Friday, March 26, 2004

R & R

I went on R & R on St. Patricks day, was pleased to be home, and to see how my remaining puppy was doing, the kids took seven of them down a pet shop, much to my disgust, I reckon they would be just old enough to leave their Mum when I got home, I think the main reason they went was because it was too much trouble to catch them every time they took the BMW out and brought it back again, my one pup was doing well, has the colouring of her grandmother but the shorter hair of her mother, she also has her dads ears, and a personality (can dogs have a personality or should it be a dogonality) all her own, loves the missus to bits and is into any mischief she can find, that is what makes pups so lovable I guess.
Gave the wife some cash to have her hair done on the Thursday, so she buggered off to the city and I never saw her all day, I even pretended to like her hair when she did come home, she cooked some Asian food for me that night which was a nice change from me cooking for myself. Friday I checked out this restaurant that I had painted a few months back and promised to go back on Sunday to make good all the damage they had done with builders and doors they had had to widen, I did it Sunday and should have charged them but didn’t, told them they were on their own from now on in, as I am back in the bush. I also went and had a haircut and my beard trimmed by my voluptuous barber, I enjoy her cutting my hair, she is just rough enough to be very sexy, specially that hair with the dark roots and tips and the bottle blonde in between, the tattoo on her back that you just get a hint of as she works helps a lot as well.
Saturday me and the wife went and saw our friends late morning, nothing exciting there, but we came home with a load of garden vegetables and herbs. We stopped on the way back at the markets and had a feed of Japanese tucker, cooked by the girl down the road, who now only has one dog, but still a great pair of jeans, the other dog, tried to get through a small cat flap on new years when the fireworks went off and frightened him and he died there of fear and being stuck I guess, we bought some fruit and a few bits of tat, and I grabbed a cheap bag to carry my computer back to work with, then had a quiet evening at home.
Sunday, she went off to the Temple and I set off to make good the restaurant. When I had finished that, I went and visited a mate who lives that side of town, I had told him I was coming but was more than surprised when he gave me crayfish for my lunch, together with several cups of strong tea, the temperature was well over the hundred and nothing beats eating seafood and drinking hot tea in an air conditioned place in that weather, I finished me lunch, had a chat for a while and was given a bottle of rum, that he has had for some years and can’t drink because he is a diabetic, it didn’t stop him from having a drop of good port with me after lunch though, I poodled home a long way round and after a good tea spent another quiet night with the wife and the telly.
Monday came and I was away to the city on the train, my main reason to go into Perth was to see if I could find some maps of the area I am working in, I had been told about this shop about ten years ago, and bought some maps there, surprisingly it was still there but on the other side of the road, I told the young girl what I was after and she produced them in a flash, so armed with the maps I was happy. Next door was a music shop that sold instruments and such, I took the opportunity and bought some strings for my banjo, once I had got the strings my next request made the bloke serving me laugh, I asked for a book to teach yourself the banjo, after he picked himself up of the floor he sold me a book and I was away to grab a bit of lunch in the Hay street mall. Now unlike in America, a Mall here is a pedestrian precinct and not a shopping centre, this one has a few al fresco coffee shop thingies and I sat down there and had a pot of tea and a sandwich followed by a piece of cheese cake and watched the world go by, pretty quiet being a Monday, but there was a fair smattering of poseurs, a whole troop of Japanese schoolgirls resplendent in their sailor suit uniforms and slack baggy socks, a group of Thai School kids also came by, but they were dressed in just ordinary cloths. I listened to a few buskers whilst sitting there but nothing special, I was hoping to see the young South American woman who plays violin there some times, I had bought a CD from her and then lost it, and hoped to replace it but maybe next time.
I got chatting, first to an old Scouser who had been in Australia about the same time as myself, and then to an English bloke and his wife who were on holiday and had been here five times in all and wished they had come here years ago. I then caught the train home, did a bit of shopping, and bought some cray fish for the wife, as I was feeling guilty because I had eaten some the day before, she was over the moon when I arrived home with it.
Tuesday I did a little shopping for last minute things like tobacco and fag papers and such and then had an early tea and to bed so I would get up easier at three in the morning to return to work.

Thursday, March 18, 2004

Saint Patricks Day

St. Patricks day came and I was going to Perth on R & R, so I was up way before dawn, had a shower, a cup of coffee and a smoke, got my gear ready and watched the piccaninny dawn creeping up on the hills to the east as I waited for Dave to get up at about five, he woke up and was quite happy to have a drovers breakfast, which is a piss, a fag and a look round, but I forced a cup of tea on him as I was making one for myself anyway, about half past five I threw my little bag, just with a couple of pairs of underpants and a few odds and sods in, into the car and we started off on the fifty kilometre trip down the dirt road to the bitumen.
Driving in the early morning down a dirt road has a certain art to it, I know the road better than Dave so I drove, driving on a dirt track is a little different to driving on a sealed road, this road is probably about one and a half times as wide as a normal sealed road, and you use every bit of it, you search for the smoothest way through, and to the uninitiated it can be frightening.
I can remember giving an English girl a lift one time to Port Hedland, I was working on a mine that sat on a Cattle station, we were quartered in a few dongas close to the Homestead, and they were feeding us and taking care of us generally, she had been taken on to help around the homestead, do a bit of cooking, feed the chooks and things like that, she was backpacking around the countryside, and had some sort of visa that allows her to work on a casual basis as long as she stays no more than three months in one place, just about every small town in the country has a few of these girls working as barmaids, the money is poor and the bushies in the pubs like to see new faces, so everybody is happy with the arrangements, there are also a few working in the cattle stations generally helping about the place and giving the station wives a bit of female company and a hand with the kids and so on. This young girl, had worked a month or so and was keen to get to Hedland where the lad she had been travelling with was, I was going there to help load a ship with Chromite and she wanted a lift, so we set off up the road, I had plenty of time so I decided we would drive the old road through Nullagine and Marble bar which is a dirt road, and very picturesque, she was a bit perturbed, when I started driving in the middle of the road, then on the wrong side and then back to the left side but seemed to be alright when I explained to her why, then after we had stopped for a bit of lunch at the Ironclad hotel in Marble Bar and were on the road behind a road train, she completely freaked out as the wind was blowing from the left to the right and asked how we would be able to get round the truck safely, not a worry says I, gave him a call on the radio asking for him to give me a yell when it was safe to come past him, we drove a few kilometres around some bends, then he said come round on my left to keep out of the dust and pulled over to the right hand side of the road, we came round on his left and him and the dust were on our right, she went all quiet and pale, and probably held her breath as we were hurtling past this road train that was about sixty metres long at a hundred and twenty kilometres an hour on the wrong side of him, she settled down a bit when it was explained that it was quite normal and as safe as houses as long as you are in touch by radio, she asked what if something was coming the other way and was told that most of the vehicles on the road were in contact by radio, and the truckies know what is on the road and if and when it is safe to overtake them. She settled down a bit after that but was not keen on giving me a spell at the wheel, the poor girl had never been on a real dirt road before and was a little frightened of them big trucks, and was quite relieved when we picked up the bitumen a few miles further on, I often wonder how she would have gone if it was the rainy season and we would have been forced to cross the Coongan and Shaw rivers with water in them.

Back to the drive to the main road, as we drove down the sun started to threaten to come over the George ranges to the east of us, and I stopped a couple of times to get a sunrise shot or two, we forded the two creeks that were still running and pulled up at the junction spot on six fifteen, the time the Bamboo boys were due to come through, we waited there watching the sun coming up through some clouds, and took a few pictures of that (should be in the sunrise sunset section of my photographs by the time you read this). The Bamboo guys turned up about seven, I jumped in and Dave set off back to camp. The drive into the airport at Hedland was not very eventful, when you have someone to talk to you don’t notice the scenery as much. We arrived at the air port at about a quarter to eight, got rid of our bags and as soon as the coffee shop was open we were there drinking coffee, now Port Hedland airport is one of the few airports I have ever been to where you can get a decent cup of coffee, I hadn’t flown out of Hedland for a couple of years, and in that time it had changed a fair bit, there is now a lot more security and everything is x-rayed and checked, it is done is a nice friendly way, probably because of the lay back attitude of the people in the north of the state, and I think the city airports could learn a lot from them, when they process you at the city airports you feel as though you are a suspect, and I suppose in the climate of today we all are, but it is nice to be treated as an ordinary person, we all know why it is necessary, and it is pleasant to be treated in a gentle manner.

The flight down was pretty routine, the breakfast they gave us had it’s name on it because there was no taste, the yoghurt was not bad and the croissants were edible, was talking to a woman in the next seat all the way so it went quickly, Ted and his parents picked me up and brought me home and I had a nice reunion with the wife and the dogs, and am now resting from all the exertions.

Monday, March 15, 2004

Last Week

It has been almost a week since I last wrote about anything, so will have a go at telling you about this past week.
As you may already know we had a fair bit of rain around the place last Sunday night, and my major concern was my road out, that was cut at Miralga Creek by a 50 metre wide river, that has since gone down and when I checked it out on Thursday, someone had been through, I know this because firstly I could see the wheel tracks as the vehicle had come out of the creek, but it was his fire that really gave him away and the used tea bag along side it, I checked around and he was a big bloke judging by his huge footprints, I followed his tracks up the road to see where he had gone, he never turned off down any of the farm tracks, and carried on past the turning for my camp, I followed on and he carried on down the hillside road past the air strip, I would hazard a guess he was out prospecting, always a good time after the rain has stirred things up a bit, I left the track then, having done my Crocodile Dundee bit, and went back to have a cuppa myself.
I jumped a bit forward a bit then, after having 126 ml in the rain gauge on Monday morning I stayed close to the Camp on Monday, knowing that the roads would be soft and to drive on them would only do damage, I just did the normal things that have to be done in a camp on a daily basis. It was Tuesday lunch time that I judged the roads to be dry enough to go a bit further, so I drove down to the old Dresser mine, where I have a water bore, to check that out, the road to there was a bit rough, scoured a fair bit in some places, almost cut in another, but passable, still a little bit of water trickling across the road in that spot but managed to go through alright. When I got to the Dresser mine, there was a huge bundle of drift wood, trees, branches and old vegetation wrapped around my water line about 500 metres from the pump, and half way across the road, I maneuvered around this and carried onto the pump. Now the pump had been inundated during the storm and this was also covered in debris, mainly leaves and small twigs, I cleaned all the debris away, checked out the engine and air cleaner, you know, oil, water and that sort of stuff, made sure the electrical boxes and stuff were dry, and gave it a kick in the guts. It started and was pumping, so that was one hurdle taken care of, I then went to where the line was all mixed up with dead trees and the like and it was pumping through all this, so I went back to the camp to see if it was pumping that far. I got back to the camp and there was no water coming through, but remembering the great CY O`Connor, (he was the engineer on the pipe line to Kalgoorlie about a hundred years ago, and committed suicide when the water never came through on time to Kalgoorlie, it came through two days later) I decided to have a cup of tea and wait a while. After about half an hour and it still had not come through, I realized that there was a fair chance that the line must be broken somewhere. I set of down the pipe line track, which is a rough old track and different from the road, I went a mile or two and could see the pipe coming across the road and disappearing down a creek that was well scattered with trees and shrubs, the water line had broken at a join and was about a hundred metres down the creek and had managed to wrap itself around every tree and bush and rock on it’s way down, and it was the same on the other side, with the water coming out in a small pool that was left from the flooding of Sunday night. After turning the pump off I came back to the break and after a few hours of struggling and swearing and generally doing my block, I had the two ends of the pipe pretty close to each other and ready to be joined, but decided that the morning would be the best time to do that so retired for the day.
The morning came and after checking out the camp and filling the fuel in the generator I set off to find some fittings and some tools to re connect the line, I looked in all the likely places and eventually found a couple of fittings on a bench, then I went searching for a C spanner, a home made tool that is used in connecting these fittings, I found three but they were all a bit big, but I could make the smaller one do the job, I also found a saw with a bit of a bent blade and took that because I had a kink in the line that I needed to cut out, armed with all this equipment I returned to the break with my little tin of grease and set to work. The task of joining poly pipe is not rocket science, but is also not easy with just one pair of hands, the trick is to use plenty of lubricant on the O ring and slide it over the end of the pipe then slip it into the female part of the fitting, tap the ring cover in and then slide the threaded bit on and tighten, I managed that but could not get it tight enough with the one C spanner, so I returned to the Mill and after hunting in the workshops for something to use, was just on the point of making another C spanner when I found a set of stilsons in the mill, back I went and finished the job of tightening, went and turned the pump back on and in no time had water to the camp and no leaks, so settled down to some lunch feeling knackered, filthy dirty, hungry and satisfied with a job well done. After my lunch, I went down and unthreaded all the debris away from the pipe, this was not so easy as there were some fair sized branches in amongst it and had to use the Toyota and some rope to get it all untangled, having to pull in about six different directions before I had it all sorted out.
I spent Thursday doing mundane things and then went to Hedland on Friday. The Hedland trip was a breeze and I picked up my few provisions, had some fish and chips for my lunch, got my photos downloaded and returned home with a few iced coffees under my belt.
It was Saturday before I had a chance to go and check the roads out at Mickeys find, what I found there was a bit of a surprise, the main haul road was not there any more as such, there must have been far more than 126 ml down there, the creek that runs alongside the hall road had decided that it was easier to go down the road, and driving along the haul road was just like driving down a dry creek bed, the roads up to the benches had all been washed down this creek, I managed to get round to Breens old copper mine, but no further, there was a reef where the road used to go that was about three foot high and there were samples in bags strewn for miles down the creeks and along the sides and out in the countryside where the water had carried them during the flood, I retreated back to the camp to have a well earned cup of tea, and to ponder on the situation.

Monday, March 08, 2004

Miralga Creek

After coming back from Marble Bar on Friday, I spent a quiet week end, doing a little bit of this and that around the camp and the mill, just taking it pretty steady in fact. Maybe around two o clock I decided to go and have a closer look at Panorama Station rubbish dump, or more correctly the old scrap heap there, the weather looked pretty good, sky was clear, just a few wispy clouds around although there were a few darker and heavier clouds way up on the horizon, it looked alright for a bit of an explore. I headed out towards Panorama, it is only a few kilometres, maybe 15 all up, and I took a slow steady drive towards it, I had got there, with no problems, was just getting out of the cruiser and a cloud came over the hills behind the station and it started spitting with rain, being a cautious person, I decided I would head back to the camp to be on the safe side. It was a good decision because as I drove the rain got heavier and heavier, the track was running with water as I drove my way down the access road away from the station. As I came to the main track it was like coming through a curtain, all of a sudden I was back in sunlight, I carried on back to the camp and settled down with a cuppa and started to do a bit of writing, I must have been writing for maybe an hour when I heard the rain on the roof, and then it came down pretty hard for maybe fifteen minutes, and then just stopped. I went over and checked the rain gauge and there had been six mls in the little downpour.
Later that evening I was sitting watching television and there was an almighty boom, sounded as though a railway train had just fallen out of the sky just behind me, it was the mother of a storm that had crept out of the hills quietly and just decided to breakout right above me, after jumping almost out of my skin, I went outside and enjoyed the spectacle of a tropical storm, lightning was streaking all over the sky and seemed to be coming from everywhere all at once. I have always loved watching storms, but was right in the middle of this one, but under shelter, so watched it for a while until the rain started coming in vertically at me, when I retired back to watch the television, It rained for maybe three hours, sometimes pretty heavy and at other times just a light shower, it had almost stopped when I went to my room for a sleep. I woke on Monday morning and it was a beautiful clear day, I walked over and checked the rainfall and was surprised that there was 126 mils there, I made myself a coffee to get the heart started, and sat down to drink it and rang Sharon at Bamboo, for my morning report that all is well. Sharon had a plan, the plan was that she would leave Bamboo about five on Tuesday morning, and would bring with her the guy who would look after the camp while I was away on R & R, I would meet her at where my track meets the highway and I would then bring the bloke back here while she carried on to Hedland to pick somebody off the plane, the rest of the day would be spent with me showing my relief what was what and where everything was kept so that he would keep the camp going while I was away, then on Wednesday he would run me up to the Hedland airport by eight o clock, I would fly off to Perth and he would stand vigil at the camp for a week and then pick me up the following Wednesday when I would take him back to Bamboo.

This was the plan, but like so many plans of mice and men, something was sure to go wrong. About an hour later, Sharon rang again, she had just had a phone call from a truck driver, he was at the Coongan river with a road train and three tanker trailers full of fuel, and the Coongan was running a metre and a half deep, now that is around five foot in the old money, and there was no way he would get across this day, about the same time a fax came through telling us both that the Marble Bar Hedland road was closed, now the chances were that our earlier plan would be scuppered. I told her not to worry about me, I could do another week standing on my head, I had food and tobacco so was OK. I decided that it would be a good idea to check my track out, just in case the Coongan dropped during the day, I set off down the track and everything was pretty good, there were a few places where the water had come across the road and a few places where small streams were still running across, but nothing serious through the hills. Once on the plain everything seemed alright, so I carried on, when I came to the little creek near the windmill and stock yards it was running, very shallow and rocky, about three foot wide, but no problem to run through, just a couple of kilometres down from this is Miralga creek, and I approached this with a certain caution, as if anything will stop me it will be this one, I pulled up as the road dips to cross the creek, and before me was a stretch of water about fifty metres across and running very fast, I wasn’t going anywhere shortly, and nobody was coming to relieve me, well not up that road anyway. I drove back to the camp, rang the missus and told her I would not be home on Wednesday, she took it in her stride, she knows what the bush rivers can be like, but young Ted was heartbroken, he wants to see his Grandad.

Sunday, March 07, 2004

Wednesday & Thursday

I tend to wander about a fair bit with this journal, the last two episodes, for want of a better word took place on Friday, but Wednesday and Thursday were unusually busy for me in the camp.

I woke up on Wednesday, I had a fairly good nights sleep after my day out in Hedland and looking at all the photos my Chinese mate in town had downloaded for me, and I was expecting just the normal mundane day in camp, a few chores and a bit of a look around to check things out. I was semi expecting some guys from Bamboo to come in and grab some spares, and take the service truck away to be used at Bamboo, but I had been expecting them for the last week, so while I still had it I thought I would fill my generator tanks up to the brim and check out the truck so it was ready to go. I had done this and was thinking about what I was going to have for my supper that night, when the phone rang and it was the boss telling me he would be over in about an hour and a half, and bringing a bloke to have a look at giving him a price for some crushing of a trial batch of ore.

No worries I thought, I have something I can give them for lunch if they need it, and everything is in order, so I just relaxed and waited for them to arrive. When they came, I went out to meet them, Peter the boss made a dive for the phone and I was having a chat with Joe Fundacaro, the bloke who was giving the quote for the crushing. I had known Joe for a number of years and had worked on jobs where he was doing the crushing before. Peter came out from the office having made sure everyone on all the mines he is in charge of were doing the right thing and was quite surprised to see me and Joe chatting away like old friends, which of course we are. They were going up to Mickeys Find to look at the ore body they were going to mine and I tagged along, I am always interested in what is going on and hoped to find out a bit about the old timers mines that were up in the hills, so I now know a bit about present plans and a bit more about the old days and the mining that went on then. We did that, had a look at the processing plant that Joe will be feeding into, then retired to the shade of the camp for a well earned cuppa, I made some tea and asked if they would like some lunch but they declined and settled for a couple of biscuits and a bit of my home made fudge, then dashed off back to Bamboo. As he was leaving, Peter happened to mention that they were sending an excavator back to Hedland and it would be diverting the twenty kilometres to patch up the road that was cut, so the two blokes who were coming to get the spares and the service truck could get out with no problems, and by the way they will be staying the night, with that he was gone.

I quickly made a decision to feed them on steak and chips with a couple of eggs on top and took some T bones out of the freezer and some sausages in case they wanted to fire up the barbecue, looked around and realising I had the makings for some Apple pie decided I would make one and serve it with a bit of cream I had in the fridge for a bit of desert. I waited and waited and nobody came, I went down to the bit of road that was cut and there was nobody there, so I crossed over the creek, which had stopped flowing from the day before and drove out to the highway in case they had come to grief somewhere on the soft dirt, they were nowhere to be seen so I returned to the camp and wondered what I was going to do with the steaks I had defrosting, deciding I would be eating extremely well for a couple of days if they didn’t come I stopped worrying and started putting some pictures up to my picture site.
A couple of hours later they turned up and after introducing ourselves to each other, and showed one of them the room I had got ready for him (the other bloke has a permanent room here) they set off for the workshop to start the digger we have here to make sure it was running, and I set to work making an Apple and blackberry pie for afters. The returned and I told them we were having steak, eggs and chips for tea, and they reckoned that was just the stuff to feed them, them being hairy arsed miners who enjoy such tucker and had a shower before their dinner. I set to making the pie, and they came in showered and between us we cooked tea, me putting the pies (I made two), Len cooking the t bones and Argyll, for that was the other blokes name, looking after the chips, between us we made and then ate a good feed, and we finished one pie between us, with lashings of cream, they were stoked and reckon it was the best feed they had had for ages, I was glad they were happy and we then went and sat outside, drunk a few beers and swapped bullshit for a couple of hours, before going to our beds.

We woke up about five the next morning and they set to work after a quick coffee and a fag, and they were back again at about eight for breakfast, they had sausages, eggs and beans, some toast, I just had toast and cereal, a couple of cups of tea and some orange juice and they were away back to Bamboo, both swearing that they had never been so well looked after since their Mum had looked after them. I seem to have gained a couple of good friends and lost my service truck, after this things returned back to normal, and I spent the rest of the day it my usual slow and steady way, and that’s how is should be, but I was glad of all the company and had enjoyed having the visitors.

Comet mine part two

Well we did a slow drive into Town, Terrie said that they didnt do a counter lunch in the pub, so we carried on to the Travelers rest, a garage and accommodation place on the way out of town, big sign saying licensed restaurant, so I thought we would get a decent feed here, maybe a lobster salad or a rack of lamb or something else delightful, but I was wrong, they were shampooing the carpets, but we did manage to get a cup of tea and a toasted sandwich which filled the spot anyway. It is early March and no self respecting tourist would be lurking about the Pilbara at this time of year, what with the rain and the heat, and the fact that the road from the south was still closed, so it makes sense for the people there to do a bit of maintenance.

We ate our meagre lunch, and headed back through town towards the mine, only thing we saw remotely exciting was two young black kids riding on a bike come to grief, nothing serious, they got up laughing with just a little bit of bark missing, both jumped back on the bike and rode of grinning. We were soon back at the Comet mine, we wandered through several sheds, had a good look at the shed where they cut and polish the stone that is sold in the museum, had a bit of a look around the gold plant, got giddy looking up the huge smoke stack there, that at one time used to be the biggest smoke stack in the southern hemisphere, and could well still be. We then drove a short distance and looked at the graveyard of old vehicles and mining equipment. I was in my glory here, noticed a couple of old Thames Traders, a Dodge truck and one that looked like a Fargo, there were also a couple of old Commer knockers, cars of most brands and a few Land Rovers, and of course bits and pieces of all sorts of vehicle, several cranes and earth moving equipment, bits of mining and processing equipment, a few buses and all sorts of wonderful stuff. We drove a little further and came across a line of small trucks in varying states of repair, some complete and others just bits and pieces. We then drove a few kilometres to another old mining show, with an old house, sadly in a precarious state of repair, with a few sheds and shafts in the ground and one larger adit cut into the side of a hill, and an old poppet head visible on the top of a hill, lots of old bottles and mining equipment were strewn about and of course the usual car wrecks. By this time we had seen enough historical bits and pieces to last a day, so retired to Terries kitchen for a well earned cup of tea and some biscuits before I set off on the journey home. I stopped in town on the way through to buy some cigarettes and an iced coffee to drink on the way back home, I stopped in a little general store and bought cigarettes and a Mars bar, but he said they didn’t stock milk drinks, I would have to go to the roadhouse opposite the pub, so I did a U turn in the main street, which was wide enough to turn a stage coach with eight horses in, but had been fitted with a median strip since the stage coaches stopped running, and headed to the garage, this was also a mini mart, post office, agent for everything you could think of, and by the look of the customers in there, a meeting place of sorts, this was the most people I had seen in Marble Bar, and were all women of varying degrees of colour from almost white to almost black, and all pretty healthy looking and attractive, and all well dressed, and very friendly, I bought a couple of iced coffees and some choc milk, they were frozen so I took a few extras to drink over the following days back at camp. I then jumped in the cruiser, and headed up the main road towards home, I passed a couple of Aboriginal families, splashing in the Coongan river, slowed down and we waved at each other, stopped a bit further up the road where a car full of native women were stopped, but they had only stopped for a pee and didnt need any help, so I carried on home with no incident, just as I was coming through the hills near camp, I drove through a little shower and was then home, having had a most delightful day out.

Saturday, March 06, 2004

Comet Mine

I finally had the opportunity to visit Marble Bar again, and after checking around the camp and doing whatever needed doing I set off down my track, it was early morning, well about nine, and it was a pleasant drive down the dirt to the highway. I didn’t see much traffic until I got close to the Coongan river, just a few kilometres before the hills there I came up behind a road train, he was talking to his friend who was a few kilometres in front of him, I tried to talk to him about overtaking, but even though I could hear both of the trucks they couldn’t hear me, must be a dodgy hand piece or maybe I had pushed one of the buttons that I shouldn’t have, anyway as the road was a bit windy I decided to stay behind him through the Coongan hills., I managed to shoot a few snaps as I followed the truck through, it was through the windscreen, that was none to clean, but hopefully the pictures will come out somewhere half decent. As soon as I had navigated the hills and I was on a straight stretch, I passed the road train, caught up with his mate and went by him as well, past the Bamboo turnoff and onwards towards Marble Bar, slowed down as I came to the Bar and poodled through the town, turned down the Hillside road, and after a nice little run came to the Comet mine after a few minutes.

The comet mine is no longer working but has a little museum, and a couple of houses, I drove into the drive way, past a couple of pieces of old machinery, and pulled in behind a Pajero parked at the house that looked lived in. A nice looking woman came out and welcomed me,, and she said the magic words, the kettle is on. Terrie her name was and I had spoken to her on the telephone, so she was expecting me, we had a nice cup of tea, and she told me that her gas bottle needed changing and she was having trouble changing it, or else she would have baked a cake for me. After we had a cup of tea, I changed the gas bottle for her, and we drove up to the museum past a few old vehicles and pieces of machinery, I was in heaven.

Somebody had taken a great deal of trouble setting out the approaches to the museum, I am not sure what the building used had been, but it has a small flat attached to it, just a one bedroom affair but very solid and homely, a huge double bedroom and a bit of a lounge running onto a well set out kitchen. The main room of the museum was crammed with all sorts of bits and pieces from the days that the mine ran, Ginger beer bottles and such along with a variety of rocks from the local area, all cut and polished, some hats for sale, and some locally made, tasteful souvenirs, none of that mass produced tat that is so common in most of these touristy places. There were also some wonderful photographs of life in the area.
I moved outside, where I was bombarded with some wonderful paraphernalia, old engines, underground cages, and a variety of tools and equipment that had been used in the mine over the years, there were bonnets from a variety of trucks and a five cylinder Gardiner marine engine that had probably come from an early Atkinson truck, along with kibbles, tackles, winches and so many different things that are dear to my heart, even an old fuel bowser with gallons and pounds, shillings and pence on it. I moved on down the hill and came across an old truck, almost complete, it had been a six wheel tip truck and as it had another Gardiner engine still in it, I would assume this was also an Atkinson lorry, there were some plates on the firewall saying that the chassis held several British patents, but I was unable to determine the exact make of vehicle, further down were several trailer mounted generators, one of particular interest was made from a Perkins diesel engine with a David Brown gear box coupled to a generator, I should imagine this would give a varying current depending what gear it was run in. and then down the bottom of the hill was an old Allis Chalmers bull dozer sitting like a sentinel at the gate. This more or less finished the museum part of the tour that the general public is allowed to see. At this stage I suggested that Terrie and I should drive into town and have some lunch, she suggested that she made some here but I insisted so off we went on the seven kilometre jaunt into town and found us some lunch.
I will post this now and continue with the rest of my day as a second instalment.

Wednesday, March 03, 2004

I wangle a trip to Hedland

I managed to wangle a trip into Hedland on Tuesday, did me few small chores around the place, checked the car and armed with my purchase order for my provisions, off I set. Nice morning for it, there were grey clouds and white clouds bumping each other across a blue sky and making some interesting shadows on the landscape, the hills were in every shade of green, Red, brown, black and yellow, the birds were whistling as I drove along, for I was going to town, and if nothing else, I would get me photos downloaded and at least a couple of cartons of iced coffee. I drove through the hills and across the plain, until I came to the creek where the road was cut, Miralga creek I found out is was called, it was flowing a wee bit but I got through the stream with no worries and set off for the tarmac. The old telegraph line came looming up reminding me to slow down as the blacktop was nigh, and I was out on a real road. Just a couple of kilometres and I was approaching the Shaw river, the river was still flowing across the concrete spillway , very fast but only maybe six inches deep, as I got near the middle I noticed some, what I took to be kids there, I stopped to take a photograph of them for posterity, and up jumped a young woman, maybe about twenty, she was wringing wet, as she had been laying on the spillway, she came over to me saying, you don’t know what you are missing, it is just like being in a spa bath, you should come in with us, I was pondering this thought, whilst trying to get my camera to work (one of my rechargeable batteries had broken down) when up on the rise came a bloody great road train with four trailers, and he wants to come down and across the river, and I am talking to a wringing wet, scantily clad young woman and blocking his way, I said to her, I gotta go and pulled back onto the correct side of the road and got out of his way, she was calling for Rusty who was her red coloured cattle dog and I was away. I never saw another vehicle all the fifty kilometres to the Tabba Tabba turnoff, talk about being in the right place at the wrong time, but I carried on up the road in a great frame of mind. I had not spoken face to face to a person since Thursday, and who is the first person I speak to? A young woman with a red dog called Rusty, dressed in a thin cotton shirt, and a pair of tiny little shorts that were clinging to her body as though they were sprayed on who had just got out of cold water, I will never forget that shirt she was wearing, but couldn’t remember her face.
I carried on to Hedland, got some replacement batteries for my camera, had an iced coffee in Dixons, then carried on down into Hedland town where I seemed to remember a small area where some group had collected a fair amount of old industrial equipment of significant historical interest. It was right next to where I had to do my shopping, so I spent a few minutes taking some photos of all this equipment (which I have started to put in a new gallery entitled Rescued). I dropped my memory cards off in the Chinese camera shop, checked my lotto (I am not a millionaire yet), did my little bit of shopping, had a flirt and a laugh with the check out chic, picked my photographs up and zoomed back towards the camp. I should mention that it was very cloudy in Hedland, with intermittent showers. I slowed down at the Shaw River but there was no sign of any scantily clad water nymphs around, so I drove up my drive way with a heavy heart, which soon changed to joy as I started looking at my photos.