You may note that I have once again been absent from Madang – Ples Bilong Mi for a week. This is not my fault. It is the fault of the Great Australian Outback, where a web connection is a rare thing. I was, of course, nowhere near the real outback, which is way out west from Toogoolawah, where the Skydiving Ramblers Drop Zone is located. I was the well-treated guest of Dave McEvoy and Ali Raynor, two friends I met in Madang when they visited there. Dave carried the Ramblers torch and founded Ramblers Parachute Centre in 1974.
I really had expected to hang loose at the drop zone for a few days as an observer and general all-round pest. I ended up doing a tandem jump and getting two rides in the drop plane in the bargain. This was an unexpected pleasure.
This is the amazing Cessna Caravan. It is not only beautiful, but it is an absolute pleasure to ride in:I have never been up front in a plane with a “glass cockpit”. There were only a handful of conventional instruments visible. There were two large management displays such as this one (one for the pilot, one for the co-pilot) with a huge GPS navigation display between them. Flying this plane is pretty much a push-button operation:I was flabbergasted to hear how much this plane cost.
One of the more interesting aspects of my two flights (this one with pilot Carl, in the image) was that I had to strap on a parachute:Some of you will know that I’m an old pilot, mostly helicopters. Everybody knows that helicopter pilots don’t wear parachutes. How would you use it, exactly? However, I’ve done a fair amount of fixed-wing flying, also. It amused me that this is the first time I have ever worn a parachute. It amused me further that the Caravan is possibly the safest aircraft I have ever had the pleasure to fly in, discounting commercial airliners, of course (how safe are they?).
Here is Roger, my first pilot. I include his image only so that I can mention that I was suddenly caught up by the idea that I’d never flown with anyone names Roger and I could not get my mind off of the novelty of saying, “Roger, Roger.” every time he spoke to me. I think it got a bit annoying after a while, so I stopped doing it:
There were many other amusements at the drop zone. The bird life and kangaroos were great fun. These lorikeets were always about, making more noise than one would think possible:I found myself strangely incapable of getting a single kangaroo picture. I simply could not get close enough for a shot. However, I did get some great koala shots, which I will show as soon as I can get them off my Olympus camera. I forgot my cable and the card adapter, so I have no way to transfer the images to my computer.
Here is a self-shot image of me sitting in the co-pilot’s seat of the Caravan:I’ beginning to look like Gabby Hayes. It’s time to trim the beard.
I’ll finish with another Toogoolawah sunset:This one shows a crepuscular ray just to the left of centre. Well, we’ve all seen them before, even if we didn’t know what to call them. Only the hopelessly geeky know those kinds of things (did I say that?). Anyway we see these rays all the time. This one struck me as a little out of the ordinary because it is shining like a big orange searchlight on the bottom of a cloud above the horizon. If you click it to enlarge the image you’ll see it better. You’ll also see five birds which happened along just as I was taking the shot.
I’ll be back tomorrow with shots of my tandem jump. Geronimo!Tags: ali raynor, cessna caravan, crepuscular rays, lorikeet, skydiving ramblers, sunset, toogoolawah