Details on the recovery of the payload

We successfully recovered the payload on Saturday the 8th of November. It was a very big exercise that required a lot of careful thought and planning. This Post goes over some of the details of this.

The Landing

The payload had landed about 7km from the Burke Development road, about 13km west of Petford. The exact latitude/longitude being -17.3085/144.82935. It landed in some of the most inhospitable land around. If it had landed south of the Burke Development road, we could have quite easily accessed it. For the 7 days prior to recovery, the Spot Messenger  continued to spit out more data points around this latitude/longitude. Because the Spot Messenger is movement-activated, this indicated to me that it must be up in a tree swinging about whenever a breeze came along.

Immediately after the launch, the launch team (Csaba, Emilien and myself) committed ourselves to coming back and picking it up.

The Equipment

We made up a list of what we needed pick up the payload, to ensure we could do it safely.


Item Quantity Notes
Water 5 Litres PER PERSON 5 litters with supplements for electoyte loss ( sport drinks or fruit / whole meal bread ) I think 10L will wiegh too much. AGreed. Make sure we have a good 1 litre drink before setting off
Electrolytes (Enough for 10 litres)
Nut Bars 10 EACH
Tuna Cans 3 EACH
Copy of map/routes 1 EACH
Suncream 1 Stick
Repellant 1 Stick
Umbrella 1 EACH Do we really need this? No. Let’s not get it. It will be a burden.
Blade/knife 1 EACH
Pink Flagging Tape 1000 metres Get from Bunnings.
Walkie Talkies 2 From AusTek on Friday
Satellite Phone 1 From AusTek on Friday
EPirb 1 PLB from
Compass 1 I have one
Spare Compass 1
Mobile Phones 1 EACH
AAA Batteries 6 For SPot Messenger…when we find it…if we NEED to use it!
Pens 3
Paper 10 sheets
Mirror 2 to signal for help?
Matches 2 packs
First Aid Kit 1
Back Pack 2 I will get myself one from BCF. Csaba, do you have one?
7.5 Litre water 1
20Litre spare water 1
Laptop 1
Fruit Bananas and Apples
Clothing Notes
Long Light Pants
Long arm T-Shirt Long arm T-shirt could be a little hot
Jumper IN case of overnight issues
Full Brim Hat


We also brought an Axe.


The Plan

Initially it looked like we would need to walk the 7km from the road and back to recover the payload. Upon closer inspection, it became obvious that there was a barely used track that we could drive out and get within approximately 3km of the landing site. Terrific!

We are pretty sure now that if we had attempted the 14km round-trip walk, we would have failed.

I went about investigating the exact path using google maps. I took screenshots of the the path to drive and walk and put GPS Latitude/Longitude points at various places. I also put in some info indicating approximate distances. An example of one of these is below:-


One of the 'maps' of our trek

One of the ‘maps’ of our trek


I printed four copies of these, giving one to Loretta, one to Anna, and two for ourselves. We laminated one of our copies ‘just in case’.


The Timing

We finally decided on the following

– Pick up Csaba at 4:45

– Pick up Emilien at 5:05

– Drive to track (13km east of Petford) at 7:15

– Drive out to walking point – arriving approx 7:45

– Prepare for walk (7:45 to 8)

– Walk out to site (8 to 8:45)

– Collect payload (8:45 to 9:30)

– Walk back 9:30 to 10:15

– Drive back to Road (10:15 to 11:00)

– Drive back to Cairns 11:00 to 13:00

These times went out the door though. We finally got to our start-walking point at about 9:20 and commenced our walk about 9:30. We didn’t get out to the balloon landing site until about 12:15 and we found the balloon about 15min later and then didn’t get back to the car until about 2:30pm. Then we drove back to the road…getting there around 15:30 and finally got back to Cairns about 18:00.

It was an absolutely exhausting day. After the pickup and before going home we dropped by Dimbulah petrol station and had a good feed and drink!


The days proceedings

We drove very carefully from the sealed road out to the start-walking point. Every 20 metres or so, Emilien would get out of the car and put a pink ribbon on the trees/shrubs. We occasionally looked back to ensure we could see the pink ribbons we had left on trees.

Eventually we got to within ~3km (The way the crows flies) of the landing point. We were actually able to drive a little further than we thought we could based on the Google maps, but this didn’t translate to a reduced walk.

Csaba and myself did the hike, while Emilien stayed with the 4WD. We periodically contacted Emilien on the Walkie-Talkies giving him an update on our progress. We kept the PLB and the Satellite phone with us and made some Satellite phone calls to Anna and Loretta, giving them updates on our progress and to belay any fears they may have of our “adventure”.

It was hot and very tiring. I used up all the water (bar 600ml) in my backpack. (I had taken roughly 4.8 litres of water). I had taken several oranges and consumed two on my walk. They provide almost instant relief and renewed energy.

Along our trek, we saw a wild boar that fortunately ran away from us, several Kangaroos, including a really small one the side of a cat, plenty of cows and horses. We did not see any snakes, but we did see a lot of butterflies!

Eventually we found the payload after I reminded Csaba that it was back a little and up the hill and more then likely in a tree! Within 2 minutes, Csaba had found it! Up a 10metre tree! I tried climbing the tree but only scratched myself and tore my pants. The saw was futile. So we ended up using some rope and a rock to “pull” it down…basically rip it off from the parachute. (Parachute and part of burst balloon left in the tree). We then picked it up and walked back to the car. It was easy/fast on the way back because we just followed the pink ribbons that I had put on each tree every 10 metres on the walk to the landing.

Below are some pictures:-

The drive, 4wD and trek (the 'Z' portion was the walk) - From spot Messenger

The drive, 4wD and trek (the ‘Z’ portion was the walk) – From spot Messenger




Emilien holding payload

Emilien holding payload



Joe holding the payload on walk back

Joe holding the payload on walk back


Csaba holding the Sat Phone and folder on walk back


Mission accomplished!

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