This Adventurous Age

Adventures travelling and working around Australia.


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2005 Travels August 30

TUESDAY 30 AUGUST     PUNGALINA

We did not rush around to get too early a start. John still had to do his garden watering, and V and F went with him to be part of that.

Took V and F driving, out to the Dragons Breath Cave – the nearest one.

On the way there we saw a couple of euros in the bush. As with much of the wild life on the place, they were more curious about us than scared.

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John took V and F down the cave. I think they were a bit apprehensive, especially when they saw the narrow opening they had to go down, but trusted that John knew what he was doing.

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Quite a narrow opening to the cave!

John took the camera down with him. Getting decent photos in the caves was difficult, because they were always very warm and humid, and condensation soon formed on the camera lens.

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While they were exploring the cave, I pottered about up top, exploring the area around the cave, with its fossilized limestone outcrops and stromatolites.

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Big cave system under here

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Stromatolites

We then drove on to Croc Hole, on Karns Creek, where John took our guests out in the boat there, for the experience of puttering down the long water hole there.

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They saw a couple of nankeen night herons perched on a dead tree – were able to get the boat surprisingly close to them.

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I waited back at the big fig tree that was such a feature there.

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Then it was back to camp for lunch.

We finished up the day with a drive out to the wetlands, to see Lake Crocodyllus, continuing on around the circuit track past Jabiru Billabong. By this time, V and F were totally disoriented – the network of tracks all seemed similar to them. I could remember feeling like that the first time we visited here, in 2003!

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Again, we did happy hour in the clearing, then I cooked tea at the camp and brought it back to the clearing.


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2005 Travels August 29

MONDAY 29 AUGUST     PUNGALINA

It was very pleasant to have a sleep in.

John called me down to the camp, where he’d spotted a file snake on the sand beside the creek. It was very subdued and did not seem to want to move. We used a stick to push it right back to the edge of the water, where it slowly swam away. Had no idea why it had come up onto the sand. Maybe it had tangled with a big python or water monitor? Maybe it wanted to do a skin shed?

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File Snake

John went up to the house, to water, and to do an inventory of the alcohol supply, that A wanted.

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A hard ding day…..

As we moved about the camp, kept listening for any distant sound of a motor.

V and F arrived about lunch time. They had been camping at Kingfisher Camp for a few nights. I served them a cold meat and salad lunch. They set up their tent – a nice new one – in our clearing.

We sat around in the shade of trees, and talked. They filled us in on how the season had been at Adels and news of people we all knew.

Showed them over the safari camp. So far, from what they had seen on the drive in here, they were impressed with our wilderness.

They had met O when they arrived. Although we had given them directions to take the short cut from the track in, to the camp, they had not been sure about the turn, and had found themselves on the airstrip, which they followed to O’s house. He then gave them directions to here. They also met the dings.

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A maze of tracks (from Zoom)

After happy hour admiring the sunset from Cane Toad Clearing, I went and cooked our dinners down in the camp kitchen. It was easier to do using the camp stove and oven, rather than heating up our van. But we took the food back up the path to our camp to sit and eat.

John had to lend F a pair of long trousers, as he only had shorts with him and there were some mozzies about.


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2005 Travels August 28

SUNDAY 28 AUGUST     PUNGALINA

It was our plan to take days off while V and F were visiting. Under our employment agreement with A, due to all the long days we had done, we were owed heaps of days. There were no guests booked in for a week, then after that no more until October. As the weather heated up, it became less likely that there would be last minute bookings happening. The steady flow of people of July/August seemed to have ended.

So today was devoted to getting all the cleaning up done, getting the tents back in order – in case there were unexpected guests next week. We tidied up our camp, a bit, too.

We were noticing that there was starting to be some cloud in the sky, something we had not had for a while.

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Clouds building again


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2005 Travels August 27

SATURDAY 27 AUGUST     PUNGALINA

We took a day off today, to have a rest after the recent burst of activity.

When John came back from the daily watering up at the house, he reported that O had begun work on the new house foundations. This involved clearing the surface of a large area to the back and one side of the existing dwelling, then building a very long retaining wall – some ninety metres long – just at the edge where the drop down to the river started. Quite a massive task and one that would take some time. He was expecting a young couple he knew to come in and camp near the house to help him with the building works, in October.

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Site for the new house

The house, when built, would have a brilliant view across the river. It would be a high set style, allowing for cooling breezes under it, storage, and also raising it (hopefully) well above any flood level.

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The house would have this view over the Calvert valley

John had slung a net in the creek and came back with what we thought was a cherabin – a sort of fresh water prawn. There was only one, so we let it go again.

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We were expecting friends V and F to stay, arriving Monday. They had just finished the season’s work at Adels Grove. So John tidied up the area beyond our van where we had previously put M’s tent, a couple of months ago. We were looking forward to having some friends here, and showing them the place. They could be future workers here too. A couple of months ago, O was talking of maybe setting up a rough camp area down at the Gulf Track end of the old track to Borroloola. If he were to do so, V and F would be ideal people to run that for a season.

When we first came here, we had hoped that my son and his family would be able to come and visit. The plan was that they would fly in to Mt Isa, hire a 4WD and drive here, via Adels and Kingfisher Camp. We had brought our big tent all this way, in case. Anyway, it had not eventuated. I think son’s wife had found the prospect of being so remote, with a three year old, too daunting. Pity.

It was lovely to have a peaceful happy hour again, in our clearing, with time to relax and watch the sunset.

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2005 Travels August 26

FRIDAY 26 AUGUST     PUNGALINA

I was up early to do the final breakfast for the two Japanese and see them off on their long drive back to Darwin.

They appeared to have had a great time. They certainly caught plenty of fish – and went back with heaps of photos to prove it.

Their comments:

* This was the most wonderful experience of my life in Australia. Fishing paradise Pungalina. Thank you very much for the 5 star hospitality. Thank you, O, John and Wendy. We love you. We will come back!

The mail plane came. We were up at the house to meet it – in the absence of anyone else there.

I did the usual decommission of the camp, and washing.

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Camp food sharing fridge with house food

O eventually returned with the truck supplies. I occupied much of the rest of the day dealing with same. Each order received was always checked off against both the original order, and the invoices, and that took quite a bit of time. As always, there were discrepancies – 4 loaves of sliced bread received, instead of the eight ordered, one bottle of cream instead of four. No bacon. No bag of laundry powder.

I was eventually able to get started on a big clean up of the camp – the washing and tent cleaning from the last eight days. I had missed having the back up of A at the house to help with the work. And we certainly missed W’s presence, now the Daihatsu brakes had gone, and the old Hilux had given up going too.

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Hilux dead

Some Victorian friends of O had been staying, up at the house. I wasn’t sure when they had arrived, but they left today. They had done a little work on starting the foundations for the new house. But O had not had much time to devote to them though. Their comments in the guest book:

* Thanks mate, a wonderful experience, wonderful country and great company. Hopefully it won’t be so long until the next visit.

* Words just can’t describe this breathtaking location. Best of luck on the house and see you next year.

John refuelled Truck, as usual, from diesel drum at the house. Had done 456kms. Somehow, it kept mounting up.


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2005 Travels August 25

THURSDAY 25 APRIL     PUNGALINA

John worked 4am to 10pm. I worked 8am to 10pm.

O and John organized breakfast for the guests – cereals and toast – and I cleaned up after I got up.

The fishing party left for the coast before 5am – well before dawn in these parts.

O was to drive the little Daihatsu, with John following, with the fishermen in the Troopy. They would do this until reaching just beyond the Stinking Lagoons. Then all would transfer to the Daihatsu. O believed that the light weight of this would enable it to traverse the salt flats and potentially salt marsh areas, and thus enable a group to reach the coast for the first time, here. He had surveyed the area in the Jabiru plane, and thought he’d seen a way they might be able to get through.

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Stinking Lagoons

O  had fastened two old car seats into the back tray, to enable such transport for four.

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Modified Daihatsu

John had difficulty following O in the pre-dawn darkness. O was kicking up dust, which combined with the dew to coat the Troopy windscreen with mud. O was also going faster than John was really comfortable with – knowing the track better.

At one stage, near the Lagoons, where the track was very ill defined, John hit a big pig wallow hole that he did not see before hand. The guests thought it was all one big joke. Just part of the experience!

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Feral pig damage around the Stinking Lagoons

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Lower Calvert River

The plan went well and they did reach the sandy shore of the Gulf coast, just west of the Calvert mouth. It was about 10am by then, so they only had a few hours of fishing.

The guests caught lots of fish. Some were returned to the water, after being photographed. Some were kept for food supplies for camp and house. I had “ordered” a thread fin salmon, if one was to be had – and it was. I consider them really excellent eating.

O said they had to pack up at 3pm, to get back to camp between 7 and 8pm. He fired the pistol that he always carried in areas where there might be crocs, as a signal that it was time to start packing up. John made a joke of it and told the boys that they must hurry up and pack, otherwise O would shoot them!

It was decided that O would drive the Troopy back from the Lagoons, because there were some sights he wanted to show the guests on the way. John would drive the Daihatsu back. Unfortunately John had not gone far – O had already departed – when the brakes on the vehicle gave up. Nothing there. John continued on, worrying mostly about how he was going to manage the occasional down slope, and especially the long narrow ridge down to the Calvert crossing.

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Calvert River at the crossing

He managed reasonably well, using the gears alone, until the Calvert ridge. He managed that by putting the vehicle into reverse gear and rolling down with the clutch in. When the speed got too much, he would let the clutch out and thus very abruptly slow the vehicle. This probably did not do the gearbox and clutch much good though! But he got down the ridge unscathed.

A couple of times where there were sharper bends that he miscalculated, he ran off the track and into the bush, scraped trees to slow down.

It was a most uncomfortable trip for John because there was no upholstery on the driver’s seat – it had all been chewed off by the dings. His back was very sore by the time he got back to camp. The vibrations had been such that his heavy-duty plastic fishing tackle box was broken!

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Not a comfortable ride….

John was back before the guests. I had been anxiously watching out for lights once it got dark and was most relieved when John appeared about 8pm.

O was not too far behind. He had taken various side tracks to show things, so had gotten behind John almost from the start. He asked John why the hell he’d gone bush bashing in a couple of places, and was quite surprised when John explained why. I think he may have quietly admired the feat of doing that track without brakes!

The group cleaned up and had a very late dinner. I had cooked a whole barra – Asian style – with chippies and salads. Dessert was pannacotta and berry sauce.

The fishermen were on a real high. They had never had an experience like today’s. O and John were pretty happy too, despite sore back.

Poor O had to drive out, after a few hours’ sleep, to get to Redbank Mine to pick up the supplies from the truck.

I was quite envious of John, having actually gotten to the coast!


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2005 Travels August 24

WEDNESDAY 24 AUGUST     PUNGALINA

Worked 9am to 9pm.

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The country around our camp was really dry and some trees were dropping leaves

Again, the men slept late, had a very light breakfast, then went off to fish, with only smoko stuff to fish until late afternoon. They wanted dinner at 7pm.

I made a zucchini slice and prepped for dinner.

The late tea was barra fillets, with French fries, coleslaw, pineapple salad, followed by fresh fruit salad. The men were really happy to be eating some of their fish catch – that was their preference.

After dinner was cleared up, and the men had retired for another early night, I assembled  lunches for tomorrow – for the two fishermen, O and John. The plan was to go to the coast – right to the sea.

I packed zucchini slice, eight rounds of ham and cheese sandwiches, cakes, biscuits, muesli bars, fruit, drinks. Made sure that O’s smoko box was well stocked with tea and coffee, mugs, long life milk.