We departed Bundaberg a few minutes before 8 a.m. local, as planned, just ahead of VH-YJC–an Aero Commander that departed to the southwest after we exited the pattern heading northwest. There were scattered clouds at 2,100 feet and an overcast above; we emerged from a flat sheet of white into brilliant sunshine at 10,000 feet.
Our route of flight was pretty much up Australia’s East Coast, which took us directly over the Great Barrier Reef. Between the few clouds here and there, we enjoyed an unwinding vista of reef after reef after reef. This is an area I’d definitely like to come back and visit again, from a lower altitude–to and including sea level. Thanks to a persistent headwind, it took us about 4.5 hours to make the 1,050 or so nautical miles from Bundaberg to Horn Island.
Arriving at Horn Island, we found a ramp that was home to a number of airplanes–and no idea where to park. We shut down the engines, got things sorted out, then moved the airplane to a better parking space. The next challenge was fuel; Mike had been unable to contact the fuel distributor before departing the United States, and upon arrival found they only wanted to accept an Air BP card or cash. Neither of us had one, so Mike started scrambling for cash–he had plenty, but only enough Australian dollars to cover two-thirds of the fuel we needed. Then we found out that those payment methods were preferences, and we could use another credit card–cancel the bank run.
The fuelers here were two women who were very pleasant, and efficient to boot. After they finished and as we were walking toward the gate, Horn Island’s new airport manager–also named Mike–introduced himself. Could we reposition the plane slightly, and could he offer us a ride to the ferry terminal so we wouldn’t have to wait for the next bus? He was a gracious host and we learned more about the area on our ride.
Turns out, our hotel is on nearby Thursday Island. When Mike was making hotel reservations, he couldn’t find one on Horn Island (there apparently is one now). A short ferry ride across the Ellis Channel brings us to the other island, and a three-minute walk has us in the lobby of our hotel. Dinner is on an outside deck, watching night fall on the Torres Strait.