This Adventurous Age

Adventures travelling and working around Australia.

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2005 Travels April 25


Anzac Day out in the wider world. A work day here.

The camp generator was fired up in order to get the fridges cold.

John did his usual gardening, watering, camp grooming tasks. Today, he had to mow the camp lawns as well. That took him ages.

I did a ferrying trip between house and camp, moving the refrigerated goods, and other requirements, down to the camp.

O brought down the alcohol supplies – stock he had brought from Brisbane – cans of beer, some wines, and also some soft drinks. There would barely be enough stocks of these, I thought, so I was rather anxious about that. When we had the first supply truck from Mt Isa, would get more stock.

I set up a small table near the drinks fridge, with a folder where guests could sign for drinks taken, to be tallied and added to their final account.

There was another table – one that could seat six or eight people – that would be used for eating daylight meals outdoors. This would be moved around to be in shade, as needed.

I fired up the kitchen stove and made Anzac biscuits and a date loaf. I used O’s bread making machine to make a loaf of bread. But the generator power supply was really not adequate for the draw of the machine at some stages of the process. The resultant loaf was not the greatest, but would have to do.

I made sure that the two tents the expected guests would be using were ready, and that the showers were clean and tidy. O must have had a message from A, because he warned me that one of the men was quite large, and we should ensure he had a very sturdy bed, and a very solid chair.

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I was becoming quite apprehensive about what was coming.

I filled a couple of water coolers and put them in the drinks fridge to chill, along with the two jugs of water that would go into the tents just before guest arrival tomorrow. After that, as part of the morning tidy up of the tents, the jugs would be refilled, re-chilled and put back just before guests arrived back from whatever they were doing.

I had made a work running sheet, to keep me on track through the next few days.

I had already checked – more than once – with O about what meat he had available in his freezers at the house. I reminded him to make sure the piece of beef destined for tomorrow’s dinner, was adequately defrosted by tomorrow morning. Just hoped he remembered!

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2005 Travels April 24


This was our day off. Again, it seemed like there might be storms – big cloud build up, but no rain resulted.

O was going to tow the new boat on its trailer to the Bluff Waterhole, further down the Calvert River. The track there was now dry enough to do this. The boat would stay moored there for the season. There was already a boat on the Croc Hole waterhole on Karns Creek – the closest fishing hole to the camp. So, our soon to arrive guests – who were coming for the fishing – would have two areas in which to fish from boats.

Later, when tracks had dried out some more, and could be cleaned up, O planned to have a boat moored at a waterhole further down the river again, that he called Bathtub Springs.

Loved the names O had given places on the property!

The Calvert for much of its length, is a series of beautiful deep waterholes, some as long as maybe six kms, separated by stretches of shallows, rock bars and tangles of dead trees brought down by floods. So it was not possible to take the boats to their destinations by using the river. Even in the lower tidal section, a boat could not travel far upriver before being blocked by sandbars and sections of narrows.

O asked if we wanted to tag along, to help him manhandle the boat into position. For us, that was a chance to see more of the place.

The way out to the Bluff took the same track as to Fig Tree Camp, with which we were familiar, but after some way, kept going straight ahead, where we had turned off to the left to go to that camp.

We saw two wild dingoes in the scrub, not too far from the house. As we were in our Truck, couldn’t ask O at the time, but wondered if one of them was the male he called “Darryl” – the old male who was, presumably – Scunge’s mate and the father of Beau and Locky. He had earlier told us that the house dingoes sometimes take food out to Darryl, so I guess that alone was incentive for him to visit regularly. But he never came inside the fenced home garden area, even though the way in was wide and open.

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Wild dingoes

 A few kms past the Fig Tree turn off, we took a turn to the left from the main track. This led to the river but O had to stop a bit short of it, where the going was rough. Here, we unhitched the boat trailer and manhandled it on further, to the water’s edge, where there was a place shelving enough to enable us to launch the boat off the trailer, then tie it securely to trees on the bank. This was right at the downstream end of the Bluff Waterhole. It wasn’t too hard to get the boat down to the water, but it would have been very difficult for O on his own.

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Calvert River at Bluff Waterhole

O left to go back home and do more work. We wandered around the edge of the river for a bit, then went back to our camp, to bird watch and laze about for the rest of the day.

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2005 Travels April 23


Today saw fairly solid high grey cloud cover

A few days ago, O had told John how to change the oil in the camp generator and today John did this. Another regular task for him.

John put up the tent name signs that we’d brought up from Melbourne for A. He had to go out in the bush to source suitable posts to attach them to, then dig holes for same and put them in. They looked great.

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The sleeping tents were Bauhinia, Conkerberry, Grevillea, Hakea and Leichardt, the dining tent Callistemon.

I went around and took a number of photos of the camp that was now pretty much in readiness for the first guests. We had accomplished a lot in the time here, I thought.

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A last-minute job for John, just before guests arrival, would be to rake any fallen leaves off the lawned central areas of the camp. He would also have to mow on Monday – grass grew quickly in this heat.

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2005 Travels April 22


Today was the weekly mail plane day. A heavy canvas bag hung on a hook in O’s kitchen area. We put outgoing mail in that. On Friday mornings, it was fastened up with a large, attached strap and buckle, ready to go. The plane came from the SE direction, because the Redbank Mine was the stop before ours. Stops before that included Walhallow, Kiana, and Calvert Hills Stations. By the time he reached us, he would have flown some 600kms already, from Tennant Creek, and the day before come from Alice Springs, completing a mail run from there to Tennant Creek. Tomorrow, he would return to Alice Springs.

It was a humid, grey day, with big storm cloud build up. O was not sure that the plane would get here, due to the threatening storms. I wasn’t sure how waterproof the guest tents were, so hoped there would not be a deluge. In the event, the rain squalls that did come were not too heavy and did not last long and the really heavy clouds moved on elsewhere. The guest tent interiors stayed dry! Some rain came into the kitchen tent through the meshed sides – but those sides were free of anything that would cause problems if wet. Likewise the dining tent.

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Storm looming over the camp

It was with considerable relief today that we heard the approach noise of the small, single engined plane, and went out to the house end of the airstrip to meet it with the mailbag.

The pilot said the flight had been a bit rough, in parts. I suspected that was an understatement. He unloaded our incoming mailbag, and a couple of small boxes of things for O. BUT – major concern on my part – no box of greengroceries! My first thought was that it had been offloaded at one of the other stops by mistake, but the pilot was adamant that it had not been on the plane. Wasn’t his problem, and off he went.

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Storm seen from the garden of the house

Back at the house, O emptied the mail bag and I retrieved my Weekend Australian paper, delivered by the newsagent to the Post Office, for the mail bag. At least, that system was working!

We were expecting the first lot of camp guests next Tuesday, for three nights. I really needed supplies of fruit and vegies. O waffled on a bit, but the gist of it was – after a phone call to the Tennant Creek supermarket – he stuffed up the faxed order by putting it in the machine the wrong way round. All they had received was a blank! Might have been a wizard in the bush but he was not comfortable, at all, with technology.

Great! I had initially, just after we arrived and I found out about this booking, hoped for supplies via the fortnightly truck from Mt Isa, but O had said that the dates for this would not fit, as the first truck through would not happen yet. Later, I was to find out that he had the truck dates wrong!

There was some discussion about the fact that I could not provide decent meals for guests, with just some potatoes, pumpkin  and a few very wilted and limited remnants of what we’d bought from Adels. It was far too soon, of course, for the vegie garden to be cropping anything, although there were a couple of ripe paw paws in O’s garden.

O finally agreed that we could put in a greengrocery order to the Mt Isa supplier, to be sent up from there on next Wednesday’s mail plane, which came only as close as Hells Gate Roadhouse. O would fly his light Jabiru plane there, and pick them up. It was going to be a costly exercise – and inconvenient for him – but he might learn to be more careful!

John made the point that both of us were able to work the fax machine, and could do the transmitting of orders. He also tried to – fairly gently – urge that the computer be set up and made operational,  to help with the ordering processes as most places take email orders. I pointed out that I would need to use a computer to research and order stuff needed to set up the camp properly. I also thought, but did not say, that it would be best if we sighted – directly – communications from A re bookings, rather than have that information conveyed second hand.  O – sort of – conceded that this would happen soon.

The rest of the day was spent working on detailing the camp for the coming guests. And re-working the meals I had planned for Tuesday and Wednesday, to allow for the paucity of green matter!

The clouds of the day made for an interesting sunset.

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2005 Travels April 21


Today was daughter’s birthday – 33. No way of contacting her, though – not the sort of thing I felt comfortable asking O to use the house sat phone for. As yet, there was no computer access either as we felt not welcome to use the office computer access point. The fax machine was hooked up in there, but O had, to date, made it clear that he would fax anything needed, like the weekly order to the supermarket for the mail plane. Guess it was a way of keeping check on what was going on.

Usual routine jobs. I went up to the house with John and helped him with the watering, so he could do some other work in the vegie garden – preparing beds, tying up the beans in the teepee structure, and the like. That used up the morning.

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The dog whisperer working his usual magic

O let me use the phone and I found out that a remote areas lending service was provided by a library in Humpty Doo, of all places! I phoned the Taminmin Library. They would send me a box of books via the mail plane. They choose what to send, based on what I tell them of my taste in genres. When the books have been read, I send the box back and get another. The postage would all be paid by them! What a great service.

I gave O a sizeable  order for the truck from Mt Isa, due in a couple of weeks. There had been some confusion about dates, here. Initially, O said it was due in three weeks and the order should be in by next week. Then, he must have double checked and found it was all a week earlier than he’d thought. So I’d quickly prepared lists of what I wanted, from Woolworth’s, the greengrocer, and Medley’s, the bulk goods supplier. Some of the Woolworth’s order was meat other than beef, as I didn’t feel we could exist without some variety!

Then O came back with the information that we had missed the deadline for Woolworth’s orders – by a day. I was a bit cross about the inefficiency and casualness, but couldn’t say anything. I know O had lots of things on his mind, and he was accustomed to cobbling together any old thing to eat, but feeding camp guests well was clearly a priority for the owners, so it was important for me! John phoned Woolworths and tried to talk them into taking a late order, but with no success. I was able to fill some of the gaps by adding to the Medley’s order and the rest we would have to manage without.

In the afternoon I pottered about the camp, doing bits and pieces.

After work, wrote my letter to the Taminmin Library, with my details and generalized requests, to go out in tomorrow’s mailbag. I wondered when I would receive my first lot of reading matter? It was already becoming evident that, unless camp bookings pick up, I was going to have some time to read!

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2005 Travels April 20


Today we continued work on putting the camp to rights, as well as the usual chores.

I had done some food planning for guests expected next week – two men – and gave O my list of food to come on the mail plane. Mostly it was greengroceries from the supermarket, as I could get by with the general stocks that I brought in and which O also did. The order for items to come on the mail plane was due to reach the supermarket in Tennant Creek by Wednesdays.

I had all the bedding and towels washed by now and was able to make the beds up. Ten beds in all to do. I thought the tents looked pretty good, even if I did say so myself.

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John found flares in the container that work by filling with insect repellent citronella oil – or kerosene – and then burning to deter mosquitoes . At night, these would add to the ambience of the place.

We were looking forward to seeing what the camp looked like at night, with lights working, flares on and the like.

O brought in a couple of loads of sand from the river and dumped them by the two entry points from the camp into the camp creek. These were where the water was sufficiently deep for people to sit in and cool off – almost thigh high on me, in parts. We had already sampled the creek method of cooling off!

Another job for John was to spread the sand out, to make two “beaches”. When there were guests, these would need daily raking.

After John had made the beaches, we gave them names – Water Monitor Beach and Red Claw Beach. The names suggested themselves because, sometimes in the mornings, John would find red claw yabby shells in those spots, left by the water monitors snacking on same. John thought he might try to make signs for these beaches.

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Water Monitor Beach

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2005 Travels April 19


I continued work on setting up “my” domain – the kitchen tent.

The reptile had departed the oven, overnight, so I was able to complete its cleaning and reassemble it all.

The kitchen tent had two meshed sides and two solid canvas ones. The meshed sides were the one behind the sink and stove, and the one next to that, which looked out towards the creek and fire pit area. O said that he had ordered another meshed side to be made and was waiting on that – it would improve air circulation through the kitchen no end.

As I cleaned and sorted gear, it became obvious that I must before much longer, work out what items would be needed to make the safari camp function properly, and up to the level that the new owners were expecting. The mish mash of motley, non matching crockery, glasses  and cutlery that had been unpacked just would not do. It certainly was not adequate for the numbers A was hoping for. When I gained an overall picture of what was here – and what might be secreted away at the main house – I would try and get to that.

It was certainly a good thing that I’d thought to bring several boxes of cooking needs with me from home – like sharp knives, measuring scales and cups, baking trays, stick blender. These were supplemented with the kitchen gear from the caravan, too.

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Kitchen tent – limited bench and storage space. Dining tent in background

O had told me that the dings were trained not to enter the kitchen tent, which was very good news. I discovered that they would put their front toenails right at the edge of the floor tarp, in the open flap doorway, but no further, and crane their heads in to watch what was going on. But however good they seemed to be, I still would not trust them to obey the rules if there was a big chunk of meat sitting out on a bench!

The dining tent was a short walk from the kitchen one. Just far enough for food to start to cool down, when we were taking meals to guests there, at night! It too had two meshed sides, which allowed views out to the encircling creek. There was the constant background noise of running water, as the creek there was a series of shallows over tree roots. At night, spotlights up in the trees lit up the creek in that area, with its lush greenery. It was all very well done and quite unique – full marks to O.

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Dining tent creek in background

One thing I was told to be very careful about was not to leave guest tents open – apparently dings just love chewing up things like pillows!

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2005 Travels April 18


The days seemed to be getting clearer – more blue sky, less cloud.

Yesterday, O had set up the pride and glory of the kitchen tent – the “used” commercial gas stove that A managed to acquire last year. Getting it into Pungalina must have been a saga. It was not light!

Anyway, it was now out of the container and in place. Two big gas bottles were set up outside the tent, with one hooked up to the stove, and one in reserve.

So I now had four good sized burners and a decent sized oven. Much better than trying to cook on a fire in a 44 gallon drum, which had been proposed in 2003!

I set about giving the stove a thorough clean – it obviously had not been done after last year’s use. I did the stove top components, then started on the oven.

I was on my knees, reaching into the dark depths of the oven, scrubbing away with a wet scourer. Became aware of a short hissing noise and vaguely thought that O had not connected the gas properly, or there was a leak. Was wondering how serious it might be, when the hiss came again and I had the horrible realization that leaking gas would make a constant noise, not an intermittent one. Just as this thought occurred, I thought I glimpsed movement deep in the oven, by my hand! I somehow managed a massive backwards leap, on all fours, screaming out to John – who was working outside – that there was a snake in the oven!

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Cleaning the stove

Before we could investigate further, I had to run up to the van and get the torch. I wanted to be able to see where it went!

We very carefully approached the stove and, by the torch light could see – a large water monitor! They are such curious creatures and get into every nook and cranny to check things out, it seems. While it was not particularly happy about its close encounter with my Scotchbrite, it was not inclined to move, so we left it there and I abandoned oven cleaning for the day. Good thing I hadn’t been using oven cleaning spray!

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Water monitor checking out the oven

I made a note to myself: for the rest of the year, do not light oven until it has first been checked for visiting wild life!

After the initial flurry, both O and John were highly amused by the incident. I was sure I’d sprouted a few more grey hairs!

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2005 Travels April 17


Our day off!

We still had to go up to the house to water the vegie garden and other plants. But we could sleep in – to the extent that the heat allowed. It was still very humid and hot.

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The main house – Gulf architecture

I still had to do the daily washing of the clothes I’d soaked overnight in the dish. Since John strung the hose from the water tank to the van, I now only had to cart buckets of wash and rinse water from the hose outlet at the side of the van, not all the way from the creek.

We were getting our camp looking rather settled now and functional for us. The shade cloth that John rigged up around the sides of the annexe area, made a sort of shaded cave inside.

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Our camp after a week

We had already found that there was – in the late afternoon – shade from the trees close to us, where we could sit for our happy hour. There were birds visiting those trees again, after the upheaval of our arrival, and we enjoyed watching those. Very peaceful.

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The track to our camp after a week, and the mud brick generator hut

John had set up yabby nets in the camp creek. He had caught a number, but I was insisting that the smaller ones, which was most of them, were put back in the creek, to grow up. That was, if the resident water monitors did not catch them first.

We had another friendly critter about the place. A large green frog had lost no time setting up abode in the toilet – and I mean in. Every morning “she” was there. Every morning I carefully fished her out and relocated her to nearby bush. Next morning she was inevitably back! I did hope that, when we had guests staying, they were equally considerate of her! Unfortunately she did seem to make a lot of mess. I would clean the toilet every day, but after Gertie spent the night, there was always plenty of evidence that she’d been there.

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Frog water hole. Yes -all the mess was hers!

I was still feeling vaguely sick most of the time, with no appetite. Was sure I had picked up some sort of bug. Maybe it was a reaction to the heat, but I was no stranger to that.  I was living mostly on cup of soup – bland ones, and dry weetbix. John seemed fine and had a healthy appetite. As it turned out, this was to last some six weeks from our arrival, before it gradually wore off sometime in June.

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2005 Travels April 16


Today was more of the same.

John up to the house after breakfast, to water the vegie garden. Me doing my clothes washing in my washing dish, having soaked it overnight. We were certainly getting our clothes filthy!

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Watering the vegie patch

I went up to the house and started the process of washing the camp bedding and linen to freshen it up. O had a proper domestic washing machine, set up on the cement verandah floor at the front of his house. The old fashioned clothes lines were wires stretched between poles and trees and held up with wooden props. I grew up with such a system so that didn’t faze me. At least, the washing dried quickly.

Maybe one day I would get up nerve to ask O if I could do our personal washing in his machine! Should be part of “keep” as far as I was concerned!

Then it was camp lawn watering for John and general neatening work and helping O.

Getting the electrical wires and leads set up all around the camp was a huge job for O. As well as the 12V leads to the individual tents, there were leads to light the kitchen, dining tent, fire pit area at night. There were a couple of 240V power points in the kitchen tent, so leads to those too.

All these electricals were, of course, powered from the camp generator. This was not to be run when there were no guests, so no lights or power then.

A lot of the gear that came from the container needed cleaning. Whatever backpackers O had helping him put it all away, last year, did not clean things very well, before packing away!

Now that his friends had gone, O was spending more time in the late day with us, and having some evening meals with us too.

O was telling us that, by law, the local Shire Council is obligated to provide and maintain access tracks/ roads to homesteads. In this case, the 64kms long track! They did clear it, to some extent, back when O moved in. However, O’s first partner/owner of the place, until 2004, “sold” this obligation back to the Shire – for enough money to buy some of the machinery (second hand) needed to establish the place. O was still not happy about this!