Back at the 4WD, we drank lots of water, then “mounted up” and drove a few miles to the local heliport, where we had a quick lunch while we waited for the helicopter to arrive. I also popped some medicine for airsickness, just in case. It proved to have been a wise move.
I had never been in a helicopter before, and this was an astonishing introduction. The doors of the helicopter had been removed, to offer unrestricted views as we flew. When Athena and Belinda saw that there were no doors, they asked to sit in the back seat, which left the seat next to the pilot for me. I couldn’t have been happier. The front window curved up overhead and down under my feet, so I could see straight down between my feet. There was no “wall” next to me, so my view was truly unimpeded. When we were well strapped in, we took off like a bullet. It was a bit windy, and we danced a little in the wind as we raced across the plain and swooped up and over the edge of the Bungle Bungles.
We hovered, swooped, went sideways up one long gorge, and tilted from side to side, to make sure the three of us saw everything. At one spot, the pilot simply turned us around 360˚ over the center of the range. Below us, the unbelievable, grotesquely beautiful Bungles opened up in gorges and chasms and hidden places that are off limits from the ground.
The dodging and dipping did cause a bit of queasiness, but I was still absolutely delighted with the ride. With the doors removed, I could lean out of the helicopter and get astonishing shots. I had on headphones, with a mouthpiece for speaking and a switch, in case I wanted to communicate with the pilot or with Belinda and Athena in the back. Despite the earphones, I could here the steady wup, wup, wup of the chopper blades. It was really exciting.
After we were back and a second group had had a ride, it was time to continue our journey. We returned back up the shattered track out of Purnululu and into the eerie, lunar-looking Osmond Range.
We stopped for a short time to collect firewood, and then headed on to a beautiful spot in the middle of nowhere. Ghost gums and spinifex dotted the rolling red ground. After a beautiful sunset, the profound darkness of the bush made the stars appear even more spectacular.
In camp, we discovered that a cut Kate had gotten on her foot was showing signs of infection, which sent John off to get the first aid kit. John is a tall, wiry, amiable, but no-nonsense man. There was something wonderful about watching him hunched over Kate’s cut food, a hand-rolled cigarette dangling from the corner of his mouth, a cottonball in his very big hand, treating the wound with great skill and tenderness, at the same time explaining a little impatiently to the hovering women that he’d been treating tropical infections for years.
The night is brilliant, and we are settled once more into an amiable evening of conversation, much of it about what we have seen in the last few days.