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