The Why Not? Blog

At the tender age of 25 Dave started skateboarding. 14 months later he became the first person to skate the length of Britain. Another 8 months on he had crossed Australia on his board, breaking a world record & raising over £20,000 for three charities. Now, at 27, he's writing his first book, is a motivational speaker and a businessman, and he's only just gotten started on a lifetime of challenges which from the outside look just darn crazy. So, why? You know the answer, don't you. Why not?

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Schools and Mines

There’s something wonderful about travelling without a rigid plan of action. The flexibility and spontaneity of life on the road means that each day we’re open to a huge number of wonderful possibilities. I’ve always been in love with the notion – and practice – of waking up in the morning not knowing where I’m going to rest my head the coming night, and today was one of those days which highlighted the benefits of not calling ahead to arrange accommodation in a particular place.

So, most of the team woke up in the Home Economics lab of Kambalda West High School, those who didn’t slept in the vans just outside. The night before we had access to the library and gym, much computing, footballing, basketballing and hockeying meant that perhaps we didn’t sleep as much as we should have, so blurry eyed we rose and prepared for our first school assemblies for several years.

The principal of Kambalda West is Russell O’Neill, a kind, generous and approving man who was just happy for us to stay in his school because of what we were doing. By the time we left the first assembly – one of about 100 children in their early-mid teens – we were all sure that Russell was also the principal of potentially the most well-behaved school in Australia, if not the world! He took us across the grounds to the Primary School, where I slightly dumbed-down my description of BoardFree for a bunch of incredibly small people. The question and answer sessions are the best, Towards the end I decided to ask the kids a question, the first to answer correctly got to ask me one of the final questions of the day. So I asked, “How fast do you think I go on a steep hill?” A bunch of hands went up, I chose one belonging to a cheeky female face towards the front.
“Very fast,” she replied, much to the amusement of the adults in the room.
“Well that’s a good answer,” I told her, “but I’m looking for a figure, can anyone else have a guess?” Again, hands galore. I chose one,
“Faster,” came the reply.
Straight after the Primary assembly a girl from the High School scurried into the classroom we had relocated to. “I didn’t get a chance to make a donation,” she said, breathlessly and apologetically, “I’m sorry, I only have a fifty.” We all looked at her as she disappeared with a wave.
“They’re very generous kids,” Russell told us, pointing at his shaved head, “we had a charity event last week and the children paid $1500 for this haircut.”

We drove across town to Kambalda East, not before the kids in the Home Ec class told us that they were making a double-batch of cookies to take on the road with us. Absolutely delicious they were too. Kambalda East’s principal, Dan Balich, who had first approached the team as we breakfasted in Coolgardie’s Road House yesterday morning, was unfortunately away in Kargoolie today, but we were taken under-wing by the other teachers. This assembly went slightly differently to the others. I made an entrance by skating down a ramp and between two layers of children. Talked and answered questions for about fifteen minutes and was then promptly mobbed by the kids who thrust things at me to sign. Shoes, t-shirts, baseball caps and BoardFree leaflets later I was dragged away by Kate to have morning tea with the teachers.

It was almost twelve by the time we got on the road, and I was shattered already. 20km up the road we stopped at Widgiemoortha, a run-down petrol station manned by a disinterested bloke who was just plain rude. “I just don’t see the point in people doing this kind of thing,” he moaned about out-of-the-ordinary journeys for charity. He wouldn’t even let us eat our home-made sandwiches inside.

We retreated to the vehicles and after lunch I curled up in George and had a good sleep. At half three Kate called a man named Paul, who had been waiting for me at the Kambalda turn-off the night before. Paul worked for Mincor, a mining company that operates in the area, and he had told me he’d like to take the team down one of the mines a bit further along the road.

Just as I was preparing to get back on the road Paul drove up with a co-worker, Francis. They said they could organise dinner at a mine about 19km up the road, drew us a map and said that they’d meet us at seven the next morning. I pushed on, we made the mine, which was called Mariners, by quarter to six and drove along the drive.

I’m not sure any of us were expecting what was to come. Set off a few hundred metres from the road and hidden in arid forest was a small village, featuring 200 or so prefab self-contained, en suite rooms, a dining hall, wet mess (bar), recreation room and ablution rooms (toilets). For about five minutes we all felt quite out of place but then Gabby, a friendly yet efficient lady - the type that takes shit from no-one – showed us around, gave us keys to two rooms, “I’d have given you eight if we had them available,” and left us to it.

We showered, changed and wandered into the dining room where we tucked into an excellent variety of nosh and helped ourselves to at least three servings of pudding. Gabby walked in and told me that there was a short event on in the wet mess at a quarter to eight, “It’s called the Golden Spanner and basically it’s a chance for the boys to take the piss out of each other for their antics on the site. You should come on over.”

So we did. A ripe old fella named Foss (short for Fossil) took centre stage and promptly began dishing out items like hats and rucksacks to people who had earned them, for such reasons as missing shifts due to reasons of drunkenness. He even plugged BoardFree, taking the chance to ask why it had taken me so long to get here from Perth, handing me a Mincor baseball cap and inviting the gathered crowd to hand some money over to the cause. They duly did, adding over $250 to the $325 we had raised in the schools earlier in the day. Overwhelmed and pinching ourselves at our completely random luck, we retired to vans and en-suite rooms to get a good night’s sleep in preparation for a tour of a Nickel mine the next morning.


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