Eight months I have taken to cross this vast land. I had no conception of the vast land this continent was. Looking at a map of Australia one never realises the vast distances there is between towns, well a few houses clustered together in this land is called a town. Now here I was standing on the escapement looking down at the City of Perth. In the East I was told it was just a hick town, no night-life and the kangaroos run all over the streets.
In the distance I could see the outline of tall modern buildings and as far as I could see was houses, not the hick town as the Sydneysiders said.
I left a fit eighteen year old and now I was even fitter my muscles had hardened and I think nothing now of walking fifty kilometres a day. I'm a bit taller as well. When I left I was six feet five but I am sure I've put on at least another two inches. My backpack used to feel heavy on my back and I leant forward to take the weight. Now I am walking upright and hardly feel the weight at all. I took the advice of two Royal Marine Commando friends of the family and packed my pack on their instructions and found that their advice has meant I have never been in a situation I couldn't handle.
A curved pruning saw, small axe, ex-army entrenching tool to bury my waste both human and other. A good sized light tent, a good groundsheet cum poncho and an extra large sleeping-bag, only one change of outer clothing, three changes of underwear and socks, a woolly pullover, two one day ration packs (which I have never touched) a compass, and a good wind-up waterproof watch, plus toilet ware was all one actually needed. I had a few extra small items such as my camera and notepad.
I tried every week to send home any film I had used and a letter telling my parents what I had been up to and to let them know I was all right.
I eventually got into the centre of the city by rail and was amazed at the cleanliness. Everything in the city looked clean, maybe it was the bright sunlight, but there was no litter lying on the streets unlike British and eastern state cities.
I booked into a backpacker's hotel and met Frank who had just returned from a two-year trek of Europe and Britain. He told me he was waiting for his father to pick him up and take him home. I was shocked to find that his home was in the north of this state and was about as far away from Perth as I had travelled in the past eight months. He persuaded me to come and see the Kimberley; also we would be flying over the famous Bungle Bungle ranges.
His father came to Perth on business at least four times a year and usually stocked up with items that was hard to come-bye. He was sure his father wouldn't mind another passenger.
The next day we taxied to the busiest light plane airport in Australia to meet his father. Not only was his father there but his grey-haired grandmother.
"So you would like to trek the Kimberley?" This smiling, tall, weather-beaten man in a battered wide-brimmed hat asked me.
"I've just trekked across from Sydney and I would like to see more of this vast country sir."
"God we don't call people sir here, I'm Bill and this is Gran, everyone calls her Gran. Now let's get you seated, sorry you will have to sit at the back with Gran. We have all the other seats out to get the things we bought stowed. Anyway Gran always sits at the back; she says she feels safer there. Frank will sit up-front with me, since he is also a pilot and I want to have a chat with him. We'll be landing at Newman for a meal and I have to see someone there. So make yourself comfy we have a long flight ahead of us."
The view from the small window was lovely and clear and I was surprised by the sudden disappearance of any habitation after about twenty minutes of flying. Now there was only brown bush below us, that went on and on, with little change in the scenery at all. Occasionally I saw a road but even on that I could see no transport. To say the land was vacant would be how one had to describe it. Four hours later we arrived at Newman, I was glad the town was pointed out to me when we were in the air for there was no sign of it when we landed.
Gran, Frank and I sat in the waiting room and ate a prepared meal, while his father went and saw the person he was meeting. We were there only about an hour and a half before we took off again once more heading north. Gran pointed out items of interest but once again it was a barren wasteland. Over the Great Sandy Desert and then we hit turbulence and Gran said we had reached the Bungle Bungles and I saw as far in the distance these well-known small mounds reaching for the sky.
Then the plane lurched and where the pilot sat was a great gapping hole, what had caused it I had no idea. The cockpit was now vacant with wires flapping in the wind. The engines had stopped and we were on a slow glide to earth. Slow, well we weren't spiralling, gliding more like it but at a slow angle. Then there was this tearing noise as the light suddenly changed and the last I could remember was us plunging into this deep canyon, then oblivion.
I came too being held in my seat by the seat belt, I was bent in half looking at the ground a good six feet below me. The other part of the fuselage I could see belly down about ten to twelve feet away. My pack still tied to the bundle of whatever goods Bill had been transporting through the torn off rear section of the plane. There were no wings to be seen but the smell of avgas was strong in the air.
Then I suddenly thought of Gran who had been sitting in the seat on the opposite of the isle from me. I looked sidewise and I could see she was hanging exactly like I was. I prepared myself and hit the seat belt lock and I dropped down to the earth and landed on my feet but I felt real dizzy. The tail section I saw was snagged on a tree and dropped about two feet when I dropped. I am glad it didn't drop all the way for it would have landed on top of me as it was I was head and shoulders inside the broken tail section.
I reached up and released Gran's seat belt and caught her as she fell and carried her out of harms way and laid her down on the ground. I had just done that when the tail section landed on the ground and fell back on to the tree which had snagged it.
I looked up and saw only a sliver of sky. Somehow we had passed through that gap and landed in this canyon with the overhanging sides. At least it was nice and cool in the shade.
I was kneeling all this time by Gran's side and wondering what I was going to do, when she opened her eyes and looked right at me.
"Oh I'm still alive, what happened?"
"It looks as if we crashed inside a deep canyon with overhanging sides. It's going to be difficult for a search party to spot us down here I only hope the wings and engines are up top so they could spot us."
"My boys are dead, aren't they?"
"I think they were dead before we even hit the ground. We seemed to have been struck with something which totally tore away the cockpit area with Bill and Frank. How do you feel, are you hurt anywhere?"
"My stomach is very sore; I think the seatbelt cut into me quite bad."
"Come on Gran let's have a look at it. We'll have to look after each other until the rescue party gets here."
"I am wearing a dress and it would mean me taking it off to look."
"Ok Gran I'll turn my back and you check, will that do?"
"Yes, that will do fine."
I turned and heard her struggling with her dress.
"Young man, I do need your help, I can't lift the dress I am that sore. I will have to ask you to do it for me."
"My names Chris, Gran and I will help you." I turned and helped her get the dress over her head exposing her partially dressed body. I expected an old woman to be wearing big cotton briefs etc., but no, she had on frilly lemon and lime laced panties and bra. The worst was the badly bruised abdomen where the belt had dug in. She must be in a good bit of pain with that amount of bruising."
I helped her put her dress back on. "Gran I think you had better lie down and rest, take it easy I will set us up a camp and we will stay near the plane so searchers can find us. I see we have plenty of water. So you stay right there."
There was water aplenty, there was a lovely 30 foot pool about twenty yards away and I could see water seeping from the rocks making a little stream which fed the pool.
I thought of using the fuselage as shelter but there was too much jagged metal sticking all over the place. I recovered my pack and put it aside as I examined the pile of items Bill had been transporting. There was tea, sugar, and coffee in tins, flour, lots of dry package items, a new rifle and some boxes of ammunition. I know nothing of rifles except that they fire bullets and kill things. There was also a solar-powered lantern and six solar garden lights one sees in driveways. I took some sugar and a box of tea bags, grabbed my pack and made for a small cave I spotted in the side near the spring.
Since there are no predators in Australia I knew there would be no wild ferocious animals in the cave. The cave wasn't very deep and I could see it had been used before for there were outlines of hands sprayed on the walls. This would suit us fine. We were close to the aircraft, near water and out of the elements. I propped my pack against the wall spread the groundsheet and rolled out my sleeping-bag, and walked back to where Gran was lying. I picked her up and carried her back to the cave and lay her on the sleeping-bag.
"That's the best I can do for now Gran. I'll get a pot of tea on the go, sorry no milk though."
"There should be a box of evaporated milk among the supplies. I got it for me as that is how I like my tea."
.... There is more of this story ...