This Adventurous Age

Adventures travelling and working around Australia.


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2005 Travels April 15

FRIDAY 15 APRIL     PUNGALINA

Today was taken up with work around the safari camp.

We took a break from camp work, a bit before 11am, which was the approximate time the mail plane was expected, and all went to the house. O showed us the routine of taking the mail bag from where it hung on a hook in his house, doing up the strap around its neck, and getting ready to meet the plane. Because the house was close to the airstrip end, just the sound of the plane coming in gave us enough time to get from the house to the end of the strip by the time the plane had landed and taxied up. There was also a kind of large letter box, built by the end of the strip, for the pilot to put the incoming mail bag in, if there was no one to meet him.

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Airstrip

We were introduced to the pilot – a young man. Our couple of small boxes of supermarket supplies were unloaded from the plane, incoming and outgoing mail bags exchanged, and the plane was away again.

I don’t think city people, who have never lived in remote places, could ever feel how important this once-weekly link to the outside world seemed. Today had quite low and stormy looking cloud and O had not been sure if the plane would even be coming in this morning.

With O, we moved the guest tent furniture from the container and set it up. Each tent had two single beds. There was a stand or shelves between them that would hold things like tissues, insect repellent, a 12v light, with a small rubbish basket under.

O was rigging up the camp lighting system. He had some solar panels in place to feed the tent lights and rolled out a wiring system strung across through the nearby trees. There was a master power board, with hinged door, on a stand near the donkey water heater. This power box also contained a couple of 240v power points, fed from the camp generator, where guests could recharge things like cameras.

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Corner of switch box; water tank centre distance

The bedding and linen – such as it was – had been stored in plastic crates, in the container. I sorted through it all and found a few matching sheet sets, but mostly it was an odd array. The doona covers were matching, though, and good. All smelt a bit musty, so I arranged with O to use his washing machine at the house, tomorrow, to wash it all, before making up the beds.

The foot track between the camp and our Cane Toad Clearing was already becoming well trodden. It emerged at the camp beside the donkey hot water heater set up. When there were guests, lighting this and keeping it fired up was another of our tasks. Fortunately, John had plenty of practice at this, at Adels. Getting wood to fuel it would be another job.

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Donkey water heater

We would set some of the solar lights along the foot track to guide the way at night – for ourselves, as we hoped no guests would need to find their way along it because of some sort of emergency.

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Track from our camp clearing to safari camp

Lots of plastic storage crates came out of the container and into the kitchen tent. O had put up a set of metal workshop type shelves in the kitchen, and two metal framed work benches, one of which had a shelf under. A fridge came from the container into the kitchen – a rather old domestic model. Apparently, I would also have a portable camping fridge to use as overflow when needed.

O talked about how he would have to get the camp work done quickly, so he could start on clearing the network of internal tracks that went to places of interest on the property. The cyclone in the wet season put down lots of branches and trees across the tracks. He had already cleared up some of the nearer tracks – like the one to Fig Tree, and to Squeaky Trees, where we also camped in 2003. There were some tracks that would not yet be dry enough to take the machines on, though.


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2005 Travels April 14

THURSDAY 14 APRIL     PUNGALINA

John and I put in a morning’s work in the vegie garden. The sooner this was prepared and planted, the sooner we would have fresh produce for us and camp guests. We weeded, watered, planted. John used up all the seeds he’d brought with us.

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The vegetable garden, with some newly planted areas

We were still drinking four or five litres of Gatorade flavoured water a day, each. And still sweating most of it out again.

After the mid day siesta, we worked around the camp. John had to water that and do some general neatening up work.

I painted the floor of the toilet – dark green. Till then, it had been bare ply type wood. Being painted would make it look better, and be easier to clean. O had been receptive to the idea when I suggested it, and produced the paint, and a brush. It took a couple of coats. I did not have to wait very long for the first coat to dry, before putting on the second.

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Newly painted floor, canvas walls, plastic tarp roof

While I was doing that, heard O bring the digging machine down to camp, then do some digging in the long grass and low scrub that was behind the toilet structure. I was taken aback to realize that he was enlarging/clearing a hole that acted as the receptacle for the toilet contents. Sort of an earth filtered septic tank. I had assumed – naively – that there was a proper septic tank there! When he had finished, the hole was covered with corrugated iron sheets. It was not an area – I hoped – where guests would want to go walking. I resolved to be very careful around any areas of corrugated iron lying on the ground around O’s house, too! I hoped the hole would not smell too much, later in the year, after more use.

I was not sure of the environmental credentials of O’s camp toilet arrangement. A decent flood in the wet season might flush at least some of the hole’s contents down the creek which, further downstream, was the source of the house water. I was not quite game to ask O if he covered it with a decent layer of dirt at season’s end.


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2005 Travels April 13

WEDNESDAY 13 APRIL     PUNGALINA

Today was cloudy, humid, hot.

We were getting into the local working pattern – morning work after a really early start, sleep through the heat of the day, maybe do some more work after it cools down. But trying to nap in the van in the daytime heat was rather like being delirious with a fever!

This morning O and John worked around the safari camp, with O showing John exactly where and how he wanted the grass mowed. Then, they encountered a whip snake. Usually these are quite fast, but this one was a bit sluggish; O quickly swooped and grabbed it behind the head. He asked John what I was like about snakes? Guess he was rather concerned, because in that environment, one was likely to meet same.

John replied that they didn’t worry me too much. So they brought it up to the van, where I was doing my washing, to show me. O held it up so I could take a photo or two, then put it back down on the ground – right there – so it could get away. Unfortunately, he had been holding it so tightly that he’d strangled it, and snake wasn’t going anywhere!

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Whip snake

We worked with O this morning, starting to set up the Safari Camp.

There were two big marquee style tents to put up. One was the kitchen tent. This went up over fixed canvas/tarp type flooring that had stayed there through the Wet. As had the kitchen sink and its water and drain pipes. The other was the dining tent which went up in an area surrounded on three sides by a curve in the creek, so there was always the background noise of the rippling water. A tarpaulin was put down to be the floor of this.

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The kitchen tent

There were five guest sleeping tents to put up – just basic two person camp tents, with inbuilt floors.  It was not too hard to put these up, once we got the unlabelled batches of poles sorted out and worked out what belonged where!

As soon as O saw that we knew what we were doing with the guest tents, he left us to it and went back to finalizing the putting up of the big tents, running electric leads and the like.

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A sleeping tent, glimpse of dining tent in background, kitchen tent to right

When we had arrived, there was already a drinks fridge at the camp, standing in the shade of a large tree, not far from the kitchen tent location. This had not been there when we visited in 2003, but was acquired not long after.  Like one of the fridges at O’s house, it looked like it had come from a milk bar, or similar. It was of the style that was quite tall, with two opening doors. When guests were in, it would hold cold drinks, to which guests would help themselves and record in an honesty book put nearby, by me, for the purpose.

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The drinks fridge

O told us that, late in 2003, he had tied the new drinks fridge to a large tree in the camp clearing, rather than try to fit it in the container. Unfortunately, that tree was one that succumbed to the winds in the big cyclone of early 2004. Apart from a few little dents, the fridge survived. The remains of the tree had become part of the landscaping of the safari camp clearing.

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Remains of the tree that fell and nearly squashed the drinks fridge

Also permanently in place was the fire pit and log seating around it, located between the kitchen tent and the creek. The metal frames by the fire pit held very rusty camp ovens and the like – nothing I was interested in using to cook with!

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The camp was situated near a natural spring which produced a considerable flow of water, creating a permanent, fast flowing creek. The water was clear and tasted good. O said he had sent off a sample to be analysed, with the thought of maybe going into the bottled water business. Remoteness and transport issues would mitigate against that, I thought, but did not say.

The pump intake for the supply to the tank that serviced the camp – and us – was only about fifty metres from the source spring. There was lots of thick pandanus and scrub lining the banks upstream from the camp, so little animal access to pollute it.

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Camp creek

We went up to the house in the late afternoon and there I cooked a last meal for O’s guests. I made meat patties, served with gravy from packet mix (mine!), and french fries. Dessert was tinned fruit. Pretty basic, but all seemed to appreciate the meal.

Driving back to our camp in the dark was a different experience, again. The Truck lights on the tall grass and scrub lining the track made moving, fantastical shadow shapes.


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2005 Travels April 12

TUESDAY 12 APRIL     PUNGALINA

The sky was very cloudy. It looked as though it might rain, but didn’t. There was quite a wind in the morning and through to mid-afternoon, which kept the humidity down. But that rose after about 4pm.

Despite the cloud, the solar system charged the van batteries up quite well – got to the green light on the controller, and into the 13’s in the batteries.

Having a proper toilet to use this morning was great. Trekking off into the long grass with the spade was not the greatest start to the day, yesterday!

We had grapefruit and cereal for breakfast, sandwiches for lunch. I was pleased to have some appetite and wondered if the heat of the day was affecting this  by the evening?

The three men went off for the day – driving to the west, across the Calvert, to near Surprise Creek. This was a tributary that entered the Calvert at the upstream end of the long Escarpment waterhole, and which had some interesting waterfalls near the junction. They were able to get the vehicle within about a km of the creek, but had to manhandle the couple of canoes they were taking to leave there for tourist use, the rest of the way. Hard work over that terrain.

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In the morning, we went and worked in the vegie patch for three hours. John dug beds. I did the fine weeding and transplanted basil and eggplants to better places, and watered. Our watering tasks were to include watering the rather large house garden area, moving sprinklers around that, making sure the lemon, lime and pumpkins were watered.

We had a little driving outing too. Drove north to the Fig Tree Camp, where we briefly camped in 2003. We had to go cut some stakes for a teepee structure for the climbing beans that O wanted planting. We cut these from along the track, then continued on to have a look at Fig Tree.

We bird spotted along the way. There were lots of crimson finches out at Fig Tree.

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Crimson Finch

The Calvert River there was decidedly higher than it had been in 2003 – as one would expect at this time of the year.

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Calvert River at Fig Tree Camp and a cloudy, humid day

After lunch John went back up to the house, to use tools there to make a wooden frame for a piece of mirror he found in the container. This would become a little mirror in one of the showers.

I washed our clothes from yesterday. Went to clean the toilet and showers, but there was no water. I wasn’t sure how to operate the pump to fill the tank from the creek, so decided to wait for John to return. So I sat by the creek and watched birds and tata lizards, and just enjoyed it. There was no sign of the big water monitor we had seen around the creek yesterday, or the smaller one we’d also seen around.

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Safari Camp Creek

Later in the afternoon, I started to feel off colour again.

I cooked ham steaks, eggs and fries for John’s tea. I had a cup of vegie soup from a packet, and a few fries. Felt a bit better after that.

O came down while I was cooking, to check if we were ok, he said. He’d already told us that a small order of foodstuffs could be brought in from Tennant Creek, on the weekly mail plane – but nothing like meat or frozen goods, at this time of the year, because the plane was loaded the night before. I gave him my want list for some groceries – and for the Weekend Australian, to be a standing order, delivered from the newsagent to the plane. John ordered some more packets of vegie seeds.

O mentioned that, when he was in Melbourne before Easter, he and A went to see the guy who had fixed our van solar system – an authority on alternative power systems. We had mentioned to A about him and suggested he might have some ideas about power options for Pungalina. Was nice to know he had listened to our suggestion.

I asked O if he had any beef mince at the house. He said no – but he had some beef he could mince up – maybe. I replied that I had been going to offer to cook hamburgers/patties for the men’s last night here, tomorrow. O replied “I’ll mince it”! I did hope that I would not have to beg for items of food all the time.

Decided to try John’s cortisone cream on the itchy rashes on my hands and ankles.

This morning, there was a big cane toad outside our van. We decided to christen the place Cane Toad Clearing.

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I’m a cane toad

 

Yesterday, we had put out all the solar lights brought from Melbourne for the camp, and stuck them in a pile of raked grass near the van, to charge up. Thought these were attracting insects at night, hence toads.

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Solar lights charging up

Ran the generator again at night, to give us the 240v light and to run the big fan.

It did seem a little cooler tonight.


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2005 Travels April 11

MONDAY 11 APRIL     PUNGALINA

We were awake and up before 7am. It was already hotter.

Had half a grapefruit each, for breakfast. John had some cereal too. I didn’t – felt the need to conserve our stock of soy milk until it was clear what would happen about supplies.

I washed our clothes. In this humidity we would probably need at least two changes a day! I did the washing by hand in our large plastic washing bowl, and carted water from the creek in two buckets. It did not seem that close, after all! Strung some clothesline rope I carried in the van, between some trees to hang the washing on – a temporary arrangement.

O and the two men arrived, closely followed by the three dingoes. They had come to set up a toilet and wall the showers. Hooray – digging a toilet hole off in the bush this morning had been hard work on the rocky ground!

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Looks like a serious morning discussion!

There seemed to have been a change of atmosphere from yesterday – O announced he would pay us as of today! Maybe he had been distracted/tired yesterday? Maybe he thought we would up and leave again when we saw the conditions here? Maybe M and J had interceded on our behalf? Whatever – things were looking up!

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Visiting dingoes checking us out

I gave O the camp supplies I’d bought in Cloncurry – it was cooler at his place to store foodstuffs.

The wheeled container containing the safari camp goods was parked at the edge of the large clearing that was the camp area. O had towed it down there before he left for the south, a few weeks before.

From the container was produced a toilet cistern, toilet bowl, three small handbasins, and some heaps of canvas. The latter turned out to be canvas walls. These were tied onto the steel frames of the showers to create walls – and doors. Each had a small handbasin put in place.

A length of framed wood was brought out and that turned out to be the toilet floor. The toilet was walled in a similar way, after the toilet and hand basin were put in place. All the basins and the toilet were connected to pipes that had remained in place through the Wet. Closer investigation revealed drains under the wire and corrugated iron of the shower floors.

While all this was going on, the men were also watering the camp lawns, hooking up movable sprinklers to long hoses, and pumping direct from the creek. John learned how to do this – his job from now on.

John mowed the path that had been made by O, from our clearing to the camp. It had been a very narrow track. I was pleased to have it wider – anything could have been lurking in the long grass along its edges. John also mowed the vehicle access track to our clearing.

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Track to house behind the Hilux. Track to our clearing to the right.

More fuel was needed for the mower, so John drove the battered old Hilux back to the main house, to fetch some. This had no windscreen, and like all vehicles on the place that could be accessed, it had been “dinged”. Dingoes love chewing things, it seems. There was no upholstery left on the seats, or on the dashboard. I made a note to self to always make sure the Defender windows were not left down!

The dingo matriarch, Scunge, hitched a ride on the Hilux tray, and John started to make friends with her.

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Dingo love!

It was so humid – well into the 30’s too. There was some cloud cover and a bit of breeze in the morning. Into the afternoon, the breeze was gone and it was very uncomfortable.

O said we had to do a couple of hours gardening, to earn our pay, today! So we drove up to the house and did an hour and a half in the vegie patch there. This was a fenced area – to keep out critters that might find the produce more attractive than native grass.

We weeded, dug some beds, watered what was there, which was not much. A had indicated, back in Melbourne, that growing vegies for the camp – and for all of us – would be a part of our roles. He had neglected to say that the vegetable garden would have to be established virtually from scratch! There were a few eggplant bushes growing – seemingly self sown – some basil, some mung beans (inedible things!), and a patch of lucerne that O had put in, to provide himself with green leafy food in the Wet season! There were a couple of patches of pumpkin and melon vines, outside the enclosure, in the main garden, where there were also citrus trees. Getting a decent range of produce going would certainly keep John busy. Me too, probably.

We had a fairly late lunch of sandwiches, back at the van.

O had said that, at this time of year, a break from work was taken through the hottest early part of the afternoon. We should try to rest or nap, then, to compensate for dawn starts! However, it was hard to get any decent rest in the very hot van – the interior wall by the bed was almost too hot to touch!

We put up the van annexe and unpacked some of the safari camp stuff from Truck – John’s tables and the tent signs.

O came and slashed more around our camp, creating a greater cleared fire buffer. Before he did that, the scrub was only about a metre from the van, in places. He’d told us that, over the off season, he’d had to put up a wire fence around the perimeter of about 5 acres of the camp area – quite a distance, even though the fourth side of this area was the unfenced creek, and with some of the fence on really swampy ground.  The fence was needed  because some of the feral cattle about the place had decided that the lush green lawn of the camp made  attractive grazing. He’d also installed a gate across the track, just up from the entrance to our clearing, which we were instructed to close at night – apparently that was when they tended to sneak in.

I had developed a rash on the backs of my hands. Maybe it was a reaction to the soaps used at Adels? It was itchy – but then, so was much of me. So many “bities” in these parts at this time of year. There were nasty biting horse fly things – much worse than March flies. They really had an impact. I had been bitten about five times today by them.

While working around our camp, saw a bird that was not listed on the Pungalina bird list we had been given – a pair of chestnut breasted mannikins.

In the afternoon, John was able to use our hoses and fittings to hook up to the camp water supply, by running a hose through the grass and scrub – very cautiously – over to a tap on the tank stand. It made a big difference, no longer having to cart water from the creek, and being able to wash hands in the van sink without using up our good drinking water in the van tanks. Ultimately, we would have to wean onto drinking water from the camp creek – boiled, until we were certain of its safety.

We drank litres of Gatorade, all day. Sweated it out again.

I decided to use our portable gas camping stove, outside, in the annexe, to cook. It was just too hot in the van to add any more heat in there.

This morning, our van batteries were down to medium charge, after using lights before bed last night, and the 12volt fan all night. The fridge was running a lot too, in the heat – a further drain on the batteries. At 5.30pm, John put the generator on and hooked up to the van. It took a while, but the charge got up. With the genset on, we were able to use the inverter to power the 240v fluoro light, the 240v fan (bliss) and John his laptop.

The power only got to amber light, not green, but was 12.2 by next morning, though.

I cooked John a couple of eggs for tea, with bread and salad. I felt a bit sick and wasn’t hungry, so just had a bit of salad. I felt a bit better, later, as the evening cooled.

There were lots of little, crawly, bitey bugs in the bed! Discovered when I went to go to bed. Didn’t know where they came from, or why, but had to try to brush them all up and throw them outside. Then spray the residue. Then it was hard to relax into sleep, imagining things crawling on me.

Despite the difficulties, we were feeling more positive about being here. Getting paid helped!


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2005 Travels April 10

SUNDAY 10 APRIL   HELLS GATE TO PUNGALINA   180kms

We were up before dawn and away from the roadhouse at 7am. O’s influence!

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Setting off from Hells Gate

The road was markedly poorer between Hells Gate and the border of Qld and NT.

Wollogorang Roadhouse was permanently closed now, as was the access it used to allow to the coast. Pity. Further east, near Burketown, Escott had also closed its tourist operation. Seemed cattle stations were finding looking after tourists too much of a distraction from their main business.

We encountered a number of ditch like crossings of either low water or dry creeks. These had not yet been shallowed out by grader. Made it slow going.

The day became progressively more hot and humid. It eventually got to over 40 degrees!

Over the border, into the NT, and we proceeded through the very pretty Redbank Gorge – an interesting feature in otherwise fairly featureless plain country.

About 20-25kms past the Redbank Mine, we turned north onto the 64kms long Pungalina access track. We had driven this before, in 2003, when we came to suss out the place, but that was at the end of the tourist season, when traffic had tamed the track, somewhat. Now, it was rough in places, sandy in others, and always slow going.

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Lockable “front gate” a little way along the Pungalina track

The first 21kms were not too bad. The next 16kms were very rocky. There were lots of little gutter-like shallow water flows, and a couple of rough, rocky, flowing creek crossings.

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Follow the leader…..

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At one of the rough creek crossings, John moved some rocks away from the approach, before we tackled it. We were, of course, following O, which helped.

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One of the sandy sections, maybe about 45kms in, was quite loose and deep, and we almost bogged down. We decided we would probably need help on this part when we eventually left here again!

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Track straighter – but sandier (not sure where I found this pic)

We stopped for smoko at a creek. O told us that this was named Hot Dog Creek, because in the early years here, one of his dogs came off the back of a vehicle, chased it and overheated and died. A sad tale!

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Hot Dog Creek at the crossing

O lit a small fire, boiled a billy, and made tea in that. Very strong tea. Real bushman stuff.

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Smoko

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The advantage of a small, manoeuvrable van

The country was still green and the spear grass tall. It was very different in appearance from our late dry season visit of 2003. It was exciting, driving through this wilderness country. I hoped we’d get sufficient time off to do lots of exploring.

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We reached O’s house about midday, so the estimate of about five hours travel had been accurate.

We met M and J, who had minded the place while O was gone. They seemed nice men; one was some kind of relative of O’s. Apparently, nothing had been done to set up the camp – but I couldn’t work out whether this was because they hadn’t gotten around to it, or whether someone who had been supposed to come and help had failed to show up. Didn’t like to ask, as O seemed somewhat put out by it all.

Also met O’s three dingoes – Scunge, Beau and Lachie. On our 2003 visit, Scunge had been tied up somewhere, so we hadn’t met her then – and the other two were from a litter she had last year, fathered by a local wild dingo. They were all interested in sniffing us out, but were not aggressive. We would all have to get used to each other.

We had lunch at the house, with the men – bread, vegemite, jam – and more tea. Some of the utensils used were none too clean…….

Then it was back into Truck and O led the way to the safari camp – back along the airstrip for a few hundred metres, then off onto a track that was about 5kms long, to the camp. He showed us the area where he thought we could set up our camp. There was a very roughly slashed track into a slashed clearing and turning circle around a large tree. Obviously, there had been considerable regrowth since O cut it a few weeks before. There was a dead tree standing almost in the middle of the cleared area.

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You can set up your camp in there!

It was all pretty rough.

Then O revealed that there were no showers, or toilet, yet, because there had been no setting up of the safari camp. We would have to dig a toilet hole! Great! There was no power, of course, but we had expected that and had our own solar power. The water supply was the creek that flowed past the safari camp area.

Well, we were here now, and would have to manage as best we could.

After surveying the clearing, John asked O if there was a motor mower. O went away and returned with a rather beat up old one. He then left us to get ourselves set up, saying he had other things to do.

We thought the site as presented was far too rough, and was a fire risk in its current state, with dry grass and brush lying about. John set to work – in the heat – and mowed the clearing again, which also chopped up a lot of the dry material more finely. I used the leaf rake we carry on our roof rack to pile up some of the cut material into heaps – maybe for later burning. John widened the access track into there, by removing some branches so we could even manoeuvre the van in.

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Clearing the clearing!

It was all hard work, trying to fix our camp in the heat and mugginess. There was quite a bit of cloud about and – at one stage – about three spits of rain.

John decided that the dead tree in the clearing would have to come down, because it would threaten the van.

Before we tackled that, we had to go and sit by the creek, with bottles of Gatorade – we were both feeling rather nauseous, from toiling in the heat.

I’d noticed that the clearing was close to the little mud brick “shed” that housed the camp generator. And here was I feeling happy at the prospect of sleeping nights without the background noise of the Adels  genset!

Whilst he’d been here, O had also said that he would put us on the payroll from next Wednesday week! I was not impressed, and pointed out that we were already working, to set up our camp. So he relented and said it would be from next Wednesday. We were quite put out by all this, given what we had to do to get set up, and how we were having to grub out roots and rocks to create even a roughly level area.

John had just started work on cutting down the dead tree – with our axe – when M and J arrived. They had come to ask us to come to tea. They stayed and helped with the tree, which was great, because John was starting to struggle. I think they were a bit stunned to see how much work we had already done to the clearing. They connected up a pump in the creek, that would pump water from the creek to the overhead tank that supplied water to the safari camp – when there was a camp! Showed John how it worked. They said that, although there was no surrounding structure, the shower pipes and heads would work, so we could have open air showers. Nice of them! They then had a swim in the creek – downstream from the pump – and went.

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That tree had to go before it fell on us….

M and J had obviously been doing a good job of watering and mowing the lawned safari camp area – it was green and lush, even if it was – as yet – tentless.

Eventually, we got the van in, and parked.

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Negotiating the entrance to our clearing

It was too humid, and we were too exhausted, to put up the awning today. We were running sweat – not just dripping! So we went and checked out the showers. These consisted of two floors of heavy wire and corrugated iron, two upright pipes coming out of the ground, and holding the shower heads and taps. There was a wire framework, which I presumed would eventually make walls. So, each shower was open to nature – if anything natural was interested. I was a little apprehensive that critters I didn’t want to meet, might have taken up residence under the corrugated iron of the shower floors. But it was so good to stand under the quite respectable water flow and get clean – and temporarily cooler.

Near dark, we drove the 5kms to O’s house. We were served a pot roast dinner – beef – which was tender enough, but quite coarse meat. There were some vegetables, but no gravy. There was red wine to drink, albeit a bit tart.

We were able to use O’s satellite phone service to call Adels and let them know we had arrived safely. Found out that the boss had to be flown to Mt Isa hospital this morning – medical emergency. They certainly could have used us there, still! L said the errant backpacker bus that we’d seen last night, didn’t get in there until half an hour after midnight. No one was happy – least of all the staff who’d had to wait up and then feed and get them settled in. I didn’t know what poor judgement had convinced the company managers to try the top route this early in the season.

O said he now realized that our clearing had not been slashed large enough to be fire safe, so he would come down and do more tomorrow. Good!

He explained that, after the safari camp was set up, the fridges would not be turned on when there were no guests in. He did not want to have to run the camp generator and thus waste fuel. I thought we would be much happier without the noise, but it would also mean that camp food perishables would have to be shuttled back and forth between the camp and house.

We were given some fruit and vegetables. Although “keep” was supposed to be part of the deal, we did not like to ask for too much – still had a few supplies of our own left, anyway. No mention was made of meat.

It was still humid, with the night temperature in the high 30’s. We were so tired that we slept well, even with the noisy little 12 volt fan going all night. It WAS lovely to be away from the generator noise we had at Adels.

Once the direct sun had gone, we noticed that there were lots of hungry mosquitoes about.

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2005 Travels April 9

SATURDAY 9 APRIL   ADELS GROVE TO HELLS GATE RH   219 kms

We left Adels about 10am. The day was quite hot and got more so as we progressed north and west.

I was a little sad to be saying goodbye to this beautiful place, yet again. At least we had seen it in a different guise this time – lucky us.

Took the route north, through Lawn Hill Station – which the Australian Agricultural Company took over, last year. There were no issues crossing Lawn Hill Creek, just north of the homestead – although the creek there was in a couple of branches, it was shallow, and the bottom was firm.

There was the usual mob of cattle at what we had taken to calling Cow Corner – where some paddocks converged and where there was water. And also a gate that I had to open – very carefully watching where I put my feet.

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Cow Corner

We had been apprehensive about the Elizabeth Creek ford – a bit of a dip down into it, and always water there, even late in the Dry. It had more water than we’d seen before, in it, but we got through OK.

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Elizabeth Creek

The track took us from Lawn Hill Station, onto Bowthorn country. We had been sad to hear, back at Adels, that both the sisters from that station had health problems and were now living on the east coast. They were unable to live back in the Gulf Country  because it was too remote from necessary medical services. So Bowthorn had just been sold, gossip had it for about $5million. Apparently, the tourism side of the operation had garnered some interest, but at this stage, no-one was sure about the future of that. Kingfisher Camp was so lovely, and such a tribute to the work of the sisters, that it would be a real shame if it did not keep going.

Turned right at the T intersection beyond Elizabeth Creek. The station tracks had been in fairly good condition. We reached the Gulf Track – rather ridiculously designated National Route 1 – and turned west. The Nicholson River ford at Doomadgee, which back in Melbourne we’d feared might hold us up, was actually dry! Clearly it had been a rather poor wet season in those parts.

The unsealed road was not too bad. There were the expected little gutters where storm water had flowed – not all of which John saw in time to slow right down! There tends to be regular traffic between Doomadgee and Hells Gate, (which sold beer) so that had smoothed the way, somewhat.

We reached Hells Gate Roadhouse about 2pm. Booked ourselves into the campground there – $16 for an unpowered site. Power would have added another $16 to that, so we declined! We did refuel Truck though – $1.47cpl. Ouch!

The van contents were a bit jumbled up, due to a couple of big bumps on the tracks!

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All shook up

We were just setting up the van for overnight when O arrived. Earlier than he’d expected. He decided to stay the night, rather than press on and end up driving in the dark on poor tracks. He was towing a large, flat bottomed boat, bought in Brisbane and destined for bird watching expeditions on the shallow wetlands, he thought. He had three new canoes – one on the Troopy roof and two packed in the boat.

I cooked tea for the three of us – pasta with tuna, tomato, capers. A favourite of ours – O liked it.

About 6pm, we saw the backpacker bus go by.  They had just started routing its Cairns-Darwin service via the Gulf Track again, after the Wet. I knew it had been due in at Adels in time for tea tonight – so the catering would be shot to blazes! Whoops! Heard later that he had been bogged in the Robinson River crossing and that was why he was so behind time.

It was a very humid night and a bit difficult to sleep. O wanted an early start in the morning, so we retired early. He estimated it would take us five or six hours to get to Pungalina .Two of his friends were staying at the house to keep an eye on things in his absence, and we gained a rather vague impression that they – or someone – would have the safari camp set up by now. Before each Wet Season, virtually the entire contents of the camp were dismantled and packed away in a cyclone proof shipping container – on wheels so it could then be towed to high ground. Otherwise floods and cyclones would destroy infrastructure like tents. But this meant that the camp had to be reassembled each year.

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