sharemyjoys will be taking a break from flying in the mountains for a while… here is why…
My last sanity break in New Zealand, a couple of weeks from Christmas day, was well justified. The last few months since Europe had been very slow workwise and rather soul destroying. I guess Sian saved me from going altogether insane. Luckily things picked up on my return with preparations for a Papua New Guinea vessel tracking system, which came along nicely. After a successful demonstation of the system to the customer we were all set, with flights booked for Monday morning… I almost wasn’t surprised when a supplier contract issue ended up putting a spanner in the works and on the preceding friday night the trip was postponed indefinitely!
Meanwhile I’d put in an application to work in Antarctica, which was coming along nicely. Thank God. It was that, and selling my house, which I had as “excuses” to finish up my job of 8 years and go onto something else.
It was a slow housing market and I’d had far more interest from real estate agents than actual buyers. Not a good sign. Thankfully my agent was commission free (just pay for the ad, basically), so I didn’t feel any pressure from him. And I thought myself very lucky to find a buyer. When it went unconditional I put in my resignation – the Antarctica job status was undetermined but never mind that – I had plenty of other ideas of things to do – take the money and run!
Southeast Queensland is a pretty place however, and with a few mates we had some very memorable and special weekend missions. A lot of the time we were grounded though, as La Nina reared its ugly head, time and again we were drenched in never ending southeasterly showers. A landowner moving meant we may have lost a site, but we hardly noticed, as a Northerly wind was a long forgotten phenomenon. Meanwhile CASA, the Australian airspace bureaucrats, were busy shutting us down any way they could… something to vent about on the forum on a rainy day!
Viva le résistance!
Or [instead of appeasing the nanny state] you could go overseas and build up an army to come back and claim the motherland!
William Wallace, didn’t he say,
“I came back home to soar this ridge, and, God willing, climb out to base. If I can fly in peace, I will…”!!
I also noticed that I was seeming to get in more nice cross country flights than normal, perhaps owing to my new second hand wing the Gradient Aspen3. For a change I was not heavy on the wing, it is relaxing to fly but it is still damn quick.
As my work resignation date approached, I still had not heard about Antarctica. Finally I got a call from them on a weeknight, saying I’d been accepted for a position on Macquarie island. Hmmmm…. Macca – the gloomiest place on earth, in the middle of the southern ocean. Rejected as a site for a penal colony because conditions were too harsh. While it has an abundance of wildlife, and many other aspects of the job were enticing, I am more interested in the physical phenomena and scenery Antarctica offers and I really wanted anything but Macca – one of the other three continental positions, please. I politely declined.
The plan then became move to Queenstown, set up with a house, and then go vagabonding a while – north and south america would give me far more than I could digest in six months. The eventual “retirement plan”, should I not come up with any other ideas, was to retrain for one year to become a secondary maths and science teacher.
I had a final farewell with a unplanned belly dance at Sultans restaurant, I sold everything I could, pleaded to give a few things away and had a hilarious moving weekend with my Mum and sister where we threw away most other things. Of course there was plenty that I could not throw away so I packed the remains into cardboard boxes, for freight. A day after dropping them with the freight forwarder I got a call from BoM (Oz weather bureau). Someone had failed their medical for Davis station – I was off to Antarctica! I cancelled the freight and since I was leaving for Christchurch in two days they booked me a flight from there to Melbourne for the following thursday.
The job is a position as an engineer but mostly involves routine weather observations. I’ve always enjoyed hands on work more than engineering and field work is the primary motivation so I feel the position suits me perfectly. I’ll be doing training with the weather bureau for 8-10 weeks in Melbourne initially before going to Hobart for Antarctica specific training. The ship then sails a couple of days before my 30th birthday. I’ll then have the longest break from flying in the mountains to date – a full 12 months on the ice. Exciting stuff.
The few days I had in Christchurch were my last chance to get out into the New Zealand hills for a while – I wanted to get in a flight on the speed wing at least, but the weather wasn’t looking good. Bec, down from Tauranga, somehow agreed to an afternoon crossing rivers in mid winter in constant rain. It was cold but not quite cold enough for snow – until the next morning, anyway. We’d stayed the night in a run down hut on the Waimakariri river. The next morning I took off the boots and crossed again, the water was too cold even for me. But the next few braids of the river looked too deep, not to mention the prospect of an untracked valley followed by a doubtful snowy traverse with Bec in joggers and the valley cloud closing in again – I was already impressed that Bec hadn’t had one complaint the whole trip, but that was no reason to push it!!
I groaned as I submerged my feet one last time, and Bec squealed on piggyback as I nearly lost my footing with my numb feet in the cold water. We retreated to the track and headed for the road, as it started snowing!
After unsuccessfully trying to drag my brother to the pub in Christchurch I decided that night to head up to the Kaikouras, with strong westerlies returning these were probably the most sheltered mountains in the country. Bec accompanied me some of the way before I spent the night alone at Fyffe hut, going to bed at 6pm because it was cold and dark and I had big plans for the next day.
The wings remained in the boot of the car – the wind was howling. Initially I thought it was quite a warm fohn wind but I changed my mind later on, wishing I’d brought overmits and having dad’s old belaclava lost as it blew off my head. In places exposed to the wind it was difficult to keep my footing!
Soon after 10am I was humbled, conceding my route idea was a little ambitious, when accounting for notches on the ridge I didn’t see marked on the map! I sent a text to my cousin contemplating a Plan B trip to Nelson but in the end I didn’t reach the car until nearly 5pm.
So it was back to Christchurch for more icecream…!