As the forests stopped and the grass of cleared paddocks became shorter presumably from domestic animals feeding, I sensed we were almost into the township of much mowed Waratah.
Then, as we whizzed past the local cemetery, a helicopter resting on its pad took our attention. Ahhhh. I rejoiced. The idea of flying in that helicopter excited me. Jeanette turned the car around and she dubiously, with some embarrassment, drove up the lane towards the helicopter. I am shameless. I work on the principle that if you do not ask a question, you cannot know the answer. Throughout my life so many amazing experiences have come my way through asking for the potentially unachievable.
The car came to a stop and I jumped out, projecting smiles and a sense of generous bonhomie to a man stepping from the flying machine. His two mates were over at a fence line picking off fresh pepper berries from native pepper trees (Tasmannia lanceolata) and enjoying their hot spicy flavour.
‘G’day’, I smiled. The man studied me quizzically. ‘Did we see you from the Whyte Lookout flying along the electricity power transmission lines?’ ‘Yes’, was his firm reply. I looked inside the chopper to see equipment solidly packed into every crevice so that fitting the three guys would be a squeeze. I think I knew the answer to the question I was soon to ask. But I waited. Silences can be useful communication tools. ‘Our job is to fly along the transmission lines to determine whether the undergrowth is out of hand and needs clearing.’ ‘You must be TasNetworks employees then?’ ‘No. We’re contractors. From Queensland.’ I raised my eyebrows. Here were some jobs not going to locals, I thought. Okay into it. Into the question. ‘Any chance of a flight around here? The country would look beautiful from the air on a day like today.’ ‘ Yeah once upon a time but not these days. Even if you asked in advance there would be a foot high stack of forms and documents needing signage and approval.’ I nod. I understand. The pilot had no control over this. Of course he wasn’t going to risk his contract. He was just hired to do the job and move on. ‘Well thanks. I just had to ask – just in case.’ Jeanette joined us and we chatted amiably before leaving them waiting for a refuelling truck to arrive.
It was only a job for them, but I knew they were extraordinarily fortunate to have a job that flew them over one of the world’s few remaining original cool temperate forests.