The World of Ozzie Mining

5th June, 2021 … but after the drama of Peace Gorge, there’s not much in Meekatharra. The only people on the streets seem to be other grey nomads and the windows on every shop front are barred. Ted tries to purchase a couple of bottles of red to keep us going, but “one bottle per person, sorry Sir, no exceptions“, so I have to be brought in to be the second purchaser. Let’s keep going north.

The main street of Meekatharra

Soon we’re again mesmerised by the landscape, low mulga and saltbush, peppered with other nameless bright green bushes, set against the red, purple, black and yellow land. It changes constantly – one minute we’re in shining white gibber plains, then in clay pans, but they can’t be clay, because they’re red and black. Ranges rear distantly on the right – Ted’s reading the map. “Glengarry Ranges,” he calls. Now there’s Robinson Ranges in the north west, now we’re surrounded by acres of bright yellow knee-high grass. A wedge-tail eagle takes off in front of us with something like a snake dangling. After a while we pass a sign: “Latitude 26 – Welcome to the Northwest.” Ted the photographer is snapping constantly, but the beauty of the vista around us is hard to capture.

The country changes again – dark red ant nests rise, sometimes on the verge of the highway, and everywhere our beloved mulga trees and saltbush. More black desert, and, wonder of wonders now there are blue mountains ahead – there must be eucalyptus trees on that range, something we haven’t seen since, well, South Australia, I think.

The road is now infested with road trains, some heralded by three or four escort vehicles, and they take up most of the road. Cowed, we veer onto the verge and stop, signalling our submissiveness, to allow them to pass.

Yaieeeee, two at once! Both at the speed limit! Time to get off the road entirely…

We stop at the Kumarina Roadhouse, advertising food, parking space, showers and laundry. What a culture shock – we’re among the miners now and the fifo staff of the roadhouse – hardly another traveller. There are dozens of demountables housing the miners, they’re fed en masse in a brightly lit cafeteria. Doing the laundry is an interesting experience.

Long walk back to reception: “I’m sorry, I put the tokens in, but the washing machine won’t start.’

“O really, Jarred might know.”

Jarred: “Oh yes, it works, you just have to bang it with your hand.”

Long walk back to reception: “Hello again, I am sorry to keep worrying you. I’ve been banging it until my hand is sore. Is there an electrician or plumber on hand perhaps?”

Jarred: “I’m the nearest thing to an electrician or a plumber you’ll see around here. I’ll come and have a look.”

Jarred’s hand becomes sore too. “Mmmm, I think maybe I know someone…” The drama goes on all afternoon, with multiple washing machines in different buildings, finally the staff laundry. The upside is I get to know the ‘fifo’ staff – Sophia is from Vietnam, Jarred from Sydney, Lars is from Germany, his girlfriend Antonia is from Peru, Ricard is from Chile, Sammy from Sydney. They’ve all been flown in to this isolated roadhouse, seeking to save money. “Maybe if I stay six months I can get a deposit for a house,” says Sammy hopefully. Her purple streaked hair looks distinctly Sydney. ‘But mmm, I don’t know, six months here?” She leaves the rest unsaid.

They’re a great, if odd collection of young people with good senses of humour, and we leave inspired with their enthusiasm for life and living.

Truck drivers take a break – and always happy to lend advice on the road ahead
Sammy, one of the ‘fifos’, offers to take our photo…

But oops, Ted has ricked his back, so we’re searching for a chiropractor in Newman, our next stop…

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