Most stations have a plane or a helicopter, and at some point you’re going to get offered a flight. Here’s how to totally ruin your chances of ever having a second go.
6am and we’re just pulling up to the airstrip – a wide gravel road a short way from the homestead. Inside the old rusty shed is a old rusty plane, smaller than I expected, covered in red dust and bird poo, so much so that the back window is rendered useless. The Boss pushes the plane out of the shed, sending it bouncing across the gravel, and the thin wings flap in the breeze. Time for a quick pre-flight-check. Kick everything. Or bash it. Yep – she’s all good.
The clanging, whirring, humming plane is so loud it’s impossible to talk, but a thick smile and a rose in each cheek is plastered over my face anyway, before we’ve even started to take off. It’s the most slap dash take off I’ve ever experienced. The only safety message available is a small sticker inside the plane – “Please don’t smoke during take off and landing”. That’s the first time I notice the vinyl ashtrays poking out of each door. Suddenly I feel compelled to chain smoke.
After some bump and grind along the runway and a bit of a tussle with the low plumes of air we are soaring high above the station. Below us are the neat fencelines, vast expanses of red dirt, rocky knolls I’ve never noticed, empty gutters promising to run with water soon. I’m still smiling from ear to ear. I can’t help it.
The first sign of movement below peaks my interest. The Boss points wildly.
“It’s the brumbies!”
I shriek like a child at an amusement park. I lean over him, bumping all the controls in my effort to sneak a peak at these legendary brumbies. One is fat and shiny, the most amazing shade of milk chocolate, finished with a gloss of health. The other is an albino, stained with red.
“How amazing,” I swoon, “They’re so beautiful!”
“Nah,” says The Boss, “That ol’ albino’s farked.”
We swoop down to check on each windmill as we pass, stirring the cattle below, sending them crashing in to each other like skittles. Then we lift up in to the sky again, soaring just above flocks of white cockatoos and hawks on the prowl. The view is sensational. The world is my oyster. I am totally free.
As we hover over a water trough, full of cattle bathing like hippos, The Boss points out a pack of dingoes. Against the amber hues of the outback it is impossible for my untrained eye to see the animals he’s spotted. That’s okay though, he can just swing back round, dip my side of the plane down so that we’re almost scraping the dirt, and then swing us back upright so I can grab a look. Those roses in my cheek are wilting, fast. I crane my neck around to find the dogs and clench my stomach with my free hand.
My eyes light up with glee when I do finally spot the lanky dogs, all golden limbs, agile and limber against the roughness of the terrain. As soon as The Boss registers that I’ve seen them we’re lifting up again, so fast that the butterflies in my tummy crash against my seat. Onwards we go.
Each sideways manoeuvre is wreaking havoc with my guts. I close my eyes, facing the window so The Boss can’t see.
“Yer right?” he asks.
“Fine,” I smile weakly.
Then he send the nose diving straight down to the dirt.
“Donkeys! Yer see ‘em?”
I lean over, clenching the soft skin on my tummy with one hand and holding my mouth with the other.
“I see them,” I smile and nod.
“Nah, I’ll put ‘em on your side for yer!” he says.
“Oh, it’s ok, really –” I try to fob him off. But he’s already swinging the plane around, dipping my wing against the soil, grinding it back upright. As he does I feel all the colour escape my face, sweat seeps from my palms, metallic saliva pools at the back of my mouth.
“Boss,” I stammer, “Where are the sick bags?”
He looks at me, smirking.
Then he realises I’m serious, and his cheeky smirk turns in to a twist of pure horror.
He lets go of the controls, fumbles around with his door. Nothing. My door. Nothing. He turns away from the controls and rummages on the back seat of the plane. A ridiculous amount of loose paper is thrown my way (why is there so much scrap paper in this plane?), a few shreds of Glad Wrap, and a sandwich bag. Nothing will hold the spew that is threatening to projectile all over this tiny cabin.
I look at him, pleading. My lip is quivering. Don’t spew. Please don’t spew. He grabs the canvas pouch holding the satellite phone, rips the phone out and chucks it over his shoulder, dumps the bag in my lap and pops out his window. I wrap both arms around the bag and in seconds my abs are clenching, lungs heaving, and up comes the first round of vegemite on toast. Slimy, metallic, salty. Then comes the bread. Between my disgust I realise that I probably should chew my food better. Thick globs of bread push up my throat and in to the bag. Warmth pools against my legs.
This is so gross. Then more.
I swear I didn’t eat this much. More again.
Jaysus, is this dinner too? More for good measure. I start to worry that I might fill the bag – then what?
After a few more spasms curling through my stomach nothing more will rise. I wipe my face, wipe the pesky tears rolling off my cheeks, and brush my dank hair away from my eyes. The tang of sweet vegemite hangs in the cabin. My cheeks flush red. I’m mortified. Unsure how to recover, I zip up the canvas bag and hug it tightly to my chest. Straighten up the shoulders. Fish a stale mint off the dashboard. Pop it in my mouth.
“I feel better now!” I say with a dash of cheeriness, grinning at The Boss and hoping there isn’t any vomit on my face. He just nods and stares in to the distance. Awkward.
If I’m ever offered a flight again I’d have to question The Boss’s sanity. But for those of you who are yet to experience the thrill of high altitude puking, I will pass on the following advice.
1 – Kwell. Seasickness tablets. You’ll need them. Double the dose and chuck a few in your pocket for safe keeping.
2 – Ginger tea. It works.
3 – Don’t eat pre-flight. If you’re stomach is threatening to sack you as its owner and you just can’t go without make sure you eat something that you are trying to avoid – ie chocolate cake, toasted cheese sammies etc. Your health kick will love you for it.
4 – Don’t close your eyes, but don’t look out the windows either. Eyes straight ahead. Always.
5 – BYO spew capturing device, just in case.
Hope this helps. Happy flying!
This article has been contributed anonymously under the pen name “Howgirl Cowgirl”.