WEDNESDAY 13 APRIL PUNGALINA
Today was cloudy, humid, hot.
We were getting into the local working pattern – morning work after a really early start, sleep through the heat of the day, maybe do some more work after it cools down. But trying to nap in the van in the daytime heat was rather like being delirious with a fever!
This morning O and John worked around the safari camp, with O showing John exactly where and how he wanted the grass mowed. Then, they encountered a whip snake. Usually these are quite fast, but this one was a bit sluggish; O quickly swooped and grabbed it behind the head. He asked John what I was like about snakes? Guess he was rather concerned, because in that environment, one was likely to meet same.
John replied that they didn’t worry me too much. So they brought it up to the van, where I was doing my washing, to show me. O held it up so I could take a photo or two, then put it back down on the ground – right there – so it could get away. Unfortunately, he had been holding it so tightly that he’d strangled it, and snake wasn’t going anywhere!
We worked with O this morning, starting to set up the Safari Camp.
There were two big marquee style tents to put up. One was the kitchen tent. This went up over fixed canvas/tarp type flooring that had stayed there through the Wet. As had the kitchen sink and its water and drain pipes. The other was the dining tent which went up in an area surrounded on three sides by a curve in the creek, so there was always the background noise of the rippling water. A tarpaulin was put down to be the floor of this.
There were five guest sleeping tents to put up – just basic two person camp tents, with inbuilt floors. It was not too hard to put these up, once we got the unlabelled batches of poles sorted out and worked out what belonged where!
As soon as O saw that we knew what we were doing with the guest tents, he left us to it and went back to finalizing the putting up of the big tents, running electric leads and the like.
When we had arrived, there was already a drinks fridge at the camp, standing in the shade of a large tree, not far from the kitchen tent location. This had not been there when we visited in 2003, but was acquired not long after. Like one of the fridges at O’s house, it looked like it had come from a milk bar, or similar. It was of the style that was quite tall, with two opening doors. When guests were in, it would hold cold drinks, to which guests would help themselves and record in an honesty book put nearby, by me, for the purpose.
O told us that, late in 2003, he had tied the new drinks fridge to a large tree in the camp clearing, rather than try to fit it in the container. Unfortunately, that tree was one that succumbed to the winds in the big cyclone of early 2004. Apart from a few little dents, the fridge survived. The remains of the tree had become part of the landscaping of the safari camp clearing.
Also permanently in place was the fire pit and log seating around it, located between the kitchen tent and the creek. The metal frames by the fire pit held very rusty camp ovens and the like – nothing I was interested in using to cook with!
The camp was situated near a natural spring which produced a considerable flow of water, creating a permanent, fast flowing creek. The water was clear and tasted good. O said he had sent off a sample to be analysed, with the thought of maybe going into the bottled water business. Remoteness and transport issues would mitigate against that, I thought, but did not say.
The pump intake for the supply to the tank that serviced the camp – and us – was only about fifty metres from the source spring. There was lots of thick pandanus and scrub lining the banks upstream from the camp, so little animal access to pollute it.
We went up to the house in the late afternoon and there I cooked a last meal for O’s guests. I made meat patties, served with gravy from packet mix (mine!), and french fries. Dessert was tinned fruit. Pretty basic, but all seemed to appreciate the meal.
Driving back to our camp in the dark was a different experience, again. The Truck lights on the tall grass and scrub lining the track made moving, fantastical shadow shapes.