This Adventurous Age

Adventures travelling and working around Australia.

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2006 Travels April 26


I did smoko for the builders in the morning. Made potato rosti, cooked bacon and eggs to go with same.

The mail plane came in and we received the mail that the house sitter had forwarded from home.

The weekly supply truck came in and we helped unload it and put things away.

John used the public phone box to start making calls about jobs. Yes, there was work at Bundaberg, but it was mostly picking vegetables. That was too hard for our physical abilities and mental inclinations!

The lady near Clermont who wanted a teacher wanted him and offered him $700 a week wages. That was equal to what we would earn, combined, here. But there was no role for me. I could not see myself sitting around in the van doing little, for months on end, on some remote station.

An ad for a couple to do our sort of work, at the Bark Hut Inn, in the NT, on the road to Kakadu, seemed interesting. John tried to phone them, but could get no answer to his repeated calls. We found out later that they had just had the cyclone come through and were busy dealing with the damage. That included to the pen that held their “pet” saltie croc, where a tree branch had fallen over the fence. The croc apparently did not like chain saws, because it had attacked the man who was up a ladder cutting away the fallen timber, and taken away the saw! The worker was very shaken. A photo of the croc with the chain saw in its mouth subsequently made the front page of the Darwin paper.

John phoned friends H and D, who we had previously worked with here. They had spent the summer working at a resort on Fraser Island and we knew they were about to leave there to travel. The company had just hired replacements for them, so we were too late there. They suggested we call the Monsoon Cafe, at Wangi, near Litchfield National Park. Last Dry Season, H and D had staffed a tour company’s seasonal camp near there, and gotten to know the cafe owners. They said they were great people and they had previously mentioned us to them, as fellow seasonal workers.

So John phoned and spoke with one of the owners. Then he  wanted to talk to me, and he hired us then and there, because I could cook. He offered me $15 an hour and John $13 for outside work. John took over and negotiated that up to $16 and $14.

We decided to give it a go. It could be good. It would be new scenery in a great part of the country, at any rate. Being paid by the hour appealed too – provided we got enough hours to make it worthwhile. It might even end up being better than here.

It was arranged that we would start in a week’s time.

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John phoned the Clermont station to say we would not be coming and explain why.

Then we went and told the bosses that we would be leaving tomorrow. They were really taken aback. One said to John : “But you’ve got all the knowledge!”. I think they were both truly surprised that we were not prepared to stick around, doing some of the work and not being paid, indefinitely. Also keeping M on hold, somewhere, as we’d been asked to do, in case she was wanted later. But there did not seem to be any hard feelings, so that was good. I guess they understood.

As if to underscore the point, the couple we had encountered at Tambo arrived at lunch time. There were staff queued up, waiting for work! I wished them more joy than we’d had!

The back packer bus groups would not be coming until the Gulf Track was open, which would be another month or more. Last year, we had made it through, quite easily, on 10 April. This showed that there could be such variation in seasons and conditions, up here.

We told V and F we were going. V said that she and F would not go off camping tonight – tomorrow was their day off – but would stay to spend a last night with us. We said they had to keep to their camping plans, knowing how much they valued time away on their own.

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By the late afternoon, we had done most of our packing up.

Phoned everyone who needed to know that we were moving on: our offspring, M, the house sitter – asked her to hold the mail until we contacted her again.

An email came in from the Pungalina boss. He said the place was slowly drying out. O had bogged the tractor on the track to the Safari Camp! I found it hard to imagine that track that wet. He said it would be many weeks more before they would be able to get supplies in and open the camp.

Said our good byes to V and F, with promises to keep in touch and see each other when we could.

There was no fuss at night. It was just staff and builders to tea – no guests. The bosses went to the office after the meal, for a video conference with the Isa partners. We helped with the dinner clean up. John helped MS learn a computer program for a while. I gave her some ideas for the builders’ smokos, because it looked like she would now be doing them. Then we went off to the van.

We felt sad to be going like this, but at the same time felt we needed to be true to what we had been feeling. We had been here for eleven days and in that time, contributed substantially.

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2006 Travels April 22


John spent the day with H’s tour group, at the National Park, learning stuff that he could use when he was running tours, once the season got going.

The other men compared him to one of the historic colonials who went to India and fell in love with the culture, atmosphere, essence of the place, and had to keep returning. I felt there was an element of truth in that, in regard to us and the Gulf Country. The same would be true of those of us who came back here, year after year, to work, like V and F.

I phoned the caravan parks in Cloncurry and told them that we – and the road in through Gregory Downs – were open, so they could pass on accurate information to tourists.

Spent some time on my laptop. Sent daughter an email. Composed a letter to a friend.

While I was working in the van, a cheeky bower bird came onto the van step and looked in at me. We have noticed, especially at night, that there are bird noises around that we had not heard before – Wet Season species staying late.

A couple of lots of campers came in.

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Camp sites, before wet season growth worn down by campers

I was finding one of the female staff very raucous and could not warm to her. I thought her phone manner, on Reception, was very abrasive and abrupt. She did not seem to me to have very good customer service skills at all.

We staff got together to put on pre-dinner nibbles. I contributed some semi-dried tomatoes from the van pantry. We had a very pleasant staff get together before dinner, together with H’s two guests. My cooked pears from yesterday were used for tonight’s dessert.

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2006 Travels April 21


Daughter’s birthday.

The boss phoned to check the road conditions and found that the route via Gregory Downs was OK, even for ordinary vehicles. So tourists should have been  able to get in, even though the RACQ bulletins were not up to date.

However, it looked like another cyclone might be coming into the Qld coast – bit further north, right up Cape York way. That should not affect us here, but might put tourists off travel into these parts. It could be a really super-late start to the season! Which did not help us.

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Ready and waiting for guests

The family left for Townsville. In their absence, the couple who had been here since January would be in charge.

John helped the men with the electrical cable laying for the new buildings. All the men were mainly working on that.

I made the salads for tea – a green mixed one, and a carrot/sultana/spring onion one, with honey, oil and lemon juice dressing, that I “invented”. It was popular – I must remember that one!

H arrived, with a group of two, on the standard company tour. It was so good to see him again.

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Lawn Hill Creek

Phoned daughter at night. Her paternal grandfather had a little stroke, last week, but it was not too severe. Those grandparents were getting on in years now. I found it sad that, since daughter’s divorce from her husband, the very rigid beliefs of her grandmother prevented any real contact between them.

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2006 Travels April 20


I did some work in the kitchen. Poached some old pears in red wine, for a small dessert to be used later – it saved the pears from going off and being thrown out.

The weekly supply truck came in and we helped unload and unpack and put the load away.

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Superb old fig tree

Boss told me they had no cash flow because there were no tourists. That was pretty obvious, but one presumed they should have reserves to tide over the running of the place at such times. It was, after all, a rather seasonal business.

A staff meeting was called, for after tea. It was explained that the usual takings for this time of year were well down, due to the weather. We were told that they could not afford to put us on the payroll, but they did want us to stick around, for when business picked up. So we would not be on the work roster for the foreseeable future!

We were not too happy about this. They had asked us to be here for Easter, and we had made a considerable effort to make it – at least to Mt Isa – by then. Getting up here had cost us fuel money and for accommodation. Our wages would not be a great amount – with the super contribution included, a maximum of $1000 a week, for the two of us. Really, if they wanted us for later, they should have contingency funds to pay us for being here, now.

The RACQ had posted on its travel web site that all roads here were closed, even though that was not the case. The Visitor centre in Mt Isa had the true information, but still the tourists were being deterred.

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2006 Travels April 19


Again, pottered about.

I took a lot of photos.

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These would be pleasant camping spots – when the campers came

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Bamboo railing to ensure creek adge walk was kept free of vehicles and campers

Three of the men were working very hard, laying cables over to the new building site.

One of the wives was not happy and would really like to leave, but her husband had committed to stay.

At dusk, there were masses of fireflies down in the grove, making a really fascinating display. This was not something we’d seen before.

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2006 Travels April 18


We pottered about today.

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Recently under water in the Grove

I tried to sort out staff uniforms for us. With nine staff already here, there was not much left available for us. I suspected some had taken much more than their fair share of shirts! I soaked two of the old shirts that had grease or something similar staining the fronts – these would have to do for us.

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Seasonal bark shedding

The boss came down to the van in the late morning. She said that, due to the lack of guests, they could not afford to start us tomorrow, after all. It would be next Monday, instead. They were themselves going away on Friday afternoon, to Townsville, for family stuff, and would not be back until Monday.

Tonight, there were only two guests in the main tents, and two in the tent hire.

After tea, we played canasta on the dining deck with V and another.

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2006 Travels April 17


After breakfast, wandered about some more, exploring the place again.

It was quite humid.

Over the Wet Season, R had built a hut in the tent area. It was a prototype to replace some of the older tents, and looked quite good. That was what the new curtains were for.

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New cabin

They were getting two more four room dongas by mid-year. These would be going into what had, until now, been the area for bus group camping. With four bunks per room ,they would accommodate thirty two people. They would be for the weekly Desert Venturer backpacker bus Saturday/Sunday visits. This company was doing a Cairns to Darwin bus trip, once a week. It was obviously a solid enough booking to warrant the expense of the new dongas. They would be able to be used for other guests who wanted that basic accommodation, Monday to Friday.

The booking in work at Reception was getting more complex all the time!

The rest of the tent accommodation was currently being put up by the working staff. There were some nice new ones. About time, I thought. Maybe there would now be less work repairing zips and torn thin fabric.

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Setting up the tent accommodation

There were two new Maytag washing machines in the laundry, and a proper commercial dishwasher in the kitchen! These should make life a bit easier for staff.

Overall, the place looked really good.

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Looking over to the dining deck. Former kitchen to left – now camp kitchen.

The toddler of the place was acting up. Maybe due to the new baby, I thought. He was being rather rough and noisy around her. The boss would not know herself when she had a proper house, rather than one room for them all!

At tea time, there were more staff than guests, so the associated tasks were not onerous.

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2006 Travels April 16


We left the caravan park at 9.30am.

We went via the town  library so I could drop  off the books I’d read. Would send the rest back via someone going to Isa, or the mail bag.

The day was the nicest we’d had here, to date. There was even some blue sky.

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On the Thorntonia Road

Took the Barkly Highway west, for 170kms, then the sealed Thorntonia road. After about 60kms, this turned to gravel.

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Gravel road beyond Thorntonia

The drive was fine until we reached the rivers. The Thornton River was almost dry, and there were no issues crossing that. The O’Shaughnessy was straight forward, crossing over the cement causeway. The Gregory, with its double crossing, was flowing quite fast over its causeways. We would not have wanted it any higher – or faster! Just stuck to the middle of the cement causeway and took it steadily through.

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The O’Shaughnessy and Gregory River fords (Google Earth)

Between the rivers and the park turn off, there were several extensive lengths of black soil bog. These were now just dry enough for wheel ruts to stay formed through them. There were sections where the heavy trucks from the Century Mine had completely broken down the structure of the road, down to the large underlying boulders that were below. Sidetracks had been formed around these.

So, it was quite slow going through that part.

There were going to need to be some extensive road works, once it was dry again.

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It was great to see the Adels crew again. The new baby was a small one. Friends V and F had been here for a couple of weeks and were pleased to see us again. There were two other couples there, as well – one lot arrived about the same time as V and F.

The other couple had been there since early January. The electrician husband was going to do the electricals on the new house that was being built, for M and R, closer to the road. With two young children, the one bed-sit room they’d had, since 2002, that was part of the main building, was definitely not adequate for them!

We set up camp down in the Grove – the same place as we’d occupied last year, next to V and F. We hooked up to water, sharing the one tap with V and F, and ran our power lead down from the donga area up top.

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Back in the grove again

It was obvious that the ground had been very muddy – it was just dry, now. There were many ants around. John surreptitiously sprayed our site area with the ant poison he carries with us.

After setting up, we had a wander about, looking at the changes since last year. The workshop had been relocated over to the area of the new house, by the front entrance, where the fuel outlets were now, too. It would seem that the shop/reception would now no longer handle the fuel payments – too far away.

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Fuel bowsers relocated away from here. The bus that John would drive on tours.

There was a van under a roof there, too, and a laundry was in the making. The builders were due to arrive soon, to commence work on the house. The generators were to be moved over to that area soon, too.

There were a few guests who had managed to make it in, both campers and in the accommodation.

The boss said she would start us working, and on wages, on next Wednesday. She would want our friend M to work later on, but was not sure yet when she would want her to start. M was, in the meantime, doing some visiting and sightseeing over on the coast, and was waiting to hear from us before heading this way.

In the interim, we were to do a few tasks about the place, help with the dishes, to “pay” for our lunch and dinner. Breakfast we would have from our own supplies in the van.

It was not an ideal situation, given our efforts, in good faith, to get here in time for Easter, but so be it.

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2006 Travels April 8


The radio news at 8.30am said that the highway was open, so we decided to go for Mt Isa.

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The caravan park in the morning

Around McKinley, we could see where water had been over the road. There were some sections where the road surface was damaged, too.

We were in light rain for most of the day.

Refuelled in Cloncurry, on the way through, after 365kms. $1.29cpl. It seemed anomalous that, the further we were away from the populated areas, the cheaper the fuel was. Usually, it is the other way round.

At Isa, booked into the Argylla Caravan Park. $22.50 after discount. Told them we were not sure how long we would need to be here. We had stayed there last year, too.

The park was on the eastern edge of town, so it was a bit rural in feel and outlook, and was away from some of the noise that could occur right in town. The permanent dwellers here were tucked away in their own separate area.

Phoned Adels. The roads to there were still closed. They had two guests who were stuck there until the roads opened.

At this rate, we might not be getting there to start work before Easter. But neither would any guests, so it would not matter. But, having exerted ourselves to get here quickly, it would be boring to have to wait around for too long in Mt Isa, not to mention costing us money, instead of earning any.

Such are the vagaries of travel while the Wet Season is still on. We remarked that it had been fortunate that such a rain event had not happened this time last year. It could be ages before the roads to Pungalina are open, this year.

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We had travelled this route in just six days!

We enjoyed a bought fish and chip tea.

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2005 Travels September 13-14


We slept in. Wandered about the property. Went swimming – in water deep enough to actually swim in, unlike the camp creek at Pungalina. And where it was croc free – there was no way we could have swum in the Calvert River, with its crocs and bull sharks!

Just relaxed.

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Swimming hole in the creek

I would not have minded staying here a bit longer – I really love the place – but John was keen to push on. Story of my life!

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