Tues 25 June - time to head north, last minute twists, Uluru, World Cup Cricket
I woke yesterday to the coldest day of the year in Taggerty. Minus four degrees Celsius, scraping ice off the ute's windscreen and a heavy frost covering the Acheron Valley. I realised it's time to head north for the year!
So in mid-morning today, I was ready and waiting for good mates Doug and Lynne Walter to pick me up and kindly drive me to Melbourne airport. However, as so often happens when preparing for a flight, there were to be a couple of twists and turns.
Firstly, I thought I would move the little tractor out of the back paddock and put it under cover for the next few months. So I went up to the paddock to find the tractor covered in ice. I scraped off some of it and put a tarp on the seat to avoid getting a wet bum, and then reluctantly tried to start the tractor. To my surprise, it started immediately. So I drove it out of the paddock and around to the front gate of the house garden. However, as I started to climb the hill on the driveway, it started to cough and splutter, and I immediately recognised that it had started to run out of diesel. I stopped the motor immediately, and went to get the diesel container. After filling the tank, I tried to start it, but it must have been too starved of fuel and had passed the point of no return, without bleeding the fuel pump, which I didn't have time for.
So I backed the Hi-Lux down the driveway, and tried to tow it up the hill, but the tow rope snapped. So I called Doug and asked if he could come over early with a tow rope. He arrived with a tow chain (that ain't gunna break!) and he had soon towed the tractor up the driveway. We now had the challenge of arranging the tractor, Rita's car, my Hi-Lux and Doug's Isuzu, so that Doug could get his ute out to drive me to the airport, and we left a pathway for people who we knew would be visiting the property while we are away.
Having completed this, I was walking back to the house to get my luggage out and lock the house, when I heard a strange noise from behind the house. As I turned the corner, I saw a huge spray of water from the tap near the rear door. It looked like the hose fitting had come adrift, but I distinctly remember turning the tap off and opening the hose. On closer inspection I saw that the water was coming from a hole in the metal pipe below the tap. Possibly a small rust hole that was under pressure from frozen water in the pipe after this morning's sub-zero temperatures. Since the tap was already turned off, there was no option but to go the water tanks up the hill, and turn the water off at the source! I realised how lucky I was that the pipe burst when it did; ten minutes later and it would have continued spraying until it emptied the 30000 litre tank at the top of the hill, possible flooding the house. Strange that we spend so much time and money winterising the barge, and then this happens at the house!
As we were finally leaving, I saw that Oscar and the boys had come to say goodbye, as they did last year.
Flying Singapore Airlines again this year, but instead of flying into Paris, I am flying to Lyon, via Frankfurt. I have made this change because of the awkward train connections between Paris and Auxonne. Since a train line runs direct from Paris CDG to Auxonne, I thought this would be convenient. But last year I realised that there are no trains running direct from CDG to Auxonne. Instead they run down to Lyon and then back up again. So this year, I will fly direct to Lyon, where Rita will pick me up with the car for the one-hour drive up to Auxonne. A side-benefit of this is that at the end of the year, she can drive me down to Lyon, avoiding the cost and inconvenience of an overnight hotel stay before flying out to Melbourne (as has always happened with Paris CDG).
I left Melbourne at 3.40pm in seat 55A - down the back of the plane in a window seat on the left. And I was soon glad that I had this position, as we flew north-west over the Big and Little Deserts in north-west Victoria, and then on to opal mining town Coober Pedy in South Australia. But the highlight was to come a while later as we flow directly over Uluru (Ayers Rock), and then a momemt later over the Olgas - two places I had seen on foot before, but never from the air.
This morning was no warmer, with the birds presented with a skating rink rather than a birdbath.
After two hours of chatting in the car, we arrived at the airport, and I said goodbye to Doug and Lynne. It's at moments like this that you realise the value of really good friends, who will go out of their way to help.
In the hours that followed, I was to fully realise the enormity of the Australian landscape. After a couple more hours of chasing the sun, we saw a sunset over Indonesia.
After 8 hours in the air, we touched down at Changi Airport in Singapore - my favourite air terminal. I did the compulsory walk around the shops, inspected some of the electronics shops, but did not succomb to the temptation.
But with two hours to spend before the connecting flight to Frankfurt, the highlight of my wait was following the World Cup Cricket match between Australian and England. When I arrived in Singapore, Australia had just finished batting and had amassed a total of 7/285 - a solid but not ungettable score. So I parked myself near a TV screen and enjoyed the remainder of my wait watching the game. By the time I had to leave to catch my plane, England were 4/65. A good recovery might see them overhaul the target, but I'd rather bet on the Aussies at this stage. But I'd have to wait until Frankfurt to learn the final outcome.