This Adventurous Age

Adventures travelling and working around Australia.

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2003 Travels May 9


On shop/reception again. John on grounds.

The range of jobs assigned to the men was quite varied. Obviously, some tasks were more favoured than others.

Canoe hire was a welcome item on the roster, despite the early start involved in order to be at the National Park and set up by 8am. Whoever was on that drove a rattly old ute down there. Sometimes they had to bring a canoe or two back with them at the end of the day, for repairs. The canoes were fibre glass, open Canadian canoe style, and they could get damaged by paddlers who were not greatly skilled.

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Canoe launch area at the National Park. Tubes were lent out in return for donation in Flying Doctor donation tin.

Cleaning the campground and main building amenities was one of their least liked jobs. Fair enough. But one of the men simply didn’t do this, when he was rostered on – ignored that part of the role and relied on one of the rest of us to do it instead, knowing that we would not leave them dirty for the guests. He was not a popular person with the other men.

They would go out on the wood getting expeditions in pairs and enjoyed getting out into the bush. Large quantities of snappy gum were needed to fuel up the three hot water donkey heaters about the place. Back at Adels, chopping it was not so much fun.

John enjoyed being on the roster to do the donkeys – lighting them about 3pm, then keeping them stoked for the evening run on the hot water. Whoever was on this would go down to the campground, just before bedtime, and do a final stoke, so there would be hot water in the morning. They would be stoked again, first thing in the morning, then allowed to die down until the afternoon.

John decided to take it upon himself to revive and look after the vegie garden, since we looked out on this from under the van awning. He fitted this in around his rostered tasks, often working on it at the end of the day, after all his other work was done.

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2003 Travels May 8


I was on shop/reception. The usual 10am start and later finish.

There were boxes of supplies that had come on the truck, to be opened and put way. With each weekly truck, now, the shop stock was being built up, to cater for the busier times to come. So some of the box contents were stacked on the shelves in the shop, filling the many gaps that were there in the “off” season. Other surplus was put away in the large pantry/storage area, between the shop and the kitchen – part of the new main building.

The shop had a large chest freezer, for bread (frozen) and one for blocks of ice. These were made here, from water frozen in ice cream tubs. Later, as the season built up, bags of ice would come on the truck, though I wasn’t sure where a large quantity of a week’s supply of bags of ice would be stored. More than the chest freezer could hold, I suspected.

The range of ice creams and icy poles was reasonable, but limited by the smaller size of their freezer.

There was a fair range of tinned and packet basics, long life milk cartons, and a few camping and fishing supplies. The shop did a regular trade in things like hand fishing reels, with the aborigines who came down from Doomadgee to fish at the National Park. They never came prepared – it was easier for them to call in at Adels and buy gear, rather than plan ahead and pack. They also bought a lot of the large supply of snack foods, crisps and the like, that the shop stocked.

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Reflections in Lawn Hill Creek at Adels Grove

More geared to the tourists, there were souvenir stubby holders, post cards, hat pins, T shirts.

The shop stocked a limited range of cigarettes, tobacco and camera film.

There were lots of cold drinks, of course – a whole big drinks fridge full, and some frozen packs of meat suitable for the BBQ. Sometimes, some fruit and vegetables were put into that fridge, for purchase, but sales of same were not promoted. Most of the time it was hard enough to keep up the supply of these for the kitchen, let alone try to stock for traveller demand. Occasionally, a desperate tourist would plead for a few potatoes or onions – and if I was on shop, I would go ask cook if she had enough for the week and could spare any. We did the best we could to meet demands, within the constraints of being so far from supplies and having to pay high transport costs to get goods here.

Although we had some bottles of methylated spirits and kerosene in the store room, it was policy not to display these on the shelves of the shop, but only to supply tourists who asked if we had such items. “Locals” were to be told that we did not have any.

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2003 Travels May 7


Today followed much the same routine as yesterday.

The company tour stays two nights, so their tents did not need doing until tomorrow – and it wouldn’t be by me!  I only had a few to do today.

It was mail plane day. I was annoyed to find that my much anticipated newspaper was not in the mail bag. In my lunch break, phoned the newsagent in Mt Isa about it. The girl who answered the phone told me the non-arrival was because “We always go to the Post Office on Mondays and the Post office was shut on Monday”! Clearly, this was a routine not to be broken for a little factor like a long weekend. Mount Isa mentality!

The boss’ washing machine was moved from the loading dock down to the laundry – in anticipation of the coming increase in tent guests and hence washing. The extra machine would definitely be needed. It also meant that the boss’ washing would need to be done by whoever was on tent duty. And here was I thinking my days of washing nappies were long past!

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Two functioning washing machines. Filling one with the hose. Old freezer stored cleaning gear

I asked, and was told, that the bigger, stronger,  commercial washing machines would not work here, due to the low water pressure that was delivered via the pump from the creek. There were also the issues of the calcium build up in machine innards, from the high calcium content of the water, and the little freshwater mussels that come in the water and then proceed to grow and colonize where they shouldn’t. Any domestic washing machine that lasted the distance here, for any time, was truly amazing.

The supply truck came in during the afternoon. Wednesday was happening day around here!

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2003 Travels May 6


Another early start for John, who was on canoe hire again.

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John running the canoe hire at the National Park

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The view from John’s “office”

I had an 8am start, so I could do Reception until V started at 10am.

The boss had received the dates that the paleontologists would be here this year for the annual fossil dig at Riversleigh – arriving 19 and 20 June and leaving 28 and 29 June. I allocated them into accommodation – using pencil. Later, V checked these and altered a couple. That ten days would be a tight period for accommodation in the DBB section.

I only had three tents to do and the DBB amenities. F did the campground ones, for which I was grateful. I hung out a load of baby washing that boss had done in her washing machine, which was on the dry dock deck. Did shop/reception for an hour while V was at lunch and again at afternoon tea time. Mopped the veranda in front of the shop.

Like yesterday, John was back early, and minded the baby while he worked around the grounds.

I knocked off at 5.15 and had a very welcome shower. I’d raised lots of sweat today – the tents are very muggy when one is working inside them. I’d managed to Baygon myself while clearing spiders out of one – my nose ran for hours!

A company tour group came in. Some of the Grove owners ran a bus company that offered two night, three day guided tours from Mt Isa – to Riversleigh and the National Park, staying the two nights in the DBB tents here.

It was the first tour of the season for H, the Waanyi aboriginal tour guide. It was great to see him again. I think he was pleased to see us too – we had built up a bit of a rapport with him when we were here last year.

My back was a bit less sore today – maybe I was getting used to the work?

John had a busy day on the canoes today and was very weary.

We were in bed by 9pm – early nights were in order here. We were so tired that we managed to sleep against the background noise of the nearby generator, which didn’t go off until 9.30pm.

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2003 Travels May 5


It was an 8am start for me today. It was somewhat earlier for John, because he wanted to get breakfast, before he had to drive off to the National Park to do the canoe hire.

I couldn’t do much at the start, because the generator was started late – guess the boss got caught up with something else. The main phone, shop lights, register all rely on the generator power. Likewise the washing machine, and I was on tents today.

Fortunately, there were only four tents vacated this morning.

The routine was to strip the beds and take sheets and towels to the laundry and put the first load on to wash. Tent floors were swept and mopped. The shadecloth floor area in front of the tent was swept. Any leaves that had accumulated on the tent roofs were swept off, likewise spider webs from the tent outsides. If there were spiders inside, they got sprayed with Baygon. The table outside each tent, and its chairs, were cleaned. Each tent had a torch style lantern – the working and batteries of each was checked.

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Cleaning a tent

All that happened in between dashes to the laundry, to fill the machine using the hose, then after the wash cycle, to fill it again with the hose for the rinse cycle. Then the sheets and towels were hung on the clotheslines adjacent to the laundry, to dry.

I had soon worked out that it was best to start with the tents closest to the laundry, given all the dashing back and forth, in the absence of automatic functioning of the washing machine. It was very tempting to leave the hose filling the machine and dash back to a tent to do a bit more there – since the flow from the hose was not all that fast. It was also very easy to miscalculate the timing involved, and have the laundry floor flooded! Fortunately, that was only lino off cuts laid on the bare earth – it dried out quickly.

Later, when the sheets and towels were dry – which did not take long – the beds were made up again, the towels folded and put on the foot of each bed. The tent was then closed up.

I did a load of washing for the boss and hung out a load of B’s washing that she put on after I’d finished with the machine. I managed to wash our oddments too – paid to do it while one could!

I cleaned the long drops and guest showers at the tent end of the place, then went down and did the campground ones. The little Suzuki was a great help – it is quite a way between the two parts of the establishment.

Did a final check of all the tents booked for use tomorrow – eight of them.

Patched a couple of small holes in tent roofs – done while they were still pitched. Superglue and pieces cut from an old tent, or new canvas,  were used for this – a messy job and hazardous to the skin on one’s fingertips!

John came back early from the canoes – there was not enough business to justify him staying there through the later part of the afternoon. He helped me patch a big right-angled tear in a tent – more superglue, and also patch up torn corner tape on one – using heavy duty staples. Some of the tents were quite aged, having come from the original Riversleigh camp – and some of the guests were very careless with things like sharp luggage corners.

I found a little tata lizard under the edge of a tent when I was sweeping, and moved him into a garden. They were the Adels Grove emblem. They were so called because they run a little distance, then stop and wave a leg at you. Technically, they were Gilberts Dragon. They also tend to make very sudden, sharp noises in the undergrowth, when they move, and thus scare the living daylights out of nearby people. Big impact for a small critter.

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Tata lizard – aka Gilberts Dragon

At the end of the day, my back was quite sore from all the sweeping and bending. Hoped it would adjust to this sort of work.

John looked after the baby, for the boss, for an hour or so. He pushed the pram to wherever he was working – watching the clouds moving across the skies and the leaves blowing in the wind seemed to somewhat mesmerize baby.

John had been rather hurried and flustered getting away this morning, and managed to take both my watch and his own, even though they look nothing like the same. I had a big hunt for mine before starting work this morning, which made me too late for breakfast or coffee. I was not happy at the time, but was pleased when he got back in the afternoon, to find he had it with him, and it wasn’t lost.

Found out that daughter had phoned during the afternoon, to get the mailing address. She spoke to V, who was on reception. V told me she would phone again about 7.30 pm – that was the best time as it was after tea, but while we were still around to hear the phone.

The days were still hot, but it was slightly cooler at night, so easier to sleep.

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2003 Travels May 4


Today was my son’s birthday. I phoned him, after work, from the payphone, and had a brief chat.

Shop duty again, with 10am start. I sat outside the van and did some work on the crocheted cot blanket, before work.

I had to start cleaning the amenities again, when I started in the shop, as they hadn’t been touched. It meant trying to clean and keep alert for anyone who might come to the counter or into the shop – I propped the door open with the mop bucket so I could hear better.

B did appear when I was part way through, and she finished off cleaning the men’s. I had noticed that she was avoiding working in the shop, when she could, because she got easily flustered.

I was more confident in the shop today, despite the big error of yesterday! Our friend came into the shop and fixed up his “debt”. I was still embarrassed at having made the error.

I was working into the routine of checking campers in: allocating site, writing it into the bookings register, taking payment, marking site on map for them and giving out the brochure with all the information about the place and locality.

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At the Reception counter, with the booking books

I resolved to spend some of my next day off walking around the campground trying to memorize the nature of each site. We have a master map that indicates whether a site is suitable for large, medium or small rigs, but I decided I needed more of a mental map for myself, in relation to things like shade and separation from neighbouring sites.

Cook and daughter were having their days off and had gone, with “Cookie”, the cook from Lawn Hill Station, to Gregory, for the rodeo that was on tonight. The boss cooked tea. She had a friend and husband, up from Mt Isa for the weekend, and the friend helped with the cooking. They were regular visitors, who stayed in one of the staff donga rooms, when here.

A fence was being constructed around the sewerage treatment plant area. This plant was installed along with the new building, last year. It was a relatively new, environmentally sensitive method, with the treated end product being sprayed out onto an area of ground – well away from the creek!

Another night of showering in the dark, after tea.

The cheap watch I bought in Canberra was giving me a nickel allergy reaction on my wrist, so I painted the back with nail polish, and hoped that eased the problem.

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2003 Travels May 3


I was on shop today. This was a little scary, as I was kind of solo, for the first time.

The current arrangement was that the main shop person for the day started at 10am, and finished about 6.30pm, closing the shop at 6pm and then counting and balancing the till. Whoever looked like having a fairly quiet early morning, looked after the shop until 10am. Or the boss did it.

For me that meant a nice, slow, start to the day, and a bit of a sleep in. The down side was that it also meant showering after tea, in the dark – and there were no lights in the showers.

B was supposed to be on shop/kitchen, but was hardly sighted through the day – don’t know where she got to.

I had to clean the amenities in the main building when I started, as it had not been done.

It was busier today. It was the weekend of the big Gregory Downs canoe races, so there were more people up this way, and some coming past to have a look at the National Park who often called in for ice creams and cool drinks. It was also the Labour Day long weekend.

Some campers arrived – without bookings. They had been disconcerted to find the camp areas at the Gregory really crowded, so came on here. We had plenty of space for them.

A couple came from Doomadgee to stay in a DBB tent. We’d worked with one of them at Doomadgee last year. So we heard all the school gossip from there – new Principal and Senior Master this year. A number of the staff we’d known had moved on. The secondary girls’ teacher had been raided and found in possession of contraband, so she had left. They said the school had deteriorated from last year – very few students attending. Apparently the DP had received an award for services to aboriginal literacy – possibly on the strength of John having organized for the literacy tests to be done properly and training the kids for being tested, so the results appeared to have improved. What a joke! They said she was now away down south on extended leave – and they thought the place was much better without her.

Other news was that the store manager (who had been absent when we were there, as the aftermath of an attack on the store) had returned, and caught – with indisputable camera evidence – the employee who had been cheating the store till, with help of her family members. It was calculated that her thefts  cost the store at least $60,000 – but she received a week’s community service order! Great deterrent to others.

With all the talking to the couple, I only entered $2.80 on the EFTPOS charge, instead of $280! So the till didn’t balance at the end of the day. The boss found the error. I saw the man at dinner and organized for him to come by the shop in the morning and pay. That was a lesson to me, to try to really concentrate on what I was doing!

My operated-on leg was hurting a bit, from all the standing.

Recent days had been windy, so there were leaves all over the verandas. Some of the trees appeared to be dropping their leaves for “winter”. Up here, I think that is determined more by soil moisture than by temperature.

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Lots of leaf litter on the ground in the Grove

John was on yard duties and filled some spare time by painting the downpipes on the new building – green, to tone in with the rest of the structure.

Lulu was successfully drinking from a temporary “bottle”. Good news. If she survived long enough, she would be taken to the wildlife rescue service in Mt Isa, next time someone was going who could take her.

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2003 Travels May 2


Our day off! It was needed.

We managed a little sleep in, though John didn’t want to sleep so late that he missed breakfast.

I wanted to do our washing – we only had a couple of uniforms each, so the wash quickly built up. However, there had been increased numbers in the DBB tents last night, so V had quite a bit of washing to do. She had also volunteered to do the boss’ washing too, with its multitude of nappies.

It was mid-afternoon before I got to the empty machine. The washing didn’t quite get dry, so I rigged up a line at the van and hung it out overnight.

John spent much of the day napping, and reading. I wrote a letter to the house sitter, and went for a walk along the creek – always pleasurable.

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Last night, after tea, one of the road work crew had to drive back out to where they were currently working, to get keys that had been left in the grader, and cook went with him. They came across a little kangaroo joey, standing beside its dead mother on the road. They brought her back. She was put into a hessian sack “pouch” and everyone was racking their brains. trying to work out something that she would feed from. She had been named Lulu.

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2003 Travels May 1


We got up early, still in the dark. Went over to start unloading the truck, at 6.30am. As the pallets were unpacked, on the dry dock deck, I checked off their contents against the various shop dockets that came with the orders. The routine from last year soon came back!

I had to phone the truck office in Mt Isa and let them know the truck had been here overnight, so they could in turn let the store at Doomadgee, and the people at Redbank Mine, to the north-west, know that the truck would be late to them too. If this was not done, people would start to worry that there may have been a breakdown.

I was on shop/kitchen again and B had more tent repairs to sew, so I got the joy of cleaning the amenities again! I tried to assist cook a bit, but there was not much to do.

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Open air tent repairs

I did do a lot of scrubbing, on hands and knees, on the dining deck. Fat from slopped dinners had soaked in and left really obvious trails that did not look good. The boss really did need to investigate sealing that deck timber, as a matter of urgency.

The bosses arrived back mid afternoon. They had brought a little old Suzuki back, to be used to ferry staff and cleaning gear about and take supplies to the hire tents – located some distance away from the linen store. That would be a big improvement on using the little hand cart and walking all over.

John was on yard work today. At the moment, with few campers in, this was not too onerous. Once the place got busy and lots of the camp sites had to be groomed after campers left, this would be a full-on job. Sites were raked and fire pits cleaned out.

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Camp site with fireplace. These sites were always groomed and tidied after occupation

I knocked off at 6.30pm, exhausted after a very long day in the heat.

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2003 Travels April 30


Today I was rostered onto shop/reception, and helping in the kitchen, as it was M’s day off.

B was on cleaning/housekeeping. She brought her sewing machine up here with her – very “crafty” lady – so she had the task of trying to sew a replacement zip into one of the tents. I was soon to realize that zip issues were a regular occurrence, because most of the tents were fairly old, and were not great quality to begin with. They got quite rough treatment from some guests too.

So I cleaned the showers and long drops for B.

V showed me more of the shop routines. It was quite complicated, with register codes, and the like. It seemed that the register was designed for use with a scanner, but we had no such creature. One enters a numeric code for the item being purchased, and a pre-programmed price may then flash up. However, this may not be the correct price, because prices may have changed and the register not been updated! So, mental arithmetic and adjustment required. As well as trying to learn the programmed codes, to get faster at the process. For items with no pre-set price, like fuel – which was paid for at the shop – one had to enter both code and price. A good degree of care was needed. It was to prove all too easy to place zeros in the wrong position, thus charging 28 cents instead of $280!

I also had to try to master the use of the credit card machine – another first for me. Another place where those zeros were waiting to ambush me.

The mail plane came in to our air strip during the morning . V took the outgoing mail bag over to it and brought our bag of mail back. This proved to contain our first batch of mail from home, sent as arranged with the house sitter, and my newspapers. There was an interesting letter from the sitter.

John was on canoe hire.

I decided that the cook was not exerting herself, overly. She worked a split shift arrangement, with three or four hours off during the day. She then sat on the deck, drinking wine or beer for a while, before tackling dinner. I wondered how she was going to get on when it got busy, and she was regularly catering for fifty or more, as we did last year.

The roads in this area are being thoroughly worked on, which is most welcome, as it has not happened every year, to date. Some of the road crew stayed here, some of the time, and cook and her daughter seemed to be quite friendly with some of them.

The weekly supply truck, due today, was very late arriving – at 7.30pm. We all refused to do the unloading, at that time. It would not be a fast task. So the driver stayed the night. The company doing the trucking to these parts had changed since last year. This had made it harder for the boss, who now had to order on each Monday, for delivery on Wednesday of the following week – i.e. ten days away, and before the current week’s truck had arrived, and it could be seen what was missing from that order.