This Adventurous Age

Adventures travelling and working around Australia.

2003 Travels April 26

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Left Cloncurry at 7.30am. Refuelled on the way out of town – 99cpl.

There was not much traffic on the narrow Burke Development Road north to Burke and Wills Roadhouse, with its one vehicle wide strip of asphalt. So we had no issues about having to pull over for oncoming traffic.

Took a short break at the Roadhouse – refuelled, just so we could maximize how much fuel we had, before the next fill up at much higher prices. Had morning coffee from our thermos.

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Burke and Wills Roadhouse

I bought John a polo shirt with the Roadhouse logo on. Unfortunately, they did not have one in my size.

From here, we travelled north west on the Wills Development Road.

There was still quite a lot of surface water in the hollows beside the road, though this was clearly drying fast. There were large groups of brolgas on some of the larger wet areas. We were just a couple of weeks late to see the best of the end of the Wet. Maybe one time we’d come up this way early enough in the year to see it straight after, or during, after good rains.

Stopped to eat our sandwich lunch by the Gregory River, where we’d camped last year. There were only a few camper rigs there, but I suspected it might fill up more,  later in the afternoon. But clearly, the late seasonal rains and associated closed roads, had resulted in fewer travellers in these parts, just yet.

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Lunch stop beside the Gregory River

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The Gregory River at Gregory Downs

The unsealed road was alright as far as the turnoff to the Century Mine, and not too bad after that – at least by our standards. There were a few dips, not yet graded after the rains, that were rather gullied out, and we needed to take care in those. The last few kms had been freshly graded.

The scenery over this last stretch was so familiar. We could see the workings of the Century Mine – though a traveller who did not know where to look would probably not notice.

It really felt like coming home!

V was manning the Reception desk when we arrived. She was so excited to see us. M, too – and we met her baby for the first time. He looked so like his dad.

The boss wanted us to set the van up in the old staff compound yard, rather than down in the Grove. He thought there were already too many staff rigs hooked up to the donga power point at the top of the hill, that serviced the staff area in the Grove, and to the water point down there. There were V and F’s van, the cook’s Coaster bus motor home,  and the lead from the donga that the cook’s daughter was in.

We would have preferred to have been down with the others, where there were lots of birds, a nicer environment, and the group camaraderie – it was a blow. But he was the boss. It was shady enough at the top, and high up enough to occasionally receive some – faint – radio.

It was not easy, manoeuvring the van into the space where he wanted us, amongst the old dongas. Our outlook was not what I had been looking forward to – sheds, dongas, old fencing, and a single long drop toilet – convenient for us, if not exactly attractive looking!

It took us a while to set up our camp.

We wandered up to the dining deck area about 5.15, expecting to see the final flurry of tea preparation, but the meal was much later than we’d expected – at 7pm, instead of the 5.30 of last year. Apparently the cook preferred to cook later, in this heat. She and daughter had about a three hour break in the afternoon, to compensate for tea being later.

The meal was chicken drumsticks in a seasoned marinade, baked in the oven, boiled whole potatoes, a mushroom balsamic salad and a zucchini based salad. For dessert, there were baked apples, with a caramel sauce, and custard. The menu is already a big improvement on what B and I had to cook, last year! I guessed that was the influence of having a “proper” cook. It would be interesting to see if it lasted when the diner numbers increased – just now, it was cooking mostly just for the staff – about a dozen or so.

The diners do not wash up their own dishes any more, as they were expected to, last year, because the  wash up sinks were now inside the new kitchen. It was indicated to us that all staff are expected to hop in and help with this, though, so that would be a bit of an add-on to the normal working hours. But staff used to help us wash the pots, pans and serving stuff, last year, so perhaps not a great change.

There was still no hot water in the kitchen, though! The service was there, but there was some problem in getting it operational. Still needed  buckets of hot water carted from the nearest donkey heater.

There was much in the new kitchen set up that I recognized from our old kitchen of last year, now rather a forlorn shell down from the dining deck, waiting for some sort of new purpose. The stoves were the old ones, moved up top. The old wire frame we used as a shelf had been turned into an overhead store and hanging implement set up, suspended above the central bench. There was the old steel topped bench and table. Plus the old plates, saucepans, plastic ware – rather a motley collection.

There was now a lovely spacious “dry dock” – unloading area for goods from the delivery trucks – adjacent to the kitchen, and away from where tourists could venture.

But there were the same old problems with the power supply, fridges, freezers and the like.

Obviously, upgrading a place like this was when purchased, could not happen all at once, and transitional arrangements just had to be borne.

I was certainly impressed with the way the new building functioned. When we left, last year, the building was far from finished, though our last meal here was the first served on the new dining deck – from our “old” kitchen. Part of me even envied L, working in the new kitchen!

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Dining deck, servery to kitchen, walkway to front of building and reception/shop

Having a set of toilets in the new building – flushing – was a major improvement on last year, where we either used the somewhat primitive long drop version, over beyond the tent shower structure, or walked a fair distance to the campground amenities.

Cook and daughter seemed a pretty efficient team. The alcohol supplies we brought from Cloncurry were actually for them. I didn’t think they had realized how remote this place was, before they came, and how far away any shops were. They were friends of friends of one of the staff couples and had applied to come here for a different experience. It would certainly be that! They had not been here long.

Apart from the boss couple, cook and daughter, and ourselves, there were two other couples working here – V and F from last year, and an Irish couple (B and M) who were related to one of the Mt Isa owners. As the season built up, there would be others, no doubt.

It was still hot and humid in these parts – 30 to 35 degrees in the daytime, with nights still a little too warm.

There were lots of cane toads about.

It was so good to be back!

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