John started work at 8am, so he would get up and go off to have breakfast with the other staff, up at the kitchen area. I would get up a bit later, and eat my weetbix and soy milk at the van, before going up to start work at 9.30am.
Arriving as tourists, we’d obviously had food supplies with us initially. As my breakfast supplies ran low, the boss was very good about ordering soy milk for me when needed.
John would eat salad lunch with the other men. I would make up a plate of salad and usually take it down to the van, to ensure the time to myself.
We ate the evening meal with the other staff, and guests, in amongst doing the meal service, in my case.
John finished work at 5pm and would go have a shower, then sit and have a happy hour beer or two with the other men in the dining area, or down in the Grove.
It was usually 8 to 8.30pm by the time we finished up in the kitchen. Sometimes, staff would sit about in the dining area, talking and having a drink. More often, we would head off to our respective accommodation soon after finishing up.
I would shower after finishing up in the kitchen – by torchlight – and usually fall into bed not long after that.
I tried to do our clothes washing before starting work in the morning, once a week or so. This was so my precious day off was not used up by chores. Also, I needed to wash our work clothes more frequently than I had days off! It could be a bit of a lottery to get a machine before the laundry lady had to start in on the sheets and towels. With only two machines as the season went on and guest numbers increased, her washing was a mammoth task. My washing had to dry on one of the lines strung between trees next to the laundry area. Often, it would be John picking it in, after he finished work.
There was no TV or radio signal there then. Reading matter was scarce, and to be rationed. I raided the book exchange in the office, whenever anything new came in, which was not often. John could play his computer games in the evening, until the generator went off at 10pm.
Occasionally a guest would leave behind a newspaper – we would fall upon it and devour the news, even if it was old. The staff who had been here since the start of the season, told me the Queen Mother had been dead and buried for a few weeks before the news filtered in here.
On our day off – usually about once a week, depending on our busy-ness – we would try to go out exploring somewhere in the district.
Despite all our prior travels, life here was quite a revelation, in ways that city people just don’t contemplate.
The nearest sealed road was almost 100kms away, at Gregory Downs.
Unsealed roads/tracks radiate from here. The one south branches after a few kms, with the western branch going to the National Park, and was quite badly corrugated. G drove an old Toyota ute, that belonged to Adels, back and forth every day to do the canoe hire. The other branch was the road to Riversleigh and past that, over fords of the Gregory and O’Shannassy Rivers, to where it met up with the Camooweal road south from Gregory Downs. Then, by Thorntonia Station, a road south eventually met the Barkly Highway, some 100kms west of Mt Isa. This Riversleigh/Thorntonia route was the “short” way to Mt Isa, and was badly corrugated in parts. It took about 6 hours to get to Mt Isa that way.
In the wet season, often the only way to Mt Isa is via the way we came here – Gregory Downs, Burke and Wills, Cloncurry. Even that route gets closed if there is a lot of rain, cutting Adels off completely by road.
To the north, a track goes to Lawn Hill Station and beyond that to Doomadgee, on the Great Top Road, or to Bowthorn Station and Kingfisher Camp on the Nicholson River, west of Doomadgee. This was basically a station track, with a number of gates, and Lawn Hill Creek to ford. It crossed black soil country, so was closed in the wet.
The mail plane came once a week to the district and landed at Lawn Hill Station. The boss lady would take a bag containing our mail, to meet it, and bring back our mail from the plane.
Adels had a telephone link to the outside world. There was a public, coin-operated phone box out the front of the office donga.
The supply truck operated by Ringrose Transport came once a week, on Fridays, from Mt Isa, via Gregory Downs. It was a large semi trailer, divided into three parts: a freezer, a cool section and a general section. A little bobcat was used, here, to unload pallets of goods that were stacked on the veranda behind the office, for unpacking. All staff who were around helped with this, so the pallets could go back on the truck. We would make a cuppa for the driver while he waited.
The boss lady faxed her orders to the Safeway supermarket in Mt Isa, and a greengrocer supplier, and to sundry other suppliers. Obviously, the cost of transport of the goods was quite high – a fact sometimes not taken into account by travellers buying tinned goods or icecreams from the shop.
Occasionally, there were supply glitches. Adels was near the end of the supply run, and sometimes the confusion of unloading – or an error in labelling at the Mt Isa end – caused mistakes. One week, we got the sack of potatoes intended for the Gregory Downs hotel – and they got all our containers of ice cream!
The orders have to be faxed the best part of two weeks before they get to us, so it could be hard to predict numbers for meals that far ahead, and thus what supplies would be needed.
The truck did not bring alcohol supplies. Adels did not, as yet, have a general liquor licence – that would come when the new building was completed. Whoever was going to Mt Isa (staff on a break, builders, a boss) took staff orders and brought them back – their vehicle could end up carrying a lot of alcohol! If friends came to visit, they generally were asked to do a pick up in town, on the way.
Because we were so busy, and so tired at night, alcohol supplies tended to last us quite a while anyway.
It really was different, living without ready access to shops of any kind.
The Royal Flying Doctor Service – RFDS
Having spent time here, we now appreciated this so much more.
Apart from the emergency evacuation by plane that people associate with the RFDS, they support remote dwellers in other ways.
There was a monthly RFDS Clinic. This alternated between Adels and Lawn Hill Station, which also had an airstrip of the requisite standard. A doctor, nurse and pilot would fly in. A space was set aside for the doctor to meet with any locals who wished to see him – at Adels this was on the back veranda of the office donga. There was not much privacy! When there were no more patients, off they would fly to the next station. The boss lady was pregnant, so her monthly check ups were done at these times.
Adels had a RFDS medical chest – supplied in conjunction with the service. Boss lady had undergone training in the use of this, which was required before they were issued. In the case of illness or accident, she would phone the RFDS Base in Mt Isa and they would instruct her about what to do and what medications to administer. These were identified by number, rather than name, to avoid confusion. Each month, she had to check the stocks in the chest – any that were out of date were replaced on the next mail plane.
Adels staff did all they could to raise funds for the RFDS. There was a collection tin in the office. If a visitor wanted a cup of tea, outside of meal times, we asked them to put a donation in the tin. Book exchange attracted a $2.50 offering to the tin. The men collected all the aluminium cans from the campground, crushed them; they were sent to Mt Isa where the money raised went to the RFDS. When the paleontologists were staying, they gave a couple of evening talks to park guests, for which a fee was charged – for “the tin”. Likewise, when the Rangers came from the National Park one night a week, to give talks and slide shows about the Park.