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Animals of the Outback

8 Feb

This is officially my last swing at work. I have 3 more days of being an Exploration Field Assistant. It’s always in the last days of a job that you start to appreciate (more) your surroundings. It’s a time of “lasts”, eg the last time I will sleep in my donga, the last time I will have a laugh with my work mates, the last time I will go four wheel driving in the outback, the last time I will get on the plane to Perth etc.

This past year I have been lucky enough to have experienced the unique Austrlian Outback and all its glory. A big part of that glory are the animals that inhabit this vast red wilderness, animals that are as Ozzie as beer and barbies.

Below are photos of animals I have come across throughout the past year.  There have been some animals that I have failed to snap photos of, emu’s, wedge tail eagles and others I can not think of, but enjoy the ones I got.

Dingos. I’ve seen plenty of  these wild dogs cruising the outback. Dingo stole me baby!

dingo

Kangaroos, my new favourite animal, they’re so bouncy, happy and unique, plus they don’t want to hurt you, unlike most of the animals in OZ.  I’ve taken a lot of Kangaroo photos at work, but decided to post this comical one that I took 3 weeks ago when camping in Margaret River.   “Mum have you seen my socks”?

kangaroos-version-of-putting-your-head-in-the-sand

Cattle.  Woodie Woodie where I work is located on a cattle farm, so there are always our bovine buddies walking around camp feasting on the green grass of the camp, which is very much a delicacy in the outback, its like eating lobster in the desert.

cattle

Camels.  Australia is home to the largest wild camel population in the world!

camels

This is my pitiful photo of the first snake I saw. And yes I was scared shitless, that’s the reason the photo’s taken from a million miles away, check out my blog post I did on my my encounter with my first snake.

my-first-snake-and-yes-i-squeled

Donkies.  Now that’s a great arse!

hello-mr-donkey

Bungarras.  Otherwise known as Goanna’s are commonly sighted around the camp. From the tip of their tale to their head they are easily over a metre long. When you walk around the side of a donga (sleeping cabin) and startle one of these miniature dinosaurs, it requires a change of underwear afterwards.

bungara-finding-some-shade-under-the-dongas

bungara-outside-the-office-door

Frogs.  Now I’ve heard of  toilet ducks (toilet cleaner in NZ), but toilet frogs! You can imagine my surprise when busting for a pee and being confronted by this little fella (frog), to pee or not to pee? Now that is the question.

toilet-frog

It wouldn’t be an authentic outback post without mentioning those annoying little flying maggots that are so abundant this time of year. The flies applying first aid to my cut.

my-friends-the-flies-applying-first-aid-to-my-cut

The Australian Outback is a harsh unrelenting place to be, especially if your a sick/elderly camel.

The story behind the photo below is, I was riding shot gun with El at the wheel and the two passenger side wheels start sliding down the river bank into the boggy area. El giggling as my passenger side sank down so that I was nearly face to face with the decaying carcass of the camel. As you can imagine I exited the vehicle through the drivers side, but didn’t last long before I jumped back in as my gag reflect was about to start due to the stench. Luckily I was able to unbog it from the comfort of the odourless drivers seat.

bogged-by-dead-camel

As mentioned before, carcasses are part of everyday work up here, especially when travelling on the 400km of sealed outback highway-on any NW Australian highway for that matter- to Port Headland.  It doesn’t take a brain surgeon to figure out that cattle and fast travelling road trains hauling our manganese don’t mix.  But I had never seen anything like the photo below that I took a couple of swings ago while doing a field trip to Mount Sydney. It’s a mystery to me, maybe it’s the site of  a camel cult mass suicide.

grave-yard

OK Hap, enough of the dead animals.  Best I leave you with a warm fuzzy cute animal photo.  Although I have not come across any of our woolly four legged friends during my Outback chapter, they deserve a place in the blog.  Why? Because although us kiwi’s get the reputation as…….how do I say it ………as “sheep lovers”, it is our big brother Australia that has the largest sheep population in the world! (NZ has 40 million sheep and Australia has 90 million-and yes I realise that’s a ratio of 10 sheep to every kiwi and only 5 sheep to every Ozzie, but let’s not focus on that, Australia has the biggest sheep population, end of story).  

sheep_racing

PS, while googling for a “sexy sheep photo” (weird I know), this website came up as first choice,  AdultSheepFinder – The Worlds #1 Sheep Sex and Dating Personals Site  – now that’s weird! (bet you its an Australian site – haha, come on Australia I’ve had my fare share of sheep jokes, it’s about time you guys got your share). The website was blocked on my work computer, I just hope the IT guys don’t over my internet browser history!

Stay posted for my next post, it will be the last post of my Australian chapter.

Woodie Woodie Airport

2 Feb

The end of last year Woodie Woodie (the mine where I am working) got the best Christmas present ever, a new airport!  Gone are the days of the red dirt runway with the outdoor shade cloth terminal. 

the-old-woodie-airport-outback-style

The new airport was built so jets could land.  This is great news for the workers of Woodie.  It means that we no longer have to fly in the Brasilia airplanes.  If you don’t watch Air Crash Investigation, your probably not familiar with the Brasilia aircraft.  At work it is nicknamed the flying coffin, and everybody has countless stories of the aircraft being grounded for maintenance problems and dodgy landings by the trainee pilots they use to transport the miners into the outback.  To sum up the Brasilia aircraft, before taking off the air hostess hands out ear plugs, becasue as soon as its in the air, you can’t even hear your ipodon full volume.  OK, it’s not that bad, I’m sure it would be the pride of the Air Ethiopia fleet.

The new fokker 100 jet, woop woop.

the-lucky-people-back-to-the-real-world

So now its all big pimping for the Woodie workers, we don’t have to worry about the red dirt runway getting washed away in a down pour, we now wait in an air conditioned terminal while the flies wait outside and we are all guaranteed to get on the flight, as the jet seats 100 people compared to the 30 on the Brasilia.  It was pretty classic, one of the first flights from Perth, the jet brought up 2 passengers, haha, if you work it out, that’s probably atleast $20,000 per passenger (but a contracts a contract and the jet has to fly)!

woodies-flash-new-terminal

With the new airport, I volunteered my services to the “jet pit crew”, helping out with baggage handling, refuelling, marshalling etc.  I saw this as a great opportunity to get experience working around aircrafts, as this will be invaluable when applying for work in Antarctica. 

Here’s some photos kindly taken by my photographer Jacko of the first dreadlocked marshaller, you can imagine the pilots thought as he’s bringing the jet full of 100 passengers into land and sees the state of the guy marshalling him in, he’s probably already said his “hail mary’s”.

marshalling-in-the-jet

“Hey Hap you poser, you forget to pick-up the baggage”

toot-toot-the-baggage-train

Chilling out in the baggage compartment, it’s amazing in there, as it comes down from altitude and its still freezing, a welcome relief from the heat (And people wonder why it takes so long for their bags to come off the plane).

chilling-out

Jacko guarding the “stairway to heaven – civilisation”

jack-hanging-out-by-the-stairway-to-heaven

Christmas Party – Running Waters

16 Dec

Theres only one word to describe Running Waters…………… oasis.  It really is amazing to have an idylic spring fed swimming hole nestled amongest the baron red dirt of  the isolated, unforgiving Pilbara outback. 

We are lucky enough that it is only a half an hour drive (very rough tracks, 4WD only) from Woodie Woodie where I work. So, what better place to have our christmas party. Its definitely the most unique place I have spent a christmas party during my journey.  Check out some of the photos.

Marble Bar – The hottest recorded town in the world.

1 Dec

Last swing (duration of time spent at mining camp working) I had the plessure of stopping off at Marble Bar to check out the sights on my way to Port Hedland.  

There’s not too much to do at Marble Bar, established back in 1893 to support the mining boom, and it currently has a population of a couple of hundred. Its a typical Ozzie outback mining town, scorching sun, red sand and a pub (Ironclad Hotel which has been around since 1893) and that’s basically it. Its not really a town that you are drawn to, especially when its claim to fame is being ‘the hottest town in Australia. Its not really a holiday destination, “umm should we go to Hell or Marble Bar?”  Read the following from the Australian Governments Bureau of Meteorology:

 The world record for the longest sequence of days above 100°Fahrenheit (or 37.8° on the Celsius scale) is held by Marble Bar in the inland Pilbara district of Western Australia. The temperature, measured under standard exposure conditions, reached or exceeded the century mark every day from 31 October 1923 to 7 April 1924, a total of 160 days. Temperatures above 100°F are common in Marble Bar and indeed throughout a wide area of northwestern Australia. On average, Marble Bar experiences about 154 such days each year.

If your reading this and it sounds appealing, and maybe your thinking of buying real estate there-I’m sure its cheap- then take a look at my previous post I did on the climate up where I work, which is an hour and a half drive inland from Marble Bar.

Me with a Marble Bar. 

Hap with a Marble Bar

 The Largest Shire in the world (with bugger all in it)

The Largest Shire in the World

Boody modeling the new sign.

Boody at the warmest recodered town in Australia.

My highlight of Marble Bar was the memorial in the main street dedicated to the early inhabitants, settlers, explorers, proscpectors and residents that had died in the East Pilbara region and had been buried in make-shift graves around the shire. It really gave you a feeling of what a rugged, savage and unforgiving (no air conditioning back then) place it must have been in its early days, with many of the early inhabitants cause of death being ‘speared’.

One of the plaques at the memorial was for Dr Ed Vines. Coincidently I had come accross his grave early in the year whilst taking a back road to our remote Ripon Hills Exploration camp.  

Dr Vines story was that he was the 3rd or 4th Doctor stationed at Marble Bar and had made the journey out to Braeside Station 130km east of Marble Bar to assist in the birth of the station managers wife. He arrived 3 days prior to the birth but unfortunately got caught up in an early morning attack on the station by Aborigines.  He was speared on the front verrandah where he died and was buried.

Checking out Dr Ed Vines headstone on the way to our remote exploration camp.

hap-reading-headstone

Dr Ed Vines headstone, “speared by natives, September 1899”

Dr Ed Vines headstone

Memorial Plague erected in 1991. To me this sums up how the Aboriginals are treated, what would of been wrong by writing “killed by Aboriginals”.

killed-by-blacks

Coral Bay & Exmouth Roadie

21 Oct

On my last break Mandy and I took ‘Wario’ on a 3,300km 8 day round trip roadie up to the beautiful beaches of Coral Bay and Exmouth on the Central Coast of Western Australia. (click on Western Australia Map above if you want). 

Wario was the name of our ‘wicked’ campervan that we hired.  You would of seen the wicked campervans littering the highways over Australia and New Zealand. They are painted up with pictures and quotes and have usually seen better days.  But it was great, passing other wicked campers on the road with a wave, starting up conversations with wicked drivers, usually starting with “do you think she’s going to make it back to Perth”?.  The funniest one was 3 Irish guys pushing their van backwards out of a car park and the Irish driver hanging out the window as his mates pushed and shouting “she only goes forwards, theres no reverse”! 

Luckily for us Wario had reverse, but lacked in other areas. Major failings of our valiant Wario were firstly no air conditioning (pretty big factor in 40 degree heats), the noise of Wario’s motor constantly competing with the ipod for the sound title and winning and Wario seemed to have a hole in his petrol tank when you went over 80km/hr.  “So why not hire a normal van”? “hey man its all about the journey not the destination dude……….rock on Wario”

So enough of Wario, the road trip. To sum it up, amazing weather, beautiful golden beaches, turquoise water, good food, no work, diving, wildlife, sea-life and bright yellow pants all made for a memorable trip.

The first leg of the journey was 1200km from Perth to Coral Bay. We spent the first night on the side of the road sleeping beside a wheat field and getting attacked by Bull ants – they bloody sting as well.

After stopping in Kalbarri for Breakfast, and meandering up the straight desert highway avoiding the dead kangaroos we stopped in Carnarvon to have lunch and stock up with supplies. 24 pack of Stienies (for the uneducated Steinlager is the flagship of New Zealand export beer) was only $44 – SWEET!

Then we straight-shooted it through to Idyllic Coral Bay where we set up camp for 4 nights. We did two dives and basically relaxed on the tranquil beach.  That was until school mates Jamie, Jared and wife Lauren turned up and we did some catching up on old times – good times.

Then we left to head up to the tip on the peninsula for more diving on the renown Ningaloo reef, where we set up at Exmouth.  The diving was great, with heaps of sealife; sharks, bull rays, sea snakes, turtles, tropical fish etc.

We spent our evenings at Exmouth by the lighthouse on the hill watching the whales pass on there pilgrimage to far away waters as the sunset over the Indian Ocean whilst we lay in Wario with a refreshing beverage – ahhhhh life was a bitch.

Then like a prick in a cherry the bubble burst, and it was time to make the 1400km return voyage to Perth.  But not before a bit of my Hap luck rubbed off on the car side of things. Deciding to go off road (theres a strict policy with wicked campers to stay on sealed roads – for obvious reasons) to explore an isolated beach for lunch-and wash ourselves. It all went sweet getting in, I carefully choose a firm track avoiding the sand on the way in. But after a tummy full of freshly cooked pasta I was in dreamland and straight-lined it to the road forgetting about the sand. And literally I had a “sinking” feeling. Yep, stuck. 

But luckily good people attract good people (luckily Mandy was with me). So after 40 mins of me putting to practice my vehicle recovery course skills I had recently learnt (digging the wheels out with a frying pan weren’t actually taught on the course) a lovely elderly couple arrived in there more off-road appropriate campervan and towed us out.

Then after sleeping a night under yet another light house in Geraldon is was up early and back to Perth to clean the campervan (cheeky buggers charge you $100 if you don’t bring the van back washed inside and out – I hope they didn’t check the roof). Then it was off on the plane back to work, feeling exhausted and ready for another holiday!

Oh and before I forget, with every little journey there is always a lesson learnt.  The lesson learnt on this journey was that when using public showers, you do not put your toothbrush with paste already on it (I forgot my toothpaste so I pre-applied Mandy’s paste before going to the shower) on the shower bench. Because after the shower when you are brushing your teeth and you pull out a short curly hair, theres a pretty good chance that its not yours, and it certainly isn’t Martha’s from Sweden, but more likely the overweight bald guy that used the shower before you!

So don’t put your pre-pasted toothbrush on the communal shower bench! oh, and I totally recommend a roadie to the western coast of Australia, we can’t wait to do the same this coming summer, except on the south west coast.

Nuthin but love Hap

The Snake and the Camel Toe!

29 Aug

Well after 7 months of working in the Australian outback and not seeing a snake I was beginning to think they were just another myth like the Lochness monster.  I had come across many snakes while at work, but they were of the rubber kind that had been strategically placed under my boots or tied to shovels that I was going to pick up, purely to scare the shit out of me (and yes it worked). 

 

So it was on a lovely blue skied early Pilbara (the region where I work) morning as the sun had just risen. I was out walking geophysics grid lines which involves walking kilometre upon kilometre marking out every 100m.  Thinking it wasn’t going to get much better than this I walk around a hill and there spread out in-front of me on the ground is the biggest camel toe I had ever seen! 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I keep walking and then come across the 2 camels whose camel toes I had just been admiring. I felt a bond with them, here we all were just wandering around in the middle of nowhere, they had there hump on there backs and I had my camelback on. We were brothers from quite different mothers.

Feeling quite humble and lucky to be out and about and experiencing all this I’m walking along singing to myself looking down at the GPS.  Out of the corner of my eye 2 steps in front of me lying still on the brown rocky ground with one beady eye intently looking at me is a snake! (The Ozzies probably call this one a worm, it was just over a metre long)

Anyone that knows about my nerves and dislike of creepy crawly reptile species can predict what happened next. I let out a noise reminiscent of my early childhood days, and jumped, one of those jumps where you try and get as much of your body away from the feared object, so all my arms and legs had taken off and left my abdomen behind. I took off to a safer distant, quite happy to see that the snake slowly slithered stealthily off under the cover of some spinifex bushes.

My nerves were shot as I stood on the rock, trying to capture a photo of my reptilian friend.  The photo below is the photo I took.  I showed my workmates the photo, and they laugh and say “Hap, it looks like your standing miles away”, “bloody aye I was standing miles away, I had all 3X of the optical zoom extended, I wasn’t getting anywhere near that”.  Its one thing getting bitten by a snake, but its bloody stupid getting bitten while trying to get a photo of one, just look at Steve Irwin, now thats a good message to the young kids at home to leave dangerous animals alone. 

My nerves were so on edge that when my camera automatically shut off and beeped I threw my hands in the air and let it fly, the only thing stopping it from hitting a space station was the strap I had luckily put around my wrist.  But not that it mattered as that night I left the camera in my pocket and put my pants through the washing machine and just to make sure it was totally ruined I put it in the dryer! – good one.

With 3 km more of grid lines to walk, I carried on like a 60’s hippy tripping on mushrooms, as every stick I came accross turned into a snake. 

Then I start thinking, if I did get bitten and venom injected, the outcome wouldn’t be good. By the time I radioed in with co-ords and located by medics, transported back to the mine camp, would be close to a couple of hours, and then have to wait for the flying doctors.

Then you start thinking, the only reason I saw the snake was because it was on brown rock, but 99% of the time I’m walking through knee high spinifex. There would of been 100’s of times I had stepped close to snakes but not known.  So 7 months of snake tolerance that had built up, was gone. Let me tell ya, that 3 km of grid lines seemed never ending. Everything seemed out to get me, kangaroos jumping out, spinifex pigeons waiting till I was right on top of them before they screeched and flew out, and even my dam daggy dreadlocks hitting my face was enough to send me into cardiac arrest. I was ready for a drink by the end.

Snakes and Camel Toes, Hap

Sizzling Sun and F**king Flies!

5 May

Howdy folks,

The Ozzie Outback, it really is a harsh environment. Especially coming from little Ol New Zealand, where all the animals are friendly (and yes Ozzies, the sheep are scared – hahaha). Overhere everything wants to eat you or inject poison into you, even the bloody sun wants to kill you.

Although this time of year it really is quite beautiful, blue skies welcome you every morning, the flies and rain have gone on holiday, where I don’t know, but they have gone and thats all that is important.  But I wrote this post a couple of months back when the flies were abundant and never got around to posting it, so I will continue to moan about them.

So in the outback, the sun is not your friend, but rather your enemy, unless you are a solar panel.  In previous posts I have told you that where I am located in Woodie Woodie, the closest town is Marble Bar which is the hottest place in Australia with the record of having 161 consecutive days over 37.8 degrees celcius! From fellow work mates you hear of the days where the temperatures get up to mid 50’s! All I know is that, its bloody hot when you turn on your COLD water tap and you burn your bloody hand with the water thats been basking in the pipes! (you only do that once)

Luckily for me I am built for the heat, some would say skinny, but I prefer the word, athletic. Working in the outback, it is always paramount that you have communication with base camp, but most importantly water! You never go anywhere without water, and all the exploration vehicles are kitted out with 50 litre emergency water tanks. Drinking water becomes a full-time job, a litre an hour is the recommended minimum, so when working a 12 hour day, thats 12 litres of water! And let me tell you, if your not working up a sweat, that can mean a lot of urinating!

The harsh sun leaves the not only the parched workers baked, but also the land, making it look like that pizza you forgot about in the oven. Just checkout these photos, I got a little artistic and carried away with these but they give a good idea of how aggressive this sun is.

 Out here in the outback your patience is tested, if things aren’t trying to kill you, they are trying to annoy you. First there is Spinifex, a plant that I have talked about before. Spinifex and facial hair would have a lot in common (well not with my facial hair, the spnifex isn’t patchy). Girls love facial hair, makes a guy look more masculine, but when its there boyfriend that has it, they generally just complain about the itchyness. Same with spinifex, it looks great in a photo, but when you have to walk in it day in and day out, with it pricking you, it fast looses its appeal.

 

And probably the most annoying thing in the outback, Australians! hahaha, just having a go.  Flies, my god, just look at the flies in the photos. At first they didn’t bother me, I thought it was mind over matter. But I have crumbled like a recovered alcoholic swallowing his mouthwash instead of spitting it. They are annoying, if you do not wear a fly net they have a tendancy to crawl into your eyes. And check out the photo i have of the cut on my leg, yes those 30 odd flies are drinking the blood from my cut like horses at a trough! Dam vermon, maybe they are hatching fly eggs and I’m going to start farting flies!

But really, I’m just complaining to be complaining, I love the outback, even those flying little flies, its a unique and beautiful place. I work in a sauna, and some people pay money to go to the sauna or pay extra to exercise in the hot with such gimmicks as “hot” yoga.  All I know is that working in the outback is paradise compared to the finger freezing Canadain winters. But I will leave you with a little video to show you how the flies are and give you a little insight into the landscape of the beautiful Pilbara Outback.