Thursday, November 25, 2010

pilbara encore

Once again, the Pilbara can produce some peculiar beauty.  Amidst the hottest temperatures and harshest environs it's such a wonderful surprise to see what can emerge. Even stranger is the way mine workers have little appreciation of this place, but some mine sites have walk trails and enviro officers who are prepared to take people on tours in the tiny windows of time they have off.

              Big Col and Troy at Fortescue falls - in the Karajini National Park

                        One bit of our advertising at Port Hedland pub - The Last Chance Tavern. Boy was that a shot hole, but the audience wer fun, albeit tattooed and loud.

                   Setting up at the Atlas mine north of Port Hedland.

                 MC and tour organiser Chris Dooley. He's swatting flies, not his own head. It's bizarre, and kind of funny, what peculiar insects can fly right by your face as you perform in these places. This particular gig - at Atlas iron ore mine - was a beauty, even though there weren't many people there. The small crew at this mine are very close. We had a great sing-a-long afterwards. One bloke was an amazing song improviser, with a song called "I don't play volleyball" and there were a few Maori guys with beautiful voices.

                              Big Col does his stuff. Pretty amazing to perform in environments like this.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Pilbara

Welcome to the Pilbara: a vast expanse of 'outback' West Australia. While the following photos are your typical non-descript landscapes taken from a car, there's something magical about this place. It's vast and mysterious, and when you get out of the car and take a stroll through the bush, some peculiar beauty starts to pop out at you: plants you've never even imagined; insects that look like something out of a Starwars movie (and almost as big!); ravines and gorges that take you into a sub-tropical wonderland amidst the extreme dry of the bush. This really is the jewel of WA, mainly because it's not spectacular immediately like the Kimberleys or the South West with its surf and wineries. No, the Pilbara is a paradise that takes work; you have to drive and walk and look into it with an understanding of the sheer age and vastness of this wilderness.

Tomorrow we'll be going to the gorges, and I'll post photos of waterfalls and plants, and four comedians wandering through this ancient land.

 Hope Downs mine. All mine sites in the North West have these cyclone warning boards.

This tennis court at Hope Downs is one small example of the luxury the mining  and catering companies are implementing to keep mine workers sane and healthy. Gyms, indoor cricket, cinemas, internet in every room, free phones, swimming pools, and visiting comedians are but a few of the day to day comforts shared by WA mine workers.

                          MC Chris Dooley getting the crowd revved up at Hope Downs mine in the Pilbara.

                                     Me as Big Don Smith at Hope Downs. This was taken from the non-smoking  section, which meant a whole 100 or so people were watching from the side and kind of fenced off. Stupid laws! Even non-smokers like me think these laws are ridiculous.

                                              Troy Kinne in the middle of his act. It was a great night, followed by Big Col,
                                               but alas - no photo of Col in action.

Monday, November 15, 2010

coral bay

Coral bay is a coastal paradise about 1400 k North of Perth. It's famous for fishing, divng, coral, cool-looking European back-packers and a few drunken Aussies (us). The beach here is the main beach in town where people snorkle supposedly in safety. The locals tell you it's safe. But just around the bay is a shark sanctuary! It's interesting to see how fascinated people are by beaches and bits of coral. Sure the odd colourful fish is a buzz, but personally I can't figure out why these things might be interesting. The fishing is good (although it took me three days and much bait to catch a snapper) and there's glass bottom boat tours. But really, it's just a bloody beach. Australia has millions of them! I don't see the point.

                                           Big Col and Dooley back at the camp. Col is playing with a pair of plyers. I'm not entirely sure what he intends to do with them, but I'm not brave enough to ask.

                              Troy at the camp. No one seems to be interested or even vaguely enthusiastic about anything, not because we're having a bad time. It's just really hot! These camping places are always much more pleasant in the morning and evening.

The swimming pool at the camping ground has this folly of a waterfall. I'm amazed that someone put time into this under the illusion that they might have been imroving the aesthetic of the pool area. This will be sent to the Worst Of Perth website where there many wonderful examples of hideous art, culture and behaviour can be seen - all of them emanating from some spot in West Australia. I love the sign. The whole thing is about four foot tall.

Friday, November 12, 2010

trashed tarago comedy tour

Well, here we are in front of the tarago. Ready for the big tour to mines in WA. That's me on the left (Big Don), Troy Kinne, Chris Dooley (the organiser and MC, looking despondent because he's not drunk yet) and Big Col...aka Colin Cole. We've just arrived at out first gig: Murrin Murrin nickel mine 60 k East of Leonora. At this mine we had to carry a resuscitator and poison gas detector. If the detector goes off you have 20 seconds to rip open the resuscitator and run to an up-wind position. As Troy said, bit of a bummer if you're on stage and suddenly the audience all dive for their gas masks! The night show was a ripper - about 150 people all hollering and laughing. The morning show (at 7am!!!) wasn't so well attended. Imagine doing a 12 hour night shift, coming back to base to have a meal, drinking a few beers and then staying to watch a comedy show. Audience were geat, just a few in numbers.

 Here's big Col in Leonora. Spends most of his life in London, working as a ship tour entertainer, gambling, doing shows in the UK and selling contraband ciggarettes (bought on the ship cruises) to pommy smokers. None of us have really managed to upset him yet, and I sincerely hope that if and when that does happen, it's not me. This guy loves to bet on horses, which we'll be doing tomorrow, in between driving all the way to Exmouth.

                                  Kalgoorlie businessman whith a sence of humour.

This is Mount Newman, also simply known as Newman. It's a big town in the middle of the Pilbara (North Eastern area of WA). All around this town are mines: Gold mines, iron ore mines, mineral sands etc. People usually work at these mines as FIFOs. This means Fly In Fly Out, which is what they do, most often on a roster of two weeks on, one week off (but this varies). When the are "on" they're working 12 hour shifts, and there's not really a lot to do. Consequently the mining companies have built villages that contain pools, gyms, cinemas, internet, indoor cricket, beach volley ball courts, (free phone on some sites) and excellent food. The accomodation consists of many rows of air-conditioned metal and plastc sheds called "dongas". As Chris says, "They're called dongas coz all you can fit into them is your dick". In the old days - 1960s to 80s - mine sites were really rough, all male, everyone was pissed and stoned, and fights broke out every day. Nowadays it's very different. There's quite a few women, no drugs, each miner has to blow "zero" on the alcohol tester every morning, and anyone who fights faces instant dismisal. They also employ "enviros" or environment officers - generally science grads whose job is to cut down on rubbsih and waste in the village.

                               This is a little fella called Paddy Hanan, supposedly the first person to find gold in Kalgoorlie, the boom town settled in the 1870s in WA.  Kalgoorlie may well become world famous soon, as they're about to make a film about the 600k water pipeline that was built (between the caost and Kalgoorlie) in the late nineteenth century by another Irishman called C Y O'Connor. Many people considered the pipeline as a crazy folly that would never work. Days after it was opened - and no water seemed to be flowing - O'Conner succumed to the barage of criticism and rode a horse into the sea south of Perth and shot himself. The next day the water flowed and he became a celebrated man.

                             A sculpture outside the depratment of housing in Mount Newman. I imagine it's supposed to represent the nuclear family, the big fallic thing being the Dad.

                    This should give an idea of just how big the trucks are in the North of WA. This one has three carriages but some have four. It takes a bit of practice to pass these things on the open road. If you ever have to, remember that they have a signal system: if they flick on their right indicator briefly, it's clear to go round. You can trust them as they have far better vision of the road ahead (due to their height). A word of warning though. Stay back before passing - at least one car length per 10 k per hour. If you tailgate them, a) they can't see you, and b) you can't see what might be coming the other way.