Having thoroughly enjoyed Cloncurry’s 150th birthday celebrations last year, I kept a keen interest when I heard Normanton was celebrating its 150th this year as we move from C150 to N150.
But my heart sank when I saw the plans emerge and Normanton would be celebrating its week the same week as Isa Rodeo.
This is no criticism of Normanton and they had good reasons for holding the festival when they did. But it meant I was convinced I would not make it up there during the week being chained to the mast here in Isa.
Enter Robbie Katter to the rescue.
As many would know the KAP state leader got his pilot’s licence earlier this year and shortly afterwards I only half jokingly suggested to him I would be willing to head up in the air with him.
Sure enough this week his office called my bluff and offered me a spot with him on a 24-hour trip to Normanton that would take in the Mayor’s dinner on Tuesday night.
I quickly moved around my schedule and took up the offer – though I had to admit I was a little anxious.
My mood was not helped when Robbie dropped by the office to collect me on Tuesday and my journalist Lydia’s last advice to him was “don’t kill Derek, please.”
I need not have worried, Robbie did a great job getting us up to Normanton and back safely.
In fact the only wound was self inflicted as I banged my head on the wing as I packed my bags on to the plane.
I later joked that the inflight entertainment was not much up to scratch but Robbie is a conscientious pilot and for the most part I left him to his charts, maps and route plotting while I took in the great views of the Lower Gulf as we headed.
The town of Normanton itself was buzzing with life and visitors and it – along with Karumba – are an oasis for visitors to the beautiful Gulf of Carpentaria.
Carpentaria Mayor Jack Bawden was a genial host for the dinner as he was for the important strategy setting ROC meeting in Karumba where federal minister John McVeigh attended in a listening brief.
The Gulf should have a prosperous future to go with its illustrious past and I thank Captain Robbie for safely allowing me experience some of the action – Derek Barry