A Tom Price local’s love letter to the Pilbara
“Three hundred and sixty-five days and not a minute longer.”
My three-month pregnant, new wife hissed at me the first time she stepped out of the Qantas flight that took us 90 minutes from Perth to a small mining town in the Pilbara.
It was late December and only early summer but the scorching heat of the desert blazed down at 45C on the iron-rich, red, dusty earth.
It was locust season and swarms of them jumped around in their lobster-sized bodies.
The march flies too were thick, vicious and predatory.
The eighty kilometre drive from the airport to our new home was both scenic and dramatic.
A recent bushfire had razed the vegetation into cinder, leaving big patches of burnt spinifex and bush, as if a red-carpet welcome to our arrival.
I moved to Australia in 2006 as a mining engineer for the Anglo-Australian Rio Tinto group, having spent six years in the US working on a coal mine.
The post in the USA was my first post graduation at the Werkgymnasium in Heidenheim and a subsequent mining study at the RWTH Aachen.
Rio Tinto is one of the largest mining companies in the world and responsible for Western Australia's iron ore mining industry.
Rio Tinto and its competitors mine hundreds of millions of tons of ore each year, to fuel the demand for world-wide steel.
My wife Bambi and two children, Kassy and Karl, who were born while we lived here, have called Tom Price home for seven years now.
The Outback is a wild, harsh and rugged place to live in.
The isolation, the soaring temperatures, the wildlife, the bushfires, the dust and dirt, are just some of the things that even the most seasoned of Australians find daunting.
Where bread is precious commodity and oftentimes the first casualty of a full flight, leaves the town in dismay.
On our speed dial is the Snake and Reptile Catchers; our heroes, the volunteer firefighters; our saviours, the flying doctors.
Our town, despite being in the middle of nowhere, with the nearest beach a short 600 km drive, is quite an oasis in the Pilbara outback.
Nestled high above the rest of the towns in the region, it is a lush and scenic place, with mountains, hills, gorges, watering holes and waterfalls.
With a population more than 3000, our town is a melting pot of people from across Australia, who dare a life of adventure in pursuit of the mining spoils.
The men and women who come to this town bring along their mostly young families, and together we make a community.
Our children run freely in wide open spaces and nature is their playground.
Away from all family and everything familiar, living in this town taught us how to be a family and to also extend ourselves and even depend on the people around us. Everyone being on the same boat, we venture in opening our hearts and our homes to new friends so they too can brave the hardship of living away from the familiar.
Three hundred and sixty-five days, seven times over, and Tom Price is our home and we, a part of its local people.
Bambi Sitaca-Griasch, Tom Price
(written from the perspective of her husband, Harold)
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