This Adventurous Age

Adventures travelling and working around Australia.

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2006 Travels October 29


40 degrees and humid – again. Looked like this was the norm for now. I hoped it would not get any hotter.

We had now been here for six weeks. Hopefully, we were more than half way through this project; given the speed at which the work was progressing, this was quite likely.

The trucks that were on their way up from Perth yesterday went direct today and delivered the first six buildings to RV2. Yes! They were 4 SPQ’s and 2 laundries. I wondered if anyone on site there would be doing the recording of building numbers?

It was our day off. I did the washing. Read papers that John had bought for me in Hedland, yesterday.

John changed the wheel bearing on the van – on the door side – the one that was getting a bit hot when we were coming down here. I felt some concern about this, because that was the wheel that we damaged on the way home last year. In theory, all the bits in there should have been new, and fine. If we did finish up getting to drive home before Xmas, we would be crossing the Nullarbor in really hot conditions – and would not want a breakdown then.

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Our friendly camp reptile

Sometimes, I felt vaguely guilty because we were not utilizing days off to go out and about, sightseeing. But it was so hot out there! And after the busy weeks, all we feel like doing is hanging out around our camp. Given that John was driving so much through the week, he really wasn’t keen on it on his day off.

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2006 Travels October 28


When I started work at 6am, the comms were back on again. But later, the comms man came out from Hedland and replaced some sort of switch in the modem, anyway.

John had two trips into Hedland today, once for supplies for the building work, and once for an airport run.

There was work on a number of fronts – on the kitchen and Pod 2 verandas, plumbing up Pod 3, digging water lines, the sewerage company working on that system. Two SPQ’s were delivered.

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Dinky little machine!

News came from HO that BB would be here on Monday – driving in. Then he and wife would be around the following week.

There was a major development today. The head honcho for FMG in Hedland came out to deliver the news that we could now have truck access to RV2 via the BHP road, starting Sunday. There were lots of conditions, of course, but it meant that work there could now proceed properly.

FMG had to arrange for there to be traffic controllers on duty at the corner of the RV2 track with the BHP road, because that corner was in a dip and near a bend. That was really going to cost: the traffic controllers would have to come from Hedland, daily – some 250kms each way. There would be two people sitting there through the daylight hours, waiting for trucks! Of which there may not be any; over the distance from Perth, it was impossible for exact arrival times to be known. It wasn’t as if there was even regular traffic on the BHP road, either.

So R had to hassle around, organizing for trucks to move buildings from RV1 to 2. He managed to get a message to Capricorn Roadhouse, for the truck that had just delivered SPQ’s here, to turn around and come back. There were two trucks in transit from Perth with buildings; the transport company head had to get a message to them to stop at the Marble Bar turn off and wait for instructions – definitely not to go any further without approval from R.

Any of our vehicles using that road were supposed to have orange flashing lights on the roof, which we all already had, including our Truck. But they also had to have company identification signs, numbered, on the sides. John had to get these made in Hedland – in a rush. We certainly were injecting a lot of cash into the Hedland economy with this project.

In her cleaning and setting up of Pod 1, S and M had discovered that there were many missing or broken door locks. Something like fifty sets had to be gotten from the building companies. I was not sure who would pay for that – HO could sort that one out.

The company semi driver, B, was supposed to be bringing the company semi down from Darwin, with a load of steel urgently needed for something or other. R got me to phone the Darwin office to find out if the truck had left the yard there, yet. It hadn’t. R was not pleased. When that truck got here and was unloaded, it too could be used to move buildings to RV2.

The late afternoon skies and sunsets were fascinating me – always different, but consistently beautiful. In fact, I was starting to see a quiet and unobtrusive beauty in this whole area. Sometimes I felt that it was criminal to be digging up this so ancient area and shipping it overseas. It was not too great a stretch of the imagination to feel the pain of the land.

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2006 Travels October 27


It was very humid today, and about 40 degrees.

Our men worked on the kitchen set up, the Pod 3 verandas, and at the “poo farm” site.

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Water tank and water treatment plant

Three more SPQ’s arrived. The delay in access to RV2 for trucks was really creating a ridiculous situation.

John went to Hedland for supplies.

A mechanic came out from Hedland to try to fix the broken down bobcat, the repair of which was very urgent. Without it, trucks could not be unloaded.

Another man came out from Hedland and removed the virus from R’s computer and at the same time hooked it up to print directly on the office printer.

The phones went out, from about mid morning on. I was able to get John, who hadn’t yet left for Hedland, to contact, from there, the comms company. I wondered if it was somehow linked to S’s stuffing about with the systems yesterday.

The Acco tip truck got a flat tyre. The repaired forklift blew a tyre.

The cementing company’s excavator was brought from RV2 to RV1.

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2006 Travels October 26


Two new workers for the company started today. John did their inductions. One of them thought it was ok to work in shorts. John had to buy him some long trousers – and a belt – in Hedland, on his trip in there today. Until then, the guy could not actually start work.

That made 18 people altogether working on this site- only 6 of whom were subbies. Fly Camp accommodation very tight.

R’s laptop had acquired a virus and was not working – probably via some stuff his wife emailed him. Not good – all his project management stuff was on there. He went off to RV2 in the afternoon, to check on progress down there.

Four more SPQ’s for RV2 were delivered here. They were really being churned out in Perth.

Kitchen verandas were being put on. The ice room building was being set up. Yes – there was a dedicated room where machines would make ice. Who would have thought? Work on the kitchen fit out and cleaning the Pods continued.

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Would be the diner/mess end of the long kitchen building

There were phone problems in the afternoon. S was trying to send a huge photo file to her friend the boss, and the machine stuck! I turned it off at 6.15 and left, hoping it would fire up alright tomorrow. I wished that S would just stick to doing the work she was assigned, instead of pursuing her social life.

Two subbies who were driving up from Leonora, arrived. Two FMG men came to look around.

Seemed that the FMG boss had said that trucks were to be sent down the BHP road to RV2. I was asked to advise the Perth office if that was ok. As far as I knew, it wasn’t, but I handed that one off to the FMG guy in Hedland to deal with. Definitely outside my job description!

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Willy willy

John took the last of the cementing crew to the afternoon plane – for the time being. Apparently they would later be back for some more work.

When R got back he said that two of the bar fridges from SPQ’s here, were to be taken down to South Point, to go in a couple of the men’s rooms there – to keep their drink cold.

Over tea, I chatted with the two men who had come up from Leonora. I was interested in finding out about the route they took, which cut up from Wiluna intersecting the highway south of Kumarina Roadhouse. It might be a way we could eventually use, when we were going home. They said this Neds Creek track was a good dirt road. Interesting – could cut off quite a few kms.

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2006 Travels October 25


About 40 today.

John had an afternoon trip to Hedland.

One job I managed today was to bring the travel spreadsheet – where the men’s leave weeks are set out and co-ordinated – for both villages, up to date. One of the office girls in Alice Springs was supposed to be working with that, but did not seem to have much of a clue, so a copy had been sent to me to update. With so many working on the sites now, dove tailing the leave periods was becoming somewhat complex.

S was cleaning and setting up Pod 1 – and making a list of things missing that should have been supplied with the SPQ’s – and things broken! M and R came back from leave and M would start helping with that work.

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King sized mixmaster!

Delivery of buildings continued – the arrival of something was pretty well a daily event. Today another SPQ came and a module that mystified me for a while until it was identified as a dry goods store for the kitchen. That did not appear on any of the plans I’d seen.

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2006 Travels October 24


A routine day.

I got caught up on all the serial numbers of buildings delivered whilst I was away. Hot work, out on site.

I had an email from boss lady in Alice Springs. She was trying to make sure the system for tracking leave was working properly. Last week, one of the men did not turn up at Darwin Airport, for his flight back. He’d thought it was the next day! Luckily, he acknowledged that it was all his fault, and that I had given him a print out of his travel arrangements, before he left, with the correct dates in it. It was a costly error for him because he had to pay for the new flights. Plural, because from Darwin he had to fly to Perth, then on to Hedland.

At the time when the phone call came through that he was a no show, I had a few anxious minutes, trying to think back about what information I’d given him – and hoping like hell that I had not gotten it wrong!

John had a trip to Hedland.

Rubbish was starting to really build up on the site here, increasing as things were unpacked for the buildings. Everything came with so much packing. It was a problem that was going to have to be solved – and soon. FMG was supposed to have gained permission to dig rubbish pits, but that had not happened – “heritage” concerns, apparently. In the meantime, rubbish was being piled in a rough, shallow pit up the back of the site.

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Aerial photographs were taken very early today, using the forklift.

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Camp really taking shape now

As well as the infrastructure that was now quickly going in, some extra buildings that were not part of our camp installation, were going in. These would house the administrations for some major companies that would be building the railway – engineering firms and the like. They had arranged for their own buildings, but apparently, we now had to help with the installation of some services to those buildings. More Variation Orders for me to worry about!

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One of the extra office buildings at side of site

At RV2, the excavation had been done for the swimming pool. I was quite looking forward to seeing what standard and size of pool would be installed at each of the Villages.

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2006 Travels October 23


Cloudy today and only into the high 30’s. “Only” – all things are relative!

While I was off yesterday, four more SPQ’s were delivered. FMG changed the location of the waste water plant and where the water treatment tanks would be – not sure why, but it would mean some adjustments needing to be made, to pipes and the like already laid.

Water for the camp would be coming from a bore,  dug several kms away and piped to the camp.

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The bore area and generator for its pump

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Pipe that would bring water from bore to camp

Work was continuing on the kitchen/diner roof, and its internal fit out.

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Inside a kitchen module, as it was delivered

Large generator units – four of them – had recently been delivered to site, and now were placed into their proper positions. Clearly, this camp would need quite a bit of power to run it – not the least due to all those air conditioning units that would be running all night, every night, through the hotter months.

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Generators being placed

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Four generators to form a power plant

Materials for the fresh water tank were put in place, and the subby firm was working on that.

I had to phone the hire company about K going in from RV2 to get lights for the cementers to work at night there.

In the morning, R received a phone call to say that the truck that delivered two of the SPQ’s yesterday, had gone “legs up” – rolled over – on the way back to Perth. It happened during the night, south of Newman. Apparently the driver was lucky not to be badly hurt – he had the second trailer “up” on the first, and that saved the cab. He went over quite a high embankment. Said an oncoming 4WD had high up, really bright driving lights, ran him off the road and didn’t stop. Poor guy was a subbie to the transport company. The boss of the transport company was trying to persuade R to drive down there and assess the damage for him. R said no.

All the SPQ’s were now in place here. Two more were delivered today for RV2. The truck driver said he had passed the truck accident site, down past Newman, and the truck was a real mess.

Today, we had 8 company staff working on site, two others were on their leave break, and there were 8 subbies working on electrical, air con, plumbing and sewerage tasks. The essential infrastructure was rapidly taking shape.

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Water tank being built

R decided that he wanted N and S to stay on here for a while. He wanted N to be a labourer/workman and S to work on cleaning inside all the SPQ’s – quite a big job. Hmmm – not sure she signed up for that!

John was sent into Hedland to buy lights needed for the kitchen/diner.

Late afternoon, there was a storm in the distance, with much lightning. Bushfire starting conditions.

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2006 Travels October 22


Our day off.

The temperature reached into the low 40’s, which was not conducive to doing much.

I did a heap of well overdue washing. We filled the van’s water tanks – ferrying same in a couple of large water containers – from the fresh water tank that supplied the Fly Camp. In turn, this was replenished as needed, by a tanker.

We made the two end tarps over the van better attached.

Even though the horrible cementer had moved on to RV2, N and S were still not eating with the rest of us. I guessed  the pattern had become established by now.

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Rain in the distance


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2006 Travels October 21


Temperature in the high 30’s today. I was starting to wonder just how high it would go by, say, December.

Back in the office, S had obviously been sending notes and photos, from the office computer, to her friend in HO. She had gone so far as to install one of her personal photos as the screen saver.

Things seemed pretty much in order, though looking at the Daily Reports, it appeared that S did not yet seem aware that HO did not necessarily need to know every tiny detail – especially of things that went wrong! I suspected that R might soon set her straight!

Having been absent for a few days, the rapidity of progress here was so evident.

A firebreak had been cut, right around the perimeter of the site. Good move, I thought, but it would be yet another Contingency item, not having been thought about in the original planning.

The kitchen/diner  modules had all been placed in position – all 16 floors of same.

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First kitchen floors being placed

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All 23 floors in place for kitchen/mess – painting and tidying up needed now

Work had commenced on the verandas for the Pod 2 SPQ’s. Apparently the roofing on the long kitchen building had to be replaced and that work had commenced. Another couple of the men were working on the inside of that building.

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Re-roofing the kitchen/mess building

Two more SPQ’s, destined for RV2 arrived by truck. These were steadily accumulating in our lay down area. I would have to catch up on the serial numbers of things delivered while I was away, plus get the delivery paperwork in order and sent to HO. S had not done any of that work.

One of the men cut his forearm when a piece of roof steel flipped up at him, in a sudden gust of wind.  First aid job for me, and another Incident Report to complete.

R and one of the authority types from FMG went off to inspect a proposed alternative access route to RV2, to try to get around the BHP blocking. I suspect it was probably the White Springs track they were looking at. Anyway, R reported back to the BB. It was no go, I thought he said.

John had to pick up a couple of subbies from the afternoon plane, so he was late back to tea.

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2006 Travels October 20


Today, we drove back from our break. Had to vacate our refuge by the usual time of 10am.

I would love to report that I was up early enough and sufficiently energetic to go for a last walk on the beach – but I wasn’t, and didn’t. It was simply too enervatingly hot and humid to be motivated into unnecessary activity.

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Fish cleaning shelter and path through the dunes to the sea

It became another very hot day – into the 40’s.

With some reluctance, we headed south again, through the dreary flat plains.

There was a large bushfire burning close to the road, a bit before we got to Pardoo Roadhouse. Could see it from a distance, and were somewhat concerned about getting through.

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Distant bushfire

But the worst of it had crossed the highway before we reached there and it was burning away towards the coast.

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We detoured off to the coast, from Pardoo Roadhouse, to have a look at Cape Keraudren, having heard so much about it as a place where grey nomads go and spend months – but not at this time of year!

It was very open – no trees – but I felt it would be well worth a “bush” stay in the future. But only outside of the real peak of the season. It would be impossibly crowded at the height of the cool months.

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Cape Keraudren

There were some pit toilets, but that was all in the way of facilities.

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Camping area

The Cape marks the southern end of the Eighty Mile Beach, which stretches a long way from here, northwards towards Broome.

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Eighty Mile Beach stretching into the distance

There was a brilliantly blue creek, of that intense, almost unbelievable  aqua colour only found in these parts, with a couple of camp spots there.

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Tidal creek

The best camp sites though, were on the Cape itself, and there were a lot of possible sites there, overlooking the sea. I suspected it could get windy, though.

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We stopped in Hedland, to buy some bread rolls for lunch, stock up the beer supply, buy some books, and do a download on the laptops, at the little park area.

When we arrived back at the Fly Camp, it was a relief to see that the van was alright – we had been slightly worried, given the unpredictable weather. There had obviously been some strong wind, though, and we found the back tarp askew. N told us later that it had come loose and he had attempted to secure it for us. Good of him.

R also arrived back this evening, late, having driven from Broome after his Darwin break.