Sign at my aunts office, nuff said about the Aussies!
In the land down under, I am rather affectionately known as a Prisoner Of Mother England. POMs are well known for being sooky (wimps, aren’t you mightily impressed by the Aussie language I picked up?) We spend all our time watching Australian soap operas apparently and are shocked how the Aussies get away with having a brand name of cheese called ‘coon’. Can’t handle our drink or adventure apparently! I took a very high tech train journey about 600km inland from Perth to Kalgoorlie on a train called the Prospector. Very comfy, movies to watch, and spent most of the journey chatting to an elderly lady from Kalgoorlie about places we had both been, lovely lady.
So happy to meet new family, Tayden and Arlie
. So why was this Pom heading to Kalgoorlie in the middle of the desert of Western Australia? Well, other than hoping to meet a rich goldminer, my aunty Marie lives in the nearby town of Kambalda and I wanted to say G’day. Some of the joys of travelling for me are the surprises along the way, the things that you learn, the people that you meet. I am so glad that I had the opportunity to see this part of Australia, rarely visited by tourists. I had an unexpected adventure and, best of all, met some incredible new family.
My aunty had left England about 27 years ago to start a new life in Australia and now has Australian citizenship. I hadn’t seen my Aunt for a number of years and her son Al, my cousin, who also lives in Kambalda, I had not met since he left England when he was 2 years old!! I am so happy to see Marie waiting for me off the train.
Marie and Lyn with 1dic between them
She drives me back to Kambalda in her new car (number plate 1dic phnar) and immediately hands me a beer. Apparently, at 3pm in the afternoon it is way past beer o’clock!!!! Thats the bloody Aussies for you. I have my first taste of a Carlton fusion, local beer with a twist of lemon in a stubby holder of course SORTED!!! In Australia it is illegal to drink a beer that is warmer than 2 degrees Celsius, it must be COLD, and remain cold at all times. Stubby holders are essential here. In pubs, if you don’t bring your own stubby holder they give you a polystyrene one, not a good look but as long as the beer stays cold, it does not matter!! It is so wonderful to catch up with Marie and her partner Lyn, typical Aussie, think she enjoyed having someone there to laugh at!! In a good way of course, I love them both to pieces and really enjoyed staying with them in their lovely house, with sunny garden and 2 crazy dogs !
I didn’t really know much about where cousin Al was living in relation to my aunt and whether there would be an opportunity to meet so was really excited when they told me he lived just a couple of doors down and i could go and meet him and his family that evening! Beautiful family, Al, his wife Amy, and their children Tayden (nearly 4) and Arlie (nearly 1).
Towing out Lyn's car
What an absolute privilege to meet family like this. I am sure i would not have had the chance if i had not been travelling long term. I feel very lucky. Next day Marie and Lyn took me into Kalgoorlie to cheer them on playing in the semi-final of a hockey tournament. Cue some more carlton fusions, chilli philli and seeing their team win yay!!! No thanks to Lyn though, she did nothing! Hehehe, she didn’t like me saying that, but then again seeing as she was in defence it was meant as a compliment to the whole team! On the way back I had a new discovery in the form of DRIVE THROUGH LIQUOR STORES!!! Yes thats right, you drive up and get served your beer ‘one for the road’. The whole concept of this just seems wrong to me but hey they are found all over Australia!! I took a picture of Lyn being served a ‘roadie’ (Aus translation: one for the road) and the guy serving thought i was a bit crazy for finding this drive-through concept rather strange! Anyway, that evening was spent at the after party of some Aussie rules football award ceremony.
YIKES!!! You can see the terror on my face
There, I met some of their many friends, everyone in this town seems to know each other! Great group of people and I loved being introduced by Al as his cousin!
Next day was fathers day in Australia and we were invited for some bush action!!! Didn’t really know what i was letting myself in for, but in hindsight that was probably a good thing! We took a series of 4WD Utes (translation- Utility vehicles) out into the bush, the middle of nowhere. I was in a Ute with Amy and we were followed by Marie and Lyn, well we were until suddenly we seemed to have lost them! Lyn had gone and ‘bogged’ the car, stuck completely in some mud!! Oh how I laughed.. The sight of Lyn stood there barefoot in mud while her car was being towed out, a highlight of my stay! We finally arrived into a big clearing in the bush and out come the quad bikes WOOOOOAHHHH!!!! Tayden, 4 years old, was off driving round going over the humps, very impressive and looked like a lot of fun.
Al & Tayden
Wasn’t long before I realised just how much fun this was as Ricky, Amy’s father, took me on the back of his big beast-like quad bike and tried to scare the hell out of me at 100mph or something silly, doing wheelies the lot. My crash helmet nearly got blown off a couple of times OMG!! Well it was good fun, i think!!! Not something I do every day that is for sure! Once I had recovered a little, we had an aussie Barbie on the back of the ute in the middle of the bush! Can it get much more Australian? On the way back we stopped off at a viewpoint to have a look at the lake Lefroy salt plains. The scale of these plains is incredible, difficult to capture in a photo, and the view from the top of a hill really brought it home how in the middle of nowhere this place was.
Outside the mine
I thought the adventure could not get any bigger but the next day Al took me down the nickel mine where he works and my goodness this is something I will never forget as long as I live! How can I really put this into words? Well I will try my best. The reason for the towns of Kambalda and Kalgoorlie springing up in the middle of the Australian outback is due to what is found below the ground, real treasure in the form of gold and nickel. There are many established mines around this area and many people come here to work, some even commuting all the way from Perth on a fly in fly out, as this is where the big bucks can be earnt. I believe this is the reason for all the affluence that I saw in Fremantle, all the posh cars.
Clocking in for going underground
Imagine this though, working 1.5km below ground level in complete dark, 42 degrees celcius, on your own all day, lifting heavy equipment through the smallest tunnels, drilling for hours at a time, your whole body vibrating not in a pleasant way, explosives, unstable walls, sweat collecting in your boots, dust, dirt, danger and a 14km road under the ground to get out. This is what my cousin does every day, he is an airlegger, using a hand-held device to drill for nickel. We got suited up into some very fetching overalls, boots and a hard hat complete with a miners torch. A box containing an emergency supply of air was strapped around my waist in case the mine collapses, then off we went to ‘clock in’ by placing little metal ID tags on a board so people knew that we were underground.
Suited and booted ready to go deep underground
Al drove us down the long windy, steep, scary tunnel underground that seemed to go on forever. The tunnel is a single track so Al was constantly speaking on a walkie talkie to inform of our location, make sure we can get to a passing point were a truck or something to come the other way. I was shocked that there was not a central control organising this, Al was just speaking directly to other drivers so definitely needed your wits about you and to listen carefully to the location of others. It felt like we were exploring a different planet or something, the whole environment was completely alien to me. Each miner has their own area where they are currently working. Al’s area was almost to the bottom of the mine, very deep and hot. There was a big pile of shiny rock, obviously containing the treasure, amazing.
.. We climbed on top of a rock pile and Al handed me the rock drill, which i could barely lift up, man it was heavy. He then turned it on and it vibrated into the rock with a very loud rattling noise. It was horrible. Whole body vibrating, I could feel it everywhere and thought i might drop the drill at one point but I had a go! How does he do this for so many hours every day? Amazing.. We continued right to the deepest part of the mine where there was a guy taking a piss! Well it looked that way to us anyway! We then stopped off at another location to see a ‘jumbo’ in action, basically a big machine for drilling larger areas. The job of the jumbo operator looked a bit easier than that of an airlegger I must say! I was very relieved when we made it to the top, back in the real world.
I cannot express in words how much admiration I have for my cousin and this job that he does down the mines. I was both impressed and shocked, not to mention completely covered in grime!
I decided to go South for a couple of days to the coastal region of Esperence, as my aunty and Lyn had to work during the week anyway. Before I left I cooked a meal for them both of cashew chicken and found a sparkling aussie shiraz that I ADORE in their local liquor shop. This was quite funny as i went into the wine shop expecting them to know something about alcoholic beverages. ‘Do you have any sparkling reds from western Australia?’ ‘I have no idea about wines sorry’ was the helpful reply!! I then tried to find out where the bus to Esperance would leave from by phoning the bus info phone line ‘I have no idea sorry, but it looks on my map like.
The salt plains, difficult to see the contrast in a photo
...’ And the internet connection here... well where do i start here? Everything is on a limited download and very very slooooooooooow. This is supposed to be a developed country for goodness sake, Asia completely trumps Australia with technology I can tell you that. One Skype call to England cost an entire monthly quota!! Oh for goodness sake, what is it with these Aussies? Hehehehe had to get the dig in sorry ;-)