I could feel my nervousness start to build as I stood on the tarmac listening to the safety briefing delivered by Sarah, our pilot for the day. My tummy felt like it had half a million three-winged butterflies in it vying for flying space. That number increased to a million as I sat in the front seat, fiddling with my headphones and listening to Sarah perform her pre-flight checks. Then, we started to lift off, and it was from the point on that I couldn’t budge the smile from my face.
As we headed away from the airport, we flew by the ‘Alice Springs Boneyard’ where almost 100 aircraft from various carriers around the world are being stored due to the COVID-19 Pandemic. It’s such an amazing and bizarre thing to see. @bryanhynes_ on Instagram has some great photos of the boneyard.
We moved along the ranges heading towards Hugh Gorge. We couldn’t get too close to the large ranges when we were on the North Side because it was quite windy which created a bit of turbulence, but it truly didn’t matter – the views were spectacular. Looking down into the gorges gave me a whole new appreciation for the height of the sheer cliffs at Hugh Gorge and Standley Chasm. I went on this flight weeks ago and have held off writing about it because I just simply can’t find the words to describe the experience. So I guess I’d better let the photos tell the story instead.
My friend H and I spontaneously decided to go on a helicopter tour of the West MacDonnall Ranges after seeing the photos our friend took on her recent flight with her mum. I have been wanting to go on a helicopter ride for a long time but was struggling to find someone to do it with me. Up until this moment I hadn’t even thought of asking H to go with me because I knew that she was afraid of heights. So, imagine my surprise when she enthusiastically agreed to join me. We decided to do the West Macdonnell Grand Tour which would take us over Simpsons Gap, Standley Chasm, Brinkley’s Bluff, Birthday Waterhole and Hugh Gorge.
Being in a helicopter is quite a strange experience. It really doesn’t feel like you are going very fast, but you actually are. You also aren’t that high up that you can’t see any details on the ground below. Sarah told us how she saw a herd of horses running along-side one of the small creeks on a previous flight.
Central Australia is known for its red escarpments and desolate wilderness. If we had gone at any other time this is exactly what we would have seen. But we were lucky. The region had recently experienced a significant amount of rain so everything that is usually dead, yellow or red was green and vibrant. There were even rivers and creeks that are usually bone-dry flowing with water.
Would I do this again? Hell yes! I was on such a high after the flight (and still am whenever I think about it) that I looked into how much it would cost to helicopter to Uluru and back ($3745 pp btw). I have often dismissed helicopter flights as an overly tourist activity, but I have changed my mind on that front. Maybe this will become my new travel hobby?
Have you been in a helicopter before? Where did you fly?