Saturday, 13 February 2010
Sun, Sun and more Sun
Work has brought me to Western Australia for a two month contract with a small oil company in Perth. As I was leaving England to go to the airport snow was falling, on arrival I was greeted with 34 degrees and crystal blue skies; what a contrast! It's late summer here and the landscape is scorched, it hasn't rained in months and water restrictions are firmly in place. I know the place quite well having spent nine years in Australia, six of which were living in Perth. So the memories are being jogged out of retirement everywhere I look and after only a couple of days being here it's all starting to look a little more familiar; even my accent has a little Aussi twang returning! I met up with some local pilots who took me to one of their XC sites called Mt Bakewell, a small hill above a town called York nestled next to the Avon River. However the names are the only thing that resemble O'Blighty as in reality it's a charming little sun baked town out in the wheat belt of Western Australia.
As usual I was way too optimistic and had planned various big XC options the night before. Eric a local French expatriate, Bruce (the same Bruce I met in India recently) and Rod had all done their weather homework and thought that once the temperature reached a magic 32 degrees an inversion would break and we would all sky out. It didn't quite happen that way as nobody seemed to get much above 1300m (4265 ft) and combined with a little too much east in the wind meant that I was staying local. Eric and Rod have both managed 150+ km flights from this site so it does have potential. The launches were pretty sporty though! A reasonable meteo wind combined with strong thermals meant that it was often howling on launch and you had to pick your moment and wait for the lulls to get off safely. A lull here means that there is a big thermal sitting out front blocking the wind, so once off you often get hoofed up in a screamer (paragliding parlance for zooming skywards in a thermal). My first launch here caught me by surprise and I got off in a rather ugly fashion, but armed with this experience my second was text book. A nice day out all in all. Thanks to Bruce and Eric for making it happen.
Eric on his Aircross U4