This Adventurous Age

Adventures travelling and working around Australia.

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2007 Travels September 17


We were away from Eighty Mile Beach reasonably early.

M had phoned while we were packing up. She’d had enough of the Tom Price visit and proposed to meet up with us tonight at Newman.

Last November, when we travelled back to the Rail Village from our R&R stay, there were fires along the highway before Paroo Roadhouse. Now, some of that burnt country appeared to have regenerated quite well.

Did a quick stock up on some food supplies at the South Hedland shopping centre, and refuelled there – $1.44cpl.

As we drove south on the Great Northern Highway, passed the dirt road that was the way into the Rail Village 1 camp, that had been “home” for three months last year. We could glimpse in the distance, the old Fly Camp site and a white dome that was the workshop of one of the rail building contractors, obviously replaced after the big cyclone of last March.

It was a bit tempting to drive in and have a look at the Rail Village 1 camp – to see how it had been cleared and rebuilt after that cyclone – but we didn’t. Thought it might not have been politic for anyone associated with the first version of the Camp to go visiting!

There were lots of wildflowers along the roadsides, mostly oranges and yellows – the colours of the Pilbara. And of course, the ubiquitous mulla mulla.

The amount of mining associated development we passed through in the last couple of hundred kms before Newman, was amazing. So much had changed through there, in less than a year. A lot of the change was associated with the new Hope Downs Mine project. This mine was in the area we had explored in 2004, and I hoped that, somehow, some of the lovely rock pools and waterholes we had seen had been preserved.

We reached Newman in the late afternoon, after a long day of driving.

M was already there, of course, given that she did not have so far to come. She had gotten us a site in the Newman Caravan Park, for which we were grateful. With all the mining development now, around Newman, one could not take accommodation there for granted.

Our site cost $23.

Shower, quick tea, and early night.

The caravan park was so noisy, through the night, with shift workers coming and going.


2007 Travels February 9


Unpacked, washed, tidied away our stuff. Reckoned the only use I would have for my boots now, would be gardening!

The place seemed strange without a resident cat. We were missing Spook cat. M had to have him euthanized while we were away this time. We had been expecting that. He lived to a very old age, for a cat. She had buried him by the climbing roses, beside the pool.

It was a great relief to be home. John could sleep and rest, and try  not to have the shingles get any worse. He had a bad dose of it.

The three of us started throwing around ideas for this year’s extended trip. I’d long had house sitters booked  for five months – May to September….. M had not yet been to the Kimberley, so that seemed an obvious destination – more of WA!


A month later, on March 8, Category 4 Cyclone George caused major damage and destruction at RV1, two people died and a number of others were severely injured. One of the people killed was sheltering in the same donga we’d slept in, the previous month. Our manager friend was injured, but survived.

Cyclone destruction (from media)

The winds were so strong that there was even some damage at RV 2, so much further south.

The resultant enquiries, inquests, law suits went on until 2015. They basically took two lines – why the damage was so severe, and why the camp had not been evacuated before the cyclone hit. (For anyone interested, assorted reports can be found via internet)

RV1 was rebuilt for the duration of the rail building project – but not by the company we’d worked for.

In mid-2007, we received a phone call from WorkSafe WA, about interviewing us as part of their enquiry into the disaster. We were travelling at the time, in the Kimberley, and said we would be back home in Melbourne, later in the year. We heard no more from them.

I could not help but think that this ancient and superb country had taken some revenge for its destruction by mining.


Late last year, at RV1, when Fortescue shares on the Stock Exchange were only a few dollars, John wanted me to buy some of those shares. I did not take the opportunity, because I felt that so much money was being expended, in a way that seemed quite reckless. The image stuck had stuck in my mind of one day at RV1, when a plane was doing repeated low passes over the site. R said it was “just” Twiggy Forrest having a look at progress. I’d wondered what it had cost for him to do it that way?

So, I couldn’t have faith then in the iron ore mining venture actually making money. What did I know? It wasn’t long before those shares hit $80.

Win some, lose some…….

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2007 Travels February 8


After a very early breakfast, it was back into the bus and off to Hedland airport, where we were booked on the 9am flight to Perth.

This time we really were leaving the Rail Villages for good! I’d had enough of the heat, and poor John really needed to get home and rest.

We left the bus keys on top of the wheel, as usual.

Checked our bags in, hoping they would be properly transferred in Perth and make it back to Melbourne. We each were carrying a  laptop and small day pack. We had to take off our steel capped boots, which we were wearing because we had only taken fairly small cases with us, and there wasn’t room to pack them. Bad planning initially!  John was told to take off his belt to go through the metal detector, so at the other side he was clutching daypack, laptop, boots  – and his pants fell down around his ankles! The man has no hips at all. He had the same problem in Perth.

Our flights were uneventful. Had to spend a couple of hours hanging about Perth Airport, waiting for the connecting flight.

We got into Melbourne at 7pm, their time. It was a very long day – but we were being paid for ten hours of travel, so that was some recompense. Son picked us up and drove us home.

Melbourne in summer seemed cold by comparison with where we had been.

We sat up late, talking with M and drinking wine.

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2007 Travels February 6


The unrelenting heat – high 40’s – just went on and on.

The shingles rash had spread around half of John’s torso – which was, apparently, typical. He did not feel too good. He took the bus to Hedland to do some purchasing and send off the documents, files stored on thumb drives and other essential records, to HO. Then he met the midday plane and took some subbies to RV1 to work on the new dongas there. Then he came back here.

Two of our men set off AGAIN in the morning to install the Telstra hut at Hope Downs. This time they hoped to actually get there – but still without a spare tyre. This time, the venture went as planned.

K had intended to leave some time in the morning, to drive to Broome, to overnight there and catch his plane in the morning. But he could not leave until the Landcruiser got back from Hope Downs. By the time that happened, it would be too late when he got to Hedland, to get his spare tyres fixed. Of course, it had not occurred to him to send them in with John – either today or last week. Typical. So he would be driving to Broome with no spare, and mostly in the dark. Would serve him right if he got a flat!

This was our last night here.


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2007 Travels February 5


This was an eventful day!

John had to go to Hedland for purchasing. Whilst there, he went to Casualty at the hospital to get them to check him out as he really wasn’t feeling any better. As well as the pain in his ribs, he had developed a rash that he thought was from his braces, or just from the heat, and fairly constantly salty, sweat soaked shirts. Nup – the rash was from SHINGLES! The rash had developed into a nasty one. It was, unfortunately,  too late for him to have the injection that would alleviate some of the symptoms, since this was the fourth day since the onset of symptoms. They gave him some strong pain killers.

It was fortunate that we were scheduled to go home this week.

Not far from the hospital, John was pulled over by a policeman for speeding. He was not having a good day! He told the policeman this, and that he was going too fast because he was “crapped off because I’ve just been told I have shingles”. The policeman let him off!

Back at the Village, John decided he might as well keep working, to take his mind off his ills. He safety taped the open electrical pits that the FMG man had been exercised about. The electricians’ company had to organize the covers – I wasn’t holding my breath.

After breakfast, three of the men had left to go to Hope Downs, to install a hut for Telstra. Some sort of reciprocal favour that BB had arranged. They took K’s company Landcruiser.

K worked on the punch list here. He was up and about again.

We all became concerned when someone phoned from Hope Downs because the men had not arrived. K thought they must have gotten lost – he thought they’d have been going down the BHP road south, but wasn’t sure. He couldn’t raise them on the sat phone, so we became even more worried. Turned out they did get somewhat lost. Missed a turn, or took a wrong one, and fetched up somewhere too far to the east. It was a real maze of tracks down there, as new mines were being developed all the time.

Then, in a true turn of bad luck, they got a flat tyre. There was no functional spare, because K had gotten two flats last week, and had not gotten around to organizing their repair. The sat phone they had with them was not working, either. It went flat last Sunday and had not been re-set by K, so it was not picking up the calls we were making to it. This was typical bloody poor management, that could have had tragic consequences.

Eventually, they phoned, from Newman, where they had been taken on a tilt tray truck, after someone came across them stranded out on the road. In Newman, they were lent a wheel that fitted, and got back here at 9pm.

That epic misadventure took all day – and they never got to Hope Downs.

There had been no fuel for our vehicles here, since last Wednesday. John called in a favour from one of the contracting companies – we had lent them gear – and they agreed to refuel our vehicles at their workshop. John drove the Acco across there, I took the bongo bus over.

K would be going on leave for a week from the 7th. A would be in charge – just as he was at the tail end of the RV1 build.

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2007 Travels February 4


Our day off.

We just slept in, relaxed, did washing.

It was far too hot to venture out of the cool of the rooms, unless we had to. Every day now was into the high 40’s.

John thought he felt a bit better. Today’s rest should do him good.

There were some power outages through the day. Clearly the generation system here was having difficulty coping with the heat and the load placed upon it, just as at RV1.

Our men packed up at RV1 and came back here, where they went to work on the verandas of the new rooms.

Apparently Spotless at RV1 got totally fed up with the compressor problems of the freezer and the cool room, phoned a different company that worked on these things, in Hedland, and ordered them to the site on Monday to fix everything! They were not happy with the work of the Newman company. I silently wished them luck, because it was problems with that Hedland company that had caused me to use the one from Newman way back. Kind of a circular thing…..

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2007 Travels February 2


Spotless comms were still out.

John arrived back from RV1, with the bus. He complained of bad pains in his side and back. Possibly from doing a lot of lifting? Or, he thought, he may have pulled a muscle when he was cleaning the bus, yesterday. Nonetheless, he forged on.

 Loaded the Acco with stuff for RV1 – there was no one here to help, of course. Except me! I did assist, a bit. But it was so bloody hot out in the open, to the point of being hard to do physical stuff.

He took that load to RV1, unloaded it – again with little help. Then it was on to Hedland – purchasing. He also collected a load of gravel, which he took to RV1 and unloaded. He brought a load of the missing beds, an ice machine and some other stuff back here. It had been a hard day’s work for him and it was 8pm when he finished.

John reported that the Acco brakes were not working at all well. I wondered if we would be able to get it through the final days of the project, without having to get the mechanics out to it?

John had news that K was sick – flu? He was still trying to direct the work on the new buildings at RV1. Fortunately, the two men there were sensible enough not to need his direction – in fact, they would probably do better without it!

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2007 Travels February 1


John had an airport run first thing as the four workers at RV1 were going out on break. That only left K and John on today’s worker list there. In the afternoon John went back to the airport to collect the two men coming back from break. In between time, he cleaned and detailed the bongo bus – on specific instruction from BB, who had not been happy with its condition, the last time he saw it.

Salt marks on John’s saturated shirt – from sweating so much!

The concreting was finished at RV1.

I just continued with my paperwork collation, serial number organizing, Building Registers and the like. A really huge job overall. The Spotless comms were still out, so they were in and out of my office all day.

Communication came from HO that we were to fly home next Thursday. That made sense, as there was not much more to be done here – apart from the installation of the extra SPQ’s. I would be quite pleased to go – but having K working here without someone to keep tabs on him and (gently) prod him in necessary directions, might not be the smartest move by the high-ups!

That would make five weeks of being here. Enough of the heat, dust, remoteness and not having wheels to go anywhere. But it would have added about another $30,000 to our coffers, which kind of balanced the scales!

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2007 Travels January 31


Electrician left today. No sparkies left on site now.

Our camp power was on and off all day – eight or nine times in all. But that main camp was not our responsibility, thankfully. The longest outage was 45 minutes. Very bad for all sorts of machinery and technology. It put Spotless comms out, so they were now coming in to use my phone and fax. A pest. Shades of the old days! With my site office not wired up to the camp power but on its own genset, the power stayed on to my systems.

It was amazing how quickly the bedrooms heated up when there was no air con.

There was definitely a gastro bug in camp!

The concrete delivery place that K had found was not very reliable. They were late getting the stuff to RV1 again, today. The heat was causing cracking problems in the concrete.

John arrived back from RV1. He did the pool work – put in the depth markers, fixed the Krawly hose, did the bunds around the pool chemicals. He’d already done that for the pool at RV1. He loaded up some materials that K wanted, into the bus, then drove back to RV1 with that, and overnighted there again.

There were storms in the afternoon. About 4pm there was strong wind, thunder and lightning, rain. The electrical storm continued on after dark and was quite spectacular.

Storm light…PENTAX Image

My existence in my bedroom “cell” here is quite monastic. Don’t think I would like the FIFO life on a long term basis.


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2007 Travels January 30


John went off with the Acco, with the bobcat on the back – needed at RV1. He then did a tip run to Hedland and collected the pools signage/markers from the afternoon plane, before overnighting at RV1.

So, down to just electrician B and me, here.

Breakfast area – including industrial toaster, at right

K had managed to locate someone to bring concrete out to RV1, so today they were pouring the veranda spurs for the new buildings. The cement delivery was very late, though.

There was a big storm at RV1 last night, that left large pools of water everywhere and showed up drainage problems over much of the camp. K would work on some sort of attempt to rectify this.

New message from HO – the company plates were now to stay on the sale buildings! Good thing John had not started shifting them, yesterday.

About 3pm there was a strong willy wind, that scattered loose stuff around again.

Yesterday’s fire to the NW was still going, so there was a discernable smoke smell about. We had been able to see the glow clearly last night, and again tonight. I idly wondered what I would do if the camp had to be evacuated?