This Adventurous Age

Adventures travelling and working around Australia.

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2003 Travels July 8


Today was a day off for us – to be made the most of!

We made sure of a reasonably early start, to take M exploring some of the area. Today would be a drive up to Bowthorn, to meet the sisters there, and to see Kingfisher Camp.

We had to clear out some of the stuff that usually occupied the one back seat in Truck. I sat there – so M got to open all of the many gates en route! Actually, it was because the front seat passenger could see much more than the one in the back seat.

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We took some things from the boss, to Cookie at Lawn Hill Station. This gave us a reason to drive right up to the homestead complex on the top of the rise, to show M. She was suitably impressed.

Further north on the station, beyond the creek ford, there was the hill with the white cross on top. We stopped there and did the steep little climb to the top, on foot.

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Truck looked small from the top of the hill

The cross, and a rather eclectic collection of things around its base, are a memorial put there by the Brazilian Sebastiao Maier, who owns the Lawn Hill lease, to his parents, who died in 1963 and 1969, years before he bought the Lawn Hill lease. The monument was put up in 1983 and the inscription suggests that there was a memorial service held here at the time.

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The Cross on the Hill

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Dedication at the Cross on the Hill

The cross certainly stands out for some distance as one travels along the main track.

There were good views out over the surrounding black soil plains, and to the western range, from up there.

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The way we’d come – track south from Cross on the Hill

At Bowthorn, we had a good chat with the sisters. M had already bought a copy of Kerry’s “Heart Country” book, from the Adels desk, and she had Kerry autograph it. She bought a small bloodwood vase that Judith had made.

The sisters told us that the man who had towed the car back to Doomadgee, had been shot and killed. Clearly, there was some sort of feud going on between groups, there.

We drove on towards Kingfisher Camp. That section of track was really slow.

The current base of the road crew from Mt Isa was at Kingfisher Camp. Its boss was there, fixing machinery – as usual! When we told him that we’d driven up to have a picnic lunch at KFC, and show our friend, he seemed quite perplexed. I guess that, when you have graded the whole damned road, it does seem a long way.

KFC was still as lovely as when we’d camped here, last year. There were quite a few campers scattered about the extensive site. We ate the sandwiches that I’d made this morning, after exploring a little.

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Nicholson River at Kingfisher Camp

On our way back out, we passed the road boss again. He waved us to stop. He said that he’d figured it out – that we were just joking about being here on a day trip, and invited us to have tea with him and the crew at their camp. We said no, because we were on our way back to Adels now. We left him looking quite stunned!

Periodically John would speculate about whether he could get a job driving the grader for him, next year!

It was a really good outing, and a chance for M to see more of the country she’d seen from the air. As well, to meet a couple of genuine Gulf Country pioneers.

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We got back about 6.30pm. I was surprised to find that friend P was there – a day earlier than we’d expected him. Someone had directed him to set up his camp in the Grove, near the staff area. He seemed very pleased to be here! He had done a tyre between Roper Bar and Borroloola. He then took a wrong turn, out of Doomadgee, and wandered around the station back tracks, to the east of where he should have been.  Luckily, he’d blundered across one of the few viable crossings of Lawn Hill Creek that there are. Eventually, he’d come out at the Lawn Hill cattle yards, more by good luck than good navigation, because he said he didn’t have a clue where he was! A worker had directed him from there. The route actually sounded quite interesting – we should explore up that way, on some future days off.

P had already had his tea, and took himself off for an early night. I guess he’d had a stressful day, and he still suffers the after effects of a bout of Ross River Fever, a few years back.

I cooked tea at the van – pasta with tuna and caper sauce. John picked some zucchini and spinach from “his” vegie garden, to go with the pasta.

After that, we sat outside the van and quietly talked about our day. Like so many who visit this area for the first time, M was amazed by its scale and beauty.

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2003 Travels July 7


We had the same jobs as yesterday. The place was frantically busy.

A travelling store came in for a couple of hours – contained in a big semi trailer truck. I was too busy to get a chance to go and have a look at the wares, but some of the other staff bought some nice shirts. John bought a belt and a knife.

In the shop, we could not keep up with the demand for frozen bread, and had run out, well ahead of the next supply truck. It was the same with ice creams.

M caught a ride to the National Park with the canoe truck, and went walking.

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2003 Travels July 6


I was on reception/shop. John was on the rubbish run and doing the donkey fires.

M spent the day exploring around the place, some of this with John as he went about his duties. In the morning, she helped strip tent bedding and hang out the washing. She did the walk up the hill just beyond the front entrance, to the viewpoint it gave, over the area.

The search was called off, late morning. Yesterday, they’d raked the area of the now deserted camp. This morning, they found fresh “soft” tracks – meaning he was wearing socks or something similar to attempt to blur signs that he was there. So now they knew he was still alive, still in the area, and did not want to be found. It had been discovered that he had a jail record, so he might have been really scared by the search. It had cost thousands of dollars, to date – and boosted our DBB takings!

Another rumour that went around, later, was that he’d been the subject of something like a bone-pointing, at Doom, and was in hiding.

Some aboriginals from Doom came down in the afternoon, to start a search of their own. They just turned up and expected us to find  accommodation for them. So there was a fast clean and turn around of some donga rooms vacated by the official searchers – M helped with that.

Even though we had M here, by the time the after-dinner clean up was done, it was so late and we were so tired that it was pretty well straight to bed, rather than sitting around talking.

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2003 Travels July 5


John was on grounds and amenities cleaning. I was on float to wherever needed. In practice, that was mostly helping out in reception/shop.

M went off to the National Park, with H’s tour group, for his day-long guided tour there. She loved it and said she learned so much.

School holidays had made this place so busy. I could not believe how many people just rocked up here without a booking – or without having phoned ahead to check likely availability of space. I also can’t quite believe how surprised/angry most got when they were told we had no vacant camp sites and they would have to go in the overflow area. Some had already tried the National Park and been turned away; others stormed off saying they would go to the Park – then had to slink back later and take what was on offer. They must realize that they are taking such a chance  – they can’t just go down the road from us and the National Park – that it is 90km back to the next camp area?

We were, in my view, allowing too many campers into the informal camping in the Grove – there were some territorial issues developing!

The search was still on. They planned to use an infra-red device on the chopper tonight and fly over the area searching with that.

Someone passing through from Doomadgee told the boss that the guy who’d eventually towed the group’s broken down car back there, was now dead – possibly a heart attack, possibly a shooting. A bit mysterious, apparently, with some talk that payback was involved. It was hard to know what to believe – if anything – about all that.

M quite cheerfully helped with the rather massive washing up after tea – all the DBB accommodation was bulging at the seams, with the extra search people.

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2003 Travels July 4


John on canoes,  another day for me on tents. Now that the tourist season was in full swing, we were both flat out busy, all day.

Friend M arrived, with the company tour group. She was actually lucky to get here. I had, ages ago, arranged with H, the tour guide, to bring her up with this group. Turned out that he was allocated the Troopy for this tour, but when he went around the accommodations  to pick up his passengers, found there were two more than he had vouchers for – or that we had beds allocated for! Some glitch in the Isa office. It was a tight fit, but he managed to squeeze M in, along with the supplies of beer and wine we’d arranged for her to bring up for us.

The prevailing alcohol drought had well and truly broken in our part of the camp!

Couldn’t spare any time when she arrived, but pointed her in the direction of our van. She set up her little tent next to the van – she was quite self-sufficient, with only a small backpack.

Boss had said that M could help out around the place a little, and wash dishes, in return for her keep whilst here. That made her visit much easier to manage. M was quite happy about that.

Managed to finish work at a reasonable hour, and we had a great catch up. M had loved the mail plane flight. She saw so much, especially because the plane did not get very high, between stations. She confirmed that the pilot had flown off his normal route and low over us, to show her where she was going.

She’d enjoyed H’s company on the way up here, and his tour spiel.

It was great to have a friend here, to show the place off to. A couple of weeks ago, I’d had a phone call from a former teaching colleague, now Darwin based, to say he was driving through these parts, along the Gulf Track and would like to come and visit, too. An influx of friends!

The Search and Rescue was still on, and still disrupting our routines. The SES people from Burketown had arrived. There were even more emergency vehicles cluttering up the place. Now, they were keeping a watch out for circling kites and eagles that might indicate the location of a body. Yuk. Some had a theory that he might have hitched a ride with a tourist going southwards.

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2003 Travels July 3


Before work, I tidied up the van a little, in preparation for M’s visit.

John was on canoes again, I was on tent housekeeping.

A couple of police from Mt Isa arrived in the morning, to follow up on the knife incident. They eventually established that the man with the knife was still missing.

By mid-afternoon, we were the base for a Search and Rescue operation! Personnel came from all over the Gulf region. We had never seen so many National Park Rangers – there were some there, after all!

It proved hard to get exact facts, but they seemed to conclude that the missing man may have been on a de-tox program, rather off his face from that, possibly ill too. Drinking meths may not have helped!

The mustering helicopter from Lawn Hill Station was roped into the search today. A proper search one would come tomorrow, if he was not found overnight. They had some Waanyi trackers and were talking about getting a tracker dog.

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Rugged country in which to be lost……

The Search and Rescue operation took over our office area. We were trying to do business as normal at the reception desk and shop counter, with official people stomping in and out, them monopolizing our phone, and to the constant background noise of their radio communications.

The drive and parking area filled up with police and search vehicles, quad bikes, with the chopper coming and going from the dirt area at the front.

The tourists were obviously really curious, and spectating, and we had to try to answer their questions about what was going on. I think we sold a lot of extra icy poles, as campers found an excuse to come and ask what it was all about.

We then had to provide accommodation for some of the searchers, and feed the whole lot. That meant extra revenue, but cook was definitely not happy.

The pilot that flew the Lawn Hill mustering helicopter was really beaten up and bent. Apparently one of his specialities was  using the skids on the chopper to steer beasts the way he wanted them to go. Not the way to longevity!

B and husband had been to Mt Isa for a couple of days. It was a last minute arrangement. They returned today, with all the staff-ordered beer and wine supplies on board. Happy times for staff again.

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2003 Travels July 2


John was on canoes, I was on reception.

It was mail plane day. Friend M would be on the plane. She was doing the tourist trip the aviation company  offered – to go out on the plane and thus see a lot of the Gulf country, as it delivers mail to about ten properties over a fair expanse of NW Qld.

This week, the mail plane was scheduled to land, with our mail, at Lawn Hill Station, as it alternated weeks between there and  here, so she would see that place close up.

We heard a plane fly really low over us, about 10am. There was panic for a short time, as we thought there was a fly-in group that hadn’t been recorded in the bookings book. But the plane flew on. We concluded that it may have been the mail plane, though it did not usually buzz us on its way to Lawn Hill.

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The cattle yards and trucking station at Lawn Hill Station

The bosses had been on the phone about the plight of the aborigines – who were still sitting about on the front lawn. Phoned the Doomadgee police – they told her they were not a taxi or breakdown service, and they were not going to do anything about the group. Boss said they should have told her that two days ago, when she phoned. She was steaming!

R phoned a senior lady he knew in the community, to see if she could organize some help. He had to be rather diplomatic about this, not knowing the relationships or family status of the ones here.

Next time we had time to look, the group had gone, presumably to suss out the situation at their camp and wait there.

Late in the afternoon, the broken down vehicle was towed back to Doomadgee by someone from there, and the stranded ones went too. Finally! However, there was some talk about that the berserk one was missing, when the group went back there, this morning.