This Adventurous Age

Adventures travelling and working around Australia.

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2003 Travels June 25


I was on tent housekeeping, John on canoes.

I looked after reception first, until 11am, then did the couple of vacated tents. With the extended stay of the pals, tent servicing is at a minimum – but we will pay for it on the day they go!

After a late lunch, I helped back on reception for a while.

Two ladies from the Remote Area Family Services arrived and would stay a couple of days to do the toddler’s first “art” session. This service would be supporting the bub in his early childhood development. It is a really worthwhile – and needed – organization.

We held a fund raiser for the RAFS. We’d put up signs at Reception and, after tea cooked up a mountain of pikelets, so we could charge $5 a head for a special talk by Mike Archer, and supper.

Our signs generated a big crowd from the campers – very pleasing. The women from RAFS spoke briefly about their work. Then our star – Mike – talked about the progress on his current pet project – whether they would be able to clone the thylacine back into existence. He said they were making encouraging progress – and put up quite a convincing case that they would make better domestic pets than the conventional dog! He had the audience entranced – us too!

The biologists in the party passed around the critters they had collected whilst here – most of which would be returned whence they came, once the digging was done. The tourists were suitably impressed by a childrens python, a Gulf snapping turtle, a file snake, a pygmy bat, but the star of the show was our large olive python, who had put in a timely appearance earlier in the evening – heading under our caravan – and been retrieved for display.

We raised $540 for RAFS – but there was an awful lot of washing up of the supper items, for us to do at 10pm. All for a good cause.

I was thinking that we might just come back again, another year, to help out for a few weeks at the busy time – but to make sure to do it when the pals are here – just to hear Mike speak!

On reception, I had gotten sick of regularly answering the same tourist questions: How far is it to…..? What is the road like to…..? How do I get to…..? So I had drawn up a mud map – the old geography skills came in handy. Most of the commercial maps were badly inaccurate for this region, especially for the dirt tracks through to Doomadgee and Bowthorn. I photocopied a supply of these and we sold them at the desk, for $1 a copy. The money went straight into the Flying Doctor donation tin on the desk – and my map proved to be a good little fund raiser for that cause.

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The tracks through this country on Lawn Hill Station were not on most maps

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2003 Travels June 24


Same roles as yesterday.

The truck arranged for the pals – coming to start collecting their rocks for the first stage of transport back to Sydney – broke down near the T intersection with the road to Gregory Downs. The men went out at tea time to fix it, so cook had to keep their food warm.

Eventually they all trundled in. The truck was a welcome sight, because it had been arranged that it would bring us an emergency supply of ice creams. We had Magnums again!

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Adels Grove, nestled into the vegetation along Lawn Hill Creek

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2003 Travels June 23


I was on reception again, John on canoes.

Mid-afternoon, the boss and D had to go out in the Landcruiser and tow in a stupid tourist, driving a Camry, that had broken down about 5kms down the Riversleigh road. He was really angry about the state of the roads. While he was conferring with D, over at the workshop, his wife waited at the shop. She complained about the road state and implied they had been told it would be alright to come that way from Mt Isa.

I tried to pin her down about the source of her information, knowing that none of us on reception would have said that, or advised by phone for anyone to bring a standard car that way. I doubted that anyone at the Information Centre in Isa would have, either. Eventually she admitted that everyone they had asked in Mt Isa had told them to come around via Cloncurry and Gregory. But her husband was pig headed, she said, and thought he knew best.

She also said that she thought he had been driving too fast. No wonder he’d put a rock through his gearbox – and “killed” three tyres. That piece of road had not been graded for four years!

It was going to be a more expensive stay here than they envisaged – and longer, probably. D might be able to do a temporary repair, or they might have to go back on a truck – which would be very costly.

They were booked in, luckily, at this crowded time, but extending their stay might involve some juggling of arrangements.

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Water tank that fell off the watering truck, beside the airstrip, last year. Was the driver going too fast, or was the welding below par?

After tea, Mike gave the first of his talks, to the students who were with their party, the other pals, and associated experts, Riversleigh Society volunteers, and interested bystanders from the staff and campers. It was on how Riversleigh got “found”, and why it is such an important site on the world fossil scene. He has the great gift of being able to hold an audience riveted.

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2003 Travels June 22


I was on reception, John canoes. Lovely 10am start for me, but late finish in the shop. At least, the till balanced – which did not always happen. When it was “out”, one stayed checking it over until the reason for the discrepancy was found – which was most of the time. But with often several people working the till at different times through the day, it could be hard to know who made what error.

We ran out of icy poles and ice creams – due to the forgotten order last week. That meant disappointed campers. Most travellers never stop to think of the logistics of getting supplies in places like this, and so expect us to stock everything they might want – and at city prices!

The helicopter arrived with the Archer family. Mike wife, Sue, is also an expert in the field of fossils, and would participate in the dig. They had a person to supervise their daughters.

The shop and reception work was steady through the day – numbers really building in the camp areas.

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Part of the campground. The grove area is at top of photo

The pals helicopter pilot would be available for sightseeing flights over the National Park and surrounding area, in between his morning and afternoon trips down to Riversleigh with the leading paleontologists. He asked if we would publicize/sell these flights at reception – $80 for a 10 minute flight. He intimated that if we did well at the sales, he would do a free flight for us! Definitely motivation, that!

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Helicopter on the air strip, refuelling

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2003 Travels June 21


I was on tents, John on amenities/grounds.

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John by the laundry and linen store bus

I helped in the kitchen first, doing the clean up from breakfast. Then made up the morning teas for the paleontologists, who mostly arrived around midnight, last night. They had flown in to Mt Isa, then driven up here in hired 4WD vehicles. That made it a late night for the bosses, who had to wait up for their arrival, but did not disturb us.

Today was the backpacker’s day off, which I thought cook was relieved about. Hence the need for my help. I put out the materials needed for sandwich making for the pals’ lunches.

After all that, I went off to do tents – there were only four vacated this morning, so that did not take too long.

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Brushing leaves from tent roof – part of the cleaning routine

There was a broken zip in one of the pal’s tents, so I ended up helping the boss sew in a new one.

Then it was back to the kitchen, where I made the pre-dinner savouries for the company tour group – they always had this late afternoon extra that was not available to general guests.

Finally, I stocked the shop – putting out on the shelves some of the supplies that came in yesterday, replenishing the drinks fridge from the stocks in the pantry store, and the like.

I worked from 8am till 6pm, today, with a half hour lunch break. They got their money’s worth today!

A plane flew in parts to repair the Telstra chopper, it was fixed, and they left.

The supply truck that came in yesterday had taken on a broken down vehicle, for transport to Mt Isa, for the RACQ. Its owners were staying in a DBB tent and would go back to Isa with the company tour group, tomorrow.

It would be full on for the next nine or ten days, now.

I still had not managed to get an exact departure date for all of the pals, from their organizer. He might be great with dead bones, but was not so good with live bodies! I just hoped they would be gone on 29th, as he earlier said they might be, and not later – as we had two large tour groups booked in on 30th. I really did not want to think about the tent house keeping at that time!

The leader of the pals – Professor Mike Archer – and his family, would fly in tomorrow on the helicopter that they use for transport to the dig sites, and aerial checking. Not for them the bone rattling “commute” the 40kms or so down to Riversleigh, every day!

Our day off already seemed like a long time ago. I knew the next one was not for ten days.

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2003 Travels June 20


It was our day off. We slept in a bit and let the truck be unloaded, without our help – and did not feel at all guilty.

When I wandered up that way, to get some bread to toast at the van, for breakfast, there was some angst going on. It seemed that boss had forgotten to put in the wholesale grocery order. It was particularly bad timing, to have that order messed up, with the palaeontolgists due, from tonight on. That order would be stuff like large tins of fruit, catering packs, large tubs of ice cream and so on. The order should have gone in nearly two weeks ago. Boss really was run off her feet trying to run the show and mother the demanding baby. It probably was a wonder there were not more such episodes. But this one was serious. The cook was unhappy – and vocal about it.

John and I decided to do the sacrificial thing  and offered to drive to Mt Isa and pick up the supplies. Then it was realized that today was Mt Isa Show Day, so businesses were closed – and the wholesaler did not open on Saturdays. So, scratch that idea.

I guessed that the company tour would be bringing groceries stuffed into all available spaces amongst the luggage, in the Troopy, on the tour that was coming Tuesday. Pity that they had a full tour group!

Boss spent some time on the phone, seeing what she could beg from Cookie at Lawn Hill Station, and from the catering people at the mine.

I phoned the Lawn Hill Station manager, and got permission to drive on their tracks.

We set out to drive to Edith Springs, which the boss had recommended as a place to see. He had given us some rather vague, verbal directions. Even if we didn’t actually find our destination, driving around out there should be interesting, we thought.

On the way past, called in at Lawn Hill homestead, to drop off some videos and some lemons to Cookie. Boss picked these from an old lemon tree that had been planted by the Frenchman.

We hadn’t been to the homestead here, before. The complex was perched up on top of a hill, with a 360 degree view out over the surrounds – wonderful. It was a substantial complex, as befitted a large station that ran about 50,000 head of cattle and employed a number of workers. The main house was two storeyed, and had a tennis court and swimming pool. I could live there, with that view and those surrounds, very happily!

Edith Springs was roughly west of the homestead, but that was really all we knew. Had to go the way we knew as far as the fords of Lawn Hill Creek, then we were following the boss’ verbal directions.

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Flood plain country on Lawn Hill Station

We went astray once, following the instruction to “take the first track right, after the red gate”. Almost drove into a large dam that suddenly appeared on the track we’d followed. Caused some consternation among a big mob of cattle there – it was mustering season and they were toey.

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Eventually, after some back tracking, we found a second red gate, and the right track to follow. Boss told us later that “open gates don’t count as gates”.

The very scenic drive took us towards, then into, red, dramatic ranges, where the track ended in a narrowing valley.

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Constance Range from a station track

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Valley entrance at the end of the track

We walked into the gorge for about half an hour, following a vague trail through the scrub, and then walking alongside a very pretty small creek – presumably Edith Creek?

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Edith Creek in the gorge section

The walls of the gorge rose, high and red, alongside us.

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Gorge wall from the walking track

Then we came to a huge pool, ringed by vertical cliffs, with little spring-fed waterfalls, fern “gardens” and the like.

There was a constant background noise here, of lightly running water. It was cool, shaded, lush.

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The plunge pool at Edith Springs

We could see where huge waterfalls would come over the top of the cliffs, in the Wet.

It was absolutely awesome. This place was equal to the best scenery of many places we’d visited in Australia. We were subdued by the thought that this Constance Range country must contain many such superb spots, all little known, and closed away.

We sat by the side of the plunge pool and enjoyed our packed sandwiches in the absolute solitude.

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Grey section of wall is path of seasonal waterfall

There were lots of small fish swarming in the plunge pool.

Despite the heat of the day, the water looked too cold to venture into – and a little scary, like the den of some mythical creature. I made a mental note to myself to ask H if there were any Waanyi stories attached to this place.

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Big old paperbark tree along the track to Edith Springs

H was a Waanyi elder, who had almost completed a degree in anthropology (distance education with Deakin). He was then in debate with them because some of his research papers, written from personal knowledge and life, had not been accepted, as they were not based upon pre-existing research!

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Grevillea flowering in the gorge

We made our way back the way we’d come, this time trending broadly east, and crossing some grey soil floodplain country on the way to the creek ford.

Apparently, Lawn Hill Creek used to flow considerably further to the west. Pastoralists diverted it to the present day course, by building a weir up near where the National Park is today. That would be something else for us to explore on days off.

There had been some conservationist/aboriginal talk about restoring it to the original course – that would certainly wreck the business at Adels!

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Constance Range country in area of Edith Springs, floodplain, and the small creek that was original Lawn Hill Creek (from Google Maps satellite)

Called in at the homestead again, in the way back past, as we’d been instructed earlier to do, by Cookie. Picked up some paw paws, cake, home made bread and some of Cookie’s brilliant photos that he wanted the boss to see. He was also an avid gardener, apparently.

It was a great day out. What an absolutely magic spot, out there.

When we got back to Adels, John refuelled Truck – first fuel we’d had to buy, here. This was a measure of how little travel we had managed to fit in around work. Cost $1.12cpl.

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Edith Creek gorge

A Telstra helicopter flew a technician into Adels, this morning, to properly fix the faulty batteries on the public phone, which had been causing problems with its operation and with our EFTPOS. Again, they’d landed just out front, creating much dust. The pilot and technician were still there when we got back. The chopper had broken down! The two Telstra men would stay overnight, and a plane would bring in parts – and a mechanic – tomorrow.

Two more mouths for cook to feed! Fortunately, she had, after starting the role,  quickly realized the need to prepare enough to cater for the unplanned.

The company tour group arrived this afternoon, and along with it, our parcel of mail that had caused all the trouble.

After tea, I mentioned to H where we’d been today, and asked him if he could tell me anything about Edith Springs. He was very evasive, and I quickly got the impression that this could be something that it was not appropriate to talk about. Only added to the mystique, really.

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2003 Travels June 19


I was on tents. John on amenities/yard work. By the end of the day, he was complaining of sore feet. It was a while since he’d had to walk around so much.

F broke John’s canoe takings record – by 90 cents. There was those strange cent amounts again.

It was a pleasantly paced day for me. There were only two tents to service, clean and wash linen for. I spruced up some other tents – in the back row area – that had not been used to date, this season. They would be needed for the coming palaeontologists visit. I darned a couple of small holes in sheets. Helped B fix the plastic window pane on a tent, by super glueing a piece cut from an old tent, over the hole.

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A “Hilton” tent, ready for the next occupants

Managed to get my washing done too, since there wasn’t much tent linen to do.

There had been a card for me in yesterday’s mail bag, from Australia Post. It said they were holding a parcel addressed to me, because it was $3 short on postage. It would be returned to sender if I did not collect it within 5 working days! This seemed rather a contradiction to me – wouldn’t it therefore cost more to return it to sender, than the postage that was owed?

Apart from that theoretical issue, this also posed some practical problems for me. I had no idea who the parcel was from. Nor what it might contain. Or its importance.

I phoned the number given on the card. Much rigmarole ensued. I tried to explain that I was too far from the post office to go in and pay the debt. It was then suggested that I write a cheque and mail it, forthwith. I said that the mail plane only came once a week, a that was yesterday, so by the time my cheque reached the post office, the parcel would have gone.

I had assumed that I was speaking to someone at the Mt Isa Post Office, but it soon became clear that it was to some minion in a large city, who had never been bush and knew nothing of life beyond the metropolis. She refused, initially, to believe that my mail came by plane. Or that anyone could actually be 400kms from a post office! I was accused of trying to pull her leg. I don’t  know if I actually managed to convince her of my reality, but in the end it was agreed that the office lady from the tour company in Isa, could collect the damn thing – after I had faxed an authorization through. Poor K was always having to run messages for Adels !

The parcel in question eventually arrived, via K, with the next company tour group. It turned out to be a bag of mail from home, earlier than per our set routine. House sitter had gotten her weeks out of kilter. As well as her postage rates!

The whole episode on the phone had provided some entertainment for the boss, who was working in the office area at the back of reception, and V, who was on reception, who could hear my end of the conversation, and the increasingly exasperated tone of voice. “Yes, the mail really does come on a plane”  “No, the plane lands on our airstrip…” (I think she thought I was suggesting the letters were dropped out of the plane window, or something!) “It comes in a big bag……”  and so on.

Our staff numbers had been augmented by the arrival of another couple, who would be here for several weeks, over the busy period – they hail from Victoria too – J and D. Also with “old F” – someone’s relative, who would do some odd jobs about the place, mostly canoe repairs, in return for keep. The canoe repairing was almost a full time job in itself.

The weekly supply truck drove in at 7pm. Boss decreed that we’d unload in the morning. The truck had to run its generators all night, of course. It really was noisy. Next morning, there were complaints from tourists, again.