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Page 178




A few more days in freezing ’Punkah then north.

Porepunkah

Freezing? Too true, at night anyway. We've discovered that our 1800 Watt fan heater is unable to fully compensate for the heat loss from the caravan so it reaches a point where the heat it gives just balances the heat the caravan loses at a temperature which is well below comfort level. Is the solution a more powerful heater? The 15 amp extension lead from the power source to which we are connected also has to supply current for the water heater, the fridge, the microwave, the kettle, one hotplate and lesser loads such as the lights and TV. Not knowing how much current the power source will provide before tripping out, we decided to work around the problem; we'll be moving north soon.

Good News For The Mount Buffalo Chalet.

Chalet

The following snippets are taken from a Victorian Government Parks and Reserves website dated May 2013:

One major drawback to a full refurbishment is that the Chalet is a long way from any source of mains electricity and to run cables up the mountain would be prohibitively expensive, not to mention aesthetically undesirable. The existing diesel generators are very heavy on fuel and the access road up Mount Buffalo was never intended for tankers.

Above and below right: The Chalet in sunshine and in snow.

Chalet in Snow

In a nutshell, the Chalet is old technology. It is a very large building without heat insulation and situated in a very cold environment high on the mountain. Heating was a major problem from its inception - unless you enjoy sitting down to dinner in your fur-lined boots, overcoat and scarf.

Having toured the interior twice, our (unqualified) opinion is that while the site is magnificent, the old building is completely unviable. It wouldn't pass contemporary health and safety standards or fire regulations. Probably all the plumbing and wiring would need replacement. Rebuilding from scratch would be the only solution but given the treacherous access road and the lack of connection to mains power, mains water and sewage, even that would seem extremely unlikely.

The Chalet was built at a time when Mount Buffalo provided excellent winter sports and people were unspoiled by modern insulated and centrally heated accommodation. Today tourists demand more and climate change has robbed the mountain of its viable snowfields. It's very sad but I just can't see the Chalet ever being anything but a lovely old monument. Unless, that is, the present Labor Federal Government would like to chuck away some more money. What's another billion on the deficit, Julia? Never mind school halls, do something useful.

Maybe I can yet photograph the mount Buffalo Chalet.

Not wanting to give up on photographing the Chalet from the air and encouraged by Pam, we revisited Porepunkah Airfield to see if there was perhaps a light aircraft that I could hire for the flight. As it transpired, there was nobody at the airfield except another microlight organisation - the Eagle School of Microlight Flying. The owner and C.F.I., an attractive lady called Lisa Ruffels, asked if she could help. I explained the dilemma thinking the answer would be the same. Amazingly, Lisa told me she would be happy to fly me and my camera anywhere I wanted to go!

Had not the rangers been burning off excessive fuel somewhere on the mountains, the day would have been ideal. As it was, smoke was severely reducing viability over Mount Buffalo. Then it rained for the next few days but the forecast is good, so watch this space.
Meanwhile, we're planning our 1,800 km journey north.

Map of journey to Qld

1,828 kilometres in easy stages.

In four days we will depart beautiful but chilly Porepunkah and migrate north to Emu Park on the Tropic of Capricorn for the winter. With great assistance from Garmin BaseCamp software and our record of the GPS co-ordinates of the tourist parks we've stayed in previously - all those indicated by red dots on the map - the process was relatively easy. We have allowed one day between each overnight stop but thrown in two extra days for contingencies. Alice, our sometimes-contrary GPS navigator, has had the details downloaded from the computer and should take us straight to the entrance of every park. We've learned her PMS cycle and calculate that she should behave; if you see us driving into Perth you'll know we were wrong.
At Last! I fly over the chalet with my camera.

Finally weather conditions and - we believed - visibility were suitable, however Lisa was not available so I was to fly with Alan, her father. The weather was beautiful down at ground level but take-off was delayed by broken cloud persisting around the mountain tops. We took off at about 1:30pm. At 5,000 feet we found a towering bank of cloud throwing its shadow across the Chalet. Damn! Smaller clouds floated across between the Chalet and the camera.

Buffalo Chalet from the air

The Mount Buffalo Chalet perched at the head of the Buffalo Gorge.
Still not the picture I wanted. Thwarted by cloud blocking the sun.

I took every opportunity to photograph the old building but I was quite restricted due to:
  1. The confines of the rear seat in the microlight - Alan's backrest was touching my chest.
  2. The view over his shoulder was obstructed by the paraphernalia of the aircraft.
  3. A temperature of zero degrees and a wind speed of 70 knots (130 km/hour) around me froze my shutter finger until I couldn't feel it. I had to visually position it on the shutter button.
  4. I couldn't hold the viewfinder to my eye because of the visor so I had to squint through it from a couple of inches away.
  5. My only unobstructed view was out to the left; I wasn't able to squirm round to point the camera right.

Mirror

I was told to keep the visor down. Each time I tried to sneak it up, Alan caught me.

Since my only clear view was to the left I had to ask Alan to position the little aircraft accordingly.

Alan decided we'd climb to the peak of Mount Buffalo, hoping the cloud around the Chalet would disperse or move on in the meantime. Buffalo's highest point is called the 'Horn' and it is accessed by road followed by a steep climb up the last section on foot, a climb we achieved on a previous visit. I had hoped there would be snow up there but 'twas not to be.

There appeared to be a couple (circled) standing on the lookout at the top of the Horn. We flew around them and waved but I didn't see any response.

Over the Horn

From 7,000ft we looked down on the Horn. Looks like someone in pink at the lookout.

Flying closer we confirmed that two people were on the Horn but they ignored us. How rude!

Close up of the Horn

Look at us! Look at us! Okay, please yourselves. Hope you're as cold as me.
But just a minute, what are those ropes tied to the guard rail?

It was not until I closely examined the previous lookout picture that the mystery of the ropes was solved. There were two climbers on the rock face. The higher one is quite easy to see, the lower one not so easy. I have circled the higher one in the picture below.

Climber

A climber on the rock face. Can you make out the rope both above and below him or her?

On the way back to the Chalet, Alan told me to keep my eye on a particular wispy cloud. When we passed between the cloud and the sun, this is what I saw.

Rainbow around microlight shadow

Our shadow passing across a wispy cloud below us, a circular rainbow surrounding it. Fantastic!

Lower down, the big cloud was still shading the Chalet and many small clouds were drifting between us and the buildings. However, every so often I was able to snatch a quick photo during a break.

The Chalet close up

This is more like it but with less cloud and more sun. Perhaps when we return in November?
Having already spent $340 on flights, do you think that would be pushing my luck a bit?


Birds eye viw of Chalet

A birds eye view of the Chalet wasn't a problem. Quite a complex they built up there, 103 years ago.
Note the (empty) swimming pool on the left and yellow road markings for when it snows.

The Edge XT-912 Microlight Aircraft

The aircraft in which I flew is an Australian-made Edge XT-912 made by AirBorne WindSports Pty Ltd of New South Wales. The type is known as a weight shift controlled microlight meaning that is has none of the conventional aircraft controls (ailerons, elevator and rudder). This type of control was new to me; this is my perception of how it works . . .

A microlight aircraft consists of a triangular wing (having a span of ten metres in this case) and a 'trike' suspended below it on which the pilot and passenger sit and on which the engine is mounted at the rear.

In straight and level flight the trike is suspended below the wing such that the centre of lift of the wing acts vertically upwards and balances the weight of the trike which acts vertically downwards, the two forces being in line. To turn left, the pilot swings the trike to the left with respect to the wing. The lift and weight are no longer in line. The weight of the trike is now generating a greater downward force on the left side of the wing than on the right. The wing tilts to the left. The lift the wing generates acts at right angles to the wing so now the lift has two components (best illustrated in a vector diagram). Most of the lift still acts vertically upwards but some acts horizontally to the left, causing the microlight to turn to the left.

Exactly the same principle applies to a right turn and to lower or raise the nose.

Microlight on final approach

Lisa and a student on final approach to Runway 36 at Porepunkah. The propeller might be frozen by
the camera shutter speed or, equally possible, the engine might be stopped and the aircraft gliding.

View from aircraft on approach

What Lisa and her student would have seen. I took this on our return from Mount Buffalo.

The Edge XT-912 is powered by a Rotax 912 cc four cylinder, horizontally opposed, water-cooled four stroke petrol engine.

Rotax engine

The rear-mounted Austrian manufactured Rotax engine drives a 'pusher' propeller via a reduction gear box.

Instrument panel

A 'glass cockpit'. A vast amount of information is available from the LCD display which eliminates the need for more
than a dozen mechanical gauges reducing clutter and weight. A back-up Air Speed Indicator is on the left.

Just for anybody interested, this Skydat GX2 weighs less than a kilogram and displays: With obvious variations I would love to have a similar display in my car instrument panel, possibly doubling as a GPS display. There are probably current models with such a display already installed. I don't like this idea where the driver is told nothing until alerted by a warning light that something is wrong, a warning light that might be missed on a bright day. The one time I saw warning lights illuminate on the Pajero, three totally unrelated lights came on and I was no wiser. Neither could the local Mitsubishi dealer shed any light on the problem which turned out to be a wire to the right rear indicator lamp shorting where it had rubbed through the insulation.

Time to leave Page 178 for an aircraft-free Page 179.