The Travels of a Gentleman Taff 2005 travel blog


In the morning I wake feeling like the last thing I want to do is go for a flight in a light aircraft, so this is exactly what I do.

Poor Jack, who has volunteered to drive me to the airstrip, and is now hoping desperately I've changed my mind, is hauled out of bed and we get there in good time. As I wait with the pilot (who looks to be about 14 years old), I gulp down some water and try to compose myself. My fellow passengers arrive to inform us they have decided to take another flight (dickheads). This means the price goes up significantly and offers me an honourable way out, but sadly, I am too "fat-witted with cups of sack" to take it and instead hand over the dollars. A brief.. eherm.. 'comfort break' is required before we take off, which rather amusingly involves the pilot driving me to the public toilets down the the road as the council have not got round to installing toilets at the airstrip. You don't get the pilot taking you to the toilet on Quantas! Suitably empty, I climb into the plane, which feels from the inside like a Morris Minor with wings. The taxi down the grass runway feels pretty bumpy, but I ain't seen nothing yet!

"You up for some aerobatics?" asks the child protegee as we rev for take off, and being to stupid to say no, I confidently reply "Sure!", whilst trying not to soil myself. As soon as we leave the ground, we do a near vertical climb, that has me making faces like the Boy Scouts from Jim'll Fix It, eating their lunch on the big dipper at Blackpool, and I long for the safety of the Pirate Ship at Barry Island.

Once we're up it feels pretty good, until we hit some turbulence (I assume that's what it was; I'm no pilot, he may just have been trying to kill me) and I realise that this IS a Morris Minor with wheels! Things settle down again, and I start to enjoy the sensation of being in this tiny little box in the sky as the terror subsides. We fly over the 12 Apostles and I can see where I stood 3 years ago from an altogether different perspective. What is more obvious from this vantage is the enormous distance that the waves have travelled to smash into the coast. What is also obvious,after some surfers are pointed out to me, and I get a sudden jolt of perspective, is the vast scale of these cliffs.

On the way back, we skirt some cloud as we cross the thickly wooded slopes of the Otway range at what feels like a very low altitude. The mountains seem to rise to meet us, which has me mentally flicking through my travel insurance documents to see what it says about death sustained in a light aircraft crash. I'm fairly certain without checking that it doesn't cover the next bit, which involves standing the plane up on one wingtip and turning an inside circle!

"How was that?" pilot boy asks, "Great!", I squeak without conviction, although now that I 've reached a sort of Karmic acceptance that if we crash death will be swift and certain, I'm actually starting to quite enjoy the ride.

We head out to sea and turn to make our approach to the postage stamp-sized landing strip (I'm sure it was bigger when we took off)and touch down with barely a bump. As we taxi back to the plane park, I vcan see the others waiting and their first sight of me is beaming, largely with exhilaration but at least 10-15% relief. I thank the boy wonder profusely and write outrageous compliments in hig visitor book, then we're off.

After a quick breakfast stop in Apollo Bay (I had taken the precaution of not eating before the flight), we follow the twists and turns of the GOR back towards Melbourne, through towns named Torquay, Angelsea(sic) and Lorne. The geography may be a little awry, but you can't fault the views, although a few people in the car may have preferred the road a little starighter, (no names).

We stop at South Melbourne Market, a fantastic cavern full of great food and 'crazy' bargains and 'Dan Murphy's', surely the greatest offie in the world, (it's aboiut the size of Bridgend) to prepare for our 'cocktail' party in the evening. After last night we're not really up for it, but force ourselves. I'm sure you can all imagine the scene; it starts off following the recipes in the book and ends up freestyling, but a good time was had by all and it's great to see some faces I haven't seen for a while and relive (and in some case re-enact, Michelle - she's so bloody Australian!), drunken moments from the last century on Al's Finsbury Park balcony.

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