Tango Round the Outback – an awesome post-Convention flyaway

After the RI Convention in Melbourne, 57 intrepid IFFR members, partners and friends set forth to discover the outback; the long-way around via Warrnambool, Mildura, Broken Hill, Echuca and returning safely to Melbourne. 

Reflecting the global nature of Rotary there were folk from Australia, Denmark, Germany, Holland, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States travelling on the “Tango Round the Outback” in eight GA Aircraft, a twin-engine King Air, and a 50-seater luxury coach plus the odd mini-bus for the pilots and an SUV when the weather rained upon us!! 

Before we left during the Rotary Convention, we got together for the traditional IFFR banquet hared platter styled dinner at the Longrain Restaurant in Melbourne. For the overseas pilots, this was also a celebration that after months of paperwork and dealing with CASA, the Australian Aviation Regulator, we had our temporary pilot’s licences and were good to go.

Day 1, the departure from Melbourne, was fine and sunny. The coach made its way along the Great Ocean Road, and visits included the 12 Apostles and walking the Otway Treetops. The pilots flew over the Great Ocean Road, a few arriving late after technical issues had delayed departures.

Day 2 – the whole group was together for a day of exploration of Waarnambool and the surrounding area. This included visiting the Flagstaff Hill Maritime Museum by day and then again by night for an amazing light and water show, learning how this is “the shipwreck coast” and a trip to a local nature reserve inside an old volcano, where we were lucky enough to see koalas in the wild.

We dined together that night at the Waarnambook RSL.

Day 3 – the journey from Waarnambool to Mildura. We left the south coast and started to head north into the Outback. Along the way, the coach made a stop to allow members to explore the Ansett Air Museum in Hamilton, and then later to view some of the beautiful silo art.

The pilots had a delayed departure as the last of a front went through, and it was close to lunchtime before VFR conditions prevailed, resulting in mid-afternoon arrivals.

Day 4 – a great day together in Mildura, starting with a tour around the Australian Inland Botanical Gardens where we saw some truly amazing flora and fauna. Then it was on to the winery at the Trentham Estate for a very generous wine tasting and lunch.

The afternoon was spent on a delightful river cruise along the Murray River on the PV “Rothbury”, passing under the Chaffey Bridge (named in honour of some of PWP George Chaffey’s ancestors!).

That evening we had a wonderful campsite-oven dinner under the stars, hosted by the Rotary Club of Mildura-Deakin, and organised by its President Nardia Sherriff.

Day 5 – time to head to Broken Hill, but here the weather changed. Our safety committee did well recommending the GA aircraft remain in Mildura and avoid the unsavoury weather including heavy rain, low cloud and poor visibility. Indeed, there was around 4” or 100mm of rain in and around Broken Hill the night we arrived!!!   But nonetheless, on arrival we enjoyed a visit to the Royal Flying Doctor Service Museum and lunch at the Broken Hill Flying Club.

That afternoon, we got to make a tour of Broken Hill with the Big Picture, the Line of Load, arranged by our IFFR member Bruce Church, and then have cocktails at the Sculptures as the sun went down.

Finally, well after sunset, we dined with the Rotary Club of Broken Hill during its weekly meeting at the Musician’s Club. Our arrival was hot news in town, where I was interviewed both by the press, and for the local radio morning show! And we also got to induct another new member!

Day 6 – with forecasts of more rain the following day, most of the pilots made their way back to Mildura by road, and then flew down to Echuca, arriving just after the front had cleared.

The rest stayed on in Broken Hill, sight-seeing the highlights of “Mad Max”, the art and food in Silverton including lunch at the Silverton pub; 

Day 7 – the long journey from Broken Hill to Echuca took most of the day for those travelling by bus. Those who had flown down from Mildura the previous day were able to spend a quiet day relaxing and exploring in and around Echuca.

Day 8 – and all back together once more for a day of exploring in the Echuca region. Highlights included learning about how the early pioneers had headed inland making their way along the rivers of South East Australia, and then a ride on the “Adelaide”, the oldest Paddle Steamer in Echuca. After a leisurely lunch, we visited the National Holden Motor Museum and the Great Aussie Beer Shed – a tribute to all things ale.

Day 9 – it was time to make our way back to Melbourne. The weather was kind to both pilots and the earth bound. Those travelling on the bus had the opportunity to try wines at the Balgownie Estates in Bendigo and see more of the magnificent silo art.

Finally, our flyaway ended with a wonderful final night get together “Tango Reflections” dinner at the Element Hotel during which the excellent presentation of Tango photos, kindly produced by Tim Puliz was showing. Great food, great wine and great fellowship. The party continued until late in the evening – none of us wanted the Tango to end! It was a pleasure to be joined by PWP Ern Dawes, and we finally managed to get the annual Presidents Past, Current and Future picture!

Thanks to the many “Tango” organisers, especially Mike McFarlane and Rob Hannemann of IFFR Australia, all the hotel staff, the various GA Aircraft providers, Kirkhope Aviation who provided the King Air with our caring and very personable pilot Rob; the members of the safety committee, all those who helped in many and varied ways, and lastly, but definitely not least, our wonderful, exceedingly popular and very careful coach driver Ellen in our big Grey Alston Coach.

If you would like to see a lot more pictures from the Tango, head on over to the IFFR Australia website.

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