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 The GRAYnomad Chronicles :: #036

Editorial

This is a family-friendly site, as is witnessed by the fact that it has been included on family-friendly CDs, lists of family-friendly sites, etc.

And I'm one who never swears, but the time has come to mention a four-letter word here.

The word in question ends in K, and is one that has become quite common of late. I almost never use it, but I find that I can no longer avoid it.

And the word is...

WORK

There, I feel better already.

Yes, over the past few months Chris and I have been...working (I can barely bring myself to type the word)...and what's more, we've been working hard.

Now I don't know about you, but I worked for 20 years, and that's more than anyone should have to endure. One of the reasons I worked that long is that I wanted "toys". Sometimes the toy was a new house, sometimes a car, and sometimes I just wanted to buy my lunch rather than make my own.

The point is that, for the most part, we work to buy things we want. So there's a simple equation...

want less = work less

The only reason Chris and I are currently working is that we purchased some new toys, to wit, camera gear and a car. To be fair we have enjoyed the work, we've put on a few muscles because of it, and it has only been for about five months, so I think that's a reasonable trade off.

But I'd rather be camping near a creek somewhere in the outback.

So I ask you a simple question...what are you working for?

If it's just for more toys then maybe you should re-evaluate things. There's a lot to see out here.

 

Wed 20 Apr 2005

Cate and Andy are about to have a new baby and they have moved down to Cairns to be near a decent hospital.

Meanwhile Chris and I are looking after the mine. Not that there's much to do as there aren't too many guests yet.


Looking into the lounge and kitchen from the breezeway.


The rustic-looking kitchen in Cate and Andy's house.


Andy made a new poppet head after the old one burnt down.


The old steam-powered winding gear, once used to lift the ore and miners from the shaft.


An outside long-drop dunny.


The rear of the stamping battery shed. Note the shutters, they are common in the tropics. They're simple, have no glass and allow good ventilation, that's why we have them in the truck.


While poking around behind the shed I notice these green tree ants making a new home.

Mon 25 Apr

We are cleaning the cottages when I get the feeling that I've done this before. No, it's not deja vu, I really have done this before, yesterday in fact.

I've decided that this cleaning in the hospitality industry is a never-ending process. It's just like Groundhog Day, you clean, people stay, you clean, people stay, etcetera etcetera.

This is a very frustrating task, and one that's never finished.

Later, while waiting for Chris to prepare lunch, I'm still mulling over this revelation when she places a plate of scraps on a container of bread rolls, "Go feed the chooks" (chook = Australian for chicken) she says.

I wander out to the chicken enclosure, feed the little darlings, and return to the kitchen.

"Wow you should have seen them go" I say, brandishing the now empty plate and container. "I nearly got knocked over in the rush. They loved those bread rolls".

"What bread rolls?" Chris says.

Oops.

Still, sandwiches are good too.

Later in the evening we notice the geckos walking on the kitchen window. I couldn't resist taking a photo of their amazing feet.


Close up of a gecko foot, from the under side

Wed 27 Apr

As much as possible we are answering the phones while Cate and Andy are away. Normally calls are about bookings and we just pass them on. Today however I receive one of those extremely irritating calls from some marketing company wanting to know what phone plan the business is on, and would we like to change over to Telstra.

I try to get a word in edgewise between the syllables of his finely tuned spiel, but to no avail. The "conversation" from this end goes something like, "owners away...only work here...don't know about the phones...no idea what plan..."

Nothing will shut this bloke up or make him deviate from the prepared text.

Eventually I decide I have to put an end to it, and, drawing on recent experience, I yell into to the phone with my dumbest hillbilly accent,

"I don't know anything about the phones, I just feed the chooks"

And hang up.

Sun 1 May

About three years ago we met a likeable Canadian by the name of Kevin. We chatted briefly, then went our separate ways. Several months later, on the opposite side of the country, we met again, and became good friends. Now Kevin is back in Australia, and he has driven out to stay with us at the mine.

Kevin and I drive out to nearby Mt Mulligan. Mt Mulligan was a coal mine until the 50s, but it's main claim to fame is the disaster of 1921.

In September of that year there was an explosion in the mine which killed most of Queensland's coal miners, 75 men in total.


On rounding a corner we are presented with a good view of the mountain.


There's a disused airfield here, complete with disused equipment.


There's an old weir that forms a nice lake, which in turn creates a nice camping area.

On arrival at Mt Mulligan we go looking for the mine entrance, at first finding the entrance to the ventilation shaft...


Two views of the ventilation shaft. Looking into the collapsed shaft, and out through the entrance.

This is usually thought by visitors to be the mine entrance, but I know better as I've been worded up on the correct location.

We walk just a 100 metres or so down hill and to the north, to find the real entrance.


The original mine entrance

The entrance was supposedly closed but, as you can see, there's still a small hole. It's a bit spooky looking down into the darkness, and there's a tepid breeze emanating from the hole.

Maybe it's just the deep earth temperature causing warm air to rise from the shaft, or maybe it's the humid breath of 75 souls.

The entire town was removed by the mining company in the 50's. There's nothing left but the bits that were too hard to take away.

We explore the ruins for hours.


The hospital.


The kiln.


There's all sorts of old boilers and interesting stuff lying around.


The old power station and chimney.


The powder magazine.

We drive over to the cemetery. After the disaster many of the miners were so badly burnt that they could not be identified. Their graves only have identifying numbers.


A slight mound, and cast-iron "33", is all that marks this miner's resting place

In an interesting aside, many of the bodies that were unrecognisable were finally identified by the aboriginal washer woman who new which socks were worn by which miner.


Some people had more elaborate markers

Fri 6 May

Some Koreans fly in by helicopter today. They are obviously pretty well off, having paid for exclusive use of the mine for the day and night.


The concrete pad makes a convenient landing spot, and we get a front-row seat.

It turns out that he works for a computer game company, no wonder they can afford to come here by chopper.

Mon 9 May

Today there is a meeting of those involved in the irrigation project. Of course I attend, you never know, there may be something important said.

There wasn't really, just general information. I did find out however that the job is expected to be six days a week for two months, not five days a week for three months as I had been told.

To save you reaching for a calculator, yes that means less pay.

On the way into town I drop into the house that some of us will be living in. There's only one occupant at present, the surveyor, and he rushes up to see what I'm doing.

Sometime later, when I arrive at the business premises for the meeting, the boss says "I hear you've been out to the house". Apparently a bloke with a "big black beard" was reported by the surveyor.

How kind of him, there's actually quite a lot of grey in my beard.

All those at the meeting appear to be middle aged, Craig, the boss, points out that he prefers to employ more mature people because they are reliable. However, about half way through the proceedings three young bucks from Perth arrive, and I wonder how they fit into Craig's reliability theory.

After the meeting I rush back to the mine. We have 19 German travel agents for dinner, and it's all hands on deck.

Wed 11 May

One of the requirements for the irrigation job is that all workers have a blue card. The holder of a blue card has done a 4-hour safety course which is all part of the stringent Workplace Health & Safety arrangements in place these days.

There was a time when you got ten minutes instruction (if you were lucky) on a piece of machinery, then were told to start working with it.

I remember my first day on the job as a groundsman on a golf course. I was told to "Put the harraz on the Fergy and go harra the 10th".

Hmmm, I know what a Fergy is, I've driven a Ferguson tractor before, but what the hell is a "harra"?

Fortunately we had been discussing what was required to be achieved for the day, and part of that was raking up sticks from the newly-cleared 10th fairway-to-be.

So all I had to to was look for an implement that looked like it would be good at raking a large area.

I selected an appropriate-looking implement, hooked it up to the tractor's three-point linkage, and headed off. It transpired that I had indeed picked the "harraz" (AKA harrows), with a combination of luck and thought, but no training.

But what has this got to do with today's course?

These days you need a "ticket" to do anything on a construction site, and that includes just walking onto one.

The blue card tells the world that you have completed a "General Safety Induction" course, actually it indicates that you passed, but everyone passes, so it really just means that you turned up and wasted half of your day.

Bruce was our trainer, and in eight years of running these courses he says that only one person has failed.

Apparently this person was somewhat under the influence of the evil weed, so, when asked to state a typical workplace hazard, he thought for a second, volunteered "Being too stoned", and promptly fell off his chair.

Thu 12 May

There isn't much to do today so I wander around the stamping battery.


One of the old oil-burning engines that used to drive the battery. It has long since been replaced by a diesel motor.


An unused flywheel that would have driven one of the shaker tables

Mon 16 May

I start the irrigation job today. The job site is only 30k from the mine but the road is terrible, so, to save wear and tear on the Cruiser, I will be camping on-site.

At 5AM I rise to a clear sky. I have breakfast, then step outside to load some stuff into the car. There's a pea-souper fog, where did that come from? I'll have to leave a bit earlier.

At seven I arrive at the job, Ron (the foreman) is there, but I'm the first of the grunts. To kill time I cut some empty fertiliser barrels in half, these will be used to store the smaller fittings.

A couple of the others arrive, then Ron asks who wants to volunteer to drive the old side-lift fork. I stick my hand up, bad idea.

The forklift has seen better days, and I'd say those days were around fifty years ago. It's a cantankerous old bastard to drive, and it doesn't help that I'm not exactly an experienced forklift driver.

Still I manage to fumble my way through the day. We're laying 375mm PVC pipes, they are quite heavy and, although we try to use machinery as much as possible, there is still some manhandling to be done.

We are expecting the three young fellas from Perth to start today, but they are a no-show. Looks like Craig was right about employing young people.

At five we knock off and have a beer. Day one over, 89 to go.

Tue 17 May

Day two, and what a day. I'm knackered. We started laying out 250mm pipe which, at first, may sound like it would be easier than the 375s we were working with yesterday.

The beauty of large pipes (ie the 375) however is that they are pretty much too heavy to lift, and therefore you seldom have to. Sometimes there is a requirement to move one a short distance by hand, but in general either a machine or gravity does the work.

The 250s are still heavy (about 60kg) but not so much that they can't be manhandled. To make matters worse they all have to be laid in the same direction, even though they are packed head to tail. Therefore every second pipe has to be rotated, and that's a lot of lifting.

While laying out the pipes I'm walking next to the trailer when I find that I can't move my left foot. The pressure on it also tells me that something is wrong. I look down to find that the trailer's wheel is squarely on top of my boot, thank goodness for steel caps.

There's nothing to do but let the wheel continue rolling.

We spend the rest of the day moving pipes from one place to another, hard work, and not all that gratifying I have to say.

At five we knock off, I retreat to my little camp, get a beer from the fridge, and put my feet up to watch the sunset. Now this part of the day I can deal with, still it's not that bad, and at least I'm not sore yet.

Wed 18 May

Today I'm sore, I guess my pipe-lifting muscles haven't been used for a while (if ever).

It's still foggy as we head out with the first load of pipes. The light is fantastic, there's a tank stand looming out of the mist, with a hawk standing on top, the brolgas are dancing and there's a bustard hunting through the grass.

Great stuff with potentially some great photos, and I'm laying out bloody pipe.

Thu 19 May

Today we are laying pipe, that's "laying" as opposed to the "laying out" we've been doing until now.

With the larger pipes you no longer use glue, they are a push fit, but you have to push pretty hard to fit one pipe into the rubber ring of another. To help the process a lubricant is used, it's revolting stuff called PVC Pipe Lubricant, but I prefer the colloquial expression, gorilla snot.

My main job has been to "snot" the ends of the two about-to-be-joined pipes, then eyeball the connection to ensure that the pipes are almost perfectly aligned. When this is the case, two of the lads apply a lot of force with a crow bar, at which point one of five things happen.

  1. pipes join
  2. crowbar bends
  3. crowbar slips, workers fall on ground
  4. crowbar bends, pipes join, then crowbar slips and workers fall on ground
  5. nothing

With options 2, 3, and 5 we just try again. If the pipes join we move six metres to the right and repeat the process.

Today I'm working with three local farmers, Grub, Johno, and Alf. Grub is a big fellow and he is having trouble with his new steel caps. "Bloody boots" he says, "I haven't worn shoes since I quit at the mill, 20 years ago".

I seem to be getting into the swing of things, unlike the previous few days, neither my feet, back, nor arms are sore.

After work a few of us have a beer, Craig says that they have another big job like this on next year. "Remind me to be in another state" I reply.

Fri 20 May

Today was a fairly easy day, we've been laying out the 375mm pipes, and, as I said before, they are quite easy because they are too heavy to lift so you just roll them off the trailer.

I also seem to have done a lot of driving around for various reasons. On one such trip I notice a vaguely familiar figure walking up the road. As I get closer the figure resolves into my wife.

Chris was upset at the mine because Andy didn't give her a lift into town, so she decided to walk, all 30k.

As she didn't plan the trip she only had a small bottle of water, and it's very hot out here on these dusty roads. At about the 25k mark a couple of old fellows picked her up and subsequently dropped her at the entrance to the farm I'm working on.

She is well happy to sit down and have a drink.

This works out well because I had planned to drive into town and collect the mail at lunch time, a procedure that would seriously impinge on my lunch break. Now Chris can do that chore during the afternoon.

It took about three days but I'm now pretty much in the groove and not tiring at the end of the day. Naturally you get a little weary working for hours in the heat, but I'm drinking plenty of water, and my muscles are loosening up, so, for the last couple of days I haven't collapsed in a heap at 5 o'clock.

Sun 29 May

Cate and Andy are away this weekend so we are playing host. There's a tour group arriving who require lunch and a tour of the mine workings, which includes seeing an operational stamping battery.

I have operated the stamping battery before, but only under supervision from Andy, so, before the group arrive I do a dry run.

The cold diesel motor starts with some difficulty, requiring a spray of Aerostart. I engage the clutch and wheels start turning. The separation table fails to vibrate, so I give it a kick and away it goes.

Now to engage the stamps. This is a process that requires some manual dexterity, a wooden paddle must be inserted between the spinning cam and a collar which is clamped to the 1-tonne rod.


A Close up of the cams, these spin quite fast, and the wooden paddle has to be inserted correctly or it gets smashed

When I insert the paddle to lift the second rod, the force of the cam shatters the 2x3 hardwood paddle into splinters. Not a good start.

Later I repeat the process for the tourists, this time there are no dramas.


The view from the rear of the stamping battery.


The view from the front of the battery.

Mon 13 Jun

For some time now, ever since I traded my five film bodies in on a single digital camera, I've been worried about only having one camera. What if it fails?

Well a week or so ago it did fail.

Fortunately I'm too busy to take many photos at present. But anyway the failure drove it home to me that I am totally incapable of doing any photography without a camera body.

Last week I ordered a new Canon 10D, actually it's second hand, and my how the prices have dropped. My first one cost me $3300 just over a year ago, this one cost only $1300.

It certainly make sense to buy last year's model.

Wed 15 Jun

While working in the field I could not help but notice the thousands of termite mounds. They look great, so, after work I get on the motorbike and ride back out into the paddock.

These will all be cleared tomorrow, so I have to get some shots today.


Thousands of termite mounds, all doomed, tomorrow they go under the bulldozer. The excavator in the shot is digging trenches for the larger pipes.

Fri 17 Jun

We start work at seven and, at this time of year, the sun rises just about then.


Walker on his favourite machine, the Ditch Witch (aka Ditch Bitch).


Sunrise, photographed at 6:58, leaving just enough time to stow the camera and report for work

Sun 10 Jul

I have to do another mine tour today. I start the motor then jump down to the lower level to kick-start the shaker table. It runs for a few seconds then stops.

Andy turns up just about then and we continue the tour without the table.

When everyone has gone I pull the gearbox apart but cannot determine the problem.

I have to go back to the farm so leave the problem with Andy. (It turned out to be a simple problem, he fixed it later in the week)

Fri 1 Jul

For a couple of weeks now I've been working on the valve manifolds. These manifolds control the water flow to each block of trees.


One of the simpler control manifolds. This one only has a single automatic valve, some have four.

They are an assembly of butterfly valves, automatic valves, turf valves, gate valves, tapping bands, filters, taps, etc. It takes one to two days to build one, depending on the complexity.

Sat 2 Jul

Andy and Kate brought an orphaned joey back from Mareeba the other day.

He's an agile wallaby, and they've called him Rocky.


Rocky peers from his home-made pouch hanging from the chook shed wall

Wed 13 Jul

Just before we started this irrigation job Craig, the boss, said that he didn't like employing young people or anyone from an employment agency because they were unreliable.

This opinion was reinforced almost immediately when three young fellows from WA didn't even turn up on the first day.

However, we're a bit pushed to get 65,000 sprinklers in the ground at present, so the call went out to a local labour agency, and four people turned up.

By lunch time two of them are looking a little worse for wear, but, at the end of the day they are all still here.

Thu 14 Jul

Only three of the new-comers turn up today. We spend the whole day trudging through thick bull dust and broken ground.

Fri 15 Jul

Only one new-comer left now.


Another pre-dawn photo, note the two balloons. Ballooning is a very popular pursuit at Mareeba

As it's friday I'm off home after work. As I approach the locality of Thornborough I notice the great light on the termite mounds.


At the other end of the day, the light is also great at Thornborough

Thornborough was once a thriving community, sporting no less than twenty hotels. When the gold disappeared so did the people.

What you see in the above photo is pretty much all that's left.

Sun 17 Jul

We've had some wasps set up house on the light over the truck steps. We'll leave them there, they are harmless enough and make very cooperative subjects for my macro lens.


One of the wasps living over the back steps

Tue 19 Jul

And then there were none.

Our last agency worker didn't front today. I can see why Craig doesn't like employing them. Still, maybe they are the smart ones, the conditions are appalling here at present, a fierce south-easter has sprung up and, with the 500 acres of newly-ripped and disked soil, the dust is almost unbearable.

While rock picking in one of the paddocks I notice a small tree frog. What it's doing out here I have no idea, but in this heat, in the dry bull dust, and with the ever-present hawks patrolling, he certainly won't make it through the day.

I pick it up, wash it down to hydrate it, then put the little fellow in a storage compartment of the 4x4.

After work I release it on a palm tree near the house.


The tree frog lives to fight another day

Thu 21 Jul

We've all had a gut full by five o'clock.

Imagine walking through the sand dunes at the beach with heavy boots on, stumbling and twisting your ankle on a rock every few minutes, then bending over to push a sprinkler into the ground, only to find that there is a boulder at that very location. The sprinkler has to be in that exact spot, so you drop your heavy bundle of sprinklers and dig out the rock with your hands. Once the sprinkler is inserted you move 4.5 metres along the row and do another. After 3-4 sprinklers have been inserted on a given row, you move 8 metres to the next row and repeat the process.

Imagine doing this in a howling gale that creates a dust storm so thick that, at times, the visibility is down to 100 metres.

Now imagine doing that for 9 hours, day after day.

Yep, I reckon those agency workers are the smart ones after all.

Thu 28 Jul

Another day off today, more stuff ups with the earthworks have caused most people to be laid off for a few days.

I have about half a day's work, but then I to am at a loose end.

I decide to go for a ride and look for some photos.


A bustard or plains turkey

This area's main crop used to be tobacco and every property still has at least one tobacco barn.


Disused tobacco barn, now surrounded by sugar cane

The industry has totally died because, as I understand it, it's cheaper to get the tobacco from Brazil or somewhere.

The farmers now grow other crops or get odd jobs, which probably explains why half my workmates are local farmers.

Wed 3 Aug

It's nearly three months into the job and we finally have the site safety induction "course". It's not really a course, just a meeting, about safety on the site.

One thing we are told is illegal, not to mention dangerous, is riding in the back of utes, on trailers, etc. This is no problem for us on the irrigation team, but the tree planters have been piling onto a decrepit old Landcruiser. Still I guess that will stop now that we've had a site safety induction course.


The Guinness Book of Records attempt at the "Number of tree planters on an old moving ute" record

Maybe not.

After work, while having a beer, we notice two of the tree planters scratching their heads while peering into the depths of their car's engine bay.

As most of us can usually get a car going, and one of the blokes is actually an ex-mechanic, we wander over to help.

Two hours later we are still helping.

We've prodded, cleaned and tested just about everything. But the engine's electrical system is totally dead.

I look into the cab and notice a flashing light on the dashboard.

"What's the flashing light for?" I ask the owners, two Korean backpackers.

"Don't know" one replies, "sometimes flash, sometimes not flash".

It looks like an immobiliser to me.

They have only just bought the car, and a quick phone call to the dealer clears things up. It's an immobiliser alright, and it seems that the only problem is that they used the spare keys, the main set have a small electronic doodad that has to be within a couple of inches of the steering column to disable the immobiliser.

The spare set does not have the doodad.

Thu 4 Aug

The house I'm staying in is pretty disgusting, but that doesn't worry me. Living with us are some of the largest cockroaches I've ever seen, most of which seem to get trapped in the bath. I put an old towel over the rim so they can climb out.

Today though I had a visitor in the shower, a nice big mantis.


The old "mantis in the shower" trick

Sat 6 Aug

At around 7 I'm woken by a rattling noise outside the truck. I look out the window to see a Landcruiser and trailer pull onto the concrete slab.

In the trailer stands a saddled stock horse. The driver gets out and lifts one of the 44-gallon drums upright. These drums are filled with Avgas, and are used by the mustering helicopters.

Looks like it's mustering time.

An hour or so later I'm on my third cup of coffee when I hear the helicopter. We have helicopters here quite often, but mostly they are ferrying tourists, they approach nice and slow then softly land on the concrete slab.

In total contrast this pilot approaches at high speed, pulls up the aircraft at the last second, then drops it onto the rocks near the concrete.

He jumps out, pumps some fuel into the tank, and takes off, all in the space of about two minutes.


A quick refill then back to work.


The chopper flies right down at tree level, herding the cattle.


After an hour or so the cattle run passed the dam, on their way to the yards

This occurs several times during the day until late afternoon, when he removes the pump from the drum and departs for the last time.

Sun 7 Aug

Cate and Andy are away today so I have to do the mine tour. I'm not looking forward to it, last time I broke the shaker table mechanism.

I'm happy to report though that this time I didn't break anything. When everyone has gone I relax by taking some photographs.


Camped below the mine.


Green tree ants holding leaves together to make a nest

Sat 13 Aug

Kids say the damndest things. While sitting with Tom (Cate and Andy's 2-year-old), both of us silent and deep in thought, he says "I love my Mum". "That's good, and she loves you" I reply.

There's a short silence as Tom ponders a bit more..."I love generators to" he adds.

Wed 17 Aug

Most of the lads have been off work again for the past couple of days. We are having frequent layoffs because the earthworks are taking a lot longer than anticipated, and we can't lay pipes until the dirt has been arranged into the right shape.

Fortunately there's been a few jobs I can do, one of which is wiring up the remote radio valve controls.

All the watering on the property will be automatic, with radio controls activating the valves. It's pretty hi-tech for a mango farm, and it has been fun to do some electronics for a change.

After lunch we install the foot valve in the dam. On the average farmer's system this would entail little more than throwing the valve in the creek, but not here.

The valve itself is over a metre high and weighs 100k or more, but that's the easy part. It's connected to several tonnes of poly suction pipe.

As we don't have a crane handy we employ one of the excavators that are on site. It's a bit touch and go for a while as the weight is really more than the machine can handle at full extension.

After a couple of hours, some of which I spend up to my backside in the cold water, we have the valve and suction line connected to the pump. It's not right though, hanging at too great an angle into the dam. It looks like we're in for a repeat performance as an extension will have to be added.


Another of our insectivore house mates, a huntsman spider

Thu 18 Aug

More wiring of radio controls and helping to commission the pumps, but really I'm just doing busy work and by lunch time I have nothing to do so I clock off.

The motorbike has been stored at the farm for a couple of months now but I've also had the Cruiser so the bike hasn't been used.

I decide to dust it off and run the motor. Then I get the urge to take it for a run, so get my helmet and hit the road. I just ride around the block, but out here that means about 60k. It's fantastic to wander aimlessly for an hour or so.

Sun 4 Sep

This has been my worst weekend in ages, I'm sick as a dog with some kind of flu, but still have to do two mine tours. One today and one yesterday.

It's very difficult to speak in front of twenty or so people while trying desperately to stop my nose from running.

What a nightmare.

Fri 16 Sep

I told Ron (the foreman) that I'm leaving the job in three weeks. If we don't get delayed again that should be enough time to finish. We've lost a lot of our team over the last few weeks, mostly because people got sick of being constantly laid off for a week or so because there was no work.

I've been lucky, there always seems to be something I can do, and I've only had a couple of days off.

Truth is I probably would have liked some more, both Chris and I have been working seven days a week for the past five months and we're getting a bit sick of it.

Thu 22 Sep

I spend all day facing into a howling gale and intermittent dust storms. Great fun. I don't think that much about it though until later in the evening when my face feels red hot.

I guess I got some wind burn.

Chris has been into Mareeba today and she drops in to say hello on her way home. I notice a somewhat broader than usual smile as she approaches, but when she does a little pirouette, arms out like a model, I'm not sure what's going on.

"You're looking at a size eight" she says with some pride.

That's not bad going, just a few months ago she was verging in being size 18. Just goes to show what exercise (AKA hard work) and an improved diet can do.

Fri 23 Sep

On arriving back at the truck Chris comments on my wind-burned face and suggests some cream. It's supposed to be great for, amongst other things, chapped buttocks. Should be just the thing for my face then.

Now I hate applying any form of cream at the best of times, but this stuff stinks. I'm sure that it's already been used on some chapped buttocks and put back in the tube.

Sun 25 Sep

Nothing to do today I'm happy to report. I'll be moving the truck into the mango farm next week, so I decide to spend some time getting photos from around the mine. After all, I may not be back again.


The view from one of the mine cottages, showing the access road and Mt Mulligan

Sun 2 Oct

YES!!!

It's Armageddin today, no not some combination of bad spelling and the end of the world, armageddin ouda here. Today I'm moving the truck back into town, or at least to the mango farm.

Nearly six months in one place, I can't believe it. Still no real harm done, and we have topped up the bank account a tad.

From now on we will be having a role reversal, I will be living in the truck on the mango farm, and Chris will be camping at the mine. She can use one of the cottages, or just sleep in the 'Cruiser.

I will miss Tom and Nick and it's hard saying goodbye to them, but then I will be back over the next few months.

The musterers have parked their horse truck on the road nearby, it partially blocks my access, but I should be able to squeeze through, nothing will stop me leaving here today.

I get in the cab and turn the key, the motor starts instantly. After a short warm up I go to put the truck in gear.

Whoomp!

The clutch pedal goes straight to the floor.

Bugger.

A few minutes later the cause is obvious, the master cylinder has died, probably a dried seal because it hasn't been used for so long.

I pull the cylinder out, there'll be no leaving the mine today, not with the truck anyway.

Mon 3 Oct

Chris drives into Mareeba to see if she can get our master cylinder repaired, or even get a new one. She finds a new one at the first brake & clutch place she visits. $40 how cheap is that?.

I'm still working though so it won't get fitted for a few days.

Thu 6 Oct

I replace the master cylinder, it works.

Fri 7 Oct

I start up the truck again, this time everything works and I move it onto the nearby concrete slab in preparation for leaving.


The truck has been moved to the concrete pad in preparation for leaving

After some more goodbyes I'm back on the road, albeit only for 30 kilometres.

It's good to be driving the truck again.

At around 4 I pull into the mango farm and find a level spot. According to plan this will be home for the next three months.


New moon, Venus and tree.


Grey-crowned babblers

Chris' job at the mine was supposed to end last week, but Cate and Andy have asked her to stay on for a while. That's fine, because I've been asked to work on the farm when my irrigation job finishes next week.

We decide to continue working at least until Christmas and maybe into next year.

That's the plan, but you know what they say about the best laid plans of mice and men.

Fri 14 Oct

No work again today so I'm off on the motorbike with the camera.


A 10-span pivot irrigator in action

On my return I notice some spiders on a nearby gum tree. The tree is white in colour and so are the spiders, which probably explains why I hadn't seen them before.

Also living on the tree is a colony of ants who nest in the branches and forage in the surrounding countryside.

This of course means a lot of trips up and down the tree's trunk, which is probably why the spiders live there.


A jumping spider has ant for afternoon tea

Mon 17 Oct

The word is that there will be some aerial spraying of grass seed this morning. It seems the powers that be are worried that the entire farm will wash downhill in the wet season.

And the wet season is not far away.

To combat this the push is on to get grass growing in the bulldust.

I head out early, before work, sunrise, and the plane.


The mango tree saplings at dawn.


At last the plane arrives.


These fellows get pretty low

At five to seven I have to put down my camera and report to work. Bummer.

 

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