This Adventurous Age

Adventures travelling and working around Australia.

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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.