The taxi pulled up right as we walked out the door of the inn, with 2 smiling faces already inside. We set off to collect Ollie and were soon back at the airport, which was unfortunately closed. Luckily, the fence was not high, and the gate opened from the inside.
Morning in Airlie Beach
Pre-flight was quick now that we’d all fallen into our assigned roles. Ollie checked the aircraft, I removed the tie-downs and checked the fuel, and Rowan loaded the luggage. Jen took down the sunshades and was in charge of snacks! We took off as quietly as possible, given that it still wasn’t 6am, and turned on course for our first destination of Charters Towers.
Heading into the outback
Fuel stop 1, Charters Towers
The flight was just over an hour, across early morning scattered cloud and mist. The departure gave a great view of Airlie Beach, before taking us up and over the coastal hills. At this time of morning the air was beautifully smooth. When we arrived at Charters Towers the field was deserted, but the self serve fuel was available, and the bathrooms unlocked! We fueled up and headed out.
Not a problem in other countries
Australia loves Cessnas
Lovely weather in the outback
Our next flight leg was almost 400 nautical miles, to Mount Isa. We climbed up to 8,500 to be above the thermals that would be developing through the morning. The terrain was turning into real Australian outback, with hardly any sign of human activity. A slight headwind slowed us down, but we were on the ground at Mount Isa not long after 10, and fueling up. This airport was significantly bigger, with security staff and all!
The day's flying
Approaching Mount Isa
Stop number 2
We departed from Mount Isa for what we expected to be the final flight of the day, just over 30 minutes to Barkly Roadhouse. The airstrip wasn’t in the GPS so Ollie directed me in using his aviation app. As we came overhead, my skepticism deepened. Things didn’t look quite as I’d pictured them from the website; for one thing, the buildings were laid out differently, and there was no highway or fuel pumps, strange for a roadhouse. I questioned Ollie again. “Nah mate, it’s all good, this is Barkly” said Ollie (possibly in a less stereotypically Australian way, but that’s how it is in my memory). So, we landed. I did a horrible job of it as we were trying the full 40 degrees of flaps for the first time.
Not actually Barkly Roadhouse
We secured the aircraft and headed off to investigate. The whole place seemed deserted, with lawn sprinklers going and more dead birds lying around than we were used to seeing. We found an unlocked building that seemed like a recreation room, that happily had a mobile phone picocell, so Ollie called reception to investigate. They were very confused that we couldn’t find them, but the reason for this soon became clear as I checked Google Maps. We were indeed at Barkly, but the wrong one; this was effectively just somebody’s house. We decided to get out of there quick and make our way to the other Barkly, nearly 200 miles to the west, in a different state.
A lovely oasis in the outback, but also apparently just some blokes' farm
Shaming our navigator
Before we managed to slip away, the only resident found us. Luckily he was friendly and quite amused by the situation. He told us he’d heard the airplane land but hadn’t really though anything of it – a bit odd if you’re the only person on a remote homestead! We packed everything up, took off, and headed west.
The actual Barkly Roadhouse
The flight was just over an hour, and the terrain soon started looking much more like we’d expected. Desert, with a long highway stretching ahead of us. We flew a left downwind past a facility that looked a lot more like the one from the website, and touched down on the dirt runway, taxiing down a dirt track to the parking area near the main facility. This time, the route to reception was very obvious.
Cabin at Barkly
After checking into our cabins, we relaxed in the restaurant for a bit, the only place with wifi albeit slow. We looked ahead at the plan for the next few days, including the long, long run out to Perth and beyond. The unanimous feeling was that this was going to be just too much flying, with no real opportunity to enjoy Perth after such a long slog, so we revised the plan. After Ayers Rock, we’d head southeast to Coober Pedy, instead of west to Perth. Much more manageable.
We had dinner at 5:30pm, as soon as the kitchen opened, and turned in early as usual after pausing to admire some of the giant road trains that had rolled in.