The Heavy Metal Ensemble

I always wanted a toy like tis

Possum Valley today was ringing to the tunes of large machines rather than the tranquil piping of the birds.  First to arrive was the 35 ton excavator which had to come across the neighbouring block to the south and despite having tracks rather than wheels, had some hairy moments of going sideways.  The driver had the boom lowered ready to dig in the bucket if required.  It announced it’s arrival with the throbbing of a heavy engine and the crackling of smashed vegetation sounding like gunfire as the trees splintered and snapped.  It finally emerged from the forest to a crowd of spectators up near Maple Cottage.  I didn’t realise there was such a thing as ‘machinery tourism’ before, but my guests including a mob of kids, were faithful followers throughout the day.  They did perhaps have another important interest, having been imprisoned for a couple of days, escape!  The excavator then smashed it’s way down a steep wooded slope to the dam at the only possible access point to land between the bogged truck and it’s trailer on a bit of nearly level ground.  Because the truck was dug in to collapse dam wall on one side and leaning and an angle threatening to tip into the dam, the hitch to the trailer was twisted and under considerable stress.  Which meant they could not be disconnected because the pin couldn’t be taken out.  A strap was rigged from the hitch point on the truck, over the body of the truck to the excavator boom so it would lift and drag sideways the bogged wheels.  With very careful inch by inch movements this was managed.  

I always wanted a toy like tis

I always wanted a toy like this

It dawned on me how skillful these guys were, and I realised that these skills took a long while to acquire.  Starting in a sandpit at age 2, like my grandkids now, and extending to the truck driver, in his sixties.  Another revelation was the amount of halts and discussions there were between the workers, most of whom hadn’t met before.  Communication, pooling of ideas, reaching agreement, and again signalling as the work went on.  And if plan A didn’t work, a different approach was quickly worked out.  Everybody was focused on problem solving.  If only our politicians could work in such harmony.  Thanks guys, I dips me lid.

The next addition to our heavy metal band was a D6 D dozer.  Once separated, the trailer was manipulated by the dozer to the open area near Blackbean cottage.  This gave the imprisoned guests a window of opportunity for their dash to freedom.  Well done Chantall in the only 2WD on the dozer compromised hill.  There were were 3 4WDs after her, but I didn’t expect any problems with them and there were none.  The guests spotted me on the way out and offered money for their stay which I declined as I hadn’t exactly delivered the peaceful quiet stay that I advertise.  They thrust money into my hands anyway and said they would be back.  Dear forgiving guests, thank you.

some members of the heavy metal band

some members of the heavy metal band

The next addition to our heavy metal band is another dozer.  The D6 couldn’t find enough traction to tow out the trailer, so another dozer was summoned to pull in tandem.  Just an hour ago I heard them throbbing away into the distance.  Once more Possum Valley is returned to it’s tranquility.  

All gone now and silence returns.  I actually enjoyed the experience and excitement.  There are some consequences and damages to repair.  My guests responded the same way.  Deal with it.  I think there is a great capacity in Aussie culture to do just that.  In a land of drought and flooding rains.  A struggling Top End lady farmer, who won Aussie of the year, said “Don’t wait for the light at the end of the tunnel, stride down there and light the bloody thing”.  Wise words in the Aussie shorthand.

Possum Valley now open for business again.  

Living in the Wilds

Vehicle not recommended for Possum Valley

I was raised in a city, but I love living in the wilds in an isolated place.  Yesterday somebody gave new meaning to ‘isolated’.  I had an unexpected visitor who had got lost.  Happened before and will happen again.  Unfortunately, he was driving an unsuitable vehicle.  On my website I have a discussion about vehicles unsuitable for the track into Possum Valley under ‘location’, but I had neglected to give an assessment for the vehicle he was driving.  It was a huge Mack truck with an equally huge trailer, both fully loaded with gravel.  Total weight 50 tons or so.  Total length maybe 30m.  I heard this behemoth grinding and screeching it’s way down the hill, and thought ‘WTF? this doesn’t sound good’.  The screeching was from the brakes heavily applied at very slow speed.  Or perhaps it was from Rodney the driver, who was freaking out by this time.  I ran over to the road and he was stopped 20m from the creek with white knuckles fiercely gripping the steering wheel.  To add to his terror, I clambered up the passenger side of the truck, popped my head through the open window and said ‘gidday’, surprising him greatly as he thought he was totally lost in trackless rainforest.  I suggested he get out and walk ahead a bit.  We did and walked into the clearing around Blackbean Cottage.  He thought he would be able to get round the 2 tight corners, pull off the track a bit and tip about 15 tons of gravel out of the trailer, somehow do a u-turn on the grass then negotiate the hill again with the gravel still in the prime mover providing traction to get up the hill.  I knew even then he said this with more optimism than conviction.  But there didn’t seem to be any other options.  Absolutely no way to back up the hill.

Vehicle not recommended for Possum Valley

Vehicle not recommended for Possum Valley

To my surprise he got the trailer (the truckies call it a dog), around the first corner, but trying to get round the second, the dam wall collapsed under the weight of the prime mover dropping the right side driving wheels almost into the dam and bottoming out the truck and the hitch to the dog.  The truck is leaning at an alarming angle and threatening to tip over into the dam.  That is the situation as I write.  

A day has passed and plans considered and discarded.  The local heavy equipment contractors (Kidners) have been called and come down to assess the plans for ‘equipment recovery’.  My guests now trapped here have been making their own plans for abandoning their vehicles and goods so they can call friends and relations to get them back to civilisation and how they can manage until their cars can be liberated.  

drive wheels buried, fuel tank grounded

drive wheels buried, fuel tank grounded

Dear guests, if you should ever read this, my sincere thanks about how calmly you received the news you were trapped, and how practically you adjusted and planned your escape, is a tribute to Aussie resilience.  It was a moment from the Eagles “Welcome to the Hotel California” where you can “check out, but you can never leave”.  Though greatly inconvenienced, you saw there were no villains in the piece and acted immediately to calm the shaken truck driver’s nerves.  I brewed him a cup of tea, my dear guests offered him some chocolate birthday cake.  He had bravely volunteered to come along with me to brief the guests of the situation in case anyone wanted to punch my lights out, so he could be there as scapegoat.  Not required.  You all came through as champions of forgiving and coping.  This was a practical demonstration of the universal rule “deal with the emotions first, then together plan the solution”.   

truck falling into dam

truck falling into dam

Now the solution isn’t all that easy.  Any attempt to tow out the truck will likely result in tipping it further right into the dam.  A very savvy guy from Kidners, the local heavy earthmoving contracting company, has come to look and determined that they have to get a 35 ton excavator between the truck and trailer and lift/tow the mid point sideways away from the collapsed dam.  There is a patch of flat ground slightly larger than a jacuzzi from which they might be able to do this.  Of course they will have to clear it first.  Then disconnect truck and dog, then tow and back the dog into the jacuzzi space, drive the truck back around and re-hitch.  Oh, I have just thought of something.  At this point it may be advisable to dump the trailer load of 13 tons.  Once connected to truck, it will have the hydraulics to do so.  Then the dozer tow up the hill has 13 tons less to battle.  They will likely destroy the track on the way out.  

Just learned from BOM that the weather window is closing and rain expected Sunday.  For the first time ever I have informed future guests that their bookings were cancelled due to circumstances beyond my control.  Services will be resumed as soon as possible.  I just don’t know when that might be.  

Getting the vehicle recovery machines into Possum Valley is already a challenge.  Required 1 dozer and 1 excavator of 35 tons.  Can’t get along the track because of the bogged truck, and great difficulty getting round because of the creek on one side and a dam on the other.  Best bet for getting the machines on site is through the neighbouring farm to the south and a couple of kms through his paddocks.  But my neighbour says that the recent rain has made 2 creeks impassable, possibly negotiable by Saturday.  This would be reopening the route I used for the first 10 years at Possum Valley with 7 gates to open and close.   But the width of the bucket on the excavator is 3.5m and might not fit through some of the gates.  It would have to clear some regrowth of 20 years and widen some abandoned tracks, but it could do that in third gear on the way in.  

I will post another report when Possum Valley is again connected to civilisation.  If the rains come back before a resolution, it may be some time. 

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