Day 10 - Broome YBRM to Hall's Creek YHLC via Fitzroy Crossing YFTZ
We had the morning to wander around Broome, since we were only doing a 300 NM hop to Hall's Creek in the afternoon - and there's nothing to do in Hall's Creek, according to the tour pilots. We just go there to break up the trip to Alice Springs YBAS. So we drove downtown in the morning (to Chinatown, which in Broome is essentially one main drag street and very little of it is Chinese) and all went our separate ways. I explored the shops before settling in to write up the prior day's flight at a Kebab shop. I was struck via the Kebab equivalence by the difference in cost of living. A kebab (shawarma) with a soda was $17.50 AUD. That's around $16 US. Which is quite a bit, to be honest. I'm still able to get a perfectly reasonable shawarma for around $9 in New York City. Admittedly, Broome is a beach town.
It was a tasty kebab though.
Following my kebab and quick blogging break, I met up with a few other tour members for a quick cafe stop. I had a mocha frappe, others had tea. It was that sort of time. When we were done, it was time to drop off the rental cars and head for the airport - so we did.
Prepping SDN, I reminded myself to test COM2 and to make sure that GPS2 acquired lock. Just to be safe, I bounced SDN's nose up and down a few times to make sure the newly repaired nose gear strut worked - all good. We saddled up and I let the other tour planes head off first as I did note taking and planning work. Finally, contacted Broome Ground, and they gave us immediate clearance to taxi to holding point Charlie for 28, so we headed out.
Did my runup tasks during the taxi, and had the checklist cleared by the time we reached the holding point. I reported in, and they handed me off to the tower, who cleared us to go. Took off out over the [Indian Ocean] and turned right (north) over the beach - glorious. Turned on course (due east) and began our climb to 5,500. Broome Tower asked us to report reaching 5,500 with distance from Broome. When we hit 5,500, we were 9NM east of the airport, and they cleared us with 'SDN, clear of Class D airspace, frequency change approved, good day."
The flight east was a bit bumpy, so we headed up to 7,500 where it was a bit smoother. We passed both tour planes. The problem with all of us using GPS systems and the same nav checkpoints is that, yes, we all end up on the exact same track, and unless I divert around the other aircraft when approaching them, we almost always end up within 1/2 mile, sometimes closer. Requires keeping our eyes open and paying attention.
En route, we passed some neat landscape features, including a huge area of land covered with a slightly wavy grid of what seemed to be dirt tracks. Val explained that it was a minerals exploration area, and the grid did in fact correspond to map coordinates.
Fitzroy Crossing slid by, and we came up on Hall's Creek, some 311 NM from Broome and nearly directly south of Kununurra. I set up for a long left base, but ended up too high and fast again, so I went around. I'm learning that the heavier 182, when descending, will speed up - which means either I end up still too high by the time I get to the circuit, or too fast, or both. The 172 with the constant pitch prop will slow right down when you yank the power, but the 182 adjusts pitch so there's less drag, and it's heavier.
There were a large number of birds in the circuit, but again we used the force and they all avoided us (mostly Black Kites from the looks of them, soaring raptors). On the second time around, got the setup I wanted and eased SDN on to the ground. We pulled up to the pump and I danced my way to the tiny terminal shelter (not even a building) only to find that the MALE toilet was locked. GAAAAAAAH. Was preparing to take emergency measures involving a corner of the shed when I found that the FEMALE toilets were open, so, well, okay. On the male toilet was a sign saying 'FOR ACCESS CALL SECURITY OFFICER blah blah blah - basically the same signs that are on the SECURITY CONTROLLED AERODROME signs where you have to call a security office and give them your ASIC number to get a gate code for re-entry, or, sometimes on bigger airports just to get out. THe bathrooms? Seriously? On an airstrip with no-one there? Shee.
Went back to SDN where we'd left her near the pump and found that it was a BP pump, and wouldn't take any other form of card - not the Shell carnet, not the Mobil carnet, not our credit cards. Sigh.
Val showed up some 15 minutes later. She confirmed that not only was it a BP-only bowser, it was a temperamental one as well. She had a BP carnet card, so she authorized our gas and we made plans to pay her back later. Filled SDN and pushed her back, as Hugh had showed up by then, then started her and taxied over to parking.
Oh, and just to make sure my ego took every hit possible, found out that the MALE toilets hadn't been locked. I'd been pulling (there was a metal pull handle on the door) but they were push doors. I plead the stupidity and desperation of floating back teeth. My endurance in a small plane seems to be right around 3 hours, whether or not I have coffee or tea that morning or not...
Val had been careful to tell us that Hall's Creek was 'not a very nice town' and that tour folks have been harassed and had their aircraft broken into there. Just to be safe, we took everything out of the airplane including the rental headsets before locking it up. Then we all walked the 100 yards from the strip to the local hotel, which had an attached sports bar and was a bit upmarket for a town in the middle of nowhere. Despite Val's warnings, we all decided to walk in to the middle of town - where we found, basically, nothing other than a highway, one open petrol station, and some closed shops. There was, however, a lot of noise from a local athletic field on the other side of the highway, so we wandered over. The locals, it turned out, were all playing or watching a ball game which was producing an enormous dust cloud.
I was told that the game was Australian Rules Football ("proper footie"), and the rules were then (of course) enthusiastically explained. We watched for a bit - I was glad I wasn't playing, many of the players were barefoot and no gear was in evidence, but a lot of tackling and roughhousing was, although a good time was being had by all it seemed. After a few minutes, we wandered back towards the hotel. An old aboriginal man attempted to chat with the other tour group members as we passed, and they ignored him - I listened carefully (his voice was very hoarse) and heard the word 'scenery' and replied "The scenery is really beautiful here, yes."
Then I was embarrassed, because he stopped, started to cry, and said "Thank you, mate."
It took me a few seconds to figure out that he was actually grateful I'd responded and interacted with him, which made me feel frankly terrible. I nodded, he nodded back and raised a hand in farewell, and we walked on.
Back at the hotel, we had a drink in the sports bar (VB in a stubby - CHECK, DONE) and retired to our rooms for a bit before dinner. As we were heading down to the rooms, a tour bus pulled in and disgorged 40 people or so. I'm still not sure why they were in town, but I think that it's because Hall's Creek is a crossroads for the highway north to Kununurra and Darwin, and the highway west to Broome. Out of such things, in Australia, are hotel businesses made.
Dinner was unexceptional, and afterwards I retired.