargo of no travelling at night, we travelled at night. Normally driving at night, in the tropics, where cane harvesting is in progress, millions of moths, beetles, grasshoppers and other six legged creatures commit mass suicide on the front and windscreen of cars. Friday night we left home a smidgin before 7pm and arrived at Home Hill a touch after 9pm, where we spent a comfortable night at Home Hill Comfort Stop. Well, comfortable but woken three times as we stopped beside railway tracks and trains whizzed or shunted past.
By a little before 10am Saturday morning we were booking in to Rowes Bay Caravan Park and spent a couple of hours preparing for a long afternoon.
Donnis son Peter had mentioned there was an Air Show on the Strand in Townsville and my daughter Shelley was planning an afternoon on the beach to watch the show. That was why we gave up a perfectly good weekend of painting to drive 300 Klms to see something different. We loaded ourselves up with a couple of backpacks, folding chairs, esky, bag of extra food, camera, hats and a change of clothes an set off to walk the couple of Klms to The Strand and somehow find Shelley, Dwayne, Reece and Jack amongst 80,000 people packed along the foreshore. Peter was not answering his phone so we had no idea where he might be.
As luck has it, Donnis and I were fighting our way through the crowds of people on the pathway when I heard, Grandad! There was Shelley all set up with chairs and esky and the air show due to begin in a few minutes. What fabulous timing and eagle eyes of Shelley and much relief on our part to lay down our burden and have a bit of lunch.
How can I describe the afternoon and the Defence Forces Air Display and Fireworks Spectacular (DFAD) without repeating superlatives ad nauseum? The dust was still in evidence around Townsville and Magnetic Island, just a few Klms off the coast was obscured. Dust aside, the weather conditions were just perfect for an air show over the water.
Generally Air Shows are held at a Naval or Air Force bases on hot tarmac and no shade or places to sit. In Townsville portable toilets were set up everywhere, loudspeaker broadcast the commentary, military and local bands performed, vendors sold hot or cold food and or drinks, Police and Cadets were everywhere, the Strand was declared a smoke free zone and booze was not tolerated.
First up we saw the amazing Australian Air Force Roulettes,
a team of 6 pilots in prop driven planes performing precision and stunt flying. Remember, all the flying action was being held over the water in many cases no more than 200 metres off the beach and 100 metres above the water. Everybody got a grand view.
Some of the aircraft names were meaningless while others I recall from my Army days. Other planes like the Red Baron were from an even earlier bygone era.
Then along came the USA Stunt Team.The Thunderbirds.
These 6 F-16’s perform similar stuff as the Roulettes but…The US military has long realised the recruiting and public relations value of highly professional teams such as the Thunderbirds and their US Navy counterparts, the Blue Angels. Unlike the part-timers of the RAAF’s Roulettes, the Thunderbirds are full-time display pilots, with the kind of support that would make their RAAF equivalents drool…everything is done at super high speed, often only an armspan separates the planes. They are noisy too. It explained why the young air cadets were walking around mid afternoon selling ear plugs. These guys travel so fast they are on top of you and gone before you can get a camera up to your eye, let alone focus! Where the Roulettes performed for 25 minutes the Thunderbirds were out there for 50 minutes. Pretty impressive stuff. From both stunt teams.
Of course the F-111 is always popular especially when it does the dump n burn. As this aircraft is being retired next year this will be one of the last times we see this spectacular sight.
We saw what is possibly the worlds largest military aircraft, the US C17.
This lumbering giant seems to defy gravity as it flew ever so slowly above the water. At that slow speed I could not help wondering how it got off the ground let alone fly.
Then along came the helicopters, the Blackhawk from the movie Apocalypse Now, the Chinook and the MR-H90.
Note the crewman at the window near the front. On the other side was another crewman standing in the doorway waving. If you look closely at the rear end, the cargo hatch is open and another crew member is sitting there with his legs dangling as he waves.
They hovered on the beach in front of us sending up a strong wind followed by spray off the water.
As darkness descended on the beachfront there was a lull in aircraft and the local radio station broadcast interviews and music giving a running countdown to the next spectacular.
But first… suddenly the F-111 were above us doing a night- time dump n burn then as they disappeared somewhere along the beach the fireworks began.
The fireworks were being launched from three barges, off the beach right in front of us. For 30 minutes we ooohed and aahed and squealed and applauded for the display and then it was all over. Somehow 80,000 people were all packed up ready to go home. To walk the few blocks to their home, their car or bus stop.
Fortunately Shelley & Dwayne were parked only two blocks away so they gave us a lift to Rowes Bay and thank goodness there was an army of Police on traffic duty to keep traffic flowing and most people understood to be patient and they would be home sooner. I know we were. Just in time to turn on the new TV and watch the rugby league final between the Brisbane Broncos and the Melbourne Storm. It sure was a pity Brisbane were off their game. They lost 40 to 10.
The Storm play Parramatta Eels in next weekends grand final.
Sunday morning Peter showed up for breakfast and after eating and a bit of a chat with Donnis, he begged off on a longer visit as he was tired and wanted to go to bed.
We visited Shelley and the kids at their home at Bushland Beach. They then took off to the Air Base to see the planes while we headed off to the beach for fish n chips.
Travelling home on Sunday afternoon the dust was still hanging in the air. The sun was a silver ball.
We arrived home just after dark and after unloading WHEREWILLWEGO it was 7pm.
welches großes Wochenende.