This Adventurous Age

Adventures travelling and working around Australia.

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2005 Travels May 15


We had been at Pungalina five weeks today. It had ceased to feel foreign or strange and we were really feeling at home.

We were up early, of course, at dawn. The river was gently steaming in the cool air of the early morning.

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Calvert steaming at dawn

Ablutions were performed at the water’s edge. The rest of the morning routine occurred back up the hill, behind some bushes.

The fire was lit for water for breakfast tea and coffee, and we had cereal and toast from the supplies I’d brought.

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The message should be clear!

Packed up the camp. Drove back to the lower river section, where O set off again with the slasher, to complete the rest of his track – another 20kms or so, and to slash a side track across to Big Stinking Lagoon, just to the west.

John set up to fish in the river.

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Here. we could get down the bank to river level, to fish

I walked some way along the track that O had slashed, to find photo points, and watch birds. Then I sat near where John was fishing and watched him, and birds.

We could see lots of fish in the water below, including some big ones.

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John caught a queenfish. Great – fresh fish for dinner, sometime soon.

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While John was fishing, we saw a Brahminy Kite catch a fish, pulling it from the water further across the river. It dived down, grabbed the fish in its claws, then flew off.

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Brahminy Kite with fish dinner

O eventually returned to our fishing place, with the slasher. He decided to spend a little time fishing, too.

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He initially used one of John’s rods and hooked a big something, but the line broke when the drag seized on the reel. He then went and got his own gear out of the Troopy  and managed to land a much larger queenfish. He made it look so easy…..But then, he’d had a lot more practice.

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Master and apprentice!

O trundled off back to the Calvert crossing, with his tractor and we eventually followed with the Troopy,  giving him time to get somewhat ahead.

It took nearly three hours to drive that section, because of the terrain. Much of the track there was over rocky ground – rough. The tractor was not that much slower than the Troopy!

Back at the ford, there was some discussion about relocating plant. We had two tractors and one Troopy at the river. John assured O that he was quite capable of driving one of the tractors along as far as the point, near Mystery Shovel Water Hole, where the side track to Bathtub Springs goes off. It was some 12kms. O wanted to leave the slasher there so that, when the area had dried out more, he could slash the loop track that led into Bathtub Springs and on around to near Kirkby Waters.

It was decided that John should drive the tractor with the slasher on, as this was more stable than the one with the blade, which was a bit risky on any slope. O could deal with that!

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The Troopy was left to me.

John thoroughly enjoyed his tractor jaunt, though the seat was hard and he got jolted around a lot. It was not exactly a modern tractor with some form of suspension!

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I drove the Troopy to the designated corner and waited for John and O to catch up. I collected John and we drove back to the van. O drove the blade tractor home, so he was somewhat later. We offloaded our gear, then did a vehicle shuffle to return the Troopy to the house.

That had been a most interesting and enjoyable couple of days. Having us around to help with things like  vehicle shuttles obviously made things much easier for O.

I cooked our queenfish for dinner – as fillets. Yummy.

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Locations from Calvert ford to end of track (Google Earth)

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2005 Travels May 14


It had been arranged that we would take the Troopy and follow O’s tracks, well to the north of the Calvert crossing, to where he hoped to be with the slashing today. We would collect him and return to the Calvert crossing, where we would all camp overnight. Tomorrow, he would finish slashing the track and, maybe, he and John would get in some fishing.

Across the river was actually the Seven Emu property, but O had an arrangement with the owner of that property, to be able to have the track to the lower river through his land.

We made reasonable time to the Calvert crossing because the track was slashed and as clear as it was going to get, and because I’d been over it in the Troopy a few times.

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Mystery Shovel Water Hole

The Calvert River at the  crossing point was in quite a wide and shallow valley. The track dropped down a slight incline, changing from the usual hard dirt, to river gravels. There was a swathe of saplings and weeds like Noogoora Burr – seeds deposited by the river and growing above the usual flood level. The crossing point was very shallow with a gravel and stone bed. One could understand why it might have seemed a logical point for Leichhardt to have crossed – had he not found somewhere a bit further north for this. I doubted, though, whether his place could have been as good as this one.

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Calvert River ford

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Upstream side of the Calvert crossing

The far bank was an area of gravels and dirt, with some trees and scrub growing. This was not all that wide, then there was a sharp climb up a ridge line, with a tributary creek to one side. This was crossed a bit further along, where it was dry.

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The track stayed away from the river for some kms, keeping to mostly solid, rocky ground. Various water courses were crossed, mostly dry. In one section, we climbed slowly up a series of low “steps” formed from ripple rock.

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There was a pretty little creek and lagoon here – I called it Ripple Rock Creek. The track was still a little boggy just past there due to another tiny creek.

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Ripple Rock Creek

We found O at 55kms from the house. He had done well and was pleased with himself. He was well into a section where the track had approached close to the Calvert again. John and I had a look at the river, whilst O finished up the bit he was doing.

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First stop at the lower Calvert River

The Calvert was an impressive body of water here. It was tide influenced here, and actually was for almost all the way back to the crossing point. Predominantly fresh water for some of that way, but with some rise and fall of level, and becoming more salty the closer to the mouth it reached.

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There were small islands in the channel in this reach and some broad sand banks.

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At one point, not far from where we met up with O, the track followed very close to the cliff that was the top of the river’s valley – a bit too close for my comfort. I hoped it had not been undermined during the wet season floods!

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A bit close to the drop off edge!

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Our way had come along the top of the high bank


It was late afternoon by the time the three of us got back to the Calvert crossing.

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Calvert crossing – looking across to where we camped

Camp was to be on the narrow, fairly flat bank section, on the northern side. John and I set up the dome tent. O had a swag.

O put up the sign that John had made – nailed to a tree by the crossing.

Tea was steaks cooked on a grill over the open fire, with potatoes in foil done in the fire ashes at the side. We opened a can of fruit. Sat around the campfire, chatting, for a while, then turned in. We went to sleep to the sound of the river water running over the stones of the river bed at the crossing.

O told us that, when he was down here before Xmas, he saw a 4 metre saltie croc at this crossing – but he thought it was merely passing by on its way up or down stream! Certainly, the river seemed too shallow at this point to be a main home to one. But we would be very careful at the water’s edge!

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2005 Travels May 13


Usual work for John and hours of research at the computer on my part.

John painted a sign on an old drum lid, as he had done in other jobs. O wanted the sign to put up at the point where the coast track crosses the Calvert. He wanted to deter unauthorized people coming onto the property from the Seven Emu Station side, to the west.

The original Gulf Track (Old Queensland Road) – now extremely rough and overgrown – came through from Wollogorang, to the east, crossed the river at this point, then continued on through to Seven Emu. This latter section, though very rough, was still driveable, and there had been a few unwelcome visitors turn up that way. These days, it was hard to find evidence that this was, in the 1880’s, a major stock route, over which many thousands of cattle were driven from the eastern states to the NT and the Kimberley of WA.

We’d had some discussion with O about the route of the explorer Leichhardt’s expedition through this way. John was particularly interested given he is related to John Roper who was part of that exploring party. It seemed that O’s crossing point of the Calvert was at one time thought to be where Leichhardt crossed, (but eventually this had been shown to have been at a point a little further north.) But the old stock route had followed some of the explorer’s line, but crossing at this easier, more shallow and less tidal point.

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The Calvert River was named by Leichhardt for a member of the expedition.

O had set out at dawn with the slasher. He would camp out again tonight. Making this track drivable again was a big job and one that usually needed repeating after every wet season.

We did the mail plane routine.

The disc of the Curreys catalogue was in the mail. That would really help me.

We brought the Troopy down to our camp and transferred the gear we would need for an overnight camp into it: small tent, lilo, bedding, food.

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Computer games!

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2005 Travels May 12


John worked on the vegie garden shelter, but also helped me prepare the orders for the next truck. He had set up a computer format for the orders, so they could be printed off and faxed.

I worked on lists of things needed to get the safari camp functioning properly. This was very time consuming. By the time I checked  out what was available, from where, and likely costs, I did not think that either O or A were going to be very impressed with my lists and the resulting costs.  But – if the place was to operate with the panache that S wanted, it really did need to be able to serve wine out of wine glasses, not mismatching water tumblers! And so on.

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The track between the Safari Camp and our camp was already looking well trodden

I put in the orders for the next truck, to Woolworths Country Orders. The grocery order was not huge. Much of it was stuff that had been on my original list for the last truck, and which hadn’t been stocked by the wholesale firm, or just hadn’t come. So it was a catch up order. I put in an order to the green grocer too.

The grocery order included cup of soup packets – I was still living mostly on these, but feeling somewhat better. So I included Salada biscuits and Rice Thins. Ordered some bacon and a couple of packs of herb and garlic sausages. I was looking farward to getting the chops and chicken to replace the ones that went bad on the last truck.

The female dingoes managed to break out of their enclosure overnight. They may have had some outside digging help – Lachie? Wild male dingo? Could be some pups in a couple of months. O was not happy about it, but somewhat philosophical too. He said he would rebuild the bitch cage for next year – and put it up on stilts this time!


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2005 Travels May 11


We did the usual morning routine things, then drove out to fetch O, in the Troopy.

The coast track was beginning to seem rather familiar! It was easier to follow, even after just a few trips over it.

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Wilderness looks like this….

Met up with O just south of the Calvert River crossing, which we could barely glimpse in the distance. Next time we should get to see it!

O was pleased with his progress. He’d cleared the way to the end of his track to the north – and made it back to the ford. Apparently that section had not been as difficult as he’d feared. The final  step would be to bring out the other tractor, with the slasher on, to mow the track. Then, it should only take three to four hours to drive to the end of the track, from the house.

He said he’d remove the branch that had nearly decapitated the Troopy!

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Dead tree by our van – looked like a water monitor, or dinosaur?

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2005 Travels May 10


I had to be up at the house at dawn, because I was going in the Troopy with O, along the coast track to where he left the tractor on Sunday. He would continue work on the track, staying out overnight. He was entrusting me to drive the Troopy back safely! I’ve never driven one of those before.

Tomorrow, he would clear the track as far as he wanted, then bring the tractor back to just south of the Calvert, from where we were to collect him in the afternoon.

He wanted John to continue work on the vegie garden roof today.

It was a pleasant drive out to the tractor, with O. We talked about the place, mostly. I was a bit apprehensive about driving the Troopy, but soon got the hang of it. However, I nearly scraped the roof rack off, on an overhanging branch on a section where there were some rocks to dodge – forgot about checking the overhead clearance! It was very close. Apart from that, it was just really enjoyable, driving alone through the bush.

We had managed to get the OK from O to use the computer in the office – and the fax machine to forward orders. I needed such access to do research work about things needed for the camp. I did some browsing and contacted Curreys, who supplied gear to the catering trade. They promised to send me a catalogue, on disc, in the mail.

Every night, now, saw beautiful sunsets.

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2005 Travels May 9


Watered the camp lawns and vegie garden at house. That occupied much of the morning.

The two female dingoes were coming onto heat, so O had locked them into a caged enclosure that was built near the vegie garden. He did not want any more dings! I had wondered about the purpose of this somewhat strange looking structure – too small for hens.  Scunge and Beau were decidedly unimpressed with this curtailment of their freedom.

I had noticed the old wild male dingo that O called the “old boy” hanging about more than usual outside the perimeter fence of the house yard. Even though the entrance to this was wide open all the time, O said he never came into it. The others would go out to him and they would go off together hunting or doing whatever dings do. They had also been known to take food – chunks of meat – out to him. O thought he was probably Scunge’s mate and the father of Lachie and Beau.

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Scunge always had a slightly worried look

I was firming up the order for our next truck order, which had to go to the various suppliers this week. Woolworths Country Orders was the most rigid about deadlines – and also the earliest one. The other, more locally based businesses in Mt Isa were a bit more flexible.

O felled four cypress pines to be milled for timber for construction about the place. John was salivating at the prospect of maybe being able to have a go on the Morrison Mill.

Another dinner for three, featuring mushrooms. I was getting very sick of mushrooms!

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2005 Travels May 8


Today, O planned to start on the cleaning up of his track to the coast – in reality, the 75-80kms to the lower, tidal section of the Calvert, rather than to the actual shore of the Gulf.  However, he thought – from what he’d seen by flying over the area – he might, this year,  be able to forge a route from the lower river, over the tricky salt flat bogs, to the actual coast, but had not yet tried to get there by vehicle. Traversing such coastal salt flats needed to be undertaken with great caution. Such terrain could swallow vehicles totally.

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Salt flats west of the Calvert River mouth (Google Earth)

O thought the ground would be dry enough, now, to begin to clear the ravages of the wet season, and cyclone, on his track north.

Over the previous dry seasons, O had surveyed the eventual route of his coast track in his light Jabiru plane. He had used GPS fixings to plot a possible route, then went out on quad bike and foot to determine the actual best route on the ground. He had then slashed and evened this to be suitable for the 4 wheel drive Troopy to be able to drive over.

This track gave visitor access to the fishing of the tidal reach of the river, as well as seeing some great scenery.

O was taking one of the tractors, with a blade on, so he could push aside trees that had fallen over the track. Cyclone Harvey, in early February, came right over Pungalina. The winds got to over 100kmh and 6 cm of rain fell in a short time. This might not sound like all that much, but runoff was enough to raise the level of the river by metres.

Trees around these parts get weakened by termites too, so it often does not take much to make them fall. Thus there was a lot of debris to be cleared off the track.

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Unusually marked tree along the route to the coast

We were asked to take the Troopy, follow the tractor tracks and pick up O at about 4pm, from whatever point he’d reached, and bring him back to the house. He estimated that, even leaving at dawn,  he would not even get half of the distance and wanted to leave the tractor there so he could continue the work from that point.

We had a little sleep in, and left our camp about 10am, to go collect the Troopy from the house, then set off. Initially, the way took us on a familiar route, north past the Fig Tree and Bluff Water Hole turn offs. From there it was new ground for us.

After that, we were trying to follow thin tractor tracks through high, drying grass. We needed to travel slowly, because the ground was rough and we often couldn’t see rocks and ruts in the ground until we were onto them.

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Following the path of the tractor

As we progressed further, tracking O became harder and harder.

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We came to one place where the tractor traces entered a small creek, but we could see no exit signs straight across the other side. We hunted, on foot, for a while, and eventually found that he’d gone down the creek bed itself for some distance, before driving out on the other side.

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Tracks go in, but then where?

We eventually caught up with O, a bit beyond a beautiful lagoon, at 4pm. Great timing, right as instructed. We did not tell him that this was rather accidental, as we’d thought we’d have caught him a lot earlier. We had considerably underestimated how slow the going would be.

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Mystery Shovel Water Hole

The beautiful lagoon had been named Mystery Shovel Water Hole, by O. When he was initially surveying the track route, he’d found an old shovel there. No idea of how or why it had gotten there, except that it definitely was not recent. It was a really lovely spot, on a tributary creek of the Calvert.

O drove the Troopy – and us – back to the house, at a faster pace than we had made! But it was still dark by the time we got there. We collected Truck and went back to camp, for a fast meal and early night. The physical effort of bracing over the rough track and the concentration of trying to follow the way, had been really tiring. But it had been a really interesting day. Exploring Pungalina was quite fascinating.


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2005 Travels May 7


There were still storm clouds around, some days, but these rarely translated into any rain. Today was a grey sky day.

Tomorrow was meant to be our day off, but O wanted us to assist him, so we kind of took it today.

After the usual morning watering of the gardens up at the house, we set off for some exploring.

O had told us that there were some interesting falls and rapids at Hot Dog Creek, which we’d crossed on the drive in. A lot of the tracks to interesting places were still not dry enough to travel on, so our choices were a bit limited. But we could access the good part of Hot Dog Creek by going back down the driveway and then walking across country for a couple of kms.

We had asked O about the origin of the name. A sad story. Early in his time at Pungalina, his oldest dog – Scunge’s mother – came off the back of a vehicle someone was driving out there, then ran after it. She died of the resulting heat exhaustion by the creek crossing, so O named it after this event.

We had no trouble finding the small pull in area, north of the creek, that O had mentioned. From there, we just struck south-west, there being no track to follow. The creek was running almost parallel to the driveway road in that area, so we were certain to intersect with it.

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Country we walked through to Hot Dog Creek. Bloodwood tree?

The walk in was pleasant, and not too hard, although it was hot.

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First glimpse of Hot Dog Creek gorge

What we found was well worth the effort. There was quite a bit of water still in the creek, and some very pretty water holes and rapids.

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First glimpse – upstream

We spent some time scrambling alongside the creek, exploring in both directions.

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There were some interesting rock varieties there. We saw some good slabs of what we called ripple rock – sedimentary rock that showed the effects of shallow wavelets at what was once the water’s edge, some millions of years ago.

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Ripple rock – formed under water originally

There were some excellent examples of conglomerate rock too, where rocks and pebbles from earlier times had been “glued” together by later forces.

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Conglomerate rock

The creek valley was surprisingly deeply cut, in places, forming a gorge. As we explored upstream – to the east – the surrounds shallowed out somewhat. Of course, the place where the driveway crossed the creek was not too much further upstream from where we got to, and there was no deep valley at the crossing.

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Hot Dog Creek originated off to the east, then ran generally westwards into Karns Creek and thus eventually into the Calvert River.

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Sand left when wet season water levels receded

In one area, where there was a little side stream coming in, the creek widened out and formed pools, rather swamp like, with paperbarks fringing the edges and with water so calm that there were water lilies growing. It was quite different to the rest of Hot Dog Creek that we had seen.

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Nature’s landscaping

I remarked to John that the natural landscaping effects in this area were such that one would pay a designer a small fortune, in the city, to achieve something like that.

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There was a very attractive small pool in the main creek, with a small waterfall at one end. I suspected that was where O brought camp guests, to swim and cool off. A trip out to here, with an associated picnic lunch, could take up much of a day.

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After a most enjoyable time spent exploring at the creek, we set off for the less exciting walk back to Truck. A low, rocky rise that we had scrambled down on the way in, was more obvious from below.

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With no signs, no discernable track or much in the way of features to guide him, John did a great job of navigating, and brought us straight back to Truck. Had it been left to me, we would probably still be walking!

Back at camp, John headed off to the dining tent, where he’d set up a camp stretcher for his daytime naps – cooler than the van, and hidden away. Today, he was most disconcerted to find a large tree snake (we hoped that was its identity!) trapped in the tent and rather frantically climbing the tent poles, trying to escape. We opened up the tent as much as possible and helped it in the right direction! It was hard to think of a reason why it had gone into the tent, in the first place – maybe just idle curiosity?

John reported that he had trouble napping in there, after that.

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That’s not meant to be in there!

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Hopefully, after this, it will not want to come back!

O came for the evening meal at the van, featuring mushrooms, of course! Arrangements were made for tomorrow.




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2005 Travels May 6


Today was to be a big day – the arrival of our first consignment on the supply truck from Mt Isa.

O had received a phone call yesterday, to say that the truck would be terminating at Hells Gate Roadhouse, not continuing on through to Redbank Mine, closer to us. He left at 1am, to go collect our goods, and had some sleep in his swag, on the way.

In the absence of O, we had to be up at the house in time to do the mail plane meet and transfer the mail bags. John got chatting to the pilot, who was fairly new to this run and interested in the place. He was a bit ahead of schedule, so John took him for a quick drive down to show him the safari camp. One never knew what might lead to some extra business for the camp!

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Airstrip; house and machinery shed at western end; safari camp and short cut track to it lower RHS. Calvert River, Karns Creek & Safari Camp Creek.

We were back at our camp, in the afternoon, when O arrived with all the stuff from the truck. He’d used a short cut track that came off the main driveway road, that he’d cleared a bit and smoothed out a few days ago.

O had some bad news: somehow my meat order of chops and chicken pieces had been loaded into the general cargo section of the truck, rather than the chiller part. After a couple of days of travel, in these temperatures, the goods were very “ripe”, so were discarded at Hells Gate. The trucking company would replace them, next load – in two or four weeks time – but there would not be the hoped-for variety in the diet, right now.

Other items were a bit hit and miss. What was meant to be a packet of cheescake mix was two frozen cheesecakes. No bread mix had been sent. 200 grams of walnuts had translated into a kilo of same. Two large tins of ham became two very small ones. Two dozen bottles of ginger beer had changed to Pasito – yuk, but not my problem, as O had wanted the ginger beer. Few of the garden seeds John had ordered actually came. Part of these variations may have been because the original order had been written for supply by Woolworths, but we’d missed the cut off time, so John had done it by phone to the wholesale company, who would not have had the same things that Woolworths stocked.

We also received a half box of mushrooms, that had not been ordered. That was a lot of mushrooms! These sorts of mix ups of orders were not unusual, and understandable on a route that had so much unloading and rearranging of the truck contents. Presumably, the mushroom box had simply been overlooked at somewhere like the Gregory or Burketown pubs.

With no fridge space for a carton of fungi, our meals over the next few days featured mushrooms, big time, including soup and stroganoff – even though these weren’t great in this weather! We asked O to every evening meal, to help use them up.

The alcohol supplies to keep the camp going for the next lots of guests also arrived, ordered by A from a hotel in Mt Isa. There were several slabs of pre-mixed cans of spirits: gin and tonic, rum and coke, whisky and dry; there were boxes of red and white wines – reasonable quality, and beer cans. O took all these up to the house, to store in the garage area of the big tin building, beside his living quarters.

I spent much of the rest of the day packing all my new supplies away in the kitchen tent.

It was clear that I was going to need more storage space in that tent, eventually.

O came to the camp with a new mesh wall he’d had made for the kitchen tent. It zipped onto the side that faced toward the dining tent. We helped him fit it. So now there would be three meshed sides and thus much better air flow for those working inside – principally me! Putting it on involved partial taking down of that side of the big tent. Then, the old canvas wall would simply swing up and make a verandah/awning – and shade that side of the kitchen tent. This shade and the extra air flow was good because the back of the fridge was up against that.


New mesh tent side & awning created by old wall

I had to rearrange some of the kitchen interior, but was satisfied with it after that. I could see that, along the one canvas wall, space could be made for some extra shelving, but was not quite sure where this would come from.