This Adventurous Age

Adventures travelling and working around Australia.

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2003 Travels April 30


Today I was rostered onto shop/reception, and helping in the kitchen, as it was M’s day off.

B was on cleaning/housekeeping. She brought her sewing machine up here with her – very “crafty” lady – so she had the task of trying to sew a replacement zip into one of the tents. I was soon to realize that zip issues were a regular occurrence, because most of the tents were fairly old, and were not great quality to begin with. They got quite rough treatment from some guests too.

So I cleaned the showers and long drops for B.

V showed me more of the shop routines. It was quite complicated, with register codes, and the like. It seemed that the register was designed for use with a scanner, but we had no such creature. One enters a numeric code for the item being purchased, and a pre-programmed price may then flash up. However, this may not be the correct price, because prices may have changed and the register not been updated! So, mental arithmetic and adjustment required. As well as trying to learn the programmed codes, to get faster at the process. For items with no pre-set price, like fuel – which was paid for at the shop – one had to enter both code and price. A good degree of care was needed. It was to prove all too easy to place zeros in the wrong position, thus charging 28 cents instead of $280!

I also had to try to master the use of the credit card machine – another first for me. Another place where those zeros were waiting to ambush me.

The mail plane came in to our air strip during the morning . V took the outgoing mail bag over to it and brought our bag of mail back. This proved to contain our first batch of mail from home, sent as arranged with the house sitter, and my newspapers. There was an interesting letter from the sitter.

John was on canoe hire.

I decided that the cook was not exerting herself, overly. She worked a split shift arrangement, with three or four hours off during the day. She then sat on the deck, drinking wine or beer for a while, before tackling dinner. I wondered how she was going to get on when it got busy, and she was regularly catering for fifty or more, as we did last year.

The roads in this area are being thoroughly worked on, which is most welcome, as it has not happened every year, to date. Some of the road crew stayed here, some of the time, and cook and her daughter seemed to be quite friendly with some of them.

The weekly supply truck, due today, was very late arriving – at 7.30pm. We all refused to do the unloading, at that time. It would not be a fast task. So the driver stayed the night. The company doing the trucking to these parts had changed since last year. This had made it harder for the boss, who now had to order on each Monday, for delivery on Wednesday of the following week – i.e. ten days away, and before the current week’s truck had arrived, and it could be seen what was missing from that order.

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2003 Travels April 29


My work today was much the same as yesterday’s.

I washed sheets and towels used by the fly-in duo. Had to wait for them to depart, which was rather late in the morning. But I got the sheets dry and put back on the same beds, which is the idea. There are not that many surplus sheet sets, and the ones that have been put on the beds kind of go with the doona covers in that tent.

I cleaned the showers and the three long drop toilets that are located near the guest tents – closer than the ones in the main building and until this was completed last year, the only ones at this end of the property, for guests. It was not a pleasant job, because of the smell!

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Shower block for tent accommodation. Water heating donkey at back of tank stand

There was only one working washing machine, so doing the washing was slow going. But I did manage to get our washing done, as well.

During my lunch hour, phoned the newsagent in Mt Isa and arranged for them to send me the Weekend and Monday Australian newspapers, in the weekly mailbag. It would cost me about $10 a week. I wrote a cheque for $120 and “posted” that in the mailbag, to go out to them this week.

I finished work just after 5pm. Showered, then relaxed till tea time.

John was on canoe hire today, at the National Park. He enjoyed it. There are not that many tourists yet, so it was not all that busy.

The bosses drove to Mt Isa today, until Thursday. They said they were confident with their team here, in their absence!

One of the men would have to go and close the front gate a bit after dark and then remember to open it again first thing in the morning. A big old white bull had been an intermittent visitor for some time, but was showing up more often, and would be chased out of the place when seen. The closed gate was to try to stop him sneaking back in after dark. Bull in a china shop might be one thing, but bull in a crowded campground, in amongst the guy ropes and gear, had a whole lot more potential for chaos.

The nights were quite clammy, still. There were cane toads everywhere.

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2003 Travels April 28


Our first day of work. The alarm went off at 6.30am. Too early! John went over to the deck for his breakfast, but I had mine at the van.

John then drove off to the National Park, to observe the canoe hire in action, and “learn” it.

I started at 8am.

I swept the shop, verandas and dining deck – that took over an hour. Cleaned the new building amenities. That also took ages, as I had to clean things that hadn’t been done for a while, but which I thought should be done on a weekly basis – clean the scale from the water off the toilet bowls, clean the white tiles that skirted the base of the walls, and clean the mirrors.

B  started out helping me, but then she had to drive to the National Park to take her husband his thermos flask, which he had forgotten. She did mop the floors when she returned.

I suggested to the boss that the leaf blower be used on the verandas and deck, instead of sweeping.

There were three donga rooms to be made up. These were the rooms that the builders were staying in last year, now available for guests as an alternative to tented accommodation. B had washed the sheets from these yesterday. I made up the beds, set out towels, cleaned the rooms, then hosed down the veranda that ran across the front of these four rooms. I also cleaned the chairs and tables on that veranda.

I learned a lot about the housekeeping side of operations, today.

The old tour bus that was the room for H the tour guide from Mt Isa, last year, had been converted into the linen store – it was parked close to the laundry area. H now used one of the staff donga rooms, near where our van was parked.

During the morning, the boss showed us how to empty the Telstra public phone that was located out the front of the buildings. She needed a key, laminated card and empty coin box. We actually collected more than her printout showed should be there. Then the coins were counted and exchanged for notes, to be put away for “banking”. Money had to be taken to Mt Isa for this, usually by the company tour staff.

I had an hour break for lunch. Helped myself to food put out in the kitchen for staff, and sat out on the deck. This was quite pleasant, with very few guests about. When it got busier, I thought I’d probably take my lunch across to the van, as I did last year.

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Late April sky, seen from the grove area

I finished off the day in the reception/shop, learning about the booking methods and the use of the register.

I knocked off about 5.30pm, by which time I was really weary. There had been a lot to take in, through the day. Had a shower, over in the block at the back of the tented accommodation. The cool water was very pleasant.

John’s last job for the day was spreading sand about to fill in gaps in the laid stone work at the campground amenities. It had been John’s idea to do it, to reduce the risk of someone tripping, but it was quite late in the day when the boss started him on it.

Two guests had come in, during the morning, flying in an ultra light plane. They were staying overnight. A boss drove them to the National Park for part of the day. They were to be entrants in the big Gregory Downs canoe race, at the weekend. I talked with them, for a little time, before and after tea.

Dinner was at 7.30pm again. The cook seemed a bit under the weather. There was steak parmagiana, but this was not as juicy as the way the cook did them last year. They were not put in the oven to cook until 5.30pm! There were potatoes, carrot sticks, a broccoli mornay made with very yellowed broccoli. Dessert was carrot cake on a platter, with pieces of honeydew and rock melon, and grapes.

There were some adverse comments because the dinner was dished up for some time before we were called to get it, and was almost cold.

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2003 Travels April 27


We slept in until after 8am. It was so good not to be getting up early and driving!

Breakfasted at the van – our usual grapefruit. The boss would order some of these in for me, each week, on the supply truck, so I wouldn’t be going without. Another concession that I’d negotiated before we came was to be supplied with bottled water for daytime drinking. I could cope with the local calcium-rich water, filtered in the jug in the van, for my tea and coffee, but not for straight drinking.

Today was one of much pottering about. We finalized the “home” set up. I took my eggs, remaining vegies and salad things, up to the kitchen and donated them to the cause. I did not intend to be cooking for us for some time now.

In the afternoon, we walked around the campground, getting a feel for it again.

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A camp site

Saw some interesting “used” cicada shells on some of the local snappy gum trees, clearly showing the hole in the back of the shell, where the new and larger insect had emerged.

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Cicada shells


We wandered along the Lawn Hill Creek bank, admiring the serenity of the Grove. As camper numbers built up, this would lessen!

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Snappy gum and cicada shells

Finished inspecting the new building – the shop and reception part at the front. Seemed functional enough.

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Lawn Hill Creek waterhole at Adels Grove

John and I found out our rostered duties for the week. I was to do tents/amenities on Monday and Tuesday. This was basically, housekeeping – changing the bedding and towels in any vacated tents and dongas, cleaning them, and cleaning the showers and toilets associated with that accommodation. It included washing the changed linen; there was no dedicated laundry lady this year. Wednesday and Thursday I would be on shop/reception duty, and Friday was day off. That seemed a sound introduction to my main duties here, this season.

John was rostered on to doing the watering and cleaning up the grounds on Monday. He would go to the National Park for a few hours to learn the canoe hire work, ahead of being allocated to that on Tuesday and Wednesday. Water/yard duties again on Thursday, and off on Friday.

I thought it would be good to have the variety through the working weeks.

We filled out forms for superannuation – we would get the compulsory contribution this year. Last year, that did not happen, because we were onkly going to be working for a couple of weeks, and it was never caught up on.

We wandered down to the grove and sat chatting with V and F. They were having two days off, having been working solidly since they got here.

John was able to hook his laptop into the office computer and download share stuff, emails and check our banking. Amazingly, we were not in the red, despite the Truck repair expenses, and the purchase of much fuel to get here. John would be allowed to do such a download once a week, so we will not be quite so isolated from the world! This would be our only internet access whilst here.

The Coaster bus was broken down – oil in the water, so maybe a gasket problem? It was not a good time for this to happen, as there would soon be visitors wanting to do the Riversleigh tour. Getting it fixed was a dilemma – it could not be driven to Mt Isa and trucking it there would be a costly option.

The liquor licence had not come through yet. Again, the timing was not great for the start of the tourist season. They could only hope it did not take much longer.

Tea tonight was even later – at 7.30pm. It was mostly left over chicken and salads, with potatoes and a spinach quiche to eke it out. Dessert was leftover baked apples from last night.

Once the dinner, bed and breakfast accommodation had guests, dinner would have to be at a more regular hour, I thought, even though it was pleasant, eating when the night was cooler.

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2003 Travels April 26


Left Cloncurry at 7.30am. Refuelled on the way out of town – 99cpl.

There was not much traffic on the narrow Burke Development Road north to Burke and Wills Roadhouse, with its one vehicle wide strip of asphalt. So we had no issues about having to pull over for oncoming traffic.

Took a short break at the Roadhouse – refuelled, just so we could maximize how much fuel we had, before the next fill up at much higher prices. Had morning coffee from our thermos.

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Burke and Wills Roadhouse

I bought John a polo shirt with the Roadhouse logo on. Unfortunately, they did not have one in my size.

From here, we travelled north west on the Wills Development Road.

There was still quite a lot of surface water in the hollows beside the road, though this was clearly drying fast. There were large groups of brolgas on some of the larger wet areas. We were just a couple of weeks late to see the best of the end of the Wet. Maybe one time we’d come up this way early enough in the year to see it straight after, or during, after good rains.

Stopped to eat our sandwich lunch by the Gregory River, where we’d camped last year. There were only a few camper rigs there, but I suspected it might fill up more,  later in the afternoon. But clearly, the late seasonal rains and associated closed roads, had resulted in fewer travellers in these parts, just yet.

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Lunch stop beside the Gregory River

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The Gregory River at Gregory Downs

The unsealed road was alright as far as the turnoff to the Century Mine, and not too bad after that – at least by our standards. There were a few dips, not yet graded after the rains, that were rather gullied out, and we needed to take care in those. The last few kms had been freshly graded.

The scenery over this last stretch was so familiar. We could see the workings of the Century Mine – though a traveller who did not know where to look would probably not notice.

It really felt like coming home!

V was manning the Reception desk when we arrived. She was so excited to see us. M, too – and we met her baby for the first time. He looked so like his dad.

The boss wanted us to set the van up in the old staff compound yard, rather than down in the Grove. He thought there were already too many staff rigs hooked up to the donga power point at the top of the hill, that serviced the staff area in the Grove, and to the water point down there. There were V and F’s van, the cook’s Coaster bus motor home,  and the lead from the donga that the cook’s daughter was in.

We would have preferred to have been down with the others, where there were lots of birds, a nicer environment, and the group camaraderie – it was a blow. But he was the boss. It was shady enough at the top, and high up enough to occasionally receive some – faint – radio.

It was not easy, manoeuvring the van into the space where he wanted us, amongst the old dongas. Our outlook was not what I had been looking forward to – sheds, dongas, old fencing, and a single long drop toilet – convenient for us, if not exactly attractive looking!

It took us a while to set up our camp.

We wandered up to the dining deck area about 5.15, expecting to see the final flurry of tea preparation, but the meal was much later than we’d expected – at 7pm, instead of the 5.30 of last year. Apparently the cook preferred to cook later, in this heat. She and daughter had about a three hour break in the afternoon, to compensate for tea being later.

The meal was chicken drumsticks in a seasoned marinade, baked in the oven, boiled whole potatoes, a mushroom balsamic salad and a zucchini based salad. For dessert, there were baked apples, with a caramel sauce, and custard. The menu is already a big improvement on what B and I had to cook, last year! I guessed that was the influence of having a “proper” cook. It would be interesting to see if it lasted when the diner numbers increased – just now, it was cooking mostly just for the staff – about a dozen or so.

The diners do not wash up their own dishes any more, as they were expected to, last year, because the  wash up sinks were now inside the new kitchen. It was indicated to us that all staff are expected to hop in and help with this, though, so that would be a bit of an add-on to the normal working hours. But staff used to help us wash the pots, pans and serving stuff, last year, so perhaps not a great change.

There was still no hot water in the kitchen, though! The service was there, but there was some problem in getting it operational. Still needed  buckets of hot water carted from the nearest donkey heater.

There was much in the new kitchen set up that I recognized from our old kitchen of last year, now rather a forlorn shell down from the dining deck, waiting for some sort of new purpose. The stoves were the old ones, moved up top. The old wire frame we used as a shelf had been turned into an overhead store and hanging implement set up, suspended above the central bench. There was the old steel topped bench and table. Plus the old plates, saucepans, plastic ware – rather a motley collection.

There was now a lovely spacious “dry dock” – unloading area for goods from the delivery trucks – adjacent to the kitchen, and away from where tourists could venture.

But there were the same old problems with the power supply, fridges, freezers and the like.

Obviously, upgrading a place like this was when purchased, could not happen all at once, and transitional arrangements just had to be borne.

I was certainly impressed with the way the new building functioned. When we left, last year, the building was far from finished, though our last meal here was the first served on the new dining deck – from our “old” kitchen. Part of me even envied L, working in the new kitchen!

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Dining deck, servery to kitchen, walkway to front of building and reception/shop

Having a set of toilets in the new building – flushing – was a major improvement on last year, where we either used the somewhat primitive long drop version, over beyond the tent shower structure, or walked a fair distance to the campground amenities.

Cook and daughter seemed a pretty efficient team. The alcohol supplies we brought from Cloncurry were actually for them. I didn’t think they had realized how remote this place was, before they came, and how far away any shops were. They were friends of friends of one of the staff couples and had applied to come here for a different experience. It would certainly be that! They had not been here long.

Apart from the boss couple, cook and daughter, and ourselves, there were two other couples working here – V and F from last year, and an Irish couple (B and M) who were related to one of the Mt Isa owners. As the season built up, there would be others, no doubt.

It was still hot and humid in these parts – 30 to 35 degrees in the daytime, with nights still a little too warm.

There were lots of cane toads about.

It was so good to be back!

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2003 Travels March-April


We had been asked to return to work at Adels Grove, where we worked for several weeks in 2002. But this year, we intended to see out the full tourist season there. I had been adamant that I did not want to cook, again, but was happy to take on the other roles assigned to the women. John would rotate over the various men’s tasks.

We were to be there a few days before Easter, which was mid April this year. Our original plan was to leave home as soon as the bowls season finished, in March, and travel a round-about route north, taking about a month to do some sightseeing along the way.

As usual, our plans were things made only for changing, or derailing!

The white patch of skin on an inner ankle, that had irritated me while we were at Doomadgee last year, turned into an open sore which was diagnosed as a varicose ulcer. As I didn’t even have varicose veins, this came as a considerable shock. According to the surgeon, her intervention was the only way to repair the area. Apparently the weakened vein valves causing the problem, were a legacy of my pregnancies, decades earlier.

So, instead of being up near Bendigo, in late February, helping daughter with her new born son, I was recuperating from surgery, at home. Daughter and newborn had to come and visit me! Infections hampered recovery time, and it was late March before I received the all clear to resume normal life, albeit wearing compression stockings for much of the time. That was not going to be fun in the tropical conditions at Adels Grove.

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Recuperating and meeting grandson

By the time I was ready to travel, John had been persuaded to make a very fancy blackwood cot and changing table for his first grandchild, due to be born in late March. The cot was to be a sleigh style, but able to be turned into a single bed when the child was ready for same. By the time the timber arrived from our favourite Tasmanian mill, the boy had been born and March was almost ended. John could have been spotted, slinking around stores that sold baby furniture. trying to surreptitiously take measurements and jot down design details, while I tried to distract staff by acting like I thought an intending shop lifter might.

We had Truck serviced and given a “really thorough overhaul” at a Land Rover dealer we’d begun to use as a closer option to the Frankston one where we’d bought Truck six years ago. John explained to them that we were going rather remote, and needed the vehicle to be reliable. These days, after our Kimberley problems in 2000, he insisted that the wheel bearings be serviced too!

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2002 Travels June 17 – August 2


Because there was little variety in our days here, it is better to describe the time in sections.

Adels Grove history

The 30 hectare site was first occupied in 1904 as a Miners Homestead lease. Because of this origin, it remains rather an anomaly in this region of vast pastoral leases.

Albert De Lestang took up the property in the 1920’s. For a time it was known as The Frenchman’s Garden. He began collecting tropical species and established his own botanical garden, containing a wide variety of species – over 1000 by 1939. A system of little channels irrigated much of the gardens from the creek. He also grew vegetables and supplied locals and passing travellers from a small shop.

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This relic may have been part of the Frenchman’s irrigation system

It is unclear whether he was formally commissioned by the government to experiment with the growing of plants in the tropical environment, but he was certainly well known in botanical circles, and supplied seeds and specimens widely, including to Kew Gardens.

In the 1950’s a fire destroyed his buildings, papers and some of the gardens. It was not an enterprise that he could rebuild at his advanced age, and he died in an aged care home in Charters Towers in 1959, aged 75 and probably still devastated at his losses.

What we knew as “the grove” was some of Albert’s irrigated gardens. There were still some undulations in the ground that were remains of his channels, flattened by time and campers.

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The oasis effect that Lawn Hill Creek has in this otherwise dry area

After Albert’s departure, the area was neglected and sometimes occupied by prospectors. Floods, storms, termites and general neglect killed off all but the most hardy plants.

In the 1980’s, Adels Grove was bought by a couple, who developed a campground. By 2000, this was described as a collection of mostly tin structures, old caravans, and the like. At least one of Albert’s sheds remained. There had been an amenity block built for the campers, of local stone and cement, water tanks and “donkey” style wood burning water heater put in. By 2000, deteriorating health led the couple to sell to a consortium of people from Mt Isa, who were involved in one way or another with tourism in the district.

One of the purchasers had been involved, since the early 1980’s, in running small group tours to Lawn Hill and the Riversleigh fossil fields. To provide overnight accommodation on these tours, he had been permitted by the owner of the Riversleigh Station lease, to establish a bush camp on the station, near the Gregory River. By the late 1990’s, he had resident managers running this tent camp at Riversleigh.

During the 1990’s, as part of the process of gaining local aboriginal consent to the establishment of the Century Zinc Mine, west of Gregory Downs, two large pastoral leases were purchased by the mining company, to be handed over to the aboriginals – Lawn Hill Station and Riversleigh Station. The latter included the land that the tourism tent camp was on and the operator was informed that the aboriginals would take back that camp and run it themselves.

While all this was eventuating, the people involved with that camp, and friends working in tourism in Mt Isa, formed a company and bought Adels Grove. They felt quite justified in removing from the Riversleigh camp all of the movable infrastructure that they had put in there, moving it to Adels over the summer of 2000-2001. The gate to the Riversleigh area was locked; the proposed aboriginal camp venture there never happened.

The Riversleigh camp managers moved to Adels as resident owner/managers, and had their first tourist season in 2001.

The place as it was when we worked there

The place, by all reports, was rather run down when the group bought it. By the time we went there, much work to improve it had already been done. There was obviously much potential, if tourism should develop further in the area.

We initially went there as tourists, so our first impressions were of the office area, and the campground. From the office area, a gravel track led off to the campground, passing the construction area, and another donga building, hidden behind a bamboo fence. This was the cool storeroom and kitchen.

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The original shop/office. The bamboo screening hid the coolroom donga

The building under construction would contain the managers’ flat, new Reception area and shop, office, a proper kitchen and coolroom, toilets, and the dining deck. It was clearly a measure of the new owners’ ambitions for the place that the structures that had served the old campground would no longer be adequate.

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The new building under construction

Next to the construction area was an old tin shed – a workshop, with fuel bowsers at the front. To its side, and in an L shape, hidden by some vegetation from the camp ground track, were old caravans and another donga style building. Various staff members were occupying these sleeping rooms. They were fairly run-down looking. In this same area was a fenced off and partially shaded vegetable garden area.

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The tin shed workshop and fuel area

Across the other side of the campground track from the shed area, was a small camping area containing tents set up for the tourist season, for hire, containing made up beds, and with a table and chairs set up at the front. These were set nicely apart from each other, and each had a firepit with BBQ plate, and a tap.

The campground had some fifty sites. The first six or seven of these were on the right hand side of the track – fairly small sites on the rise above the Grove, looking over it and nicely shaded. The remaining sites were shaped into the scrub and trees, reasonable distances apart, and of varying sizes. A few sites a bit apart from the others were designated generator permitted sites. The amenity block that served the campground was nothing fancy – cement floors and tin walls were in evidence – but were adequate, although somewhat stained from the calcium in the water. Hot water for the showers came from a donkey heater that was lit and stoked by the male staff, who had to gather the wood from the surrounding country and chop it. They also cleaned the amenities.

From the campground, one could walk down through the Grove to Lawn Hill Creek. When we started work, only the staff camped down in the Grove, but then it was opened to campers, with small camper trailers or tents only. No generators or pets were allowed down there. There were no formal sites – campers made their own spaces. It certainly became a popular place, with its full shade and closeness to the creek. As this happened, the weeds and scrubby growth were essentially cleared by the campers and the area enlarged.

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Looking down into the Grove area, before it became a popular camping area

Lawn Hill Creek formed a large, deep waterhole, a few kms long, from beside the Grove, back upstream towards the National Park. There was a swimming platform moored there, and a canoe launch point. The creek curved around the side of the Grove; due to obstructions and wet season flood damage, plus little tufa falls as a barrier, it had split into two or three channels, forming an island. One of these channels formed the shallow swimming area, good for children, just down the slope from the new building and outdoor eating area and providing a lovely outlook from these areas.

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Between the office and store donga and the creek was an area not immediately obvious to the camping public, unless they walked up from the Grove. A large, flat, shaded area formed an outdoor dining area, with plastic tables and chairs set up there. This was the eating area for staff, the builders (who, due to remoteness, were provided with food and lodging while putting up the building) and for paying guests in the tented dinner, bed and breakfast section. The coolroom and kitchen donga edged one side of this outdoor eating area. More about the kitchen later – I got to know it well!

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The back of the shop/office, looking past the kitchen to the new building. Outdoor dining area.

The DBB tents stretched off to the side, facing the creek channel – another section not obvious to the campground public. Beyond these was a long donga containing four bedrooms,  where the builders were staying. Near this was a tin shower block, with four compartments and nearby donkey heater. There were three long drop toilets in that area.

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The tented accommodation for guests

The furthest structure was a small roofed, open air laundry structure, facing the creek. Here, this reformed into one bigger channel again, and there was a lovely little set of falls – the laundry had just the best outlook!

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Washer woman at work

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The wonderful outlook from the laundry

Water was pumped from the creek to a couple of holding tanks on high stands, to promote gravity feed to various points. Water was reticulated through underground pipes – PVC – to the campground taps and other water points. Although the edges of each camp site were delineated by small, white painted rocks, and the printed information given to campers requested no interference with the areas beyond, an ongoing problem was campers driving in tent pegs beyond the site boundaries and puncturing the water pipes! Very few admitted to doing so, however! The leak from such a puncture would result in the water tanks running dry, usually overnight, with resultant inconvenience to all. One of the men would be assigned to find and repair the leak.

One of the men’s jobs was to keep an eye on the gauge on the side of the main water tank, and go down to the creek and start the pump when the water level became low. They would then go off and do other jobs until the cry went round from whoever was nearest – usually we cooks – “tank’s full” – when it was overflowing.

Across the other side of the road to the National Park was the airstrip – of a standard able to be used by the Flying Doctor, as well as fly-in visitors.

Beyond that was a track to a rubbish dump pit, at a good distance away.

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2002 Travels June 12


We had a fairly leisurely pack up and departure, not having far to go.

It was hard to hook up the van – the jockey wheel was wedged in the river pebbles. I really should have thought to put down a board to rest it on! John became really impatient with my efforts.

It was a pleasant enough run to Adels Grove. The way was fairly flat, sometimes quite substantially scrubby, other times rather bare grasslands. There were occasional scrub lined dry creek gullies; we needed to slow down and take care not to hit these too fast. Eventually a low range appeared in the distance.

The turn off to the zinc mine was about 45kms from Gregory Downs. The unsealed road got worse after that – there must have been more maintenance done on the section that served the mine. John perceived the road as rougher than I did.

There was not much traffic at all.

After crossing several more substantial stream channels fairly close together, a couple with shallow water in, we came to the entrance to the Adels Grove campground. Made our way along a driveway to a donga building that was the office – with a large building site beside it. There were a number of really attractive trees about, so first impressions were favourable.

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Just as we were driving in, there was a distinct roar, and a plane took off from a nearby airstrip – it was a Flying Doctor plane.

We asked for a site that would give us plenty of sunshine for the panels, as this was an unpowered campground. We were told that each site had its own tap, fireplace and BBQ plate. The cost was $16 a night – we booked in for a week, so got the final night free, which brought the cost down a bit. Received a brochure about the place, with a map of the campground, and also one about the Lawn Hill National Park.

The office, which was in a green painted demountable donga style of building, had a small shop area at one end, with some basic supplies, and a freezer that held icy poles.

To make some conversation while we were being processed, I asked how many staff were working here, and how easy it would be to get a job in a future tourist season – the lady replied that it would be quite easy. That was an interesting idea to tuck away.

I asked about the Flying Doctor plane we’d seen. A tour guide had been taken ill and evacuated. To myself, I wondered what would happen to his tour group now, but it seemed too inquisitive to ask. The reception lady did say that it takes the plane 45 minutes to get here from Mt Isa, and that they’d had two other emergency evacuations in the past few days – but that rate was not normal! We had visited the Cairns Flying Doctor Base, back in ’98, so were aware of this coverage of the outback for medical emergencies – but this was the closest we’d come to seeing it all in action.

Although the bookings book I could see on the office counter looked quite hectic, there did not actually seem to be that many campers in the place. I thought maybe people book here, over the phone – as we did, with no deposit needed – but go to the National Park first and find out that they can get in there after all. We had always intended to stay some time here, as Melbourne friends had told us it was nicer than the National Park campground.

We drove to the camp area, a little distance away from the office. The campground covered quite an extensive area. There was a really good separation of the natural bush and trees, between most sites – they were more like clearings in the scrub. It was very pleasant to find something different from the normal geometrically laid out campground. Our site boundaries were marked by white painted rocks.

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We had a very good sized site. It was not too far to walk to the amenities block, which was rather basic, but clean. The hot water for showers came from a wood burning heater arrangement, outside. There was no laundry.

Set up. Had lunch. Lazed about on our site, as it was quite hot. No other campers came in to the sites near us.

We’d been told at the office that the construction site was a big new building that would be the managers’ residence, kitchen, office/shop and an open-air licensed restaurant. That seemed a bit ambitious, out here, was my initial thought. The construction area was roped off. As the campground was some distance from it, we were not likely to be disturbed by building noises, fortunately, as it was otherwise a lovely, peaceful place.

As it started to get a bit cooler, later in the afternoon, we walked down to Lawn Hill Creek, which was part of the place. We walked along its bank, on tracks through quite lush vegetation. The creek made a really large waterhole at one point. There was one section where there was obvious flood damage, with undermined banks, and that was fenced off from walkers.

We encountered B and D again, also walking around exploring. They were with a tour group, having left their van at Gregory Downs. They came in today, for one night only. They went walking at the National Park this afternoon and were going there again in the morning, to go canoeing on Lawn Hill Gorge. They said the tour groups stay in tents, on the other side of the Office area from where we were. Obviously, some meals were provided for them.

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Lawn Hill Creek at Adels Grove

According to the information we’d been given, this place had been established in the 1920’s, on a former mining homestead lease, by a Frenchman – Albert de Lestang. He set up a type of botanical gardens here, experimenting to see what would grow in these conditions, and sending seeds to other Botanical Gardens around the world. The name Adels Grove came from the initials of his name.

In the early 1980’s a couple set up the bush campground here, but they had sold it a year or so ago. I supposed that new owners explained the new building activity?

Our tea was pasta with tuna and capers.

I tried to teach John the card game Mike had taught me at Duck Creek. Don’t think I properly remembered it, because it did not seem to flow as well.

No TV here, of course. We haven’t had it all that much, so far, on this trip, and I have to say that I do not miss it!

Although, on our way out here, we had seen no sign of the mine, apart from the road turn off, at night could see the glow of reflected light from it.

We are finally at Adels Grove/Lawn Hill! Two years ago, adverse weather caused us to abort plans to come here.

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