Saturday, 30 April 2011

Straight-up Rambling. In the gasfields.

Running causes leg aches, sore feet, blisters, or some sort of injury to hip/thigh knee/leg ankle/foot, not to mention backpains and other body pains. To escape from running, I retired. I ran away. To Chinchilla.
Chinchilla is a vital centre in the coal seam gas fields of southern and central Queensland. I had a working stint there back in November 2009.

One early morning in mid-April, I boarded a charter flight on a Dornier 228 from Brisbane to Chinchilla, to serve another stint in the gasfields – what was that they said about the wicked?
The day was fine from the coast to the inland. The twin-engine DO 228 is a noisy little aircraft and with a width of 1.34m is much narrower than a car. Its low flying height though is a great bonus for viewing the countryside from a bird’s eye view.

We flew from Brisbane towards the northwest over the great dividing range, thence the lockyer valley and beyond to the western/darling downs. Parts of the downs were blanketed with fog that morning and though we flew through to Chinchilla, we had to divert back as the fog wasn’t lifting. The plane circled the Chinchilla aerodrome twice before turning back towards Dalby. It had to save fuel for the return flight to Brisbane.
In Dalby we waited for a bus to take us to Chinchilla. While we were waiting, another plane likewise diverted from Chinchilla due to the fog, landed there.

The Dalby international airport consists of a sealed stretch of tarmac and some buildings (International means that there’s more than one nationality represented there).

It’s pretty much like the Mainit International airport, except the MIA is still under construction and with not even a shack, but the Chonglian domestic airport is operational – with helipads wherever a pilot can find them.

There’s a few light planes, maintenance hangars, crop-spraying terminals and gliding facilities in the Dalby aerodrome. We were treated to some hang-gliding while waiting for the bus.

Chinchilla is just under 300km from Brisbane, a 3.5hr drive by car, or a 45-minute flight. The district known as the ‘melon capital’ of Australia, has evolved from a crop economy to now a broad-acre farming mixed with coal and gas exploration site. Agriculture with beef, pork and sheep products and horticulture are still the main economy around the region. The dairy industry, like the timber sawmills, has declined, but the people here, like most rural Australians are nothing if not resilient. They have diversified into cattle, grain, cotton and fruit production. The future looks rosy and with the coal and gas exploration and exploitation, Chinchilla is a vital centre in the growth and development of the southern downs. I worked in the gasfields for two weeks.

Some days were slow. Once on a rainy day I resorted to itemising delivery equipment.

It’s quite a task to make sure that the material go to the allocated vehicle. Sometimes it’s a headache.

But I even found time to play with a tiny local red and white moth. On the days it rained, and we could not go on sites even if we wanted to. Early in my stint I could not work in field sites pending safety inductions.

The weather was kind for most of my stay there, and five crews managed to make preliminary deliveries to three blocks.

These blocks comprise an area 30 km by 10km, more than twice the size of Baguio and la Trinidad. But within a few fieldwork days we traversed an area as wide as Benguet.

Some of our delivery points were difficult to establish.

These are generally located at the vicinity of fence posts defining the property corners.

At times we only had trees to go by.

Many of the fences are quite old and in various states of disrepair. In despair, sometimes we had to dig holes to pinpoint our location.

Some of the places I saw or passed: Berwyndale, Kenya, Barney, Clunie, Jen, Derby county, Parish of Weranga, Localities of Greenswamp, Crossroads, Goranba, Daandine, Ducklo, Braemar forest. Along the highway are Warra and Brigalow. Out of the way places: Beelbee, Montrose, Hopeland.
Some places had names like Wieambilla, Coondabilla and Kumbarilla.
I think these places are sister towns to Bauko-Bila in Mountain Province. In yesteryears the people of Baukobila used to trade their pottery for salt with the people of Chongnila.
The I-Bila are essentially good people. I visited there once in my youth, and was treated very warmly - like family. However in recent times, the odd wealthy man from there resorted to buying favors from all around the province to build his pillar of salt. I suppose you gotta serve somebody, and it might be the devil for this high degree thief. I don’t blame those communities or clans forced to sell their vote under economic threat, nor do I blame the voters directly intimidated and with veiled threats. I just hope they don’t rue the bitterness of the rice, or the bland sardinas, or the bad smell emitting from their phones' cells. Was it all worth it? This is what they call democracy?
Now we hear of guns. I dreaded this day as a youngster. Yet it had come to pass. Will guns, goons and gold become part of our electoral culture? Quo vadis Montanyosa? Tell us where we’re headin. On the straight and narrow, or Armageddon?

Some philosophize and say that:
perhaps why so many rich, powerful … people descend into… the basest depths, is that deep down they sense the material things they have are really very empty and temporal— They experience disappointment after having acquired… wealth and power …and go into denial that they still are not fulfilled and at peace. So they actually believe that having these things is some sort of an accomplishment. So the game goes on - the more money and fame they get, the emptier they feel. The more empty they feel, the more money and power they seek. And the cycle continues…
(paraphrasings and errors are all mine).
How despicable. I shed tears not for them - the wealthy and mighty, but for the poor pitiful people that they coerce. The good people of Mountain Province will not be duped for long. In future they will choose their leaders freely at the ballotbox, or they will get the leaders they deserve. (It's been 12 months since the May 2010 elections in the Philippines. And there was this blog I meant to write...)
When I was a child I read stories from the bible – the same book that many claim to follow. It said there from what I remember: "What will it profit some to gain great wealth, and lose their souls?" Or their name, reputation, legacy? (I think my memory does not serve me well). But this could well apply to many people in high office. A good moral injunction really. But I don’t read bible stories no more. I just try and remember the stories of my apo, my lola.

Oi Polichay. Ay apao ka. Back to Chinchilla! Oh thanks. Did i doze off? Ahh digressions.

The Clear skies beckon. Let’s go.

Chinchilla suffered from flooding disasters early this year. Many of its roads, rail, schools, fields, homes and businesses sustained some damage.

Initial payments in the hundreds of millions of dollars from the government helped the affected councils, from the Western downs to Gladstone, Toowoomba and the Lockyer valley region, through to Ipswich and Brisbane. It will be some time before full recovery, but for now these regions are back on their feet.

And so am I. Back on my wings...

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