Friday, June 30, 2006


I’m home, and I’m jetlagged. It really is like coming back from a different country. My sleeping is all mucked up from going to bed at 8:30pm and getting up at 4:00am. Townsville seems crowded and noisy. And after 17 days of working straight, I’ve forgotten how to wind down.

Ah well, give me a couple of days …

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Flying Out

I'm out of here tomorrow. I'm flying back to the coast in order to bring you more photos of palm trees and Coral Sea ripples.

I've loved my stay in the outback and with any luck I'll be back. It's uncertain, of course. But I don't feel it's time to throw my boots up in a tree and head on out of here barefoot. Not just yet.

PS - If you look closely, you'll see that there are quite a few pairs of boots up there. It used to be the tradition that the last thing you would do before leaving the mine forever was throw your boots up into a tree. Eventually, management sent around a memo asking everyone to please stop doing that, and I think the practice has died out. However they didn't go to the trouble of cutting down all the boots that were already up in trees, so it is possible to see some really weathered boots hanging up all around the camp.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

The Big Scar

For scale, I've zoomed in on that bend in the road, and you can see a white speck of a car driving up out of the pit:

That's this car:

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Kind of inspiration

The hope I had that I would find plenty of time for writing, while I am out here in the outback on my own, faded when I was told that I would be working a 12-hour shift rather than the advertised 8-hours. Basically what that means is that when I'm awake I'm working or eating, and when I'm asleep I am sound asleep.

However, in between times I do find moments of a very diffuse kind of inspiration - mainly from the beautiful and surprising colours of the landscape. The mine being here on this land means that part of it will be damaged beyond all recognition or recovery, but the rest is sitting pretty tight in the meantime.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Sun Up on Trucks

Our office lies in the shadow of a large man-made pile of dirt, and that means that the sun reaches us a sickening hour and a half after we start work each day.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Just poppin in to say Hi

I'm sitting in the bar at the end of a long long day. I'm in the quiet bar (the Gay Bar as it's known, because they serve wine here as well as beer). The sun has gone down behind the low red hills and outside everything is pretty quiet. Here in the camp, that is. Out on the mine everything's as noisy and busy as usual. It never stops out there.

It's all going well for me, though. I'm the first to admit that I'm surprised how much I'm enjoying myself. The mine itself is massive and exciting, and in contrast, life in the camp (think of a school camp, but populated by rusty old miners) is easy and quiet. There is something about hauling dirt around in a truck all day that makes my colleagues easygoing and cheerful. It's a pleasure to help them with their paperwork each day.

I love the landscape surrounding the mine, and I'll have some photos soon.

Well, not that soon. I've got ten more days on this stint, and I'll be back to talk more at the end of that.

Over and out.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

So I'm going away for a while..

My inward-growing career in administration is taking me farther than I would have thought possible. I’m going out to the mines.

If you look at a map of this part of Queensland, you will see that there are many, many mines around here. The gold and the nickel have dried up, but they still mine coal, zinc, copper, silver and gemstones. You know where Mt Isa is? The zinc mine I’m going to is about 250km northwest of there, just near the border of the Northern Territory. There is no town anywhere nearby, but it is just across the road from Boodjamulla or Lawn Hill National Park. You can see where that is on the map, and see some photos here.

There is much that is novel about this particular gig. I get to fly to work for a start. And I get a new hat, and goggles and a uniform including boots. I’ll get all my meals and accommodation looked after. I’ll work two-and-a-half weeks straight, then I’ll come home and sleep for a week. Then repeat.

I’ll be taking a camera and a laptop, so I’m hoping that I’ll be able to post some pictures. It’s only for two months.

And how is Hayden taking all this?

Well after his initial hilarity at the idea of me on a dirty dusty rough mine site, he seems to be taking it OK. He always supposed that he would be the first one of us to be flown out to work in the middle of nowhere - I think it was a bit of a surprise to him.

I'll miss him while I'm gone, of course, but I'll be back before he knows it.

(Ok, not strictly before he knows it. I'm going to give him a warning so that he can clear away the playstation and the pizza boxes before I arrive.)

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Wet, Wet Liberal

I just caught a 15-year-old kid nicking baby clothes from our neighbour. He was standing in our yard trying to get the little clothes off their washing line through the fence.

After I chased him away, I felt really really bad and wished I had given him some money. How sad is that?

Thursday, June 08, 2006


Lately I just can’t stop noticing the lovely golden colours of the sun when it’s low on the horizon. I think it’s one of the nicest things about winter here. In summer, the sun beats down so hard and straight in a way that is barely tolerable. In summer, I would lift myself out of bed to make the most of the cooler early hours with my habitual walk along the beach. Lately I have not felt that urge, and this morning I just snuggled up in bed. I took this picture out our bedroom window, from my comfy position under the doona.

But I don’t think that the warmth of my doona is the only reason why I haven’t been springing out of bed these last couple of weeks. The awful truth is that I have been a little tiny, tiny bit bored. Everything has been too easy for me, and too pleasant. Ugh.

My job at the construction site is finally finishing up, and the way that that came about was a teensy bit icky, too. The company asked me and asked me to consider taking a permanent job there and they asked so many times that I finally felt that I should consider it properly. I have quite a strong aversion to permanent employment (well, permanent anything really) so that was a big step for me. So I thought about it, and I let them know that I would like the job, but I asked for a salary that was quite a bit higher than what they were offering. (Why? I don’t know. The money is really not that important in cheap-as-chips Townsville). So I wasn’t all that surprised when they gave the job to someone else. But I did get that unsavoury feeling of mixed-up hurt at being refused something that I didn’t want in the first place.

This last week I have been training the person who they found to take the job in the end. You’d think that that would be a bit awkward, but I have to say that it couldn’t have gone to a nicer person: a 40-year-old grandmother to be, with an ancient Ford Fairlane and a pack-a-day habit. I’m not going to say her name here, so let me just call her Shazza. Shazza looks a bit rough, but she has a heart of gold. On her arrival on site, she presented all the guys in the office with lighters featuring pictures of naked ladies. She said she would have got me one, except for that I don’t smoke. I said that that’s OK. She’s taken to the job like a duck to water, leaving me very little to do around the office. Today, Friday, is my last day there.

Now that’s finished up, and I’m wondering what next to do with myself? I’m really looking for a challenge, and, well, there is something in the pipeline but I can’t say what it is yet. All I’m going to say is that it is exciting, and probably difficult and a little bit scary. I hope it comes off!

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Winter Sun

Even Hayden was still for a moment yesterday, to enjoy the gentle afternoon sun on his toes.

It was a lovely day. A day entirely without plans. We ate well, shopped (my new green cardy is pictured above) and after our little rest we went for a bit of a walk up Castle Hill.

In this picture you can catch a glimpse of the other side of Townsville, the vast flat western side that yesterday somehow looked quite cozy, like a village in a valley.

We stayed for the sunset, then walked home in the dark.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Golf Buddies

Hayden was off work today with a cold, so I thought I would cheer him up this afternoon and take him to see if we could see the baby crocodiles that have taken up residence in the lagoon at the Townsville Golf Club. We went down there just on sundown, you know, when crocodiles are supposed to be at their most active. I was hoping we'd see them come out of the water to hunt.

We had a lovely walk around the golf course; we saw lots of waterbirds and startled a couple of pelicans off the bank and they skidded out across the water. I love it when they do that. And although we never caught sight of the little crocs, we did have a nice enough time for me to consider taking up golf. In the big cities golf can be an expensive and snooty kind of activity, but in Townsville it’s just a fun sport that anyone can play of an afternoon. Kind of like pool ... but in a big park.