MONDAY 11 APRIL PUNGALINA
We were awake and up before 7am. It was already hotter.
Had half a grapefruit each, for breakfast. John had some cereal too. I didn’t – felt the need to conserve our stock of soy milk until it was clear what would happen about supplies.
I washed our clothes. In this humidity we would probably need at least two changes a day! I did the washing by hand in our large plastic washing bowl, and carted water from the creek in two buckets. It did not seem that close, after all! Strung some clothesline rope I carried in the van, between some trees to hang the washing on – a temporary arrangement.
O and the two men arrived, closely followed by the three dingoes. They had come to set up a toilet and wall the showers. Hooray – digging a toilet hole off in the bush this morning had been hard work on the rocky ground!
There seemed to have been a change of atmosphere from yesterday – O announced he would pay us as of today! Maybe he had been distracted/tired yesterday? Maybe he thought we would up and leave again when we saw the conditions here? Maybe M and J had interceded on our behalf? Whatever – things were looking up!
I gave O the camp supplies I’d bought in Cloncurry – it was cooler at his place to store foodstuffs.
The wheeled container containing the safari camp goods was parked at the edge of the large clearing that was the camp area. O had towed it down there before he left for the south, a few weeks before.
From the container was produced a toilet cistern, toilet bowl, three small handbasins, and some heaps of canvas. The latter turned out to be canvas walls. These were tied onto the steel frames of the showers to create walls – and doors. Each had a small handbasin put in place.
A length of framed wood was brought out and that turned out to be the toilet floor. The toilet was walled in a similar way, after the toilet and hand basin were put in place. All the basins and the toilet were connected to pipes that had remained in place through the Wet. Closer investigation revealed drains under the wire and corrugated iron of the shower floors.
While all this was going on, the men were also watering the camp lawns, hooking up movable sprinklers to long hoses, and pumping direct from the creek. John learned how to do this – his job from now on.
John mowed the path that had been made by O, from our clearing to the camp. It had been a very narrow track. I was pleased to have it wider – anything could have been lurking in the long grass along its edges. John also mowed the vehicle access track to our clearing.
More fuel was needed for the mower, so John drove the battered old Hilux back to the main house, to fetch some. This had no windscreen, and like all vehicles on the place that could be accessed, it had been “dinged”. Dingoes love chewing things, it seems. There was no upholstery left on the seats, or on the dashboard. I made a note to self to always make sure the Defender windows were not left down!
The dingo matriarch, Scunge, hitched a ride on the Hilux tray, and John started to make friends with her.
It was so humid – well into the 30’s too. There was some cloud cover and a bit of breeze in the morning. Into the afternoon, the breeze was gone and it was very uncomfortable.
O said we had to do a couple of hours gardening, to earn our pay, today! So we drove up to the house and did an hour and a half in the vegie patch there. This was a fenced area – to keep out critters that might find the produce more attractive than native grass.
We weeded, dug some beds, watered what was there, which was not much. A had indicated, back in Melbourne, that growing vegies for the camp – and for all of us – would be a part of our roles. He had neglected to say that the vegetable garden would have to be established virtually from scratch! There were a few eggplant bushes growing – seemingly self sown – some basil, some mung beans (inedible things!), and a patch of lucerne that O had put in, to provide himself with green leafy food in the Wet season! There were a couple of patches of pumpkin and melon vines, outside the enclosure, in the main garden, where there were also citrus trees. Getting a decent range of produce going would certainly keep John busy. Me too, probably.
We had a fairly late lunch of sandwiches, back at the van.
O had said that, at this time of year, a break from work was taken through the hottest early part of the afternoon. We should try to rest or nap, then, to compensate for dawn starts! However, it was hard to get any decent rest in the very hot van – the interior wall by the bed was almost too hot to touch!
We put up the van annexe and unpacked some of the safari camp stuff from Truck – John’s tables and the tent signs.
O came and slashed more around our camp, creating a greater cleared fire buffer. Before he did that, the scrub was only about a metre from the van, in places. He’d told us that, over the off season, he’d had to put up a wire fence around the perimeter of about 5 acres of the camp area – quite a distance, even though the fourth side of this area was the unfenced creek, and with some of the fence on really swampy ground. The fence was needed because some of the feral cattle about the place had decided that the lush green lawn of the camp made attractive grazing. He’d also installed a gate across the track, just up from the entrance to our clearing, which we were instructed to close at night – apparently that was when they tended to sneak in.
I had developed a rash on the backs of my hands. Maybe it was a reaction to the soaps used at Adels? It was itchy – but then, so was much of me. So many “bities” in these parts at this time of year. There were nasty biting horse fly things – much worse than March flies. They really had an impact. I had been bitten about five times today by them.
While working around our camp, saw a bird that was not listed on the Pungalina bird list we had been given – a pair of chestnut breasted mannikins.
In the afternoon, John was able to use our hoses and fittings to hook up to the camp water supply, by running a hose through the grass and scrub – very cautiously – over to a tap on the tank stand. It made a big difference, no longer having to cart water from the creek, and being able to wash hands in the van sink without using up our good drinking water in the van tanks. Ultimately, we would have to wean onto drinking water from the camp creek – boiled, until we were certain of its safety.
We drank litres of Gatorade, all day. Sweated it out again.
I decided to use our portable gas camping stove, outside, in the annexe, to cook. It was just too hot in the van to add any more heat in there.
This morning, our van batteries were down to medium charge, after using lights before bed last night, and the 12volt fan all night. The fridge was running a lot too, in the heat – a further drain on the batteries. At 5.30pm, John put the generator on and hooked up to the van. It took a while, but the charge got up. With the genset on, we were able to use the inverter to power the 240v fluoro light, the 240v fan (bliss) and John his laptop.
The power only got to amber light, not green, but was 12.2 by next morning, though.
I cooked John a couple of eggs for tea, with bread and salad. I felt a bit sick and wasn’t hungry, so just had a bit of salad. I felt a bit better, later, as the evening cooled.
There were lots of little, crawly, bitey bugs in the bed! Discovered when I went to go to bed. Didn’t know where they came from, or why, but had to try to brush them all up and throw them outside. Then spray the residue. Then it was hard to relax into sleep, imagining things crawling on me.
Despite the difficulties, we were feeling more positive about being here. Getting paid helped!