Friday, February 27, 2004

Another rainy day

It was early Thursday morning, I rang my contact at the Bamboo mine to find out what if anything was happening, they had been talking about bringing a truck in here to grab some spares for their digger and I wanted to be at the place where I came to grief last week, to see what they were going to do when they came to the part of the road that wasn’t there. Sharon told me that she would get back to me but it didn’t look like the truck would come today, well I went out and did a bit of work, fueled up and serviced a few things and had a good check around, and came back to the camp about mid day to find a message for me, I rang back and found that they needed some things over at Bamboo that I had here, loads of linen and pillows and three working bar fridges, I had already sourced all this stuff about a week before and was waiting for the call, I loaded the stuff on, with a bit of grunting and groaning and set of at twenty to one, grabbing some muesli bars to eat on the way, I had a water bottle so I could get a drink, I had already checked out the vehicle.

I set of down my driveway (as you remember a fifty kilometre stretch of dirt road) and it was a fairly straightforward drive through the hills and across the plain. The road was a little more scoured and washed out in places, as we had copped about another inch of rain since I had driven it last week, but no great challenge, I did the first thirty kilometres and came to the creek I had bogged in the week before, I checked it out and as it was pretty much the same I went through in the wheel tracks I had made the week before, not on the side I bogged on but the up side where I had come back. On I went the last twenty kilometres to the bitumen with no worries and out on the main road for the jaunt towards Marble bar, nothing much of any excitement happened on this leg of the journey, I just drove down admiring the green countryside and the few animals I saw, enjoyed the drive through the hills just after the Coongan river, imagining I was on some alpine pass (I had the air conditioner on full blast) I took it steady until I came to the Bamboo creek turn off. On turning onto this road, a dirt road, I noticed that there was a grader parked up in the area there and thought< I wonder if he has been through, luckily he had and once over the bit of the Coongan river that crosses the road just there, and which was flowing about 150 ml (six inches) across the road, it was a pleasant journey the fifty kilometres or so into Bamboo Creek mine, I found Sharon (a girl I talk to daily but had never met) and we unloaded the stuff I had brought, had a cup of tea and a natter, and I set off back to my camp, not before I had managed to snaffle a few bits of cake and some bananas for a snack on the way home.

I don’t know if you have ever talked to somebody on a regular basis, maybe on the phone or in a chat room on the internet, but you get a picture in your mind about how they look, the picture I had in my mind of Sharon was that she was about thirty five, and a very small skinny woman, but she turned out to be about twenty three or four and a statuesque girl, standing six foot two in her high heeled safety boots, and she just oozed personality, she was wearing the general issue green king gee shorts and shirt that are mostly worn in the mining industry, which in no way made her look anything but very feminine, we sat and had a chat as I said and a cuppa and I could have stayed all day talking, as you can when you haven’t seen another person for a week, but I wanted to get back before the daylight was gone and she of course had work to do.

As I set off there was a heavy shower and it spat with rain most of the way back to the black top, once on the main road there was no rain, but I could see it in the distance and the way I was going to boot. I had got about twenty kilometres up the road and I could see the rain off to my left, a little bit on the east side of the range and a lot on the west side, now this was a bit of a worry because even though I was driving on to the east of the hills, on a bitumen road, once I turned onto my dirt road I would be driving up the west side of the hills, anyway soon after I had seen the rain it all came over the road, and from then on it was raining very heavily till I came to my turn off, as I came up the dirt road it eased off a bit, but the road was as slippery as butchers knife, and clingy, I thought the best bet was to engage four wheel drive, so jumped out and engaged the hubs for better traction, after about twenty kilometres the rain eased off, I made it through the creek there with no troubles although I could feel it trying to grab me, breathed a sigh of relief and carried on home, checked out the rain gauge, and there was 5.2 mls showing. I got in, made a cup of tea and sorted out something to eat and then the rain came back, it seemed to rain most of the night but there was only 20 mls in the gauge this morning, it has been almost raining all day, but has set in now and is much heavier, must be that cyclone that may or may not form off of the coast, oh well I have enough food and drink for a month if it does turn into a cyclone and I have been wanting to stop smoking for quite some time.

A Sunday drive

It hadnt rained since Friday when I had almost an inch, it was Sunday morning, I had done my chores around the place so I decided to have a look at Panorama station. This station had been abandoned for some time but I thought I might be able to find something there that would interest me, I pulled up at the old homestead, nothing fancy this, just an old fibro house on one level, steel framed and corrugated iron roof. I am not sure how long it has been abandoned but most of the roofing iron had been blown off and scattered around the countryside and someone had been there and set it on fire at some stage. There was a workshop very close to the house with a kitchen of sorts, big sink was still there, and a few bits and pieces, this was probably the room where killers were slaughtered and butchered I would hazard a guess, nothing there now of any interest. There was a much larger shed about forty metres away, probably where the farm machinery was worked on, the framework was still there and a few pieces of tin sheeting that hadn't blown away as yet, and a huge tower, I should imagine for radio communication.

After I looked around the homestead I drove out of the gate and saw a bit of a track and some bit's and pieces up on a bit of a rise, I drove up this bit of a slope and as I crossed the crown, I realized I had found something interesting, I had found the stations rubbish tip, well the one for solid things anyway, before me were several wrecked vehicles, some old trailers and a couple of motorbikes. What I did recognize there were two old Bedford buses, one an old A series, with the nose sticking out the front, the other I was not sure about as it was built with the cab over the chassis in such a way that you couldn't see what model it was, they were both pretty far gone, but all the chassis and wheels were there, and the panels on the A series were all pretty sound, they would be able to be rebuilt , the major problem of course would be the retrieval, being about fifty kilometres up a dirt road and well hidden in a gully. There were also a couple of chassis of old Willys jeeps, both cack handers, a few old cars and two Japanese motorbikes, scattered around were all sorts of old equipment including a cement mixer.

I spent a bit of time taking photographs (which I can't get downloaded until I get to Hedland) and then wandered off down a well beaten track to the south of the station, this track meandered along for about five kilometres until I came suddenly across a stack of old core sample trays, and some concrete building foundations, I went a bit further and saw part of a processing plant, an old loader bucket and a few bits and pieces, it looked as though the mining had gone on on the other side of a creek, and it looked as though it would be too difficult to cross over, so I turned home and called it a day, but I will investigate the area again when I have some spare time.

Saturday, February 21, 2004

Trip after the rains

Thursday came, and the big news was that the main roads department had seen fit to open the road to Hedland, got me car already, checked everything that needed checking, fueled up and set off down the road, it was a little rough in places, but pretty good on the whole. I got about twenty kilometres from the main road, through the hills and a fair way across the plain and then came across a creek where it had washed the road away, no worries I thought, I am a rough, tough, hairy arsed miner, I have lived in the bush for years, I have driven in all kinds of conditions, no problem for a man of my abilities, you know what I mean, you weigh up the options, pick what you think is the right one, and act.

I sussed out the state of the road and decided to try going through the creek on the left hand side. I should mention here that what had happened was the creek had washed away a couple of feet of the main surface, right across the road and had exposed a couple of PVC pipes that had been laid in an attempt to let the water under the road, there was about a three foot deep trench, and I didn't want to run over the pipes and break them, the rocks on the down side of the river looked pretty firm and I could see a way out, so in I went, got a few feet in and the bloody car went down like a pole axed bullock, no worries I thought, I got out and put the hubs in, got back in and stuck her in four wheel drive, I managed to get a few more feet in and was buried even further, I know I thought, I will put it in low 4, and that will pull it through. Do you think I could get the bugger in, not a hope.

Well here I am, stuck in a creek up to my axles, no chance of anyone coming along to pull me out, but I have the mighty sat phone with me, I called up the boss, told him what I had done, he of course asked me if I had done this, that and everything, did you pull the joey stick up?, I tried said I, but decided I would give it another try, and call him back if I couldn't get it in low 4. I went back in the car, got both hands on the stick and pulled my heart out, finally she came up and slipped into low4, I then put her in first and gave it heaps slowly, she climbed out of the bog like a rat up a drain pipe and I was back on terra firma once more. I quickly called the office, told them I had managed to get it into the right gear eventually, after doing a two handed grip with multi grunts and strains, and kicked a few rocks out of the way and managed to get the bugger out.

Twenty Kilometres down the road I came to the black top, turned left and after a couple of kilometres came to the swollen Shaw river, the river was running about four hundred mls above the concrete culvert and running pretty fast, I plunged in and started across, making sure I had locked the hubs and put her in high4, she was trying to push me down stream, but I managed to get her across alright, and climbed up the other side with a certain relief, took the wagon out of high4, unlocked the hubs and then continued on my way to the bright lights of Hedland.

Nothing of note happened on the stretch to the Taba Taba turn off, but it did shower a wee bit on the stretch down to the airport, I passed the airport and pulled into the road house for a well missed Iced coffee, rang the firm to tell them I had arrived whilst I had a cuppa and a bit of toast, remember I had been out of real bread for over a week, bought a packet of real fags, and set of for the air con bloke's place smoking a tailor made fag and swigging iced coffee. Turned right at the junction and joined the mad rush hour traffic past the salt works and over the red something bridge, this was a bit dodgy after a couple of weeks of not driving in traffic to be suddenly zooming along with other vehicles, specially with them bloody great salt trucks pulling along three ginormous trailers.

I got to the air con blokes place and he wasn't there, they said he would be back shortly, and this fitter bloke there was giving my ears a bashing, telling me just about his life story and asking me if he could work down at Bamboo for a couple of weeks, so I went up to the main part of town and paid my car registration, that was one task out of the way, now I had three major tasks to do, air con, download my camera and do the shopping. I went back to the air con place, he finished the job he was doing, then started on my car, he seemed to take for ever but it was pleasant chatting to him why he did the work. It all seemed finished to me but he said it had to stay under pressure for an hour to test it, he was going to lunch (he said dinner) and did I want to come, well I did because I was feeling a bit peckish.

We went down to the Boulevard and ate at the little cafe place there, I had some beef noodle stuff, and it weren't half bad, very sweet and laced with honey but once I got the taste it was pretty nice, as I was sitting there I saw a camera shop so dived in to see if he could download my camera cards for me, he said he could so I left them there to pick up later when I did my shopping. We went back to the fridgies place and my car was ready, two and a half things done and I had a nice cool car to drive home in. I drove coolly up to the supermarket and spent an hour or so doing my bit of shopping, picked up my pics, now all loaded onto a CD rom , got a couple of things from the chemist and I was away back to Normay, I stopped again at Dickson's for the customary iced coffee, rang the office to tell them I was leaving Hedland and was away back to my camp.

Just a steady drive back down the bitumen, came to the Shaw river a bit apprehensively in case it had risen, but if anything it had fallen, could see a couple of vehicles as I approached the river, but it was a couple of utes with some Aboriginal people in, the kids got out in midstream and had a bit of a frolic and a swim and the vehicles drove off leaving the kids playing. I put her in 2lo, locked the hubs and drove through no worries, took the hubs out, took the 4wd out and drove on a couple of kilometres and back up my drive way. I went steady and had soon reached the washed out bit.

I got out and gave it a good looking and the way I had come through in the morning still looked the best way but I decided to go the other side, checked it out, set the car in the correct gears and straight through, as I was taking the car out of four wheel drive and unlocking the hubs, I noticed a movement and there was a camel, reached for the camera but the batteries were down, quickly grabbed my spare batteries and managed to get a couple of shots of the beast before driving home, Seemed to be a lot of galahs about on that last bit of the journey. I arrived home and after unpacking my groceries I rushed to install the card read and the bloody thing won't work either, must be a conflict in this computer so it will be a couple of weeks before I get to see if me Camel pictures have come out.

Use the link if you want to see a few pictures I have taken.

Monday, February 16, 2004

After the rain

Well! The other day we had a bit of rain, that I had estimated a about 25 Mls, well I have since discovered the rain gauge, and that tells me that since I got here there has been ninety Mls, yesterday, Sunday we had two storms that came over, and must have dropped another sixty five Mls (about two and a half inches), it rained for two periods of about an hour each in the afternoon and evening. The storms were that severe that they dropped all my fancy communications gear, so I was sitting here with no radio, television or computer, I remembered that I could read and went to bed early with a good book, well the best book I had.

All the roads in this part of the world are closed so I can't get out, and nothing can get in, the countryside is getting greener by the minute and the birds are thinking of mating, good rain means good food, and as you all know a pleasant outlook and a good feed always makes your mind turn to sex. As I can't get out and am short of bread, I thought it would be a good opportunity to make some, looked on the net for a recipe, found one that called for three cups of self raising flour, a stubby of beer at room temperature a pinch of salt and a little sugar, well I had all that, threw it in a bowl, and mixed it up, I had all ready put the oven on , then I looked for a bread tin, I found a big baking tray, and slopped my mixture onto that, of course the tin was far too big for the mixture, but the result was a rather rustic looking loaf, I had sprinkled some cheese on top, and even though it didn't look like your average Mother's Pride, it looked quite nice and tasted pretty damn good, more like damper than bread but not too bad for an old rough tough hairy arsed miner, I will make it again but maybe put some herbs or something in it.

There is not much else to report, the wet countryside has slowed my exploring down a fair bit as I am not game to go off the beaten track, or silly enough. If the rain allows me to, I will go to the metropolis of Hedland on Thursday, I have already contacted a man there who will either sell me a card reader or download my memory cards of pictures onto a CD rom, so we should have some pictures somewhere shortly.

Friday, February 13, 2004

The Rain

On Wednesday we had some rain, when I say rain I mean about twenty five mls or an inch for metrically challenged folks (Poms and Seppos). This didn't appear to be much of a problem, the animals seemed to like it and I wasn't planning to go anywhere, I had a bit of a look around and everything seemed to be sweet, the roads around the camp seemed pretty alright, a little damp on the surface and a few puddles where there were dips. I decided to check out the road to the old Dresser mine and townsite where I have a water bore that supplies the camp and mill. On the way down the road, I think this is the Normay Hillside road, there were a couple of places where little creeks had run over the road and although there was no water visible there were some muddy spots, the car had no problem in getting through and I managed to arrive at the old Dresser place with no trouble. I checked out the old Lister engine that drives the pump and that was pretty good, so returned to the camp.

I had a phone call that said I was to meet the candy truck at the end of my 50 kilometre driveway where it meets the main road and would be advised what time I needed to be there, I reckoned I would make it with no major problems, so stayed close to the office in anticipation as I was expecting a little package containing a card reader that a friend was sending up to me and a couple of letters that the old trouble and strife had sent. At about half past twelve the phone rang and they told me that the tucker truck wasn't coming on account of the weather but not to worry as the big boss was leaving and would meet me at the turning in about an hour with my little parcel.

I had already checked the vehicle out, you know, water and oil and fuel, my water bottle full of sweet drinking water and ice, sufficient cigarettes for the journey and a pack of emergency tobacco, filters and papers in case I got stuck, together with a bit of tucker, just in case. Now you might think this is a bit of overkill to travel fifty kilometres but this is pretty rugged country to travel, through some picturesque hills and across sweeping plains, on a dirt road in rainy conditions, with plenty of things to give grief to a wary traveler. As I said before it had been raining the night before, and even though I had checked the road to the south, I was heading sort of North East, and it was overcast and threatening more rain.

I set off and although there were a couple of places going through the spur range of the George hills where I slipped and slewed a fair bit and a couple of slowly running creeks that I had to ford, that part of the road was fairly easy driving. Once out of the hills I was a little more concerned as there were long stretches that were just made of the sandy loam of the plains, and even though there was water on parts of the road for most of the journey, I managed to pick a fairly dry route between the puddles and mini lakes that tended to be on one side of the road or the other, in some places the water was in the middle of the road but there was drier ground on one of the sides, but not always the same side of course, that would be too easy.

There were a few more small creeks I had to cross on this part but none were running, so there was no drama. This time along the road, apart from a couple of stray cows I had seen no livestock, but plenty of birds twitting about, this is unusual at this time of year in the middle of the day, but I guess because of the overcast conditions and the resulting drop in temperature, the birds were less likely to be held up in trees and under bushes to keep out of the heat, I did see a few kangaroos (they may have been wallabies, I am no expert) who again were taking advantage of the cool to get about and do whatever marsupials do. I rounded the last bend and saw the old telegraph pole that used to carry the wire from Hedland to Marble bar, that tells me I am close to the bitumen and should therefore slow down, and as I did the radio crackled, It was Peter Cole, the mine manager asking me if I was close to the road as he was just coming through the Shaw rive, my reply was, if I was any closer I would be on it, as I pulled up with my nose on the road, he was about five hundred metres away so we had timed it pretty well.

Well we had a bit of a yarn there, on a lonely turning in the middle of nowhere, he told me that the only place he saw any water was at the Carlindie creek, and it was building up on the East side ready to come over the road, but there was bugger all in any of the other creeks and rivers. I got my wee package and we headed off on our respective journeys.

I headed back to camp, and had a pretty uneventful trip, having just driven down I knew where the dodgy spots would be, I did manage to get a couple of pictures of a Great Bustard (known locale as a bush turkey even though they look in no way like a turkey) and arrived back at the camp just as the sun was peeping through. I made a cup of tea, I read my letters and tried to install the card reader, but I couldn't get it to work. When I went for another cup of tea about an hour later, the sun had disappeared and it was coming on to rain again, and it rained and rained for several hours, I thought to myself that this would really mean I would be cut off, but when I awoke this morning the weather was fine, and as the day wore on the land around appeared to be drying off. I went for a bit of a drive to see what, if any damage had been done and found it much the same as yesterday, with the difference that a couple of good rains in a couple of days and the countryside had changed from a brownish tinged landscape, to a green and pleasant land. Now if you have never lived in this part of this great sunburnt land, and seen this transformation, you will probably find it hard to accept that such a change can take place in such a short time, but believe me it does happen and there are even flowers blooming already, just to take advantage of the heat and moisture and to bloom and set seed to procreate their species.

The rest of today, Friday the thirteenth has been glorious, the country is alive, the roads are drying out and everything looks good, or so I thought. I have to ring into Bamboo Creek twice a day so they know I am safe and well, and when I rang the girl there, she told me that all the creeks and rivers between Hedland and Marble bar are over the road and the Coongan river is about four metres deep, the shire have closed the road, and nobody is going anywhere, a little further down the track, the Town of Nullagine is completely cut off. Nullagine is more a village than a town and it has two rivers that run through it, or more likely one river that runs through it twice, or maybe even two bits of the same river, anyway the river or rivers are up at a flood, the cops station is cut of from the rest of the town and you will be able to get away with just about anything in Nullagine this week end.

And my old china Charley reckons she lives in the middle of nowhere?
That reminds me of a couple of trips I took to Nullagine a few years ago, I may try and relate them tales later.

Tuesday, February 10, 2004

Trip to Bamboo

After coming back from Hedland last Tuesday, things were pretty quiet at the camp, a couple of blokes turned up early Thursday morning to pick up a dozer and take it to Bamboo Creek, I did what I could to help them put it on the float then cooked them some breakfast, they had been on the road since about four o clock so they were more than chuffed with a cup of tea and some eggs and bacon, and as for me, it is always nice to have some real, flesh and blood people to talk to.

They buggered off to Bamboo Creek, and I settled back into my routine, which you all know is very, very little, checked around the place, checked the generators, did a bit of tidying up, had a little explore and came back to make some lunch. After lunch, well about four o clock in fact, I had phone call from Bamboo, their freezer had broken down and they were going to come and get some freezers from this camp, I bustled around, and got as much squeezed into the two upright freezers, and the little one under the fridge in the kitchen, made some curry and rice in case the blokes who were coming over wanted a feed when they got here and waited.

Two guys turned up about half past six, and brought with them a little tuckerbox freezer, we got most of the stuff that I had not found a place for into that, they took some stuff back with them that I had no room for, we loaded the tree freezers on the back of the ute, had a quick beer and they rushed back to Bamboo. So after most days when I see nobody and talk only twice a day on the phone to somebody at Bamboo, I had a day when I had four visitors, the place suddenly seemed crowded.

The next few days were very quiet with me just going about my normal routine until around nine o clock on Tuesday morning when I got a call from Bamboo, asking how much bread I had, I had about eight frozen loaves in one of the freezers, so they asked if I could chuck them in an eski and bring them over as they had run out, and it was a couple of days before the tucker truck was due, I of course jumped at the chance.

I loaded up the wagon, checked the oil and water, fueled up and set off on the 150 kilometre drive to Bamboo Creek. The drive down the dirt road was as usual a joy, I run down the west side of the George ranges, and through a section that can only be described as a roller coaster ride through an area where the range has a spur running west, then along a flat plain, where I saw a few groups of cattle, one group being all black with a calf that was pure white, I just wonder if this calf was an albino or merely an ordinary white calf. I saw a movement away to my left and about fifteen horses came heading towards the road, I slowed and they came across the road about twenty metres in front of me, whether they were Brumbies or stock horse I don't know but like to think they were Brumbies (a Brumby is a horse that has reverted to the wild state) and out onto the bitumen.

The drive down the bitumen was pretty uneventful, I am now running up the east side of the George ranges, heading towards Marble bar, the view is of course the George range on my right and a flat plain on my left with a small range of hills in the distance, and the odd hill rising a bit higher, past a rest area with a rather strange name, something like Dess Strekkler, I stopped there on the way back and it is a memorial rest are, so is probably named after someone, I will look into this.

Driving through the hills just past the Coongan River is always a delight, very tight curves and needs a wee bit of skill not to run off the road, no soon as I had gone through them hills, I had to turn left on the old Woodie Woodie road, back on the dirt, along a rough road that winds all over the place for about twenty seven kilometres, then a right turn for about another twenty seven kilometres on a smaller, rougher road with a lot of twists and turns, as I was approaching Bamboo Creek the road gets more twisty as you drive up into the hills, and then there is Bamboo creek.

Now Bamboo creek is very hilly and the accommodation units are all set in little hills and very picturesque, I pulled around to the kitchen to deliver the bread, had a cup of tea and a few smokes with the cook and a bite to eat, then went down to the plant to see Lee, who is running the show whilst the boss is away, had a yarn to a few of the fellas there and was back on the road home again. I drove the 54 or so kilometres back to the bitumen, but decided that I would make a detour into Marble Bar, as it was only twenty kilometres down the road, I drove there and had an iced coffee in the roadhouse, had a drive around town, visited an old abandoned battery, got another iced coffee for the drive home, and zoomed back up the road heading for Hedland.

Just after I left Marble Bar, I could see some rain clouds in the distance, and smell the rain on a hot country, now that smell is indescribable, but once smelt it is something truly wonderful, a few kilometres up the road I drove into a bit of rain and it was showering off and on most of the way up the bitumen, it cooled the car down a bit and gave me the wet smells of the bush all the way home, I stopped at that rest area I mentioned before and took a few pictures, special the long drop dunny that is an Ozzie bush marvel, back up my dirt road, through the hills and back to my camp.

Sunday, February 08, 2004

A trip to Hedland

The weekend managed to go by without major incident, I did the few little things I had to do, which is mainly checking around and making sure everything is still in place, and it was. I also did a bit of exploring and found an old stamping battery (a thing that is used to crush the gold bearing ore so the gold can be extracted). I went and looked at the old Panorama homestead, wrecked now and been looted and set alight, there was an old bus there, that at some stage someone had turned into a mobile home thingy, sad and forlorn with the engine gone and the tyres all flat and rotting.

On Tuesday I managed to wangle a trip to Port Hedland, made sure I was well prepared, had a couple of purchase orders, one for the air con on the wagon and one for me to buy provisions to feed me at the camp. I have heaps of food here but mostly in huge quantities, like ten kilo packs of sirloin steak which I can't defrost and eat quickly enough. Made sure the wagon was full of oil water and emergency stuff, and set of about nine o clock. Down the road I went, forty kilometers on the dirt, beautiful drive through a bunch of hills with fantastic craggy hills and gorges, saw a few head of cattle and bugger all else. Out on the bitumen road and north towards Hedland, back across the Shaw river and the other creeks, got behind a road train, talked to him on the radio and he called me round him, always a good move because they pull four trailers and do about the speed limit, and it can take a couple of minutes to overtake.

I reached the Taba Taba turnoff eventually admired the mesas there as I always do, turned left on the last fifty K's to Hedland, in about twenty minutes or so I passed the airport and pulled into Dickson's for a packet of real fags and an ice coffee. This was where my troubles started, I went to the fridge and got out an iced coffee, shook it, as you do, and it went all over the place, some bugger had opened it and put it back, I took another one and gave the bloke collecting the money the opened one, paid for it and got me fags and headed down to the Auto leckies to get the air con fixed, they told me to leave the car there and come back in the afternoon and they may be able to look at it, I told them I had a few things to do, so would come back in the afternoon and buggered off to Action supermarket to get my provisions.

I wandered around there, chucking stuff in a trolley, trying to work out what I could get away with buying on the companies account, you know they might balk at smoked salmon and caviar, till I had a trolley full of meat and milk and cereal and such stuff, enough I judged to last me for a fortnight, and quite enjoyed myself. Then I got to the stage where I was ready to go through the check out, I had been told to see the woman at the customer service thingy before I went through, I did and she said Nikki or Sharon or something like that would do me on check out one.

I trundled my barrow there told her I also needed some tobacco and that was going on account as well, and she started to check things through, we was going swimmingly until we must have got about eighty per cent through when, things went a bit wobbly, a strange burning smell started to be apparent and then wallop the thing blew up. Of course all hell broke lose, people came from everywhere, and after a while they gave up and moved everything to another register, started putting it all through again till that blew up. I wandered off at this stage and had a feed in a cafe just across the way after getting some money from the eftpos machine before that blew up. I had a feed of steak and chips, the chips were all right but I have had roast beef sliced thicker, finished that and a cup of tea, wandered back to Action and was told they now had five machines down and out and would put it all in the cold room as I had to go to South Hedland and pick some stuff up.

I went over to South Hedland looking for a mike for the computer, looked in Lil's and they wanted $28 for a cheapy, so I went to the K mart and bought a better one for eight bucks and some change, whipped back to the auto leckie, he was free and pulled the air con apart only to find the bit that was broken had to come from Perth or Sydney or maybe even Tokyo, and would be a few days in coming. I went back to Action at this stage, and they had sorted everything out, so I picked it up and packed it in the eskis in the wagon, and started off for Normay. They told me that after I left, they had five checkouts go down and their eftpos machine as well, and please don't hurry back.

I drove back out of Hedland thinking I had had a trying day, stopped again at Dickson's to load up on cool drinks, and carried on up the forty K run to Taba Taba, about half way there a Japanese bloke on a push bike waved me down, now he was riding a treadly from Hedland to Broome, the temperature was 40 degrees C, he had water and food with him but was looking for a ride, I don't blame him but I was turning off in a wee while so never picked him up.

The journey from there was uneventful, but I reckon that Japanese bloke on a 600 kilometre push bike trip to Broome in the middle of summer was going to have a few days a lot worse than the one I had, arrived back at Normay, packed me food away and had a good feed, some steak a decent thickness, and went to bed.

Friday, February 06, 2004

Day one

So there I was, in the camp, slept like a log and woke up as the sun was threatening to peep over the hills, tore myself from my bed, and ventured outside, now it had been coming on dark when I arrived the previous evening, so I made my way to the mess hall/kitchen made myself a cuppa and had a bit of a look around. Now I had passed a bit of a sign on the way in that said Panorama station no shooting, well I couldn't see anything to shoot but I could see why it was called Panorama station, the view in all directions was magnificent, the sort of view that takes your breath away, and seen as only it can be seen in the early morning, blue hills in the distance going on and on and seeming to be just waking up, as I was, a couple of hundred metres down from the kitchen window was a mob of cattle, maybe seven or eight, walking in a single file towards a water hole, for their morning drink I suppose.

I had me cup of tea and reckoned another one was called for, so made that and had a bowel of cereal and some toast and marmalade, then I decided to look around the site and see what was what, jumped in the old landcruiser and wandered down to check the generator. The generator was purring away, oil pressure was good, temperatures were sweet, fuel was adequate, so I drove carefully around the cows and had a look at the gold processing plant, checked out all the different buildings down the work area and then came back to the camp to check that out, had a look in all the rooms, found a radio in one so took that to my room for safe keeping and went back and made another cup of tea.

I had to wait for the big boss from Bamboo who was coming over to show me the ropes more or less, I had found some frozen bacon the night before and it had not thawed enough for bacon and eggs for breakfast but by now it was thawed enough for me to make a bacon sandwich for my lunch. The big boss made an appearance after lunch, he rang and said he would be there about four, so he came in said jump in the car and I will show you around, he took me about ten kilometers to the south where there was an old mine that used to dig for drilling mud, there was a bore set up there, run by an old Lister diesel engine, he showed me how to start and stop it and pump water to the camp.

We then came back and he showed me how to start the other generators at the processing plant to pump diesel and the layout of the place, where the gas was kept and all that sort of thing. We then went on a mine tour so to speak, they are mining an area called Mickey's Find, drove up there and admired some even more fantastic views, he pointed out where an old copper mine used to be and we headed back to camp, when we got there the water tank was over flowing. He buggered off back to Bamboo and I went and turned the water pump off, he also showed me how to work the television before we parted company.

I then cooked myself some tea, I had lamb cutlets and some vegetables copious cups of tea and settled down to watch TV.

There ends the first day in my new home

Thursday, February 05, 2004

The journey part two

So we were away from the great Metropolis of Port Hedland (that is spelled right), along the road that links Port and South Hedland, over the railway bridge, past the huge piles of salt, I notice all them cooks on the telly tell you to use sea salt, well here are huge stockpiles of it with trucks and dozers all over the place, must be the diesel that is good for you, I digress, past the salt pans, too the roundabout with the legend, left for Broome and Marble bar, straight on for South Hedland. We veered left up past the airport, and of course we had to stop at Dickson's caravan park for iced coffee and such, it will be the last shop we see for a few weeks.

Filled with such luxuries as mars bars and iced coffee we set off again towards the Taba Taba turn off, my passenger was a Pommy bloke called Bob, who had come from Luton or somewhere like that, and had been here a few years and lived in Marble Bar for sometime running the roadhouse and doing some tours, so he knew what he was getting into. After about forty kilometers (twenty five miles) the mesas around Taba Taba hove into view and we turned right at the junction, past Strelley station, which I had heard had been taken over by an Aboriginal group, but looked deserted to me, a few old cars and trucks scattered about and that was it. We carried on past Red Rock Creek, the West and East Strelley creeks and another river called Carlindi creek, over the Shaw river and stopped at the side of the road where a dirt road went off to the right, this I was told was my road but I was carrying on to Bamboo Creek to be processed, inducted and issued with safety equipment, and then would return and meet a bloke at that said road junction.

The other two new starters were given their Dongas and we all went round to the mess and had a feed and a well needed cup of tea, the Mine Manager came and got us after a while and we were processed, I then filled the wagon up with fuel, my new water bottle up with iced water and loaded the supplies for the bloke at the turnoff into the back of the Toyota, and set off back to there, out to the bitumen, turned right and after about a hundred K’s saw the man at the turn off, we introduced each other, shook hands and set off the forty K’s to Normay camp. Once there we transferred the supplies to his vehicle, he showed me where to sleep and we did a quick tour of the camp and he explained my duties to me and he was off.

There I was, all on my own, with a camp at my disposal, I checked the fridges and food stores out and thought I was in Paradise.

Tuesday, February 03, 2004

The Journey

Well as all things it started by getting out of bed, at the ungodly hour of three AM. I hustled about trying to remember what I needed and had forgotten to pack, had a quick cup of coffee and a bit of toast and me mate Wayne was there to run me down the airport. The plane was due to leave at 6:15 but I needed to be there an hour earlier, and of course I was there a half hour before that.

I checked in and went in search of coffee, now being a seasoned traveller, I shied away from going into the cafeteria place, why pay four bucks for a cup of what could be likened to mud, remember I used to work delivering lost baggage (or was that found Baggage) so I tripped over to there only to find it was too early and they were not open yet, still not to be outdone I went to the coffee machine where although not good coffee is passable early in the morning. I put my dollar fifty in, pressed C6 which gives you what they laughingly call cappuccino, well it does have some froth on the top, I believe they get this effect with fairy liquid but at lest it cleans your insides, the machine whirred and coughed, no cup dropped down and no bloody coffee came gushing out, so of course I kicked it on the sign saying kick here, pressed the coin return button, only to receive a shiny fifty cent coin and no dollar, so here I am a dollar down and still craving coffee, so I wandered outside for a fag, and to plan my next plan of attack. When I had my smoke, I wandered back inside, found the luggage counter open and went in the back and cadged a cup of their finest 43 bean Nescafe that I made myself and topped up with that skinny milk that does bugger all but change the colour of the brew.

Time to brave the boarding area now, and I fronted up, taking all my change from my pockets, cigarette lighter and so on, then tried to walk through the metal detector only to have it go off like world war four has been declared, take them steel toecap boots off the girl said and that nifty pocket watch as well and while you are at it take your belt off. So there I was no boots, my trousers threatening to fall around my ankles and me not knowing the time of day. They actually x-rayed my boots, which I thought was novel and then left me to get dressed and continue up the stairs to wait for the plane. Nothing exciting there just a few shops selling tat at over inflated prices, could you imagine me paying ninety five dollars for a replica Australian cricket shirt? They did have some barmy army paraphernalia on special, but I might be a Pom but not brave enough to wear any of that stuff!

So down the stairs across the tarmac and up the steps, into the plane, one of them BAC thingies with the four engines, into my seat, strapped in and ready for take off, one of the hosties ( the blonde one, there is always a blonde and a dark haired girl) begins the safety instructions while the dark haired girl does the talking with a voice like white wine mixed with honey. They finish and the pilot comes on telling us about where we are going, how high and that sort of stuff, why is it that all pilots sound as though they have a speech defect, or are they all playing at being Biggles? We set of up the runway and amid all the clanking and groaning that these BAC whatsits are renowned for, we take off.

The girls wander up with some stuff that passes for breakfast, have you noticed that they write on it now so you know what you are getting, what we are supposed to have had was mushroom and cheese crepe, that is posh speak for a pancake, it was closer to an omelette and as bland as could be, the yoghurt was alright though and the water was wet and cold, the blondie one came up with coffee, and I would have had one but she ran out with the bloke next to me, so I settled for tea, and would you know the dark haired girl came up and ran out at the exact same place, I eventually got a cup of tea but it was weak and barely warm, so I did what all us seasoned travellers do and fell asleep, woke up when the pilot came on again saying something that was unintelligible, we were about fifteen minutes from Hedland at this stage, so I spent my time looking at the clouds and the flaps of the wings til we landed.

Down the ladder into the humid heat of Hedland town, half past eight in the morning and already hot and sticky, retrieved the old bag from the carousel, went outside where all smokers must go in Australia and leant up against the wall trying to find a bit of shade and to see if I could work out who was picking me up, found there wer three of us to be picked up, my vehicle was pointed out to me and told we were off to the shopping centre in old Hedland (where the drive in used to be) as we had to pick up some provisions for somebody, well we were too early so went to the real old Hedland (Wedge St.) and had some real breakfast, back to the shop and loaded up with stuff and we were away ( we were still too early for the bottle shop to be open).