This Adventurous Age

Adventures travelling and working around Australia.

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2003 Travels June 19


I was on tents. John on amenities/yard work. By the end of the day, he was complaining of sore feet. It was a while since he’d had to walk around so much.

F broke John’s canoe takings record – by 90 cents. There was those strange cent amounts again.

It was a pleasantly paced day for me. There were only two tents to service, clean and wash linen for. I spruced up some other tents – in the back row area – that had not been used to date, this season. They would be needed for the coming palaeontologists visit. I darned a couple of small holes in sheets. Helped B fix the plastic window pane on a tent, by super glueing a piece cut from an old tent, over the hole.

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A “Hilton” tent, ready for the next occupants

Managed to get my washing done too, since there wasn’t much tent linen to do.

There had been a card for me in yesterday’s mail bag, from Australia Post. It said they were holding a parcel addressed to me, because it was $3 short on postage. It would be returned to sender if I did not collect it within 5 working days! This seemed rather a contradiction to me – wouldn’t it therefore cost more to return it to sender, than the postage that was owed?

Apart from that theoretical issue, this also posed some practical problems for me. I had no idea who the parcel was from. Nor what it might contain. Or its importance.

I phoned the number given on the card. Much rigmarole ensued. I tried to explain that I was too far from the post office to go in and pay the debt. It was then suggested that I write a cheque and mail it, forthwith. I said that the mail plane only came once a week, a that was yesterday, so by the time my cheque reached the post office, the parcel would have gone.

I had assumed that I was speaking to someone at the Mt Isa Post Office, but it soon became clear that it was to some minion in a large city, who had never been bush and knew nothing of life beyond the metropolis. She refused, initially, to believe that my mail came by plane. Or that anyone could actually be 400kms from a post office! I was accused of trying to pull her leg. I don’t  know if I actually managed to convince her of my reality, but in the end it was agreed that the office lady from the tour company in Isa, could collect the damn thing – after I had faxed an authorization through. Poor K was always having to run messages for Adels !

The parcel in question eventually arrived, via K, with the next company tour group. It turned out to be a bag of mail from home, earlier than per our set routine. House sitter had gotten her weeks out of kilter. As well as her postage rates!

The whole episode on the phone had provided some entertainment for the boss, who was working in the office area at the back of reception, and V, who was on reception, who could hear my end of the conversation, and the increasingly exasperated tone of voice. “Yes, the mail really does come on a plane”  “No, the plane lands on our airstrip…” (I think she thought I was suggesting the letters were dropped out of the plane window, or something!) “It comes in a big bag……”  and so on.

Our staff numbers had been augmented by the arrival of another couple, who would be here for several weeks, over the busy period – they hail from Victoria too – J and D. Also with “old F” – someone’s relative, who would do some odd jobs about the place, mostly canoe repairs, in return for keep. The canoe repairing was almost a full time job in itself.

The weekly supply truck drove in at 7pm. Boss decreed that we’d unload in the morning. The truck had to run its generators all night, of course. It really was noisy. Next morning, there were complaints from tourists, again.

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2003 Travels June 18


I was on float again. Spent most of the time on Reception. Worked a straight shift, 7.45am to 5pm.

I got to help make lots of take-out lunches for the big tour group.

John was on canoes again. The men had been keeping tally of their daily takings, to compete against each other for the biggest take. Because of the large tour group, today John took the record amount – $531.40. I was not sure how the 40cents came into it, since every charge was in round dollar amounts!

It was mail plane day. After I knocked off work, before tea, read some of my paper.

As the camping area in the Grove became busier, we had been intruded upon by campers, who ignored the No Access signs, thinking they were welcome to set up amongst the staff rigs. We did have a lovely area, and there were those who were eyeing off the tap we were hooked up to, and even our power leads on the ground. The men had already cut long lengths of bamboo and rigged up an enclosure around the staff encampment. They had put up a sign to deter foot traffic passing through or would-be campers coming in amongst our rigs. Today, they put up more bamboo poles to try to close off all suggestion of entry. It is not that we are totally anti-social, but we do want to be able to relax when off duty, without being disturbed by guests who want to talk, or make noise when we need to sleep.

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We hoped the extra barricading worked.

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2003 Travels June 17


Today I was on “float” – i.e. go where needed, through the day.  This was a new roster category, brought in as we got busier. I also had a split shift, with a break in the afternoon, from 3-6pm, then on till late to help with the final dinner prep, dish up and wash up.

Advance bookings had really picked up over the past couple of weeks, since Adels was featured on a couple of travel programs on Qld TV.

There had still been no action on the faulty phone/EFTPOS. B, who had been, very nicely, reporting the issue daily to Telstra, threw a true Irish paddy, and got back onto them again. She was really quite fearsome!

Later in the day, a helicopter arrived, bearing  pilot and Telstra man. But he didn’t bring any parts for repairs! We lent him some super glue to make a temporary repair, but they would have to return at a later time to do a proper repair.

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John with Super Glue, so Telstra could make a temporary repair

The chopper landed just outside the entrance gate, instead of using the air strip like everyone else,  and stirred up great clouds of dust that floated over the main building and tent area. We were not impressed.

During my afternoon break, did some letter writing.

There was a big tour group booked in – full sized bus – so tents had to be checked to make sure all was ready for them.

That group size also meant lots of washing up!

John was on canoes.

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Getting busier – temts creeping closer in the Grove area

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2003 Travels June 16


John was on canoes, with some reservations about how his knee would be, after a day of hauling the canoes about. The person on canoes helps paddlers get the canoe firm on the launching ramp when they come back in, and often helps them push off at the start. As well, they take the canoes to the ramp area, and pull them out after hire, and turn them over to dry out. It is definitely not all sitting about, admiring the view!

The knee survived the day’s work ok.

I was on reception -seemed to be getting quite a bit of this role. It was my favourite.

It was an eventful day.

Boss had to chase the old white bull out of the campground again, last night. We heard some shots, a bit later. Boss M was in a really bad mood this morning – she was really quite fond of the old fellow, and this had been his patch for years. On my way down to the van for my morning break, saw Boss coming in with the bobcat, with the shovel on front. From that, I deduced that the station was minus one old white bull. I felt quite sad, too, but he really was frightening the campers too often.

We had a big camping party booked in for the next few nights. Most of them had arrived by 1pm. They identified themselves, as they arrived, as being part of the group organized by this one lady – who hadn’t yet arrived.

At about 1.30pm, I took a phone call from said lady, asking if I could let the rest of her party know she would be late arriving, because they had gotten “a bit lost” on their way here from Burketown. Her navigator had misread the map and they were at Hells Gate Roadhouse! I couldn’t help myself and replied: “A BIT lost? If I was you, I’d shoot the navigator!”

They had obviously missed the turnoff to the Gregory, about 25kms west of Burketown, but talk about slow to twig! They’d gone at least 170kms west and north west, instead of about 100kms south, had crossed the very noticeable Nicholson River, and passed the turnoff to Doomadgee community. Hardly landmarks that I’d have thought anyone could blink and miss.

So I trekked off down to the campground and delivered the message that they thought they’d be in by about 4pm. That came and went and no sign of them. But there was another phone call, about 4.30pm. They were at Bowthorn, this time. I had to trek back down to the campground with the latest update. I didn’t think the lady who was navigating was very popular, by now.

They eventually arrived at 7pm, after I’d closed up the shop for the day and was about to have dinner. They had tried to take the most direct route on the map – not always the fastest, or easiest to follow. This had fetched them up at Bowthorn, after having a flat tyre along the way, that someone at Bowthorn had fixed for them. At least their group would have plenty to talk about, around the campfire, that night.

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Broken line: the intended route; solid line: the way the ladies actually went

(Map from Google Earth)

Mid afternoon, a couple had driven in, in a large motorhome. I had seen it coming down the drive way, but by the time I looked up again from the booking I was doing, realized they had simply stopped it in the middle of the roadway circle that comes past the reception area, and from which the track to the campground leads off. They had left it there and gone walkabout – effectively blocking all other traffic. The huge parking and check in area, only a few metres away, was clearly marked.

I had to explain to subsequent drivers, the need to back up and go to the campground via the “out” route. Not much appreciated by the ones towing vans and trailers!

When the missing couple wandered back, nearly an hour later, I politely asked them to move the motorhome to the marked parking area, before doing any business, so that other campers could get in. It was getting towards the busy time of the afternoon, with campers returning from the National Park, and him blocking the “in” way.

Driver said he thought it was all right there. I pointed out all the signs he’d ignored, and a couple of vehicles having to back up. He then asked, quite nastily, if I wanted him to book in at all? In the tone of one who was conferring a great favour upon us, by his presence. I was becoming rather cross by then, and said “Actually, given your attitude, not really, sir”. Couldn’t help myself – it was just too good an opening.

They then left, no doubt assuming that the Rangers at the National Park would welcome them more gratefully. They would have been in for quite a shock. The Rangers were trying to avoid having to look after campers, this year, and told most comers that their area was full, and to come here! They had reduced the sites to a handful of rather small ones – there were bollards everywhere. There were certainly not motorhome sized sites any more. He probably would not have been able to locate a Ranger anyway – it was a bit of a local joke, these days, that the most endangered and rare species at the Park was a Ranger! Very rarely sighted.

I suspect sir probably just parked in a roadway or carpark somewhere there, for the night, no doubt ignoring No Standing signs there, too.

I found the majority of our guests were great to deal with, but the unpleasant minority certainly left a lasting impression.

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2003 Travels June 15


I was on reception again.

In the time before my late starts on such days, and on afternoons when we knock off at 5 or 5.30pm, it was just so pleasant, relaxing out the front of the van, in the Grove. It was such a green area, because of the thick canopy, and things growing in every direction one looked. The thickness of the canopy meant that little grew beneath it, so the ground was covered in leaf litter, rather than scrub or weeds.

I loved the bird life. There was always something to watch, and be entertained by.

The great bowerbirds bounced around our camp area – they were so amusingly ungainly, and always looking for food to steal. The white gaped honey eaters were bold, and would fly right into the main kitchen, through the servery hatch, looking for food.

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White-gaped Honeyeater

There were regular territorial battles, by our van, between willy wagtails and white browed robins. We regularly heard the raucous calls of the blue winged kookaburra.

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White-browed Robin

The pair of barking owls that lived around the Grove could be quite loud with their little dog yapping noises. Sometimes, we would yap and one would answer us!

One day, I’d had a camper come up, while I was on reception. She was very cross because, when I’d booked her in the previous day, I’d told her there were no generators or dogs allowed down in the Grove camp area. She had thought it would thus be lovely and peaceful. Now, she insisted to me that she’d been kept awake for hours the previous night, by a camper’s dog barking nearby. She was quite aggrieved.

I asked her if it sounded like little dogs, yapping. She answered yes. I told her the noise would have been our barking owls. Then she got really angry because she thought I was joking, at her expense, and she scoffed at the idea of owls that bark. I had to get the bird book out from under the counter – very grateful for it being there – and show her the entry, before she would – grudgingly – accept that the sound in the night was from birds.

There was always something entertaining, here!

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Great Bowerbird and his bower

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2003 Travels June 14


I was on reception and was happily pottering about, mid morning, when a customer came up, and said there was a snake in the front garden. She meant the small area between the wheelchair ramp and the road. I assumed it would be another python, and went out to have a look, from the ramp, before calling the boss to move it. But the curled up reptile did not look like a python, to me – it seemed too slim and dark coloured. I thought it might be a taipan – not that I know much about reptiles. Or maybe a parent of one of the baby browns we had been seeing about the place.

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The oasis that was Adels Grove – no wonder it was a haven for wildlife.

I went to get boss M to confirm what it might be, and to work out what to do. Not in my job description!

The snake was coiled up in a sunny patch. There were four of us standing on the ramp, looking down on it, when it suddenly reared up and struck our way, came towards us, then went under the building beneath our feet. That was definitely taipan aggressive behaviour! We jumped back very smartly.

M went to get a torch to see if she could see it under the building, but we couldn’t – and no one was going under there to look! We just had to hope it had felt threatened enough to keep going right away from the buildings.

Recently other boss had been hunting around for something in the junk that had accumulated under the bar counter – and found a green tree snake curled up under there! They were not happy about such resident wildlife, because the baby was now crawling, and getting into nooks and crannies like that. Green tree snakes can bite, though they are not poisonous.

For the next few days, I kept a wary eye on that patch of garden, in case our aggro visitor returned.

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2003 Travels June 13


One of those days when I am always expecting life to sneak up and wallop me with something nasty!

I was on shop, John on yard stuff.

In the late afternoon, there was a small tour group taken up nearby Bill Hill in the Coaster, to see the sun set in the west, and the moon rise in the east, at the same time. It was knock off time for us, so we drove Truck up there. There was an interesting outlook from up there, to the mine in the east and the Constance Range to the west.

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Up on Bill Hill


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The boss of the trucking company arrived with the mattresses, at dinner time, so he was an extra, unexpected,  mouth to feed. New cook was doing a good job, in terms of variety and quantity of food.

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2003 Travels June 12


I was on reception/shop. John was to potter about doing yard stuff.

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Staff attempt to deter tourists from wandering through to have a look at the staff camp

The helicopters group left. To date, this year, we’d had 140 fly-in guests. We had to keep separate records of flights, so I was rapidly learning my plane makes. A big surprise had been just how many visitors did arrive by plane.

Still issues with the phone and EFTPOS. B was still reporting the issue daily to Telstra.

The supply truck came in at lunchtime. Boss had a number of new mattresses, for the extra accommodation, on order, and these were supposed to be on this week’s truck. They had been off loaded in Doomadgee. After a phone call, the company boss promised to bring them, personally, tomorrow. That was going to involve him driving from Mt Isa to Doomadgee, then here, then back home – a round trip of 1100-1200 kms. I suspected that truck driver was going to receive a good bollocking.

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2003 Travels June 11


Day off.

We just sat around our camp for much of the day. John’s knee was stiff and sore today, so he needed to rest it.

I cleaned the van. It really needed it! On working days, I had neither the time nor the inclination to do much in the way of tidying or cleaning.

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What the van looked like after a long run of working days

After the mail plane came, I read our mail, and the paper. I was actually surprised to get the paper. Perhaps my comments to them after the last long weekend, made an impact!

A party of nine arrived in little helicopters – they were booked into the DBB tents.

Bosses got back in late afternoon.

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2003 Travels June 10


The bosses left this morning to drive to Mt Isa, for a specialist appointment for the baby.

From these parts, at this time of the year, everyone goes to Mt Isa via Riversleigh – the direct route. The Gregory River ford was low enough to drive through, and the O’Shaughnessy crossing was dry. It was the most direct route.

This would provide a welcome break for the cook! As the bosses only have a bedsit room (with ensuite), off the loading dock, the main kitchen doubled as prep area for all the baby’s food too. If there were nappies soaking in the big wash trough that is on the dock, then boss had been known to bath the baby in the kitchen sinks, too. There was always baby stuff lying around the kitchen – one had to dodge around the high chair, walker, toys. It could get really annoying for cook, in particular.

Today, I was “floating” – which meant I helped out wherever it was needed. John was on rubbish/donkey fires – jobs he could manage with the bandaged knee.

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Fetching mulch for the vegie garden