Living in a Marsupial World
 
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Devin soaks in the scenery at Eighty Mile Beach
We drove south along the western coast in search of work, stopping briefly in towns and at various caravan parks along the way to see if anyone would hire us for a week or two. One particular caravan park was located far from any town but was positioned right along the beautiful Eighty Mile Beach. Looking at the pictures you can see why we said, “screw the east coast!” This beach was absolutely chock-full of incredible and intact shells including millions of sand dollars of all sizes. The ocean economy is doing quite well in this part of Australia.


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Still Eighty Mile Beach - no pictures of the mining towns...
We spent one night in Port Hedland, a town whose sole purpose is to support the large mining company that has set up there as a base. The town’s biggest tourist attraction, I kid you not, is the shimmering, white industrial salt pile next to the highway. In the visitor information center a promotional video for the mining corporation is playing 24/7 and we couldn’t help but feel we had wandered onto the set of James Cameron’s Avatar sequel. We did meet a very charming Aussie at the caravan park who offered to give us a weeks worth of work on his private building project, but it turned out he only wanted one of us and it wasn’t worth it to pay for expensive camping accommodation in this fairly bland mining town for only one of us to work. We carried on.


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Didgeriduo, ha. Camping on our route south.
The newspaper in Port Hedland did advertise for help wanted in the more southerly town of Karratha at their Woolworth’s grocery store. After speaking to a very enthusiastic HR woman, who basically promised us jobs, we drove to Karratha with a hope. Upon arrival we promptly dropped off our completed applications to the distracted woman at the customer service desk and spent the night far, far outside of town at the only free camping area available.

After a day or two of no word, feeling disheartened, we decided it would be best to throw a few more lines into the water. We applied to several other stores and hotels throughout town and even sucked up our pride (along with our bachelors degrees) and picked up a few applications at McDonalds. We never went through with submitting them though, and were quite relieved that we didn’t have to in the end. We finally walked into a tavern on the edge of town, one which I had read online had gotten in trouble for hiring underage workers and subjecting them to long hours past their bedtime – bingo. As soon as we walked in and introduced ourselves, the general manager asked if we would come in to work that evening and explained that any hours we put in over the weekend would be cash-in-hand at $25 per hour. He even said if we wanted, we could get 45-50 hours of work in one set of weekend shifts. Sweet.


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We ended up working at the tavern, housed in a circular building that looked eerily like the creepy evangelical churches in Colorado Springs, for one week. During that time we were known as “workabouts,” doing whatever needed doing each day. Ben worked fairly exclusively in their bottle shop, restocking their shelves and fridges and becoming quite familiar with popular Aussie beer, wine, and spirits. Devin worked quite a bit at the bar as a glassie, collecting and washing glasses from tables and behind the bar. I worked as a glassie as well, but also spent a day as a plate runner for the bistro, as a dishie for the kitchen, and a stock girl for the bottle shop. Given that we were eager and willing to work as many hours and earn as much as we could during our time there, the three of us were also given some larger projects which included re-carpeting the floor of their event room and digging up a garden area for a security system. 


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Camping, Didging, and Poi-ing at a rest area under the stars...
We met some great people while working there, residents and backpackers alike. Karratha being a fairly young, mining-central town (much like Port Hedland), is bound to attract some interesting residents. A few of our colleagues were named such names as Digger, Stretch, and Pidge. There was also a local regular who was fondly known as Tiny, and as you might guess, was quite the opposite of tiny. Devin had a blast as a glassie, walking around to tables and sparking up conversation with the local mining folk. I, on the other hand, preferred working behind the scenes after having some not-so-fun encounters with women-deprived miners at and around the bar. It is not polite to snap a woman’s suspenders, twice, while she is holding a basket of heavy and delicate beer glasses, especially in a country that does not believe in tips! Memo to myself: never wear suspenders in a mining town.

Aside from these little bits of “character,” and the management evicting us from the staff house one night and welcoming us back the next, we had a fairly positive experience at the tavern. We worked several 14-16 hour days (a reason why we have no pictures of Karratha) but it was worth it - mainly because of the kindly staff, but also because of the relief it gave to our wallets. 


Dad
11/5/2010

Great to hear from you guys. I was getting a little worried. I ran out of superlatives long ago. Glad you were able to balance out the amazing experiences with a bit of much needed money as well.

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