Adding up the little things
When you are in the midst of work, deadlines looming, responsibilities that extend beyond what might be considered normal and you feel as if you are in fact drowning and not waving, it is good to reflect on the wins. A fellow pilot and friend who happens to own the same type of nuclear bunker house as I do (referred to as a PDC in Darwin) built post December 1974 (after Cyclone Tracy) joined me for a relaxing Saturday in Darwin City. We often discuss the renovation and improvement requirements for these houses that are now over forty years old and in need of some modernisation. We elected to put aside the renovation planning and thoughts of flying our ultralights to visit the Glenti which if it doesn’t stand for party in Greek, it should. Even though my personal multicultural predilections are more towards Asian cultures, if I am in Darwin when Glenti is on, I must go. The music and smell of cooking octopus, lamb, chicken and beef along with coffees, cakes and happiness means that when you leave, your stomach will be full and your smile will last at least until you tackle the traffic on your way home.
I had arranged to meet my niece and her partner at the Glenti. They were visiting from Sydney and although Samara is a Darwin girl, she was rediscovering some of the charm that makes Darwin different to the big smoke. Samara had never tried the grilled octopus before and being a tentative about things that offer up edible appendages, especially with small suckers along their length was enough to almost make her reconsider. I was secretly hoping Samara didn’t eat it as I love the grilled octopus and was eyeing off her serving. Alas the wonderful taste dispelled any visual qualms she had about cephalopod body parts tenderised in a cement mixer before being grilled and served with lemon.
That tasting was soon followed by dessert and at the Glenti you are spoilt for choice. This year for the first time their was a cooking competition to select the best Greek custard tart (I don’t know the Greek word for it – yummy comes to mind). George, my good friend and one of the hosts was telling me about this event and someone else had mentioned Nona’s reluctance to share the secrets handed down through generations… Ahh culture!
As we wandered through the sideshow alley area I had to take a photograph of one particular show concession. I had a particular context in mind when I took the photograph… I wonder what yours might be?
Bellies full I returned to reality of renovation before a family dinner at the Howard Springs Tavern. Inspired by Josh’s devouring of a lamb shank at the Glenti, I ordered these at the tavern and wasn’t disappointed. With our family scattered across 5 capital cities, grabbing an opportunity to catch up can’t be missed.
James and Samara were heading back to Sydney the following day at lunchtime, Stefan who is studying music at Melbourne University was flying in early Sunday morning (and did get to catch up with Samara and James before they departed). I even think Fayth was flying in on Sunday.
The following morning I readied for my last flight for a while (five weeks) as I was heading back to Melbourne to be with Helen and Joe who I hadn’t seen for almost 6 weeks. I planned to fly to Wildman River Lodge for a Sunday breakfast. The day was windy and I knew I was in for a slow flight out and a fairly quick one home.
As I took off I turned north over a very large crocodile farm at the end of our airstrip which is definitely not an option for a forced landing. With the slightly cooler mornings, the crocodiles are easy to see basking on the banks of their enclosures.
I quick diversion over my parent’s house at Humpty Doo to wave goodbye to James and Samara from 500′ before heading East into a strong headwind. Flying East from Darwin you initially fly over mango plantations which give way to flood plains, still surprisingly green given the modest amount of rain we received this wet season.
Crossing the Adelaide River I pass by the Humpty Doo barramundi farm which continues to expand business into southern and overseas markets. Wildlife, especially birds now are the main points of attraction along with vast stretches of grassland.
There are two flood plains between Darwin and Wildman River. The Adelaide River floodplain has the winding Adelaide River snaking its way to the coast where as the Mary River floodplain is a little less extreme in its bends, however at certain points during the dry season the river is cut off from the sea, leaving billabongs like corroboree where you can fish, hire a houseboat or take a cruise. This section of wetlands has a number of lodges including Wildman, Point Stuart plus working cattle farms like Melaleuca and Opium Creek.
On the way out the birdlife was amazing as always and I saw a couple of water buffalo in top condition along with a feral pig more interested in chomping on lily pad roots than paying any attention to me.
When I arrived at Wildman, I was surprised to see no less than 4 General Aviation aircraft parked on the airstrip which runs alongside the luxury eco-tents. As I was landing I heard on the radio that Steve was approaching in his yellow gyrocopter from Cooinda where he had stayed with some mates the night before.
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After a huge breakfast and coffee we chatted with Gerry, the owner of Wildman who mentioned that there had been another aircraft as well who left earlier. It is a lovely part of the Territory and as I departed to head back to Darwin I diverted down along the Mary River and gained height to take advantage of the very strong tailwind which briefly had me flying with a ground speed of 92 knots which is 170 kmh. Before I knew it I was on descent into MKT Airfield, my home airfield.
Later that night I boarded my flight for Melbourne and for the 3rd time in a row (no pun intended) I was allocated the middle seat and try as I might, I couldn’t imagine that I was scooting across the grassy floodplains of the Mary River as I endured the cramped quarters for over four hours. I was happy to be heading home to be with family.
Greeted with a brisk 4 degrees which my phone cheerfully informed me felt like zero (no argument from me) I made my way from the furthest point you can possibly park an aircraft and still say it is in Tullamarine airport to the baggage collection area where my bag was waiting for me and if it could talk would have probably said something like “What took you so long?” When you think about it… sitting for four hours and then taking a brisk walk in company is like being part of an elite gym group… so I actually felt quite special.
Out the door with my 20kg bag of goodies brought down from Darwin and straight onto the SkyBus. Ironically the SkyBus gent was advising a customer to drink their coffee (or more than half) before getting on the bus as they didn’t want anything spilt when suddenly right behind him an entire tray of coffees toppled and spilt on the walkway to the bus causing a brief period of confusion and then an immediate cleanup. Just another one of those little things. The SkyBus is fantastic, fast and affordable. Before I knew we were parking in at Southern Cross and I gathered my bag, walked outside and Helen and Joe swung into a dropoff area near the taxi and within seconds we were wending our way to Kensington and a hot breakfast.
That night we enjoyed meal one of our many local restaurants called “I Love Dumplings” which is a Sichuan style comfort food restaurant literally 4 minutes slow walk from our house. I had a vegetarian version of hot and sour soup along with some prawn dumplings (called har gao in Cantonese). Good to be back with family again.
So the weekend started with octopus at Darwin’s Glenti festival followed by a flight to Wildman River for Sunday breakfast followed by breakfast and dinner in Melbourne. Tonight Helen and I went out to our popup community garden plot and harvested some spinach, lettuce and rocket for Joe’s sandwiches tomorrow.
Sometimes it is just the little things.