5 June 2002
Our first day in Warmun was spent trying to catch up with schoolwork. This is a never-ending task that constantly manages to elude us. The big carrot on a stick was a 4.00 p.m. helicopter flight, which we all anticipated with relish.
When the time came we crowded into a small demountable hut with some skinny European tourists to have our weight announced, and a safety talk which was short and to the point. For example: “Don’t walk around the back of the helicopter because the rear rotor severs limbs”. Our pilot’s name was Clare, much to our Clare’s delight, and before the afternoon was over, the latter had resolved to be a helicopter pilot when she grew up.
The helicopter was a Jet Ranger that carried 5 people including the pilot. After we were shown how to operate the headset microphones, we lifted off at 4.00 p.m. and headed in the direction of the Osmond Ranges, which we crossed to get to the Bungles.
Throughout the journey the kids made extensive use of the onboard communication system to ply the pilot, Clare, with a constant stream of questions, which she fielded with grace. Susan and I barely got a word in.
There seems little point trying to describe what we saw from the air. It was breathtaking, and a helicopter was definitely the way to go. They move incredibly swiftly, but can linger as well, and bank so as to reveal great vistas as if you were hovering in the air like a bird. We scooted over the massif of the Bungles, and then wove our way up various creeks and gorges. The details of trees, the occasional tour bus and campsite, gave away the scale of the thing. The massif is roughly the size of Wales in the UK.
On the southern side of the massif we caught a fabulous view of the famous Beehive Domes. I couldn’t get enough of this. The Tanami Desert scoped away in the background.
As our flight was the last for the day, we were seeing the afternoon hues again – the scarlets and the burnt oranges that remind you of coals in a fire. Susan hung out of the front passenger seat with the video camera constantly running, checking out the viewfinder with one eye, and catching the view with the other. Our final swoop of the Bungles was a long, loving caress of the Western Wall, the afternoon sun igniting it into a blaze of fiery colours.
As we flew back over the Osmond Ranges we crossed an Aboriginal settlement which had been abandoned sometime before due to a death in the community. It was located near what looked like a fairly permanent waterhole. Apparently the community relocates after a death for periods of up to 15 years. In this case, they had relocated to Warmun. We landed in the Bungles to pick up some mail, so our flight was slightly longer than usual. This also gave us a good aerial view of the EKT camp below, where we would be staying the following night, and from where I am now writing this entry.
After the heli-flight, we chatted to a woman who worked in the office. She was working her way around Australia from East to West. It seems a lot of the people working in the tourist industry are doing this. Sometimes you get served by a young European person behind the counter of the roughest looking roadhouse.
We spent the evening cleaning up at the campsite and emptying the esky. We dined on steak and sausages, with lashings of green beans bought at the markets at White Gum Park in Kununurra. Susie recharged the video camera and I bought film for the SLR. I set the alarm clock for 4.30 a.m., but woke up every couple of hours to check the time – a combination of technological suspicion and nervous excitement.