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Arkaroola - Canberra 13 January

Doug Sprigg is another keen aviator.  He helped us to check the weather on Airservices Australia's excellent web site, and quickly send an e-mail to Earthrounders Gaby Kennard and Dick Smith about our forthcoming arrival in Canberra and Sydney. He drove us back to the landing strip for our departure and opened his hangar to show us his 1956 Auster.  It looked like a much simpler plane to fly than Flemming's - only a few dials on the dashboard to worry about! There was also the Cessna 207 which Doug uses for scenic flights in the Flinders range.

There was no landing fee to pay at all - our first "freebie"since leaving Geneva! We had intentionally landed with little fuel as we had been given a wrong field elevation of 2450 feet, while the actual elevation is 800 feet. We had therefore planned on a take-off density altitude of close to 5000 feet on a hot day, which would have made the 650 meter runway rather short. We had planned to refuel in nearby Leigh Creek. Doug however supplied us with enough fuel to get us safely to our next fuel stop at Broken Hill, which is on the route towards Canberra, and this saved us 110 NM as Leigh Creek was in the opposite direction of Canberra. We could have filled up with enough to reach Canberra but Flemming didn't want to take off too heavy from the 650-metre gravel runway.

After an hour and 10 minutes of flying over desert and salt lakes, we landed at Broken Hill.  Ray paid the landing fee of US$ 3 by slipping the money into one of the envelopes provided and depositing it in a box.  Since it was Sunday, we had to call for fuel and pay a US$ 10 call-out fee.  By the time we'd eaten a sandwich on the lawn outside the terminal, the fuel truck had arrived and we were back in the air in under an hour.

As we drew nearer to Canberra, the desert changed to farmland and we flew over hills covered in forest.  The snowy mountains in the distance were covered in cloud.  There were great views of Canberra on the approach, including Burley Griffin Lake with its jet d'eau (a twin to the one we have in Geneva).  It was almost like being back home!

And, for the first time since we left Geneva, someone came specially to greet us on arrival.  This was Don Rowling, President of the Mooney Association of Australia.  He had learnt about our world trip from another Mooney pilot and friend Don Luschar whom we met in the air when we were living in California.   Don Rowling took us on a scenic drive of Canberra, starting with the Telstra telecommunications tower which gave us a panoramic (and stationary!) view of the whole city with its new parliament building, war memorial, brand new national museum, and, of course, the artificial Burley Griffin lake which didn't exist when Ray lived here about 40 years ago.  (Griffin was the American architect who won an international competition to design the city at the beginning of the 20th century). 

The beautiful city is surrounded by golden hills which remind me of the Frisco Bay area in California.  The picture is completed with blue looking mountains in the distance, which get their colour - so I'm told - from all the eucalyptus trees, called gum trees here.  Even the seats in the House of Representatives (new parliament building) were given the colour of gum tree leaves - a most peaceful colour that almost sent me to sleep the following day when we visited it.  As for Flemming, I had to keep nudging  him when he dozed off!  The roof of the parliament building is covered in a sloping grass lawn which we walked over.  The Australians like to think they can walk over their politicians.

Earthrounder  Claude Meunier flew all the way from Perth in his Aerostar to meet up with us.  Even in his fast plane it took him close to 9 flying hours at 200 knots.  We were very touched.  He brought with him friends Robyn and Denis, who also fly his plane.  We were also joined by Gaby Kennard who was the first Australian woman to fly around the world.  After an aperitif at University House where we were renting a 2-bedroom apartment with Ray, Claude Meunier treated us all to a gourmet dinner washed down with an excellent pinot noir from his home country of Western Australia.  Many thanks, Claude, for a wonderful evening.

In September 2003, Claude is organizing an Earthrounders' meeting in Perth which we plan to attend, provided of course that we make it round the world!   In case anyone is wondering, we'll fly in by airline next time.

Our Californian friend Don Luschar (mentioned above) and his wife Carolyn (also a pilot) were travelling in Australia at this time and managed to time their visit to Canberra to coincide with ours.  We all met up for lunch the next day.   Then Don Rowling took us out to an excellent Turkish restaurant that evening, together with Don Luschar's son Ron and his partner Cathy.  Thanks a million, Don!   We hope to meet up again with the Luschars in California on our way through there, scheduled for late March to early April.

Between lunch and dinner we sandwiched in a drive to Ginninderra Falls about 25 kilometres to the north-west of Canberra.  The falls weren't very abundant as they've had little rain recently, but it was a beautiful spot with several walking trails.  And, what's more, we had the place to ourselves. We walked to the Murrumbidgee river where we enjoyed a cool dip, having made sure first that there are no crocodiles in this river!

We spent our last day in Canberra at the Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve, about 40 kilometres south-west of the city.  We went for a stroll through the wetlands where we were able to see a vast array of birds such as cape barren goose, magpie goose, the Australian pelican, sacred and straw-necked ibis, black swan, dusky moor hen and musk duck.  In the drier areas we saw the sulphur crested cockatoo, crimson rosella parrots, a number of emus, red and grey kangaroos, wallabies and even koala bears.  The first we saw looked like furry balls wedged at the axis of 2 branches high up in the trees, and they could have been mistaken for nests.  Then we spotted a mother and baby climbing up a fortunately low tree and we were able to get a close view of them munching on leaves.  One of the red kangaroos that we saw must have been pretty old.  His family hopped off while he sat watching us casually.  When he finally decided to follow the others, he had difficulty in getting up and then was incapable of hopping.  The poor old fellow must have been suffering from arthritis.


Doug Sprigg, Don Rowling, Claude Meunier and Gaby Kennard

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Doug Sprigg, Ray and Flemming at Arkaroola airstrip

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Flemming and Doug Sprigg by Doug's 1956 Auster

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Don Rowling, Flemming and Ray on top of the Telstra tower

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Flemming, Angela, and Australian Earthrounders Gaby Kennard and Claude Meunier

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View of war memorial from the new parliament building

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Aviators lunch in Canberra: Ray, Flemming, Don and Carolyn Luschar, Claude Meunier, Robyn and Denis

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Angela enjoying a refreshing swim in the  Murrumbidgee river near Ginninderra Falls

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Cape barren goose in Tidbinbilla nature reserve

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Hell of a lot of flies here!

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The old red roo

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One of many emus in Tidbinbilla

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