As another year turns over on its well-oiled axis, it’s almost exactly 85 years since the Australian pioneer aviator, Bert Hinkler, died when his plane crashed on Mount Pratomagno in Italy during an attempt on the England-Australia record.
Thanks to the efforts of Hinkler admirers in Italy and Australia, a memorial to this extraordinary pilot was unveiled on Mount Pratomagno in August 2015 (see my earlier blog, ‘A boulder for a bold pilot’).
One of those enthusiasts, Cesare Ciabatti, who runs a highly regarded restaurant, Da Giocondo, near the top of the mountain, recently sent photos of the memorial covered in winter snow.
Despite the beauty of the scene, the image is a reminder of the time of year Hinkler crashed, when the weather for him was not as benign. When the Australian pilot and his plane came to grief on the peak, on 7 January, 1933, there was a vicious storm raging.
Hinkler’s body and the wreckage were not discovered until three months later, when the snows had melted from the slopes. He was just 40 years old.
At other times of the year, when the temperature is not sitting at close to zero, the 2015 memorial, the brainchild of Brisbane man, Kevin Lindeberg, looks like this (below). The 1.4 ton dark basalt boulder was transported from Mon Repos Beach, Bundaberg, Queensland, where the teenage Bert Hinkler first flew, in a home-made glider he built in his backyard.
In September 2016 I was fortunate to be able visit the crash site (see above) and to trek part of a new walking trail, the Hinkler Ring, which connects the various memorials erected over the years and leads hikers to the top of the mountain, where the Croce del Pratomagno sits.
Erected by the Franciscans in 1928, the cross stretches its arms across the 360 degree views of the colourful panorama of the Tuscan countryside below.
The Hinkler Ring is an initiative of Carlo Palazzini and his colleagues in the Club Alpino Italiano, Arezzo, and it makes this wonderful area more accessible to walkers of all abilities.
I can highly recommend a visit to Mount Pratomagno in Tuscany, a trek around the Hinkler Ring, and a delicious meal at da Giocondo. My wife and I are planning to head back for a re-visit in September 2018.
Weather forecasts New Year’s Eve 2017
Mount Pratomagno : Min 1° Max 3°
Mon Repos Beach, Bundaberg: Min 26° Max 29°
I wonder what decisions Bert Hinkler would have made if he’d been able to Google the weather forecast for Mount Pratomagno ahead of his final flight in January 1933.
D R Dymock: Hustling Hinkler: The short tumultuous life of a trailblazing aviator (published by Hachette).
Hinkler Hall of Aviation, Bundaberg: www.hinklerhallofaviation.com
Until next time
Darryl R Dymock
What writers say
The real measure of ‘truth’ in any novel is not whether the characters, places and events portrayed exist beyond the pages of the book but, rather, whether they seem authentic to us as readers. When we open the pages of a novel, we enter into a pact with it. We want to immerse ourselves in its milieu. We want to engage with the characters, to find their actions psychologically plausible.
~ Graeme Macrae Burnet, ‘Afterword’, The accident on the A35.
(As with the ‘Foreword’, Burnet plays with the reader in what he writes in the ‘Afterword’, so we have to decide if this is the ‘real’ GMB speaking in the words quoted above.)