This Adventurous Age

Adventures travelling and working around Australia.

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2003 Travels July 1


John was on amenities and rubbish. I was on reception.

The shop was very busy – to the point of bedlam at times. It must be school holidays somewhere! The campground was very busy. Today was hard work.

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Staff compound now quite full – 4 vans and a camper trailer

The bosses had a bad night last night. The police phoned about midnight. Seems some aborigines had rung the police, from the public phone here, to report that one of their group had gone berserk at their camp and had been trying to stab them with a knife.

The  police asked the boss to “just step outside and see what’s going on”!

All but two of the group that had been coming here every day, was there, sitting quietly on the front lawn area. They had walked down from their camp and phoned. The crazy one was back at their camp, they thought. He had the d.t.’s it seemed. The beer they’d had, and the meths  they’d bought, was all long gone.

Boss reported all this to the police. They seemed to feel there was no immediate threat to anyone.

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2003 Travels June 30


John was on rubbish and donkey fires duty today. He got a bit too enthusiastic in his fire lighting and boiled one of the donkeys. There was hot steam spouting out the top, in a large circle. Boss was not best pleased!

I was on float again. It was a very long day. I worked 7.45am to 2.45pm, then 6 to 9pm. There was a huge wash up – the biggest yet – and I was very weary by the time it was all over. It was like the day off had never been.

We were very busy in the shop during the day.

Odyssey Tours brought a group in to stay – some nice old ducks amongst them.

The campground was now getting full, regularly. The Grove was also getting pretty packed. Those who were eligible (no dogs or gensets or vans) usually wanted to go down there, and because it was pick your own spot, it could be hard to control the space and numbers. We wrote down the details of those who were going down there to camp and both V and I had tried to get the boss to set a numbers limit, but so far that had not happened.

The area where we put the big bus tour groups, with their own tents, across the driveway from the shop, was also serving as an overflow area for would be caravanners who arrived without a booking. It was not a very attractive area, and was a long way from the campground showers, so some were often not very happy. Others were grateful that we just didn’t turn them away.

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Bus group and camper overflow area to left of main driveway

It was the end of the financial year. We were supposed to stocktake the shop, in amongst our normal work. Bit of a joke that!

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A stand of conkerberry John found; inside the thin trunks is a vivid orange timber, for woodworking

The aborigines were still out there. They came back to the shop again today and had another hunt for meths. Then they sat out on the veranda, spinning hard luck stories to tourists, to try to get a ride back to their camp – or to Doomadgee. One tourist took them back to their camp, but drew the line at going to Doom! They offered him $50 to do so, but he was not interested, for which no-one blamed him.

It really was time something happened about them. The boss had tried a few times to get back onto the police head honcho, but he seemed to always be too busy to talk to her. We thought there was something suss about it all, because of general lack of interest in their welfare from the Doom end.

Mind you, if they were white travellers, they would be expected to be pro-active about organizing their own retrieval, rather than just passively sitting around waiting for someone else to rescue them!

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2003 Travels June 29


Finally – a day off!

We had managed to sell a pleasing number of scenic helicopter flights while the pals were here, so this morning, at 10am,  the pilot took B and me, and John, on the promised free flight.

Our flight lasted about 15 minutes. He took us out and over the gorges at the National Park. We did not go up very high and the views were wonderful. We flew over all the gorges – it was really spectacular from the air. Our return run was along Lawn Hill Creek – at treetop level! I was not sure how legal that was, but it was exciting. At the end, over the airstrip, the pilot did a steep climb, then “fell off” to the side. Wow! Our stomachs eventually caught up to us again. We came back high on adrenalin.

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Lawn Hill Creek, with the Gorge in the distance

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Lower Gorge, the Island Stack, distant Constance Range

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Middle Gorge and Indarri Falls

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Gorge cut through the escarpment

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The Upper Gorge, the Narrows, walk track beside gorge

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Lawn Hill Creek beyond the Upper Gorge, with side creek

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Middle Gorge, camp area, approach road and Constance Range

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Our staff compound in foreground, vegie garden, green roof of old donga

I phoned and got the ok from the Lawn Hill Station manager’s wife, to go driving on some of their tracks again. We wanted to go look at the old weir, which we had seen from the air, near the end of the Lower Gorge.

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Edge of Island Stack & walk track, old weir (lower R)

We had to go via the homestead again, across the creek ford to the north of that, then double back down on the far side of the creek.

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Track followed right side of creek towards old weir, at base of scarp

The weir was built in 1983. I was surprised that it was so recent, this diversion of the creek away from its original course. Before that, our section of creek was just a series of seasonal waterholes. So, in the days of the Frenchman, the creek was not a permanently running one – which made the establishment of his gardens an even greater feat.

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Former course of Lawn Hill Creek – once could have been like this by Adels

The diversion, of course, made the creek past the Lawn Hill Station homestead, a permanently flowing one. Only a year after the weir was built, the station owner – Sebastian Maier – made the offer of land that led to the setting up of the National Park. Maybe it was not co-incidental that the diversion weir was built before the National Park happened.

The drive was a really pretty one, with the Constance Range off to the west, and the green line of vegetation that marked the creek, to our left. Eventually, the track ran between some low hills of tumbled rocks and the creek, the way ahead narrowed  and the track ended.

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Track went between creek and low rocky ridge

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Caves at the track’s end

It was not far then to walk to the weir. From here, across the creek, the abrupt red rock face of the Island Stack loomed.

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Red walls of the Island Stack and reflections in Lawn Hill Creek

We walked around for a while, exploring and taking photos. The colour contrasts between the creek, the vegetation, and the rocks, were brilliant.

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Looking into the Lower Gorge from the old weir area

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The effect of the old weir on Lawn Hill Creek

Then we went back the way we’d come, and spent the rest of the day lazing about at the van.

The aboriginal group were still broken down and at out their camp. They had walked in today, to come to the shop. They bought some food and tried to get some more meths. This was when it came to light that they’d bought a bottle, yesterday. The boss phoned the police at Doomadgee, on their behalf, to report the breakdown and their need for retrieval, and was told it was being dealt with. So it seemed that someone there knew about them.

The main group of palaeontologists left today. Unfortunately, the volunteers and most of the students had decided to stay on for a couple of days of R&R, which meant that it would be a real scrabble to fit in the booked tour groups, even though one group did cancel a few days ago. Like it or not, most of the over-stayers had to move into the more scruffy emergency accommodation – the old caravans and donga rooms, near where we were initially parked – and near the generator. There wouldn’t have been any spare linen left in the store when they were set up! I suspected that V had not had a great day.

At tea time, we found that there was a possible Medivac case. A tourist presented with what may have been heart issues – he’d not long had a bypass. There was a big phone consult with the Flying Doctor, who eventually decided that he should be taken over to the Century Mine, for the paramedics there to assess. The boss was run off her feet and couldn’t do it, so John volunteered to drive him there. He knew the way, and had been cleared when he had his own, earlier, little emergency.

They returned a couple of hours later, with the verdict that it was a panic attack, brought on by worry because he felt really remote from medical help. He’d found out that, in significant ways, he was not that remote at all. He was grateful, and put a good donation in the Flying Doctor tin.

There was an interesting talk after tea tonight, by Sydney Uni archaeologists doing field work at Riversleigh, and up in the Mussellbrook section of the National Park, west of Lawn Hill. They had dated aboriginal relics back to at least 37,000 years – and maybe 43,000. A current line of research was whether over hunting had any impact on the disappearance of the megafauna. They believed that the two overlapped in this region – hence even greater significance for the Riversleigh area.

We were thinking about whether to join the Riversleigh Society. Maybe, at some future time, we might try to join the annual dig as volunteer workers?

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2003 Travels June 28


John back on grounds and I was floating again. Jack of all trades!

I did the reception/shop for the early session then, once B came on duty there, I went and helped in the kitchen. I went off at 2pm for lunch and break, and then back on at 6pm to help with dinner prep. I helped carve several roasted lamb legs for the evening meal.

John stayed after tea and helped with the wash up again, to help me do it.

There seemed to be some staff tensions developing. This was probably inevitable in such a small, enclosed community. B asked the boss if she could become the permanent kitchen hand, once the German lass left. She did not cope well with the pressure of the shop/reception work, and did not like the tent house keeping work. However, she found it hard, I think, to admit all that, so found it easier to say she did not like working with V and me!

The pals brought up a supply of books about Riversleigh, for us to sell in the shop. I bought one, and had it signed by Mike, his wife and the man who was the main organizer of the dig. They actually remembered that I’d been cooking for them, last year, and wrote pleasant things in my book.

This was the last night for the full pals group.

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Adels Grove and the Lawn Hill section of the National Park

Late in the afternoon, a group of five or six aboriginals had come into the shop, initially to buy some supplies. They had been down from Doomadgee, camping and fishing about 5kms down along the creek. Then their vehicle had broken down, about 3kms out along the road. They asked if “someone’ would take them back to Doomadgee. The boss said we were all too busy. They started asking tourists, as they approached the reception area,  to do it – but were refused by all.

In the end, for the sake of getting them out of the way and not harassing the tourists, the boss asked John to drive them back to their camp spot, in the bus. They were none too clean, to put it mildly, and John had to open all the bus windows to air it out, after he got back!

Unfortunately, we found out later that B, when unpacking supplies and stocking the shop shelves, had put a bottle of methylated spirits out there, and then sold the bottle to the group. We did keep a bottle or two of this in the pantry store, in case of campers asking for same, but it should not have been out on display. No one had told B this – she wasn’t to know.

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2003 Travels June 27


John was on grounds – again. Apart from him doing a good job, there was also the factor that B’s husband did not like that job – especially the amenity cleaning. When rostered on that, he did not do it well – or sometimes not at all! That one preferred the canoe hire, or doing unrostered “special” jobs about the place, like building planter boxes for flowers. Such things were often his idea, rather than being requested.

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The Grove area at left, Lawn Hill Creek and the swim pontoon; road south in the distance.

I was floating, but spent most of the time on reception. B was rostered on that, but then disappeared into the kitchen, which she preferred. She was not at ease in the shop.

We had to unload the weekly supply truck at 9.30am. It was a really big order and there was, as a result, stuff everywhere. I managed to get a bit put away, in between serving people.

I went off at 2pm, had lunch and stayed off till 6.15. Helped serve dinner then was on wash up, which was a really big one. It was a baked chicken casserole, so was a messy washup, too. John stayed after tea and helped with all that.

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2003 Travels June 26


I was on tents, John on grounds. He felt he was being typecast in this role, but he does such a good job of it. There were multiple tasks within this work – just depended on what needed doing at any one time, on top of the basic campground cleaning and grooming.

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Without a full supply of these, there would be no hot meals!

I did the early session on reception. There were only a few tents to do and I’d finished all that by late lunch time.

Then I helped in the later afternoon rush on reception, which really needed two people now. There was always a rush of later arriving campers booking in, and the check in procedure for each was quite time consuming.

The Camry couple left today. D had managed a to fix the gearbox. It cost them $850 for repairs and second hand tyres, to get them back to proper help – via Gregory and Burke and Wills! He seemed to think he’d got off cheaply – which he had. In the end, they really enjoyed their stay, despite the inauspicious start.

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2003 Travels June 25


I was on tent housekeeping, John on canoes.

I looked after reception first, until 11am, then did the couple of vacated tents. With the extended stay of the pals, tent servicing is at a minimum – but we will pay for it on the day they go!

After a late lunch, I helped back on reception for a while.

Two ladies from the Remote Area Family Services arrived and would stay a couple of days to do the toddler’s first “art” session. This service would be supporting the bub in his early childhood development. It is a really worthwhile – and needed – organization.

We held a fund raiser for the RAFS. We’d put up signs at Reception and, after tea cooked up a mountain of pikelets, so we could charge $5 a head for a special talk by Mike Archer, and supper.

Our signs generated a big crowd from the campers – very pleasing. The women from RAFS spoke briefly about their work. Then our star – Mike – talked about the progress on his current pet project – whether they would be able to clone the thylacine back into existence. He said they were making encouraging progress – and put up quite a convincing case that they would make better domestic pets than the conventional dog! He had the audience entranced – us too!

The biologists in the party passed around the critters they had collected whilst here – most of which would be returned whence they came, once the digging was done. The tourists were suitably impressed by a childrens python, a Gulf snapping turtle, a file snake, a pygmy bat, but the star of the show was our large olive python, who had put in a timely appearance earlier in the evening – heading under our caravan – and been retrieved for display.

We raised $540 for RAFS – but there was an awful lot of washing up of the supper items, for us to do at 10pm. All for a good cause.

I was thinking that we might just come back again, another year, to help out for a few weeks at the busy time – but to make sure to do it when the pals are here – just to hear Mike speak!

On reception, I had gotten sick of regularly answering the same tourist questions: How far is it to…..? What is the road like to…..? How do I get to…..? So I had drawn up a mud map – the old geography skills came in handy. Most of the commercial maps were badly inaccurate for this region, especially for the dirt tracks through to Doomadgee and Bowthorn. I photocopied a supply of these and we sold them at the desk, for $1 a copy. The money went straight into the Flying Doctor donation tin on the desk – and my map proved to be a good little fund raiser for that cause.

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The tracks through this country on Lawn Hill Station were not on most maps