Page 135: Porepunkah and Bright
     
  a new Canon convert.  
     
   
  I now have serious competition as family photographer. Pam has much more imagination with a camera than I have.  
     
  Cyclone Yasi  
 

February 2011 saw a category five cyclone cross the Queensland coast at Mission Beach between Townsville and Cairns and rage across the land flattening crops and ripping roofs from houses. To qualify as category five, Cyclone Yasi had to have winds exceeding 280 kilometres/hour. Mission Beach, incidentally, is where Pam and I did freefall parachute jumps from 14,000 feet. These were tandem jumps, of course, strapped to experienced instructors. Otherwise they would never have got me through the aircraft door - not without a strong anaesthetic. Pam reckoned she was strapped to a hunk and was quite happy to do anything he told her. Gunna hafta wotch that girl! But back to the cyclone . . .

Terrible though the damage was, nobody was killed (though one man was asphyxiated while using a diesel generator in an enclosed space). By luck Yasi missed the two large population centres of Townsville and Cairns. It was forecast to cross the coast at 22:00 coinciding with the high tide but by another stroke of luck it arrived two hours later than anticipated, otherwise the flooding would have been so much worse.

We were over 2,000 kilometres south of the cyclone but even so, when it reached the centre of Australia in a very much weakened state, satellite pictures showed a whisp of cloud curling down and across Victoria. What looked so insignificant on the satellite images managed to dump rain on us, almost without pause, for about thirty six hours. Bright received a flood warning which was fortunately unnecessary as we are living on the banks of the Ovens River.

 
     
  Pictures of the Ovens River in 2010 and 2011  
  This is a roll-over image. The mouse pointer off the picture shows the Ovens weir in February 2010.
Moving the pointer over the picture shows the Ovens weir after rain in February 2011.
 
     
  Bec fiddled while Kelmscott Burned.  
 

I have been admonished for being flippant here - many people lost their homes in the Perth fires. No offence meant. It's just that while our son, Nic, was frantically trying to contact us as the fires approached our Perth home, we were completely oblivious, watching live music at Bright Brewery while downing the odd red or two, our mobile phones left in the caravan (I'd like to see mine at the bottom of the river) and not a care in the world.

The duo we had gone to see featured Mel on guitar and Rebecca (Bec) on fiddle. And very good they were.

 
     
   
  Bec was on fiddle with Mel on guitar and vocal. The people on the table behind us were also on vocal, talking loudly,
continuously, and rudely throughout. If they didn't want to listen, Australia's a big place, try the Simpson Desert.
 
     
   
  Our two favourite places in Bright, side by side. The Brewery for Sunday afternoons
and the Riverdeck Café for all other times. Great coffee.
 
     
  Paragliders by the dozen  
  Near Porepunkah is Mystic Mountain on which there is a clearing in the trees overlooking the town of Bright. This was the chosen venue for a week of competition flying by fifty or more paraglider pilots from all over Australia. Most were men but there were women flying too. To avoid writing him/her or he/she all the time I'll refer to them all as male. Okay, Guys?  
     
   
  The first paraglider launched before lift conditions were strong enough to support him and he descended towards Bright. He touched down on their landing ground in the valley to the right where he'd be collected and returned to Mystic Mountain to try again.  
     
   
  An hour later the thermals were working beautifully. This gaggle of twenty took full
advantage and we could hear them whooping and calling to each other in the sky above.
 
     
  A paraglider flying below a rainbow-coloured wisp of cloud.  
     
 

It was very interesting to watch the competitors launch themselves into space with only some silky fabric to support them.

Each competitor would stand facing the parachute canopy which was stretched out across the ground. With his back to the edge and holding the lines to the canopy in crossed hands, he would wait. As soon as the wind gusted up over the hill behind him he would tug on the appropriate lines, the canopy would fill and lift from the ground, stretching taut overhead.

At this point the pilot, after checking all was well with the canopy, would turn to face the edge, the two bunches of lines uncrossing, and start to run. In the picture (right) he's running on the shadow of his own canopy. Due to the weak breeze, often they would run right over the edge and out of sight as the picture below shows. The word "lemmings" came to mind as they followed one another over the edge.

 
     
   
  Viewed from the back of the launch area the pilots initially dropped out of sight before lifting in the rising air.
This lovely smooth green surface is artificial grass.
 
     
   
  Things didn't always go to plan as this sequence of four pictures shows. The canopy looked good
to go, then the trailing edge started to collapse . . .
 
     
   
  . . . the canopy twisted side on to the wind, finally coming to rest on the ground with its leading edge facing backwards.  
     
 

When a canopy misbehaved while the pilot was running towards the edge it was very difficult for him to see it. However, with so many expert pilots on the site he was soon alerted by a chorus of "Stop, stop, stop".