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.

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