This Adventurous Age

Adventures travelling and working around Australia.

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2006 Travels December 8


Early start.

Balladonia is at the western end of the 90 mile straight stretch of highway, so we had that at the start of today’s drive. There was still plenty of bushfire smoke and that was rather concerning.

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Unusual morning light due to bushfire smoke

Topped up the fuel at Cocklebiddy Roadhouse – $1.62cpl. Bought cold drinks.

Some welcome variety in the landscape came with the descent down the Madura Pass to the lower level plain closer to the coast. This meant we had low rises to our left now – something different to look at.

Repeated the fuel and cold drinks routine at Mundrabilla Roadhouse – $1.45cpl. Mundrabilla had the reputation of being amongst the cheapest places for fuelling along the Nullarbor.

It was a day of even greater heat –  40’s, almost 44, at Eucla! We endured…….

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A long day of driving was accentuated by losing time as we drove east – 90 minutes of it.

The bushfire smoke continued, to varying extents, until after we crossed into SA.

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One solitary bird….

I couldn’t persuade John to stop for the day when we reached Eucla, on the WA/SA border. In fact, I couldn’t persuade him to stop at all here. He wanted to really break the back of the Nullarbor section.

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He decided we would aim for Yalata Roadhouse – certainly for fuel and maybe to stay the night.

We did take a short break at the spectacular Bunda Cliffs – to admire the dramatic heights where the Australian mainland falls into the Great Australian Bight. It was a chance to take the mandatory photos – yet again – and walk around a bit to try to get the circulation going in my legs.

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Bunda Cliffs

At least, it did become marginally cooler as we moved east and as the day wore on.

I had another attempt to broker a stop for the night as we approached Nullarbor Roadhouse, but no deal.

It was late afternoon by the time we reached Yalata – and the bloody roadhouse was closed! All shut up, out of business, deserted. When did that happen? We were not happy and we were getting rather low on fuel. I wished we had stopped at the Nullarbor place, and said so!

There was no choice but to keep going. John decided to chance it and not go to the effort of unpacking the back of Truck to get at our spare diesel container. He thought we would make it to Nundroo and was right.

It was dusk, almost dark by the time we reached Nundroo Roadhouse. With great relief we refuelled – $1.24 cpl – then took a powered site – $20. This was not much more than a power pole on gravel, but we were really too tired to care.

Tea was a tin of soup and the few remaining vegetables. We were both beyond hungry. Fell into bed.

That essentially ended the Nullarbor crossing, but it had been a really unpleasant day.

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2006 Travels December 7


We slept slightly later than yesterday, but it was still a pretty early departure, by our usual standards.

Again, the day got hot, quickly.

North of Kalgoorlie, John became sleepy and decided to have a short nap – fittingly – at a rest area.

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I had a very welcome walk around while he snoozed. My legs were beginning to feel somewhat uncomfortable from long days of just sitting in the heat and confines of Truck.

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Spacious rest area north of Kalgoorlie

We were compelled to have a longer break at Kalgoorlie. John had been concerned that the spare tyre on Truck was very worn. It had come off the back of the van, earlier on. The van sported an an almost new one. We hadn’t really had an option to replace the spare until now – he hadn’t thought to do it in the very busy period of our last few days at RV1. This was the chance to do so, before tackling the long stretches of the Nullarbor crossing.

Unhitched the van in a safe looking side street, took Truck to get a new tyre fitted, rotating the new tyre with an older one that now became the spare. That cost $299. Back to the van and hitched up again.

I visited the Information Centre to pick up material about the Nullarbor, just so I had up to date information. All my detailed maps and books about it were, of course, snug at home. I had not anticipated needing my WA material  when we left, nine months ago, for NW Qld!

John bought a pie for lunch. I bought a bread roll and ate that plain.

Refuelled Truck on the way out of town. $1.28cpl.

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Bush – Kalgoorlie area

South to Norseman, where the fuel was topped up again – $1.32cpl. Then we pointed our noses eastwards. Home – that-a-way.

Coming south from Kalgoorlie, could see a lot of bushfire smoke to the east, and heard reports of fires on the radio, with some suggestions that roads could be closed if they got much worse. We hoped not. By doing the long days, and not spending time visiting places, we had ensured some wiggle room on the trip, but really did not want to be stranded in these parts by fires.

As we started across the Nullarbor route, could see smoke plumes in the distance and continued to do so for the rest of the day.

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Distant bushfire smoke

It was exceedingly hot and the travel uncomfortable and tiring. This was really not the recommended time to be driving this road. Last time we’d gone west to east this way was at a similar time of the year, in 2000 – and had also not been what we’d planned to be doing at that time. But it had not been as hot, that year.

By the time we reached Balladonia Roadhouse, we’d had enough for the day. Actually, I’d happily have stopped at Norseman! It was getting late enough in the day for it to be time to be off the road.

Refuelled Truck – $1.68cpl. Ouch!

Got a powered site – $21-90 – in the caravan park off to one side of the roadhouse. We were able to find a site with some shade from trees, which was a bonus. Not too bad, out here.

The welcome shower was coin operated – an inducement not to linger, for sure. But understandable in a place where water was such a scarce commodity. Only one coin could be inserted at a time. When that expired, after a couple of minutes, one had to get out to put in another coin, if more time was needed – and of course the coin machine was outside the cubicle. Easier to give up and dry off.

Another early night.

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2006 Travels December 6


Up early, while it was still relatively cool – and we were used to early starts. Quick basic breakfast. Hitching up again did not take too long, and away we went.

This trip was all about getting home, so we were not planning any sight seeing or side tracking. Just long days of driving.

It was soon really hot again, though. Going south was not making much difference. The Truck was not coping with both towing in temperatures well over 40, and having the air con on, so we had to manage with just the windows down and hoping the wind coming in was slightly cooling. Hope being the operative word.

Topped up the fuel at Kumarina Roadhouse. $1.62cpl. Bought cold drinks.

South of Kumarina, we stopped for a break at a Gascoyne River crossing. The river channel here – one of several at the headwaters of this large river system – had some water in it.

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Gascoyne River channel

We had decided to try taking the unsealed Neds Creek road, which went south east from the highway, through to Wiluna. Various tradies from Leonora and Kalgoorlie had told us this was a much better quality way than going via Meekatharra.

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Gravel section of Neds Creek road

We found this way pretty smooth, and could make reasonable speed on the red dirt road. There were few other vehicles on it. There were still wildflowers in bloom, in places –  pretty.

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We stopped part way along its length to stretch legs again and eat the sandwiches I’d made this morning.

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Road was a bit sandier here

Some 40kms north of Wiluna, the Neds Creek road was also the southern part of the legendary Canning Stock Route, so we could now say we had been on this – however briefly – as far as from Wiluna to Well 1. Not that we stopped to look for Well 1.

The Canning – originally pioneered to bring cattle from the Kimberley to southern markets – is the longest stock route in the world, depending on 51 wells sunk along its distance to water the travelling stock.  However, it was not used for any length of time and these days is a difficult 4WD track that takes about three weeks to traverse from Wiluna to Halls Creek. It was on our to-do list, but we had not yet managed to get that expedition off the ground. This was definitely not a trek that it was sensible to do alone and we hadn’t managed to find friends with a suitable rig that they were prepared to chance on it. We still hoped……

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At the small, mostly indigenous settlement of Wiluna, we were back on sealed roads. Topped up the fuel again here – $1.46 cpl.

By the time we reached Leonora, we’d had enough driving for the day. Refuelled truck – $1.45cpl.

Got a powered site at the Leonora Caravan Park – $20. We were able to stay hitched up.

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Leonora Caravan Park

I was a little curious about  Leonora Lodge – the accommodation facility being developed by the company we’d been working for, but this was not the time to be going to see it – we were weary. We had visited Leonora before, a couple of years ago, and seen its main sights then – principally, the Sons of Gwalia mine and historic display.

It was another night much like the last, except the place was much quieter. Shower, tea, early night.

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2006 Travels December 5


This felt like a momentous day – we were leaving to start to make our way to our very distant home. Our last breakfast in the mess. I packed us up a lunch crib each, for the road.

We had to finish the pack up of Truck, our rooms and the van before we could leave. John filled Truck from the diesel supply.

I had to spend a little final time in the office, bringing up to date the last entries for currently ongoing contingencies, and forwarding the spreadsheets to HO – just in case no one got round to doing them later, when work was finalized.

So, it was late morning before we got away.

We had to manoeuvre the rig really carefully, to move it away from  the building, without collecting one of the verandah uprights. John directed – I inched it in the way he indicated. And I mean inched! I couldn’t remember how we’d gotten it in there, in the first place – effectively with the side of the van in between two veranda posts……

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Bit of back and forth had been needed here……

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 We had a brief stop at the highway corner, to put on the weight distribution bars – not something we’d wanted to have on for the now rather corrugated access track and the even rougher section through the Turner River channels.

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And we are away……

I felt both sad to be leaving this area, but happy to be heading home.

It was very hot.

The drive was really enjoyable, despite the temperature. South of the Marble Bar Hillside turnoff, the country gradually became more varied, often with low ranges in the distance. There had been enough rain to turn sections of it quite lush.

The upper reaches of the Fortescue River, in the area where the highway crosses it, is not really a defined river channel, but an area of more vegetation. Just upstream from there, it seagues into the area known as the Fortescue Marshes. Over in that direction would be the Cloudbreak iron ore mine – the reason for the railway project.

South of the Auski Roadhouse we were into the at times stunning range and hill country, all the way to Newman.

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South of Auski Roadhouse

We decided that Newman was as far as we would go today. We were both tired after the very busy last few days, and the recent weeks of work without a day off.

Got ourselves a powered site at the Newman Caravan Park. $25.

Set up, then drove to the central shopping area, where I did a Woolworths shop, for fresh foods and the like to get us closer to home. No more having all our meals provided!

Refuelled. $1.43cpl.

Now we needed to get back into travel mode – and looking after ourselves mode…..It was such a novelty for John to have TV again that he wasn’t even too bothered by the distinct lack of any appealing offering, apart from the news. Yes, the world was still out there.

It was pleasant to have a shower where turning on the cold tap actually produced cool water.

The campground was rather noisy into the evening, with people – mainly workers – coming and going, and imbibing in refreshments after their day’s work. But we were tired, went to bed early and slept soundly.

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2006 Travels December 4


Low 40’s, with cloud.

In the morning, John took the Acco to Hedland. He took the water man to the morning plane, then went on to do his last tip load! In the afternoon, he was back in there on a purchasing run. It would have been interesting to keep a tally of how many kms he had driven, back and forth to Hedland, whilst here!

I finalized the office pack up. The computer and phones and printer would remain, because some of the men would remain here working for a short while yet. They would then have to organize the move of those things to RV2, or Leonora.

I phoned the Shire Health Inspector to come and do the final inspections of the wet mess and pool. He would come Thursday. Until he passed it, the pool could not be used – another source of complaint by camp occupants.

Darwin promised me a lockable first aid cabinet for the paramedics room – to be sent on the next truck. The guy there had delayed getting what I asked for until HO had approved it!

And that – effectively – ended my work here!

At RV2, Spotless had arrived and begun to unpack their stuff there. That would really put them under pressure down there – the Spotless management people were so pushy! I wondered how happy S would be about having to share her office with them, as I’d had to. But BB also arrived at RV2 today, so he might put Spotless back in their place…….I hoped!

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The distant Fly Camp had been re-invented as a storage area for railway making machinery and service centre for same. 

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2006 Travels December 3


We worked again today. There was plenty to do.

About 40 degrees. Daylight Saving started today – WA was experimenting with this. Didn’t make much difference to us up here.

Today, it was twelve weeks since we started work with the company, eleven weeks here on site. Over that time, we had each grossed about $30,000 in wages!

Brickie was down from Darwin with the semi. K wanted him sent down to RV2 to pick up the steel and form work from the bush where John hid it and bring it back here.

The water man arrived to fix the sewer plant.

Our men couldn’t finish doing the formwork for the paths around the pool and wet mess toilet areas because the materials they needed had been taken to RV2 by K!

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A load of rubbish was put up on the Acco.

The mechanics were here to service the vehicles. The bongo bus was due a service but they couldn’t do it because it had been taken to RV2.

The electricians had to go to RV2 to get things they needed that had been moved down there.

The fencers finished the sports court and moved to RV2 to do the one down there.

Spotless were back with more complaints. Now they thought  we should get them a new deep fryer because the one installed in the kitchen was not efficient enough. They mentioned that they were getting many complaints from the room occupants because the TV’s were not working – which could not happen until all the electrical work was finished.

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The beer garden deck of the wet mess

I was flat out finalizing as much as I could of the Building Registers and packing up the office. Some documents still to come for the Building Registers I had directed be sent to HO – someone there would have to complete the things, and I attached detailed instructions about what was still to come and where it fitted. Tomorrow, John would send one box, from Hedland, to Alice Springs – containing the Registers; warranties for RV1 items. like washing machines, fridges etc; and other items of value, including computer file back ups on thumb drives. Four other boxes of general office supplies would go to RV2, for later trucking to HO. A couple of boxes of supplies would go to RV2 for use there, plus the contents of my desk – in case I returned. There were eight boxes of office and general supplies to go south to Leonora and the company accommodation business there – which it had been decided H and M would manage for the company. I was pleased they had ongoing work – nice people.

The amount of money that had been wasted through the original over supply of office needs was almost criminal!

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2006 Travels December 2


About 40 degrees today.

One of our men, digging holes for pool path lights, dug up the pool water line! Bugger.

I cancelled all pending work by the heating/cooling company, whose attitude and delays had really annoyed me, and found a different company who were prepared to come today and check the compressors in the kitchen units. The problems with these were ongoing – and so were the power spikes!

The diesel fuel tank that had been at Fly Camp was moved here, next to the gensets, to provide an extra fuel source for those, due to the high rate of fuel use. I couldn’t work out why no one had known how much fuel would be needed – but it was one of the few issues that was not mine to deal with, so I didn’t fret about it.

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Two fuel tanks for the generators

The two electricians went out to do a task for FMG at the water bore site, got bogged out there and had to get one of the men to trundle out there with the forklift to get them out. Then they used the company’s air compressor to re-inflate their tyres, ran it without oil and so that was now U/S!

The one electrician – B – who had been almost a permanent fixture here since early in the project, had a run in with the nasty Hedland Safety Officer. He was working on a car park light up at the top of one of the poles. He had put a ladder in the back of his ute and was up the top of that. No safety harness. Nasty man took photos of this on his phone. B saw him doing this and gave him the bird – which was duly photographed too. The man then raced off back into Hedland and posted it on a Facebook page as an example of poor worker behaviour. But it backfired, because his boss questioned him about what actions he’d taken about it, and whether he’d ordered B down. He hadn’t. So he was taken to task for not doing anything. The story all came back to us quickly, because there were a number of people in the FMG office in Hedland who detested this man.

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Tall light poles


Later, it was pointed out to B that the light pole was actually hinged, and that he hadn’t needed to go up the ladder at all! Duh.

John had a Hedland trip in the morning, purchasing needed materials. In the afternoon, he was sent to RV2 to bring back some steel that was needed here, but had wrongly been taken there. On the return journey, the carrying frame on the Canter collapsed under the weight, 5kms from RV2. John hid the steel in the bush and tied up the frame, which would have to be welded here before the steel could be retrieved. He was very late getting back here, to the extent that I was becoming worried about him.

Down at RV 2 a crane was placing their Pod 3 buildings into position.

There was some unexpected excitement at RV2. A strong willy came out of nowhere, picked up the site office donga and then dropped it askew, so that the cement blocks that the building chassis normally sat on, came up through the floor. It made a bit of a mess. The men who were sitting eating lunch in there at the time, got a real fright. Luckily, it was S’s day off – the office desk and filing cabinet had slid right across the floor.

12-03-2006 The office relocated after whirly

RV2 office moved sideways by willy wind. Steps no longer line up!

The sewerage smell was strong again tonight.


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2006 Travels December 1


The first day of summer. Ha! Mid 40’s today.

The shower men finished the showers here. These were passed as satisfactory by a Spotless manager and the men then left to go back to RV2 and finish there. This shower business had really been a saga.

The sports court fence was built. The wet mess toilets were plumbed. The electricians were working on the car park lights, which would be up on tall poles.

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Sports court fenced and awaiting surfacing

The lease man used my office for a while. The water had been connected and the wiring to power was in progress.

The Pod 3 locks were finally fixed and all those remaining rooms handed over to Spotless.

John took men to the midday plane, fetched some materials from town and then went back for the evening plane. He purchased some boxes I would need to send office supplies away; the original boxes having mostly disappeared over the weeks.

K appeared from RV2, raided the gear container and took tools and materials he wanted. We had been finding that, quite often, things that were needed here had gone to RV2! To me, that was the product of no longer having one project manager overseeing both sites.

The unpleasant OHS man from Hedland was on site. He strutted around then issued several directives related to our men’s use of tools, the fitments in the first aid room and the site in general! Now I had to try to get different desks, lockable cabinets and other gear for the first aid room. The easiest way, at this stage, was to get the Darwin company manager to get same and send them down on a truck, so I phoned Darwin.

I was still chasing the heating/cooling company about the compressor motor they were supposed to have been replacing.

The poo plant was – officially – leaking. That company would have to return to site and fix it.

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2006 Travels November 30


Low 40’s. I was dreaming now about cool things – green grass, rain, even cold. Was starting to look forward to being home – green grass, a shower of comfortable temperature, an absence of red dust.

The men from the SPQ building company agreed – very reluctantly – to stay and fix the showers properly this time. It was a very messy job and they got fibreglass gunk all over them, so I could understand their attitude. The ones at RV2 were checked again too, and 24 there were found to still be defective. Guess those guys were going to be around for a while yet!

John went to Hedland in the morning – to the plane and to buy oddments needed for work on the punch list.

I was notified that the roller door for the wet mess was ready and would be sent here from SA via one of the transport firms that had been bringing buildings.

John put up safety mesh around the sports court and around holes that had been dug for light poles in the car park. When he was walking across the car park area, his eye was caught by a glint on the ground, and he picked up a large piece of clear stone. He brought it in to show me, convinced that it was a chunk of topaz – it certainly looked like it to me. We put it aside to keep. (A couple of years later, a jeweller confirmed it was indeed topaz – good quality – and I had it made into a ring. My permanent piece of RV1)

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There were still faults happening with the smoke alarms. I was not sure that problem was going to be fixable! Just too hot.

I was working now on a stock take of everything that was in the office – divided into what would stay with the leased office (not much) and what would be sent to RV2 or on down to Leonora. I was also trying to track down all the bed linen that John had purchased, weeks ago, for the company rooms at Fly Camp. Although I had kept it in a separate store area at Fly Camp, it had got disorganized because we had people in both places for a while, then some of that bedding was used here when we first moved in – before Spotless took over upkeeping the rooms. So I had to go right through the linen store at Fly Camp, and here. Spotless reckoned our stuff was all separated and stored, here, but I could only find some of it. Some could have gone to RV2, of course. I was not going to be able to tidily account for it all and that annoyed me.

At night there was a very bad smell coming our way from the poo plant!

12-01-2006 Sewer Farm.

The sewage treatment plant


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2006 Travels November 29


Low 40’s and steamy again.

In the morning, John did a shopping  run for all sorts of required oddments, and in the afternoon, an airport run.

Found out that it was R who used the missing borrowed signs, and lost them somehow – probably buried in the back of a container at RV2 – never to see daylight again! The company would have to pay compensation for them.

The two electricians left at 11.30, to query things about their work, in town, and to collect things they needed.

The pool man instructed the Spotless managers on how to operate the pool.

John and Spotless second manager started out to check the completed shower repairs. The first three they checked were still unsatisfactory, so the check was abandoned. I notified HO, the build company, BB, and the repair men now at RV2 and left it all to them to sort out.

More door locks arrived, having come on a truck load to RV2. Now, the remaining Pod 3 rooms should be able to be fixed.

The pool men left.

Aerial photos were taken by John.

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The site office at RV2 had to be relocated to make room for ongoing works. I was curious about why it hadn’t been put out of the way of works in the first place, like mine had been here, but had no one to ask about that.

Two containers of our gear were moved south to RV2. The pool installers finished there.

I did a lot more chasing around of documentation for the Building Registers, and photocopying for same.