Recently I turned my life on its head and left the comfort zone of home town, family and friends in Wellington (NZ), to start a new chapter in Western Australia. As I adjust to my new surroundings, I find myself thinking in the shape of stories and letters home. Feel free to take a seat and read on..

Wednesday, July 27, 2011


Leaving home to start a new life involves a mixture of many emotions; excitement, fear and hope are probably at the top of the list.  Many goodbyes are said in order to create a series of new experiences and forge a new life path. One hopes that most of those goodbyes will simply be farewell until next time, but inevitably there will be some goodbyes that are final.

I have only known Glenda for four years, which surprises me, as I feel as though I've known her forever. She came to work for me one night on a catering job, and we quickly became friends. In those few short years, I was privileged to be a small part of a life that had been fully and richly lived; undoubtedly with it's share of hardships, but always with a positive and infectious energy. I never came away from an encounter with Glenda without feeling better about everything; and always with an armload of gifts from her bountiful garden.  "Take some lemons!" was the catch cry, and the final part of any visit was always the last minute gossiping while we filled bags with the best lemons I have ever eaten. 
Then a giant hug from that tiny body that carried a huge heart.

'bye Glenda. And thank you.  xxx

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Rooftop ravings

Click on photo to get a better view 

It turns out that I have been mistakenly calling these birds crows when in fact, according to the Simpson & Day Field Guide to the Birds of Australia they are Australian Ravens. In previous posts I have variously described them as making a noise like a strangled cat in its death throes, and there's often a sort of 'old-man-wittering' thing they do, along with a drawn out process of debate in which the participants um and ah for extended periods. I think whoever can keep it up the longest wins.

Simpson & Day's description of their voice is disturbingly accurate and I kind of wish I hadn't read it: "high, far-carrying, child-like wailing; a series of slow notes 'aaaa…' with strangled, drawn-out finish; also quiet croaking".

When I first arrived here I found these fellows somewhat intimidating..  they have an intensity about them that made me want to slide quietly past without attracting any attention, and I definitely tried not to think about Alfred Hitchcock. (I know he used seagulls, but if he had really wanted to frighten us he would have used ravens). 

However, it turns out they are really more like genial clowns than sinister foes, and are currently running at about second equal with Kookaburras in my birdly affections. (Willie Wagtail is still number one). And at last, now that I have realised they are Australian Ravens I have figured out what they are really saying:

Mate.  Really?  No way. Faaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaarrrk! 

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Postcard from Karratha

A couple of weeks ago we had reason to go to Karratha; a mining town in the Pilbara region of Western Australia. It's over 1,500km from Perth (2 hours by 'plane) and a long way from anywhere else! 
We flew up early on the Saturday morning (you gotta love those 4am starts), and were met at the airport by the lucky fellow hosting us for the weekend.  The Talking Engineer "had things to do with Wayne", so I was presented with a hire car and some basic directions and left to my own devices for the day.  Cool.  
First slightly disconcerting thing:  "You'd better lock yourself in while you're in the house on your own - the neighbours sometimes tend to get arrested a little bit".  OK.  That was the neighbours across the road.  No mention of the ones at the back who must have come off a night shift and as far as I can tell, partied all day.  They were well into it at 9am, and were still going strong when we went out again at 7.00 o'clock that night. 
$8,000 per month in Karratha
By the way, accommodation in Karratha is at a premium; the house we were staying in cost $8,000.00 per month to rent (that's $1,846.15 a week for a pretty straight forward house).
Anyway, I'm thinking sticking around in a virtually empty house (it had a bed, a camp table & two fold out chairs) watching out for neighbours with a bent for getting arrested is not what I came for, so I made my way to town tout-de-suite to get essentials for a day's exploring.  I think I'm right in saying Karratha boasts the largest shopping centre in the Pilbara..  whatever - once you're inside it, you could be pretty well anywhere in the world.  So; bottled water from Coles, a  $10.00 John Williamson CD from the local music store - perfect driving music - and I'm good to go. Once my skinny flat white is ready. All I have to say about that is that having waited 15 minutes, my expectations were so low that the coffee seemed all right.  
First stop, the Karratha Visitor Centre where a very helpful woman gave me the 'what-to-do-if-you're-not-here-long' guide to the place. 
I decided to set off for Dampier first, and then work my way back. Dampier is about 20 kms west of Karratha, and I'm glad I went there first. It's very pretty, and lifted my spirits and impression of the area immediately. 
Dampier Salt
I stopped and took lots of photos, and then decided it was time for lunch. The Road Runner CafĂ© seemed the only game in town so I parked and settled myself in. Sprung! I thought I'd get away with fish and chips, but like I said, it was the only game in town so who should stop by for their lunch but himself and Wayne.  
Oh well, it was worth getting caught - they were the best fish and chips I've eaten in a long time.
After lunch the men went back to doing work stuff, and I set off again.  Next stop Hearson's Cove.
Second slightly disconcerting thing: beautiful day, lovely beach, sparkly water.. sign saying watch out for crocodiles. 
You forget stuff like that when you come from New Zealand. Otherwise, scenery great, enjoying the music, loving having a little adventure all of my own. 
On to Withnell Bay. Sometimes, a certain person accuses me of not being adventurous enough, but after I had boldly gone where a lot of people have gone before, albeit in 4x4's, I decided that parking the car and exploring the rest of the way on foot might be wise. 
Off roading - before it got really off road..
Third slightly disconcerting thing: having climbed over the rocks and through the mangroves to get to the water's edge where no-one can see me, or knows I'm there; I REMEMBER THE SIGN AT THE OTHER PLACE! If they have crocs there, they can have them here.  I beat a hasty retreat; there's adventurous, and there's foolhardy. "Doin' the crocodile roll.."
Time to head back to the house to meet the others, feeling quite satisfied with my few hours exploring.  That evening we were taken to a barbecue with some of the other peeps that work with Wayne. That was interesting as they held it in their camp so I got to see a bit of a mining camp first hand. I guess they're all pretty much the same although this one seemed quite new. The "dongas" are usually about 10' x 10' with a single bed; some have their own shower and loo, others have a shared one, the goods ones have air con units that are quiet.
Too much food and wine and back 'home' to bed.  
Speaking of too much wine, Wayne told us that the liquor stores have a blanket policy regarding the indigenous people: if they come in and help themselves to booze and walk out without paying; let them.  Hmmm.
Sunday I was the lucky one who could sleep in.  Himself was up and off for a 7.00am meeting.  By the time he and Wayne got back for breakfast I had managed to haul myself out of bed and get washed, dressed and foofied up.  After breakfast they went back to work and I set off on stage 2 of my speeding bullet exploration of a piece of the Pilbara. I had until 12.30, so high tailed it off in the opposite direction from the day before and made my way out to Roebourne, where I checked out the Visitor Centre and Old Gaol Museum. 
From Roebourne Gaol (click on it for a larger
version you can read)
There didn't seem to be another soul around at ten on a Sunday morning. Next I headed down to Honeymoon Cove and Point Samson.  
Campers, Honeymoon Cove
Another sparkly day, another whole lot of driving between sights, another lovely view, and suddenly I realised I needed to get back.. interesting comfort stop and off I set again, by now singing along with John Williamson as I've played the CD several times over already.  
I meet up with the others back at the Road Runner and without question, I have to try the steak sandwich which I had spotted the day before but was already committed elsewhere. 
Road Runner Steak Sandwich - Oh Yeah!
Lunch done and dusted, we just had enough time to show himself a little piece of scenery.  I hadn't made it to Cossack Heritage Town so we picked it for our afternoon's viewing. Sometimes our sight seeing is a bit like watching a tennis match: old pub on the right, old court house left, cemetery over there, right let's go!
Then a focussed effort to get back to Karratha and the airport to pick up our flight home. Well, I missed a lot but I saw a lot too. She's a big country, but. 
I probably should have mentioned earlier that the reason I was there was to see if I could/would live there for a bit. Well, of course I could, although I wouldn't particularly want to at this stage in the game. It turns out I don't have to decide now, as the Talking Engineer has got himself gainfully employed in an exciting new job based in Perth instead. Yay! More about that another time xx.
Here's a few more pics, in no particular order:
Sturt's Mountain Pea
No, please - after you!
Road Runner's youngest customer - too cute
The only butcher in Karratha & Port Hedland (other than the supermarket)
Fossil thingy - Honeymoon Cove
Dampier railway line
Top security women's loo
Point Samson - always with the picturesque comes the signs of industry
Everywhere you look, red rocks
These trains are seemingly endless

Friday, July 1, 2011


Yes, it's that time of year again and we must do what we must do..
Forgive the pun, but seriously..  isn't this logo 
a little on the side of overkill?!
Local police are now targeting speed jumping. 
I didn't know kangaroos could read..
Winter in Karratha - 4 days after the shortest day 
and it's 27 degrees