Chapter 1. Solo Flight.
Another mile and another minute passes. Uneventful and yet awe-inspiring.
Perched at altitude in my small two-seat aeroplane, the canvas below me is the vast Australian landscape. Beautifully remote, I sit in isolation with nothing but my thoughts and the task of flight to distract me from the view outside the cockpit. The instruments in front of me and the gentle hum of the controls beneath my hands assure me that all is right with the trusty little Jabiru as it cuts through air that is so very still.
It is too early in the day for the bubbles of warm air to rise and buffet me about the sky. So cool and calm, with the coastline behind me and the raw, rich reds of the inland ahead. Amidst this barren beauty a lone patch of white seems to be wafting above the terrain like a ghostly quilt. I tilt my head and alter my focus, trying to define the sight ahead, below and to my left. I nudge the Jabiru like a trusty horse and she moves her nose towards the alabaster carpet, gaining on it at an impressive rate.
Now closer, my eyes focus and see the faults in the stitching. For rather than a massive blanket, it is made up of many miniscule moving parts. Wings, like mine, but very much smaller. Waving gracefully in tight formation, this is not a renegade paddock or field, but a massive flock of birds moving south. Their graceful harmony of flight makes my man-made attempt look relatively primitive and I admire the ease with which they wheel to the left as one and continue on their way.
Geographically I am as far from home as I can be and still be flying over Australian soil. Surrounded by the country’s majesty it’s hard to decide if I am half way from my origin, or half way to my destination. I long for the familiarity of family and yet what I have witnessed as Australia has passed by will be with me forever. There have been sights as varied as the crashing waves on rocky shores to the remote stock routes threading like capillaries across this nation. Military jet fighters have rested a wing tip away and retired giants of the sky towered over me, never to fly again. Thriving cities and isolated ghost towns. Colours, sounds, sights and smells that change with every new horizon.
There is still a way to go and yet already this journey has changed me forever. This wide brown land that I call home has spoken to me in a way that can only be heard amongst the clouds and clear blue skies. And I have had to listen carefully, not distracted by the voices of others or the pressures of the day-to-day grind. To truly hear the land and understand the magic that is all around me I have had to be alone; all alone, on this solo flight.