Life On The Road

Salt Café, on The Esplanade overlooking Hervey Bay, is a long way from the Gibb River Road – 3500 kilometres, in fact, about as far away from it as any point can be on mainland Australia. And the lifestyle of the new owners, Mark and Michelle Polson, is a far cry from the one they had when they operated Gibb River Grading (GRG) in the East Kimberley. Only Mark’s flowing bushie’s beard gives any clue to their previous life on ‘The Gibb’.

Gibb River Grading

As the name implies, GRG was an earthmoving operation, specialising in grading services which it contracted to Main Roads WA for the vital maintenance, sometimes fundamental remaking, of the iconic Gibb. The Polsons were responsible for the East Kimberley section of the track, about 300km of it from the Kununurra end at the intersection with the Great Northern Highway to just past Gibb River Station. Apart from its formidable length, this was a challenging stretch for it included some of the biggest rivers in the Kimberley – the Pentecost and the Durack – and myriad creeks.

Mark and Michelle

Mark was a city boy, born and raised in Sydney, but his heart was in the Bush. After junior high school, he learned to operate various kinds of earthmoving machinery and took his skills out west, to work in Queensland’s mining industry and on roadwork projects in Western Australia. He travelled around for a few years before moving to Kununurra where he worked for a large earthmoving firm as an excavator operator.

Michelle hailed from Brisbane and worked as a financial controller with Accor Hotels in Surfers Paradise. As fate would have it, she was offered a position at El Questro Wilderness Park, west of Kununurra. Knowing nothing about the place, or the Kimberley for that matter, she moved there in September 2003 expecting to stay for two years. She didn’t reckon on meeting Mark.

Mark’s work often took him out to El Questro to repair roads, dams and swimming pools damaged by wet season floods. It was here, in March 2004, that a mate introduced him to Michelle. At first, contact between them, though amiable, was sporadic as Mark was always working away in the Kimberley somewhere. But they saw each other as often as time and distance would allow and, eventually, love blossomed.

In 2006, another of Mark’s mates, Norm, made him an offer that was too good to refuse – to purchase one of Norm’s graders and take up contract work for Main Roads WA on the Gibb River Road. “We were both over working so far apart and not getting to see each other much,” says Michelle. “We thought this would be the perfect opportunity for us both to get ahead in life, to earn a good income, living and working in a most beautiful part of Australia.” And so, casting their lots together, they formed GRG and embarked on a new life in the Kimberley.

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