Christmas

A very quiet Christmas.  The quietest and possibly loneliest for years, despite having Christmas morning breakfast with my new colleagues and neighbours.  But remarkably free of depression and negativity.  Perhaps because I feel I am where I want to be, and I have a job that gives me some real purpose.

Despite being alone most of the day, it was essential for the continuation of family tradition that I stuff and cook a turkey, as usual. Without such rituals, connection with one’s past life is lost.  The smallest bird I could buy here was 4.6 Kg.  That is a pile of turkey for one man.

Although there was a huge heap available, I did not overindulge at all. I ate a thigh and a slice of breast, a small piece of each stuffing, a roast garlic potato and some broad beans for Christmas dinner. No Gravy.  No dessert, no cake, no excessive indulgence.

I have a lot left over.

On Boxing Day I stripped the chilled carcase, divided the cooked meat and stuffing up into portions and froze them, except for the remaining dark meat; drumsticks and thigh,  which I put aside to have in sandwiches, with cranberry sauce.

From the bones and carcase I made two litres of stock, which I froze in portions.

My leftover turkey recipes are on my cooking blog. Two, so far.  I also plan to make a turkey chilli and maybe a carbonara.

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A Good Time

Wandering up the street last evening I came upon a quite attractive young lady who was, I thought, clad rather skimpily even for this hot climate.  She asked me if I would like to have a good time.

I was not at all sure where this might lead, but I had no fixed plans, so I agreed.  She took me to her home and offered me a drink.  And another.  And another.  As we drank she loosened what little clothing she wore and then asked me if I would like to accompany her to the bedroom.

I blush to relate what happened next, but it was certainly a Good Time.

After a time, or a few times, I fell sound asleep.  When I awoke she brought me scrambled eggs and bacon and a very pleasant cup of coffee.

When at last I got up and dressed she said “How about some money?”

I thanked her very much and said no.  She had already done quite enough for me.

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Swimming with Crocodiles

A quick visit with Des yesterday to Palm Springs, an oasis about 35 km out of town on the Duncan Road.  Palm Springs, as the name suggests, is a spring fed lake of modest size, with a few palm trees planted around it, supposedly by camel drivers long ago.  It is a popular swimming hole in the season. At present the water is fairly low and murky but after the rains the streams that feed through it flush it and it becomes deeper and cleaner. I was delighted to learn there are a lot of crocodiles here.  Des assured me that being the freshwater sort, they are harmless, because they eat fish, not people.  So provided one does not corner them they are completely non aggressive.   Sounds cool!

We dropped by on the way back to the Caroline pool, another swimming hole, closer to town. This is a waterhole that seems never to dry up in an otherwise dry sandy riverbed. This too will soon be flushed out, and populated by bathers.

This area is still full of alluvial gold, and after the floods, both locals and tourists set out to find it. Des pointed out locations he has found a few nuggets in the past, and where flecks can be found in the rivers.

This place becomes more interesting by the day.  I must remember to carry a camera with me.

Posted in gold, History, Hobbies, Travel | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Something to Think About

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Halls Creek Sitrep One

Friday marked the end of my third week in Halls Creek.  I am settling in at home though I still have some unpacking and putting away to do.  Slowly getting into the job.  Despite this not being the ideal time of year I have been around some of the communities, introducing myself and hopefully establishing my credentials.  I have also made myself useful around the township on other routine environmental health matters.

The highlight so far was a trip south yesterday to the community of Mulan, also dropping by to say hello in Balgo and Bililuna.  It was  long day. Des, my Aboriginal Environmental Health colleague and I set off at 0630 and returned 12 hours later almost to the minute, at 1830.

We expected to get to Mulan around 1030, but were somewhat delayed due to stopping somewhere before Bililuna and helping someone out who had bogged his ute in a sandy riverbed.  His name was Xavier and he had been there since the night before.  He was badly dehydrated, and we gave him water.  We pulled the ute out and got him on his way home to Balgo.

We passed through Bililuna and Balgo on the way to Mulan. I had thought we would stop first at Balgo then Mulan, returning direct through Bililuna on the back road, but Des did not think that was such a good idea.

map_n

Incidentally, that dotted line down the right of the map is the border with Northern Territory.

We spent a couple of hours at Mulan, talking to the CEO, the elders of he community and discussing issues of concern. We also checked out the refuse site and sewage ponds.  All looking pretty good.  It was very hot in Mulan. The air temperature was a scorching 52C in the shade, and the ground temperature was 72.  I drank bottled water and poured bore water over myself, just as I had on the Great Ride.

Back then to Balgo, where we did a shorter introductory meeting with admin staff.  Then we visited the art centre. There I saw some amazing paintings by some internationally famous aboriginal artists. One in particular impressed me very much.  A large work, it was priced at $7000.  IfI had such money available I would have bought it on the spot.  it was so impressive.  It spoke  to me of the country I was in, and I almost did not need the explanation of its meaning, such was its eloquence.  I have not been in such awe of a work of art since I stood before a Mondrian long ago in the Auckland Art Gallery.  As it happens, this painting was not actually for sale, being earmarked for an exhibition overseas.  As were some other paintings, one of which was by a very famous painter, and priced at $30,000.  The administrator of the gallery, a European employed by the community, told me that these works were highly sought after by collectors.   I could see why.

I found another painting that impressed me very much indeed.  On being told it was by a young woman just beginning her painting career, and was priced at $450, I bought it.  My Christmas present to myself.  I bought it because it was beautiful, because I felt it gave me a connection with the country I was in, and because by doing so I would be helping to empower and encourage a young woman starting out in a difficult world.

paintingn

This is a small print of it, on the artist’s certificate.  The original is still wrapped in brown paper and bubble wrap. I had not realised when I bought it that the frame did not come with it. I need to have a 1 metre by 500 frame made.

We set out for Bililuna.  About twenty minutes along the road, we came upon Xavier, steadfastly walking homewards. His car had broken down.  He was dehydrated again, and drank a couple more bottles of water as we drove him back to Balgo.   That diversion meant that we arrived in Bililuna just a little after four.  The clinic and office were closed. So we pressed on for home.

This introduced me to the risks of being stuck out here in the outback, and of the great importance of being prepared for an emergency. Not to mention being willing to stop and help others in need.   In the rear of my 4WD I carry two spare wheels, a shovel, a 4000kg snatch strap, tools, satphone, radio, EPIRB, outback first aid kit, lots of water, emergency food, and a bunch of other stuff. I also have a car fridge; an electric eski powered from the battery.

These outback roads are difficult enough in the dry. I certainly would not take my VStar on them.  They become impassable for weeks at a time in the wet. There are times when one can go nowhere and must just sit and fish for barramundi while waiting for the water to subside. Sounds terrible!

My companion Des had been rather reserved and reticent when I first arrived in Halls Creek.  Over the last week we became more friendly.  I showed him pictures of my family and Solomon Islander in-laws, and hopefully demonstrated by my actions and words that I was not as prejudiced as most Australians sadly are.   I must have succeeded, because he has gradually shared more with me.  He has an excellent work history and has had some very good jobs, in the mines, and as a radio journalist, as well as in public service.  He is now completing his qualification as an environmental health officer. He told me that when he needs a bank loan he has no problem borrowing 20K providing he does it over the phone or on-line.  However, should he actually visit a bank to discuss in person even a 5K loan, he is denied, without explanation.  This country has a very long way to go.

On the road together, Des told me stories about the landscape features we were passing, the animals that lived here and about Aboriginal folklore in general.  At one point near Balgo we passed a sign that said “Womens Law Area”.  Des told me I should not venture into that area.  He said most men who were foolish enough to do so often did not return for a very long time, and were released only after suffering impositions that he would not elaborate on further. He told me he knew someone who had been captured and held there.  He wore a strange smile as he told me, but he assured me he was deadly serious.    I found mention of the place on line.   There may be more than meets the eye.

As the day wore on and we were heading home, Des really opened up and told me the story of his birth, childhood and upbringing.  It is his story to tell, so I will not recount it here, but I will say that by the end we were both weeping, and my respect for him had greatly increased.  If I had been through half of the horrors he told me of so matter-of-factly I would not be half the decent man he is.  It is small wonder that the indigenous people of this country have such social problems and so little liking or trust for Europeans.

Before you judge anyone, walk a mile in their shoes.

Apart from the scenery -which is far from boring, but actually awe inspiring in its vastness, and diversity – and the omnipresent cattle, we encountered quite a few interesting creatures; goannas, rainbow birds, cockatoos, bush pigeons, bush turkeys (Australian Bustard Ardeotis australis), and a few other birds I have to learn about, as well as about four species of kangaroo and wallaby. Most of the time when something interesting popped up I was either driving or did not have the camera ready.

No worries. I’ll be back.

_DSC1441 _DSC1442 _DSC1443 _DSC1444 _DSC1445 _DSC1446 _DSC1447 _DSC1448 _DSC1453 _DSC1468 _DSC1469 _DSC1484 _DSC1552 _DSC1553 _DSC1572 _DSC1574 _DSC1580 _DSC1590 bushturkey

Bustard!

As we returned, off to the East we spotted a duststorm.  It was not going our way, or we were not going its way, so it was not a problem.  It was also quite difficult to photograph, I found.

DStstm1515 duststorm1497

Posted in Art, Autobiography, birds, Communication and language, don't talk to me about life!, Drinking Water, Photography, Travel, Western Australia, Wildlife | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Long Ride Pt2

I was so exhausted when I arrived in Port Hedland on Sunday evening that I knew I had to  do something.  I seriously considered abandoning the bike and finding some other way to get to Hall’s Creek. That silly thought was impractical, and was in any case just the product of exhaustion and despair.  I paid a whopping $180 for a night in a small cabin (locally known as a donga) and after a very mediocre and very expensive meal at an equally exorbitant price,  I returned to my donga and slept as if dead.  I breakfasted at 0430 with all the workers who were setting off early for wherever they were going.

In the night I had formulated a plan.  I had realised that my jacket was the problem.  It was too hot and it was going to kill me.

I should have repaired my summer jacket for the trip. I just had not been thinking.

No point in self-recrimination.  I needed something else.  I used the gps to search for a motorcycle clothing shop nearby. Nothing.

If the jacket was going to kill me anyway, its protective function was negated. It just had to go.  I decided to wait until the shops were open and buy a long sleeved hi-viz shirt of the sort worn by almost every outside worker in Australia.  I knew that they are SPF50 and would protect me from sunburn. I also knew it would be a bloody sight cooler than the killer jacket.  Balancing the odds of an unlikely crash (I have made it without one so far) against the almost certain chance of heatstroke, I decided that to ride in a shirt was a more sensible option. The hi-viz would not be hindrance either. It pays to be seen.

By the time I had found a shop that sold what I wanted in my size it was well after ten and I had wasted a lot of time riding almost 100 k back and forth around Port Hedland and South Hedland.  That was partly because my GPS did not have the latest maps.  I must update it.

By the time I was on the road again I realised that I had made a wise decision to switch to a shirt in lieu of a proper summer jacket.  I also realised that I was still knackered and badly in need of rest.  There are signs are along the highway saying “Don’t Drive Tired!” I knew that was sensible advice.  I also knew that I had better follow it. I really was still pretty buggered. So at Pardoo, a mere 122 km out, I stopped, rented another donga for a much more reasonable fee. I closed the curtains and by 1230 was sound asleep in darkened air-conditioned comfort.  At 7pm I awoke, ate a very good and reasonably priced meal of garlic prawns and returned to sleep.

Up again at 0430 as the predawn light was growing.  A cold can of beans for breakfast and I was on my way.  I had a saddlepack full of water. I bought bottled water for drinking as I rode, and I had refilled the used bottles as I went with local bore water from the roadhouses.  This I used to pour over myself now and then.  It worked well, like riding in an air-conditioned car.  Once again I was enjoying the ride.

Tuesday went so well that I covered 820 km and got all the way to Fitzroy Crossing well before evenfall.  It was still very very hot though, and by now camping was out of the question.  So once again I paid an exorbitant $180 for a bed and a ridiculous $50 for a poncy gourmet meal and a fruit juice.  I should have bought a pie and a bottle of orange juice at the roadhouse.  Never mind. I was past caring.  I was on the last leg, with just 290 km to go. Up early Wednesday, another can of beans, and on the road.

I stopped a few times at shady and scenic spots, to stretch my legs and pour water over myself.  By now I was in a more leisurely mode again and even took a few photos with the Nikon and a movie or two with the GoPro. One problem with the latter that I found is that the battery life is not long if you are controlling it by wifi. Very frustrating to come upon a bit of scenery one would like to film, and find the camera dead.

I shall not be able to post the photos and movies I did take until my laptops arrive.  I can’t do it through the iPad. I can only post the few I took on the iPad, at the start of the journey.

I  learned an important lesson or two about travelling long distances alone.  Riding alone is ok, but for really long distances, one should find company if one can.  One should prepare properly for the weather conditions. (I was ready for wet, I was ready for cold, but I had not properly thought through the likelihood of heat being such a serious problem.  Nonetheless, my GPS recorded that I travelled 3123 km in five and a half days.  Considering that on one of those days I travelled only 222 km (though progressed only 122) I guess that is not too bad for a fat old guy with arthritic knees and a partially disabled arm.

Posted in Art, Autobiography, complaints rorts and rip=offs, don't talk to me about life!, Drama, Drinking Water, Life, Lifestyle, Motorbikes, Motorcycling, quandaries and Dilemmas, Travel, Western Australia | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

The Long Ride Pt1

My plan initially was to make the 3,038 km ride from Katanning to Halls Creek in a leisurely 8 to 10 days.  That plan was scotched, first by the revelation that having been employed for more than three years, I was expected to give three weeks notice instead of the two weeks I believed, and secondly by my employer’s refusal to allow me to take any leave during my notice period.  I would have taken it anyway (as I believe they hoped I would) had it not been for a friend tipping me off that if I did take leave without consent, under WA law, I would be considered to have abandoned my position and would lose all entitlements.  That amounts to almost nine weeks holiday pay. A not inconsiderable sum.

So I stayed.  That meant that I could not meet my commitment to start at Halls Creek on Monday 10 November.  I was determined to get there as soon as I could, anyway. As my stuff was already packed up and despatched, sold or given away, I dossed with Andrew and Smudge for a few days, and with Jennifer, Miranda and Matt for the last night before I left Katanning.

Dave tried to arrange things so he could join me on the ride again, but it was too short notice.  Just as well really, because the ride was not as much fun as it should have been, due entirely to the sense of urgency.  Something that is not conducive to a pleasant carefree holiday ride.

The first day was as joyous and carefree as such a ride should be. I did not leave as early as I had planned, but I was on the road by 8 am.  By early afternoon I was in Dalwallinu and pleased with my progress. I stopped there for half an hour or so to chat with Debbie, a colleague who also came over from NZ and who also had a Vstar 1300.”Had” being the operative word as she has been forced to sell it following her knee operation.  Sad.  I know how much she loved it.

I did not make it as far as I thought I might, the late start meant that I had only got to Payne’s Find with only an hour left before dark. Dave and I camped there on our last trip up this way, so I stayed there that night.  619 km was not a bad effort.  If I could keep that up, I would be there in 5 days. On Tuesday rather than the Monday I promised.  Surely that would be ok?

The next day I rather ambitiously planned to get as far as Newman. Once again I did not make it, I rode only another 616 km and spent Saturday night at Kumarina. I was determined to stay on schedule and decided to try for Port Hedland the next day.  I rode hard all Sunday, stopping in Newman for breakfast, then pressing on.  I crossed the Tropic of Capricorn late morning and raced on, covering 848 km in the day and arriving in Port Hedland exhausted and suffering from the heat.  I carried plenty of water with me, and had poured as much over myself as I drank. Nonetheless I was decidedly buggered and beginning to think I had bitten off more than I could chew. I was not sure I was going to make it.  The heat was intense in my jacket.  I knew it was only going to get worse from here on.  I was going to kill myself with heat stroke.  I needed a plan.

 

Posted in Autobiography, Camping, don't talk to me about life!, Life, don't talk to me about life!, Lifestyle, Motorbikes, Motorcycling, Riding, Travel, Western Australia | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments