31 August 2009
Blazing through Lamington National Park last week, I caught a glimpse of a few things I was not looking for. This Giant Panda snail (Hedleyella falconeri), for one. Others included a handful of sunbathing rough-scaled snakes, a gulley of glowworms, Prickly Tree Fern fronds that could double as some nice lingerie for a citizen of Brobdingnag, the largest erosion caldera in the southern hemisphere, enough strangler figs to make you suspicious, and the Victoria Riflebird through a pair of the most expensive binoculars that will ever touch my face, courtesy of a couple bird quacks-I mean, watchers.
The only downside is that the rainforest butchers the sky, which makes cloudwatching a bit complicated. September is Morning Glory month. So in less than two weeks, I'll be gliding north in hopes of glimpsing that famous cloud in the Gulf of Carpentaria. It has occurred there every year for at least the past 20. To be expected? It's only a cloud.
20 August 2009
Five hours with an instructor was enough. When time was up, I popped the canopy, he hopped out, and I flew solo. Back up to 1300 feet, I cooled the engine, and turned it off. Weightless. Well, compared to this agile beast. To ascend any further, the game becomes cloud hunting. A small, squirmy cumulus usually sits on good lift. Or you could just follow the birds. Wedge-tailed Eagles, Little Eagles, White-bellied Sea Eagles, vultures. Thermal experts. They've had about a 150 million year head start.
06 August 2009
Today, I caught my first sultry sight of a Scheibe Falke in action. It soared over the hillock where I was planted running a time-lapse of the bay. The view from the lighthouse hill is unrivaled. Over the course of an afternoon, a crowd of parcelled cumulus gathers over the Koonyum Range and swells up and blows inland, while more puffs congregate further seaward. Some of the more buxom cumulus individuals were even capped by lenticular pileus clouds. Above it all, filaments of mare's tail cirrus drifted slowly, like wisps of fine white hair. Some of my favorites.
I made a two-wheeled trek out to Tyagarah a couple days ago to visit the Byron Gliding Club. The place is pretty bare bones. One room of flight manuals, creased sectional charts, faded pilot certificates, plus the office desk and kitchen sink. In the rear, a doorway leads to a spacious hangar with a handful of motor gliders and an old Cessna. The bathroom is classic outback: a toilet stuck to a concrete pad, encircled by a cylinder of corrugated galvanized iron. I move in next Tuesday.
For a glider certificate, it should take around 5 hours of flight time in a motorfalke. Perhaps the same one I saw graze the hillside today. Upon flying the length of the lighthouse spit, the glider slipped soundlessly into an 80 degree bank and disappeared beneath the cottony fringe over the mountains. Soon, I'll have wings again.