Saturday, February 18, 2012

Week 47

Mon. Feb 18    Kynuna to Hughenden
Miles 682 (3 days)
Awoke to find a small kangaroo playing around at the foot of my bed. It was a tame one belonging to the pub! Away by 9 and, apart from a few mud baths, had an uneventful run to Winton. We had coffee there and then drove on to Hughenden on quite a good road. Arrived at 5, had a few beers, and then found the caravan park. John cleaned the land rover while I cooked a big curry. In the evening we went to the swimming pool and swam for a couple of hours. Supper was a milk shake at a milk bar.

Tues. Feb 19    Hughenden to Townsville
On the road by 9 and away towards Charters Towers. This bit of road had everything, mud holes, creeks, potholes and even a couple of long stretches of mud about 6inches deep. We crossed 2 good-sized rivers after wading them first. The land rover sailed across with no bother, while Dulcie and I stood either side of the deepest part to mark it. The last crossing was only 100yards from the start of the bitumen. It would have been horrible to get stuck there as so many others had done. Reached Charters Towers at 3, had beer, fish and chips, and ice cream before motoring on to Townsville. Our home for the night is a caravan park right on the sea front. Heavy rain tonight with large numbers of mozzies so we have erected the nets inside the tent. Miles 229

Wed. Feb 20    Townsville

Lay in this morning and then worked on the land rover. Took the sump off and found a split pin missing from one of the bottom ends. The oil pump was loose, also. Fitted new rubbers to the front shock absorbers and did a grease and oil change. Went into town about 3 to do shopping and get literature from the tourist office. Back to camp for a ham salad and then away to the Drive-in to see, Woman in Dressing Gown and Left-handed Gun. The first one was very good and the second was lousy. It is raining again this evening.

Thurs. Feb 21    Townsville
A thoroughly idle day. To the Wirth Zoo in the a.m.—a bit disappointing. From there to the top of Castle Hill, which was very impressive. By this time the rain was getting heavy so we spent the p. m. drinking milk shakes, writing letters, and browsing in various bookshops. Went back to camp, washed and changed, and into town for a slap-up Chinese meal. Had a couple of drinks afterwards but got driven out of the bar by the T.V.. Cruised around in the land rover for a while and then headed for bed.

Fri. Feb 22    Townsville to Airlie
Miles 214
Still raining so we packed up and into town to buy food and found that honest Dulcie had paid for the campsite, which we had intended not to do! On the road by 10 and drove to Bowen, where we found a good beach, so we lay on it. Had a brew, a swim and some more lying down before going to town to try to buy diesel. After the usual amount of mucking around we found a man who could sell us some. When he heard that I was a diesel fitter he offered me a job, but I was not in the mood. Of all the countries we had been in, Australia was the most difficult one in which to buy fuel. None of the service stations have a diesel pump because there is generally no demand from the ordinary motorist. The big users of diesel, the big trucking firms all refuel at central depots, while the farmers out back use 44gallon drums and a hand pump.
We drove on to Proserpine and from there to Airlie Beach where we found a nice campsite in the gent’s toilet, Dulcie included. This is a nice part of Australia, very like the W.coast of Scotland but with a tropical climate.

Sat. Feb 23    Airlie
An early star and away to Shute Harbour to join the Leilani for a trip to Dent Island. The run out was terrific, quite rough, through beautiful scenery, islands and passages between them. John was nearly sick but not quite—blast!
Dent Island was a real little paradise. It is the home and work of Bill and Lynn Wallace who spend their time exploring the reefs and bringing up coral. Bill does the diving and Lynn does the painting. The finished product is then nicely arranged for display and sale. We bought a piece each to be sent home and Lynn also gave us some small pieces as souvenirs. They were a charming couple, obviously completely content with their lives. It was not such a bad life, either. On our way back in we passed one of the Ampol tankers on its way to Borneo by way of the Whitsunday Passage. At the end of the day Dulcie had a burnt neck, while both John and I had burnt noses All in all, a bloody marvellous day.

Sun. Feb 24    Airlie to Sarina
Miles 154
For the first time ever, Dulcie was last up. Packed up and drove to Proserpine and from there to Mackay where we had a swim and a feed of fish and chips. We decided to carry on down the coast to Sarina and found a great beach where we swam and lazed the afternoon away. Spotted a lot of large fish with prominent fins but we eventually realized that they were porpoises, not sharks.. Drove back to Sarina and settled down on the camping ground with cold cheese ,herrings and crackers on the menu tonight. These caravan parks are just the job for us. They provide showers, toilets and fresh water all for about 6 or7 shillings a night, which is pretty reasonable.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Week 46

Mon. Feb 11    Alice Springs            
Did a bit of shopping first and then to the Stuart Arms en route to the swimming pool. Spent the usual sort of lazy day, but it was very hot and by 5 I was feeling ill again. John went for a meal while Dulcie and I watched. Drove up Anzac Hill to view a very fine sunset. Back to the pub but I didn’t even feel like drinking so had ginger beer. John and Dulcie left for Ayers Rock at 11.30. I could not face the prospect of going back out into the desert again so soon, so I nobly volunteered to guard the campsite. 

Tues. Feb 12    Alice Springs 
Managed a lie-in this a.m. until 9.30, then into town for a tomato sandwich and coffee for breakfast. Into the pub until lunchtime, then to the pool, which I had all to myself until mid-afternoon. Back to the pub where I stayed until 8.30, then. To a café for a feed of T-bone steak, eggs and salad-my first decent meal for a while. I walked to the campsite and found John and Dulcie there.

Wed. Feb 13    Alice Springs
Did a big pile of washing, and then wandered into town where we drank coffee, Granita, beer, and fruit juice before sneaking into the swimming pool again for free. Had a meal at a restaurant, then back to camp to get packed.

Thurs. Feb 14    Alice Springs to Devil’s Marbles                                          
Miles 262
Up early and into town by 9.30.After a couple of drinks we were mobile by 10.30. Drove as far as Aileron and stopped for a beer. No draught—disgusting! Carried on to Barrow Creek and had another beer, Still no beer on draught so on we went as far as the Devil’s Marbles. This is an area of huge, rounded, granite boulders, all perched in weird and wonderful positions. We decided to camp there and spent a bit of time clambering over them. The flies are very bad tonight. As soon as it got dark, in went the flies and out came the mozzies. We were all well and truly bitten.

Fri. Feb 15    Devil’s Marbles to bush camp
Miles 287
Woke to find the mozzies gone and the flies back. Had an early start after taking a couple of photos and drove to Tennant Creek. We loaded up with fuel and food then drove 16 miles to the John Flynn memorial where we turned left. We are now heading east again. About 180 miles further on we met up with an ancient truck trying to tow a dilapidated Holden Ute. Both were broken down. We managed to get the truck going and followed them into the bush to a rather sordid drilling camp. Where we got to know two characters. Gil was a one-legged giant of a man, whose partner, the owner of the drilling rig and the camp, had inconveniently died the previous night. The cops had given Gil 48 hrs to remove himself from the scene. Casey Nelson was a drunken station hand who had obviously been a boozing buddy of the deceased. We had a couple of beers while Casey proceeded to flatten a bottle of brandy. In the meantime, John had taken the fuel pump off the Holden and fixed it so at least Gil would be able to depart with some dignity. A glance behind the ramshackle caravan used by the boss revealed a possible cause of death---a stack of empty brandy bottles about 8ft high. Eventually, Casey’s boss came and poured him into a land rover and took him away. The rest of us carried on drinking until sleep, aided by brandy, overcame “mine host”. In the morning I was tactfully informed that the camp stretcher I had slept on was the one on which the boss had died the night before! An authentic glimpse of bush life.
It rained quite hard during the night.

Sat. Feb 16    Bush camp to e. of Mt Isa
Woke rather damp and had breakfast. Spent about an hour trying to get the ute going but had to give up.Packed up and Gil presented us with enough food to keep us going for a while-including a dozen cans of beer. His rationale being that if we didn’t take it the cops would steal it anyway. Drove off through rather flat, uninteresting country to Mt Isa. Had a couple of drinks and, after a lot of mucking about, managed to get some fuel. We set off on the road to Mary Kathleen only to come to a sudden stop on the banks of the E. branch of the R.Leichart. It was running very swiftly, about 3 ft deep, and with a soft sandy bottom. We decided to wait until morning before trying to cross. John spent about an hour towing various people across from the other side. Then we dined on salad and fresh fruit before turning in early

Sun. Feb 17    Mt Isa to Kynuna
Early start and made a determined attempt to cross under our own steam, but got ourselves stuck up to the chassis in sand. However, many willing hands pulled us through. John then spent an hour towing various other people through while Dulcie and I lay in the water and watched. Great entertainment. Drove to Cloncurry, and gained entry to a pub by the back door. Drove to Mc Inlay and had a couple of beers with two blokes from a nearby station who had been travelling with us. Just outside McInlay we got bogged in a bloody big mud hole In the process of digging it out, John was stung by a small scorpion-the first we have seen. Reached Kynuna after quite a rough ride and pitched camp in the pub yard. Killed a big scorpion just near the back of the land rover—nasty things. Today was the roughest road since leaving Alice.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Week 45

Feb. 4    Koonalda to Ceduna
Miles 278

Last up. Had to be kicked awake to drink tea—disgraceful! Had breakfast, and then went down into the caves for quite a long way until we were stopped by water. Apparently the system extends a good deal further and has never been completely explored. Very impressive. Got under way by 11 and drove to Ceduna via White Wells, Nullarbor and Penang. The last stretch was pleasant travelling through pasture and farmland. Weather still cool. Had a couple of beers at Penang and very nice they were, too. The latter part of the road was very dusty. We are camping tonight in a caravan park at Ceduna, right on the sea front. Had a shower and did all our washing. Our first shower since Perth!!

Feb. 5    Ceduna to Port Augusta
Miles 313

Up early, packed, - no go. Found we had a duff diaphragm in the fuel pump. Dulcie and I wandered into town while John put in a replacement. Got away about 10 and drove to Port Augusta via Wirrulla and Iron Knob. Had a few beers at Wirrulla and noticed one tyre very bad. About 30 miles down the track we had a blowout. All the tyres are pretty shot now but we are going to try to limp through to Sydney before buying new ones. Port Augusta is a pleasant town at the head of the Spencer Gulf It is very clean, with a nice beach. Had a couple of beers and then retired to the local caravan site for a slap up salad feed. We are now scratching about, catching up with mail etc.

Feb. 6    Port Augusta to Kingoonya
Miles 232
Spent the morning shopping and just looking around. Found we had a broken shock absorber but managed to get it welded at a workshop. Got away about 12 and drove to Kingoonya via Woomera. It is getting warm now and the country is very barren. Our usual 3 schooners went down even better than usual today. Met two opal miners in the pub who were on their way from Coober Pedy to Melbourne with the intention of selling a bag full of opal, which they showed us. Apparently it was worth in the region of 3000 pounds. Needless to say, the talk that night was all about opal and how we were going to make our fortunes mining it when we got to Coober.

Feb. 7    Kingoonya to Hawks Nest Well
Miles 331
Got a good early start and, after one blow out, got to Coober Pedy via some of the most horrible country imaginable. Everything dead and scorched. Coober was bloody hot; with no shade at all and just a couple of stores and a garage-and no pub. And a lot of extremely hard looking opal miners. Tried to buy tyres but none here. We no longer have a spare so when we get a puncture it is a case of repairing the tyre on the spot. All enthusiasm for opal mining evaporated very suddenly. Had another puncture leaving Coober, again no shade. Drove as far as Hawks Nest Well and camped for the night. Had a fine time throwing buckets of cold water over each other. Still hot

Feb. 8    Hawks Nest Well to Alice Springs
Miles 372
On the road by 7 and full speed ahead. Got our first puncture just south of Kulgera. Had a brew, mended it, and pressed on. Stopped at Kulgera for a beer, saw the price and settled for an orange. The next 170 miles passed as a blur for me—slight heat exhaustion. Reached Alice Springs at 6 and immediately found a smart air- conditioned bar called the Stuart Arms where we quickly downed some of the nicest, coldest beer I have ever had. From there to the swimming pool for a shower, a swim, and several cool drinks. Then to the fish and chip shop and, finally, to the camping ground. I was still feeling”ick”

Feb. 9    Alice Springs
Up really early, breakfast and then a kit sort-out. I was feeling too groggy to participate everything full of dust. Went into town and had a few beers, none of which seemed to touch the sides on the way down. John and Dulcie picked up mail, and then we retired to the swimming pool for the rest of the day. We left about 6 and had our first full meal for 3 days. Back to the Stuart Arms and quaffed beer until closing time, when we had a fish and chip supper before finally going to bed, exhausted. That road from Port Augusta to Alice is the worst bit of road we have seen yet with some deep potholes; unsealed and very corrugated the real problem was the state of our tyres. We had 8 punctures in 800 miles! 

Sun. Feb 10    Alice Springs
John working on the land rover so Dulcie and I hitchhiked into town and went straight to the swimming pool. We stayed there all day, swimming, rehydrating, writing letters, and swimming. Had a spag bol tonight  

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Week 44

Jan. 28    Perth

Up early, had breakfast, and then met Dulcie—she has put on weight, too! I was very pleased to see her (she made me put that bit in) Took the starting motor out of the land rover and got away about 11 Went to City Beach first and then to Scarborough. Spent the day lying in the sun, swimming, eating fish and chips, and drinking coke. Had a final brew up on the promenade and then went back to town, where we spent a couple of hours cleaning the vehicle before cooking a big stew in the car park at the Y while discussing our prospects for the future.

Jan. 29    Perth  
Did the round of shipping offices and managed to get all business done by lunchtime. Spent the afternoon lying on City Beach, and a good time was had by all. Had a terrific salad when we got back to the Y, washed down with cold milk, followed by cold beer at “The Sportsman’s”.

 Jan. 30    Perth
John worked nearly all day on the land rover getting the starting motor fixed, while Fox, Mo, and I lay on our beds listening to the test match, eating melons, and spitting the pips at each other. Had another big salad and then went to the pictures to see a lousy film. Yakked until midnight. During the day, Mo knocked a big paper bag full of food scraps that had been minding its own business on the windowsill, out of the window and 4stories down into the street below. We were subsequently forced to deny that it came from our window. It was suggested that it might just be time to move on.

Jan. 31    Perth to east of Meredin
Miles 196
Left the Y.M. early, said goodbye to Mo and Fox - again! Spent the morning shopping and attempting to get all Dulcie’s gear into the land rover; quite a struggle ensued, but we won.
Had a couple of beers and started heading east via Midland and Greenmount. A pleasant run through the wheat belt in ideal travelling conditions, warm sun and a cool breeze. Pulled off the road about 6.30pm. and as soon as it got dark it got very cool. My duvet came out for an airing. Yet another salad tea - not a bad diet. Could this be Dulcie’s influence?

Feb 1    E. of Meredin to Norseman

Miles 335

Up early after a freezing cold and near sleepless night. Breakfast of Wheaties and on the road to Kalgoorlie, via Southern Cross and Coolgardie.
Had lunch at Kalgoorlie, did some shopping, and had a tour of a gold mine. Drove to Norseman fairly quickly and we are camped on the edge of a big salt lake. Today’s run has been mainly through thick bush, which tends to get a bit monotonous after a while. Had another salad tonight. Mozzies getting bad so we will use the nets tonight

Feb. 2    Norseman to W. of Madura
Miles 312
Woken early by the sun so lay and baked for a bit before getting up. Dulcie made an abortive attempt to get early morning tea for us. Still, the intention was good. Had breakfast and got moving by 9. Drove to Norseman and posted letters. After 70 miles we left the bitumen and the road became quite rough, with big potholes over most of the way. Stopped for a beer in Balladonia and heard some interesting views on the English royal family from the old bat behind the bar whose chief ambition in life seemed to be to sample the night-life in the U.S.A.
We are camping tonight by a water tank between Cocklebiddy and Madura. Bloody cold so we have pitched Ducie’s tent, which must be the biggest in the world!

Feb. 3    Madura to Koonalda
Miles 236
Last up, as usual. Woken by Dulcie with tea.
On the move by 9 and drove to Eucla. Just past Madura the road swung sharply down a short, steep pass to the lower level of the Nullarbor Plain. At Eucla the road came within ½ mile of the sea and the whole area was covered in beautiful white sand dunes that have almost covered the old telegraph station. From Eucla the road turned away from the sea again and, after a short climb, regained the tableland.
Drove to Koonalda Station and had a tentative look at the caves. We will come back in the morning for a good look. Camped tonight by the mouth of the caves in a very exposed position with no shelter at all. Tent again as it is still cold. We are all very dirty and dusty, as we can’t spare the water for luxuries like washing.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Week 43

Jan. 22    Wittenoom
There has been so much o/t that I had to knock some back. My last 2 pays were 101 and 82 gross. My biggest pays since arriving here. In fact the biggest ever. Nearly the whole time spent working in the mill. Mo and Fox are coming with us as far as Roebourne, and then they will head to Darwin. It will be good to be on the move again. Had a few quiet drinks with some of the boys last night followed by an abortive run up the gorge to steal diesel, which unfortunately turned out to be hydraulic fluid. John arrived from Perth a couple of days ago so the team is almost assembled again. We will meet Dulcie in Perth.

Jan. 23    Wittenoom to Roebourne
Spent the morning getting John’s gear to the store. Packed up, said goodbye to the Dykstras, and went to Guy’s place for lunch. We were unable to get diesel at the garage so we had to get Ozzy Allan’s permission for ABA to sell us some. Picked up Mo and Fox and headed to Roebourne. Quite an uneventful trip until just before Roebourne where we had to pull a ute full of Abbos back onto the road. Had a couple of beers and found a good place to kip on the veranda of the local school. Had a quick meal and then retired 

Jan. 24   Roebourne to Onslow
Up early and then messed about until nearly 11. Said goodbye to Mo and Fox and then headed south. I don’t know where or when we will see those 2 again but I don’t think it will be for some time. Driving conditions are very bad today with lots of slippery mud and several creek and river crossings. Just north of Onslow we got bogged and had to dig the land rover out. It was quite amusing, splashing about in deep mud. Reached Onslow at about 6.30 and went to the pub for a drink, where we discovered that the road is officially closed, both north and south. Loaded up with fuel and food and are camped under the grandstand at the Onslow racecourse. It has just started raining heavily. We have our fingers crossed for tomorrow.

Jan. 25     Onslow to Carnarvon  
Away by 8, weather still threatening and wet. We found the bad stretch of road about 10 miles out of town and got through with very little difficulty. The rest of the trip was plain sailing, with just the odd soft patch but improving all the time. Reached Carnarvon about5 and had a couple of drinks before heading out to the camp and caravan park , where we wormed our way into a caravan for the night. Went into town after tea and met---Mo and Fox---who had flown down that day from Roebourne after drawing a blank on the hitchhiking front, a very wet blank at that!!After a thoroughly riotous night in the pub beer garden, they shared our caravan for the night.

Jan. 26    Carnarvon to Geraldton
Up to our usual late start and on the road, bitumen now, and one of the most boring rides we have yet been on. Drove non-stop to a roadhouse and had lunch there. Got cracking again after a bit of trouble with one injector. Also, the starting motor is no longer working. Got to Geraldton and had a couple of beers followed by a great feed of fish and chips. Walked around town and located the railway station. Lay on the grass and ogled the local talent, before going for a drink and retiring for the night in the station booking hall. Mozzy’s were bad.

Jan. 27    Geraldton to Perth
Woken by the law at about 7.30. After a short and somewhat acrimonious conversation, he wandered off while we packed up and hit the road. Today’s run was not quite so boring, mostly through farmland-grain, mainly. Reached Perth at about 5 and dropped John Frazer off at home. After booking in to the Y.M.we went looking for Dulcie. Found where she was living but she was out. Went back to the Y and had a big feed of fish and chips, washed down with milk—something that had been in short supply at Wittenoom

Friday, January 20, 2012

Week 42 - 1963

Jan. 14 1963    Wittenoom

Had a good New Years Eve party at Stan Hawkins’ place. After that spent nearly a week in the mill getting very dirty. Sandy Sheridan let the New Year in well by belting the foreman engineer through a hardboard wall - a very popular man was Sandy. Things have been quite amusing here lately. A lot of the boys will be leaving soon and they just couldn’t care less, consequently there is a great lack of respect being shown to the bosses in general. Last Wed. Mo and Fox came to Wittenoom and we have spent several evenings comparing journeys. 
These two were both instructors at Ogwen Cottage and they left U.K. about 6 months ahead of us to hitchhike to N.Z. They were now on their way home having worn out their welcome in N.Z. They are up here to make some quick cash, just like the rest of us. It was bloody good to see them.
Last Sat. we had a combined going away party for Wally Pickford, John Anderson, John Scott, and myself. It turned out to be a really good do with a lot of fights narrowly avoided. Mo distinguished himself in his usual fashion! I will remember the size of “Goliath” forever!

Week 39

Dec. 27    Wittenoom 
The overtime has looked up a little since I had my say about it. I worked a doubler last Sat. and am working another one tonight.
Xmas was fairly quiet. Went to the pub with John Frazer on Xmas eve. It was very boring so we went to Stan’s place and started a party going. On Xmas day we had a barbecue at Steve’s house - bloody good steak! After that we drifted around to Joe Cadalucci’s place where there was a party that was in full swing.
I have a job at the moment converting some air conditioning units to simple coolers. Spent Xmas Eve in the mine doing nothing.

Week 38

Mon. 17 Dec    Wittenoom
These diary entries are getting more and more sparse. 
After nearly 2 weeks marking bags, I have managed to get back to real work again, just in time to work the w/e. Back to the machine shop, where I seem to have a permanent job on sheave blocks now. This work is starting to give me a slight pain. It is mainly low-grade butchery that a blind imbecile would find easy. 
Chester had a going away party on Fri. night and a right good do it was, too. I sang rude songs and bawdy lyrics for about 2 hours. It must have been a good performance because I have invitations to a number of parties over Xmas on the strength of it!! Missed out on Sun. I was the only fitter not working, so I had a word with the little fat foreman about it this a.m. He was quite apologetic and he assured me that I would get my fair share of overtime in the future.

Week 35

Sat. Dec 1    Wittenoom

Went swimming last Sun. and cut my foot open on a bottle. Six stitches and crutches for a while. Did absolutely nothing on Mon. and Tues. Jan Van Deeren snatched it on Tues. night and joined all the others who are shooting through. Started working in the mill on Thurs, marking bags, by Christ! Dead boring work but 10 times better than hanging around the town. No Sat. work, so I am at a loose end again for a while. Temp. this week has been about 113/114, which is uncomfortably hot  Even the wind blows hot now.