Before leaving we had lots to organize in Maggie. We also still had the rest of the fuel in Big Bertha to drain. With Caroline joining us a couple days later in Cairns, we took advantage of our early start ahead of most of the rest of the group to get things organized.
Once more, as in Vanimo, there was a large crowd gathered outside the gates as we worked with our planes
We said our goodbyes from the others we wouldn't see for the next couple weeks until Ayer’s Rock, and then took off to the south. For a while we had radio contact with Uli’s PC12, but eventually they were out of range. We did some broadcasts to the general frequency making it sound like we indeed wanted to land in Daru but couldn’t due to cloud coverage; we therefore were going to head directly to our filed alternate airport, which conveniently was Cairns ;-). Only later did we realize that Daru actually had a GPS approach – neither of us crews had bothered to look – so that story wouldn’t have done any good
After passing Daru we lost radio contact for the next couple hours. We tried a variety of frequencies and asked repeatedly for relay requests, but no one responded. We were well in to Australian air space, about 80 miles from Cairns, before we finally made contact with the Australian controllers. They couldn’t have cared less where we were coming from and why. They only wanted to know where we were going and when we were going to get there so they could sequence us in. Ahh… what a relief!
The approach into Cairns was very pretty. For the last couple hours we’d been flying over the Great Barrier Reef in beautiful flying conditions. The reefs were an amazing sight and you could tell the scuba diving was indeed world-class here
The friendly folks from Hawker Pacific FBO guided us through customs without a hitch. They didn’t check our Papau visas or stamps at all. We were in their system, having electronically pre-registered, so that was all that mattered. What a difference to be in civilization again! Following customs, we “jump-started” Maggie for hopefully the last time in order to get to the Hawker Pacific hangar. Maggie was due for an oil change and we wanted to get a new battery too so we could leave the car batteries behind. At the FBO, Uli, Urs, and their wives were waiting. It was great to see them and hear they also had no trouble with skipping Daru and the inevitable hassle a landing there would have entailed.
The six of us settled in to our respective hotels and then went for well-deserved drinks and dinner at the Cairns harbor. We all were really happy with our decision to bail on Daru. I can only imagine what a beast of mess that would have been. Cheers mate, we’d made it to Oz!
Thursday, September 26, 2013
Cairns, Queensland, Australia