News Archives - May 1st 2011 to July 6th 2011

July 6th 2011 - Life There After

Well folks, sorry this posting is a few days overdue but when you read our story you will understand why. We left Mt Hart on 2ND June at 4:30pm in the hands of DEC’s new manager and their team of staff and rangers, with the intention of heading straight to our new bush block via Derby, but life had other plans for us.

48km down Mt Hart’s access Road, in the middle of Mt Hart’s rugged rangelands, 200km from the nearest town, the fuel pump on the governor broke inside our Kenworth truck which was carrying the last load out - a sea container jam packed from floor to ceiling with all the workshop gear.

Those of you who have lived out in the remote wild places of the Kimberley and experienced the strong connection it is possible to have with this incredible land will especially understand when I say that once again it felt like this Mt Hart country – our home land - was telling us that it really did not want us to leave.

We had to wait over a week for replacement parts to be calibrated and freighted from Perth, which we organized via satellite phone. But as it turned out we could not have broken down in a better place – on burnt out country with a beautiful river behind us with cascades, heaps of fire wood and rangelands all around us to explore, and secret hidden places we know nearby to revisit in the morning sun.

As frustrating as it was to have broken down, and be living on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere, this unforeseen event also gave us the chance to meet some of our wonderful supporters who were coming into see us at Mt Hart this tourist season, and to catch up with quite a few of the locals. We set up a humpy and spent 9 days along Mt Hart’s access road. We had the chance to say farewell to this incredible country we love with every inch of our hearts, minds and souls.


June 2nd 2011

Yes! Yes! Yes! As sad as it is, the time has finally arrived our wonderful supporters and followers. Taffy and I are heading off to our new life this morning. Already the most incredible emotions are coursing through our every sense with neurons smashing into each other. As much as we now look forward to our brave new world ahead, no words can describe this equally and terribly sad feeling that grows as the moment nears ever so quickly.

There are so many farewells and last hurrahs to see and make, including here with all of you on this site...well just for a week or two for you guys, as we make our way towards our new home via Derby. Most certainly there is a direction, that’s a new bush block to head to and as we travel the miles through the Kimberley and WA north west, we are going to cross paths and catch up with many Kimberly locals and past north western friends. Our new home is just that, a virgin block which has no power, no phone and no internet. These small impediments to our new civilisation means we are going to be out of range and of course, won’t have internet or telephone access.

Both Taffy and I need this break, need some time to ourselves. Almost a re-acquaintance with each without the pressures of the last months. A re-birthing, a rekindling of all that now matters. Grapevine might be just a little slow with updated postings for about 3 weeks, but we know you will all wish us well and understand this break whilst we take this trip. Inspiration for lots more stories to run on the site will surely be engendered.

With a new life to be built literally block by block as we live out of sea shipping-containers, we at least know every ounce of effort expended will belong to us - forever. So adieu our glorious and faithful people across this State, this Nation and indeed, so many parts of the wider world, as soon as we have freshened, settled and get connection, Grapevine will flow even bigger, better and with new perspective.

From both our hearts, Taffy and I say thankyou, thank you, thankyou!

Until our all too short travel sojourn is over, here’s another Kimberley local whom deserves a place within and alongside, those so many others who line the halls of Kimberley fame…

Please Click Here to Read Ranger Henry's Story

June 1st 2011

Taffy's last night at Mt Hart - pictured with old mates from Alice Springs who have been following our story and dropped in out of the blue to say 'Hi'

May 31st 2011

Many of you have already met Barry, in a story we ran recently, as the mate we called upon to help Taffy repair the leviathan Grader and behemoth loader when our mechanical chips were down.

Well now, Barry deserves his own paged story for out here in the Kimberley district this is a man who has been behind the wheel of heavy trucks his whole life.

A driving career which has seen him travel bone jarring remote outback bush tracks all over the Kimberley whilst working for mining companies such as Kimberley Diamonds and Blina.

Click Here to Read More!

May 29th 2011

Mark Giblett - West Kimberley District Operations Officer - "Well Wishes for the future"

Taffy, Kim and West Kimberley District office Ranger and overseer Henry C - "Working together"

Taffy with West Kimberley District Ranger Henry C - "Sunrise Over the Ranges"

May 23rd 2011

Finally Finally, Finally: After months of negotiations, we have been presented with a deed of settlement from the Department of Environment and Conservation of Western Australia (DEC) care of Jim Sharp (Deputy Director General), that we are prepared to sign.

It is and was all of you supporters out there throughout cyberspace who have helped make this possible...Helped keep us believing in ourselves when so much was devouring our self-respect. To the oh so many of you who have played a vital role in helping us stay sane, and helping us get to this point...We send you a huge Thank You from the bottom of our hearts!!!!

Thanks to Honourable Jon Ford who has helped us out more than we can possibly describe from a political perspective. Also Honourable Sally Talbot, Honourable Wendy Duncan, Honourable Ken Bastion, Premier Colin Barnett, Honourable Tom Stephens, Honourable Kim Hames and his Chief of Staff Ian WightPickin. How very thankful we are to have had you all help push this issue from a political perspective in more ways than one and each in your own respective ways.

The Lawyers who have helped us out along the way pro-bono (for the public good) for free, also deserve immense recognition for all the time, energy and commitment they have made and invested into our cause - to Shannon and Bailey in Sydney we send our deepest and sincerest thanks, as we do to Paul in Perth.

As many of you already know, the media have played a very important, vital and integral role in all of this - SOS-NEWS, ABC Kimberley, and the Countryman in particular have stayed with us throughout this entire campaign and have been in regular contact with us, offering advice, support and encouragement... The whole time suffering our desire to speak, as we kept the negotiations within a professional barrier of silence. We know this must have been most frustrating for you and we thank you for your patience and understanding.

And last, but not least, comes SOS-NEWS’ journalist and investigator Brumbyy (with 2y's). Without the expertise, advice, consultation, support, and encouragement Brumbyy has provided us, we'd be way up a dead end creek totally lost and destitute without a paddle.

Now, once this deed is signed we are entering into an agreement where certain obligations need to be completed by us which we will honour. In the meantime, here's some pics of what we have been up to this past week with a little help from the locals...

May 23rd 2011

May 20th 2011

May 19th 2011

May 18th 2011

May 16th 2011

Well – just like the coke bottle falling from the sky in the movie “The Gods Must Be Crazy” …after three and a half weeks of staring into space waiting, we finally got smacked on the head with the next version of the deed on Friday.

And yes of course we have been trying to go over it this weekend with a discerning eye to see what changes, what acceptance, what fairness has now been offered.

Alas, the problem is, we have been so very busy. You see Mt Hart has no 9-5, 200-330K job description and the tourist season is racing towards us. The huge delays and uncertainties Taffy and I have had to suffer have in ways caused chaos for our lives and so finding the time to digest this latest version of the endless deed is far from easy.

We seriously hope the deed they have sent us on Friday is correct, thorough, fair, accurate and most of all just.

So for Taffy and I at this stage of the game after waiting 3 and ½ weeks for this - their latest version of the deed; with all the effort we are expending to get everything in order for DEC’s 'new manager', the tourist season fast approaching and DEC’s intention to buy the business and run the facility this year, there is no spare time for anymore messing us around. Our tolerance for this matter, after all we have been subjected to, has officially run out.

As the pressure grows with the end in sight, that work load almost seems insurmountable as it does at this time of each year’s new season and unexpected chaos in this Country out here, is ever near. Like, what have we been up to this weekend? Fixing the grader of course. Oh No! What happened to the grader you ask?

Well, whilst in the process of grading Mt Hart’s 50km access road, the front axle of the grader literally fell off 45km away from the homesteads - 4 hours away from the nearest town, in the middle of the Kimberley Rangelands…A really forlorn look for this Giant of the Mt Hart roadways.

This rocky terrain is extremely hard on machines, and with the careful maintenance Taffy keeps up on the old grader, she just keeps on going and going and going, every year. Yet even against Taffy’s keen eye, with all the wear and tear, occasionally…a stress point or wear spot gets by and when you least need it, or expect it…the worst happens. But “every cloud has a silver lining” so they say, and the great thing about this happening is, it makes a bloody great story for grapevine. It allows me to deliver to your very home the truth and depth of just what living in the wilderness’s beauty and isolation is like.

Yes...this story is the very epitome of what living in that Kimberly Wilderness, 100’s of kilometres from nowhere and everywhere, out here at Mt Hart is really all about.

Survival…through sheer bush skill, ingenuity and mental tenacity.

Now, although this was the last thing we needed to have happen, especially after all we have already suffered and endured of late, it was an absolute privilege for me to be out there helping Taffy fix this yesterday. Why? Because we have had incidences like this happen before, but normally the workshop is close at hand. Being 45kms away yesterday down the Mt Hart’s access track in the middle of nowhere, getting to see Taffy co-ordinate the repair of this machine was incredible. In many ways this was the ultimate example of a bushman at work and how Taffy has for 20 years been able to succeed at Mt Hart where most could not have. ~Kim~

Please Click Here to Read The Rest Of This Story

May 13th 2011

These past few weeks after months of negotiations, we thought we were in the final stages of getting a deed of settlement drawn up with The Department Of Environment and Conservation of Western Australia (DEC).

As mentioned in previous Grapevine postings, the terms of the deed were unconscionable; unjust; and unfair. We politely - in the spirit of fair negotiation - requested DEC to further amend the Deed’s terms in a letter we forwarded dated 21st April so as to ensure the deed was legal and would hold up fairly in a court of law under both the Trade Practices Act and the Independent Contractors Act.

Jim Sharp (pictured above) the Deputy Director General of DEC is still handling my case. On Thursday of last week he advised me by telephone "DEC have met most of the amendments you requested" and the newest version of the deed is now waiting for The Director General of DEC - Keiran McNamara's approval (pictured below).

On Thursday last week Jim Sharp said he would get the deed to me "In the next day or two".

On Monday this week, when still I had not received the deed as promised, Jim Informed me he was, "having a meeting with Keiran" and would "get him to approve it whilst in this meeting".

Jim said he would get the deed to me that day, “or Tuesday at the latest".

It is now Friday and still no deed, and Jim Sharp once again for perplexing reasons declines to return my phone calls, or call me to offer an explanation as to why the Deed is again stalled in their processes.

Now DEC West Kimberley District office have stated they have a new manager lined up to run Mt Hart this season, and that they have staff lined up ready to come out here. According to the bush telegraph, DEC have even opened a PO Box in Derby for Mt Hart. District office have informed me they are, "all ready to move in and run Mt Hart this 2011 tourist season". A season which is racing down upon us faster than a cyclone and officially starts in a few days on May 30th. They have told me I should "proceed as planned" re; start moving my gear out of here. Yet equally West Kimberley District office have also informed me it is "out of our hands" and that it is "now between Jim Sharp and Keiran Mcnamara of head office".

I am not moving anything out of here until I have something concrete in writing from DEC.

So why when we were supposedly so close to the end game, are they now intentionally frustrating business dealings that we are trying to conduct in good faith, in an effort to get fair and Just settlement for 20 years of servitude?

May 11th 2011

So what’s happening up the northern end of the Gibb River Road so many of you are asking?

According to the bush telegraph, the Barnett River and Drysdale River are passable, but the Durack River is still 1.4 meters high (that’s up to the windows of the 4WD) and there are a few big washouts that still need filling in. The Road is still officially closed from Mt Barnett through to the Pentecost River. From the Pentecost River to Wyndham turnoff the road is open to all vehicles.

As for the southern end of the Gibb River Road it is open from Derby to Lennard River, but still closed from Lennard River to Mt Barnett, but hopefully soon will be open all going well.

As for Mt Hart’s 50 kilometres of access Road; the front end loader is still temporarily out of action, having a holiday in the workshop, whilst we are waiting for the parts to repair her. This meant that yesterday we had to get hands on and manually fill a bog with rocks 45km out from the homesteads...That’s, just short of the turn off.

Anyone of you out there that have done any paddock stone-picking or the like in their time will well know how quickly the fingerprints are worn away by abrasive rock handling and as you can see here where the Grader went down (luckily Taffy managed to back her out in time) filling a hole like this is laborious and back aching work…

There was also another bog just across from this one close to the centre of the road. This also was too wet and deep for the grader to pass by, through, or over. So we spent a few hours reshaping our fingertip surfaces, manually filling in those bogs as necessary with rocks…

Now you might think that within country which is essentially the equivalent to a Martian surface in texture, the finding of suitable stones would be cinch. It is, but with the great wet having grown grasses into a jungle up to the edge of the road, it necessitated someone becoming a rock bounty hunter...and Kim drew the short straw for that task...

As we have said before, one never realises the worth of something good until it is no longer. This was most obvious in this road repair where without the leviathan loader being available to compact the rocks, we had to improvise with the grader tyres instead, making sure there was no chance of getting her stuck…Or perhaps the grader is a male because it is really stubborn at times. Once we had enough rock to give the bog some solidifying substance, we covered the lot with quite a few scrapes of dirt…

And finally the good old grader, was once again thundering along ever closer to the Gibb River Road turn off…

So many years...So Much effort...

"Back on the Grader Again" Sarah Storer - May 5th 2011

Travellers all over this great nation of ours see the wet season passing as a time to service the 4 wheel drive, hitch up the caravan, or camping trailer – dust off the swags and head into this magnificent world we call north west Australia.

After some 2 meters plus (that’s 2000mm) of rain since October alone, this Mt Hart and wider Kimberley is starting to dry out. The mould on the walls is washing off, and staying off, and the dust is starting to swirl in behind a vehicles movement. Still, the bog holes and slushy segments of both the Gibb River Road and the Mt Hart Access Road after all that water, continue to make passing way more than a chore and much more like a challenge.

With the window of opportunity opening weather wise, Taffy now arises early in the pre dawn to get out there on his grader, working furiously on the kilometres of monsoon damaged road just as he has done for so many years past. West Kimberley Shire and Main Roads work from another direction as their grader drivers and work crews continue to tackle the southern section of the Gibb River Road.

Dougy Pigram, the legendary Kimberley grader driver, is fortunately back grading The West Kimberley end of the Gibb River Road this year. Through his expertise, attention to detail and efficiency, the section of the Gibb River Road that stretches as far as Mount Barnett from Derby, should hopefully be opened up officially by Main Roads within the next fortnight.

With Dougy’s innate skill with a thundering grader, all you travellers should be in for a much smoother ride this year along West Kimberley's section of the Gibb River Road. Dougy has a new grader, and this beauty of a road levelling leviathan, has a 14 foot blade. Even so, there have been some serious washouts and bog holes from the extra wet wet sesion, for Dougy to fill in this year.

And many of these require extra road crew to fill in and repair in order to get Dougy and that new Grader past where he can deal - making The Gibb River Road safe and ready for tourists and tour coaches to travel this 2011 tourist season…

This season’s big wet delivered a high damage bill to our access road, but we are getting there slowly and surely…Abnormally intense persistent rains this year caused some serious road damage close to the Station complex. This has set us back over the past couple of days as we have been trying to fill in a very bad bog hole on the 2nd creek (about 300 meters away from the actual homesteads).

This year, because of those intense rains, the first and second creek rose in a couple of mammoth flash floods whereby two creeks joined each other and over 1 kilometre of road and country went under water. As a result the banks of the 2nd creek were washed away and replaced with a sandy soft silt which seems almost bottomless.

In an effort to recover some hard surface, so that we could get the grader across, we have been filling this very bad bog in with rocks from an old gravel scrape nearby. Unfortunately whilst attempting to tackle this job, the front end loader blew some “o” rings on the precombustion chambers getting water in the oil, and oil in the water. This in turn caused us to have to get the tractor out which is normally reserved for slashing, to replace the huge loader in order to fill in the bog.

It took 65 tractor bucket loads of rock for this one bog, with this taking over two days to complete...

The same kind of thing happens every year along Mt Hart’s access track – the only thing that changes from year to year is the location of the bog and the intensities of the wet. Fortunately this particular mire was close by the homestead so we did not have to walk the tractor too far. Some years, we have had to walk the big front end loader and bulldozer as far as 40km just to get to the work site.

Now I know we have a small contract to grade the Mt Hart access road each year with West Kimberley Shire, but the bull dozer, tractor and front end loader work is and was never, a part of this agreement and is just another, and we might say huge, effort we give to the upkeep of Mt Hart Station well over and above the call of duty and stipend each and every year.

"On the road again" Willie Nelson - May 1st 2011

So many of you have been phoning up as well as emailing us lately asking us what the road conditions are like. So much so that the next couple of stories we run on “Grapevine” will mainly focus on this and the answers you all seek. As you all know from the previous stories it has been a huge wet season this year and unfortunately for us all, the roads are going to open up later than normal.

Mains Roads send crews along the Gibb River Road to remove any trees and branches which have fallen over, or rocks that have been washed out onto the road by flooded rivers. These road crews also mark out all the other hazard areas and are kept busy filling in all the major washouts and holes that are too large for the grader to tackle.

The grader has commenced work on the Southern End of the Gibb River Road. The Gibb River Road is still officially closed.

Each year, just after the wet has passed and the ground has dried and hardened I have 50 kilometres of Mt Hart entrance road to rebuild. We do not have a road crew for Mt Hart’s 50 km access road so removing fallen trees, branches and rocks is left to the two of us.

So prior to grading this road, every year we drive the 100km return trip digging drains and trenches. We are in the process of digging these drains or trenches now along the Mt Hart access road. These drains help facilitate the water runoff that would normally just sit on the road waiting days for evaporation to work. The quicker the road dries out, the quicker we can get the grader on the road, and the sooner we can open the road.

There is far more behind maintaining Mt Hart’s 50km access road than just being contracted to grade it 3 times a year...

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