As an ex British colony, Australia maintains a long weekend in June for the Queen's Birthday (who was born in April - Yes, well, maybe the calendar is a bit confused)
I'm a member of a local gliding club
which carries out a regular pilgrimage to the Flinders Ranges in outback South Australia during the long weekend every year, where we fly gliders around the mountains looking for lift from ridges and mountain wave systems. It's a five hour journey by road into a pretty isolated part of the country, so most of us take a couple of extra days off to turn it into a more extended trip. I usually start the trip on the Friday before the long weekend and extend it to the Wednesday following, making it a six-day getaway.
We stay at Rawnsley Park
, which provides accommodation within walking distance of a 3500' airstrip. Camp fires, bushwalking, BBQ, comfortable beds, no cell phone coverage, brilliant scenery
, excellent gliding conditions. Best of all worlds.
We couldn't have asked for better weather this year. Normally we plan contingencies on the expectation that at least one day will be rained out, but this year we had no rain, blue skies, and moderate Southerlies causing the South face of Wilpena Pound
to work for the gliders, and a magnificent wave system
downwind of the Chace Range, almost directly overhead the airstrip.
This is the first annual Flinders Ranges trip since I acquired the RV-6. Man, does that thing shrink distances! It took 1h 15m to get to Rawnsley Park from Parafield Airport, infinitely better than the five hours it takes if you're schlepping around in a car.
Graham Davis brought his newly painted RV-6A up for a meet-and-greet. He has RV-7 wingtips, which are striking enough that they were one of the first things I noticed. Lovely work.
One of my syndicate partners arrived by car as part of a trip with his partner to Whyalla to scuba with the cuttlefish. Scenic flights and photo-ops.
I took a friend for lunch at Leigh Creek, a casual 40 minute flight North. The weather was superb; While we were eating our chicken kiev in the local pub, one of the gliding club members flew almost the same course we plotted, performing a 300km cross country flight in his LS-4. Terrific effort.
Wednesday arrived. Gliders derigged, time to go home. Cruising at twice the speed of the gliding club's Scheibe SF-25C Motorfalke, three times the speed of the cars towing trailers on the 250 mile drive home.
To add to the entertainment, the coal train from Leigh Creek derailed during the trip. The resulting mess is only a few minutes flying time away from Rawnsley Park, so I did a fly-by
on my way home. I think it'll take them a while to clean it up.
I took the scenic route for the rest of the trip, looking at Spencer Gulf in the distance past Mount Remarkable, and overflying the pink salt lakes of Lochiel before dropping down below the 4500' class-C step on the way to the VFR inbound reporting point at Dublin.
If you're travelling through outback South Australia, get in touch with the folks at Rawnsley Park
. They have accommodation ranging from bare campsites through to five star luxury ecologically-sustainable villas, they have AVGAS for sale, and they can help you out with the local bushwalking and 4WD trails.
Next June's trip is already booked. Unlikely that the weather and results will be anywhere near as good as this year, but I wouldn't miss it for quids.