Anyone else remember the best advertising campaign for an Australian resort island – Get Wrecked on Great Keppel? Sadly the resort is no longer operating, a salutory reminder that Australian tourism is not the driving force it used to be.
24 years ago, with my brand new private pilot licence, I landed on Great Keppel Island in a Piper Tomahawk. (For those of you who think a Dash 8 is a light aircraft let me assure you a Tomahawk is the real thing as it only has 2 seats, no flushing loo and definitely no cabin crew!)
Being the old mother hen of our aviation course, and the only one married, I took GW with me. For reasons that made sense at the time he had to travel with Garth in his Piper Warrior – one step up towards the Dash 8 as it had 4 seats. GW, happy to be cabin crew, took along a bag of sweets to feed his crew. Inadvertently he drove the lads crazy leaning between the seats. Every time he sat forward they had to retrim the centre of gravity of the aircraft. Garth was far too polite to say anything so GW was none the wiser!
Eight years after that visit I returned to Great Keppel in a Twin Otter, flying out of Rockhampton with Sunstate Airlines, the forerunner of Qantaslink. It was kind of nice to be crew on one of the ‘The Otters’ I’d watched in awe last time I’d flown there.
Fifteen years after that I’ve arrived by boat and GW resisted the temptation to feed me sweets as we motored in. It’s a little sad to see the resort deserted and the beach strewn with storm debris. Great Keppel reminds me of an ageing rock star who’s given one too many parties and now finds themselves alone and hung over, wondering if a face lift will bring new friends. The natural beauty is still there for anyone who cares to look. The waters are crystal clear and the turtles friendly. The sand is white, clean and soft, the waves gentle.
Perhaps our resorts don’t need to mimic what’s so cheaply available in South East Asia. Maybe we should be celebrating our wonderful environment and the beauty that lies in the simple majesty of the landscape. Nothing beats a sunset over water.