This Adventurous Age

Adventures travelling and working around Australia.


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2005 Travels August 31

WEDNESDAY 31 AUGUST     PUNGALINA

Was an early start today, because we took our guests down the Calvert and as far as the Stinking Lagoons. I packed a picnic sandwich lunch to go.

We had set up a makeshift seat in the back of our Truck, where – in travel mode – we only have three seats. but with some extra padding put on top of the tents we carry in the seat space, it was quite adequate.

Stopped at Mystery Shovel Water Hole, briefly, to stretch legs and admire its beauty.

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Had a second stop – again brief – at the Calvert Crossing, then it was the slow and bumpy stretch to the lower river.

Went first to the Stinking Lagoons, where we walked around for a bit, while John described the trip done with the Japanese to the coast itself. There were some horses at the far end of the big lagoon – presumably station horses from Seven Emu, turned out.

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Drove to the end of the cleared track at the lower Calvert and looked at the river there, from the vantage points on top of the high cliff-like banks.

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Then back tracked to the fishing access point on the river, where John and F attempted to catch something – anything, with no luck. It looked like the tide was out at this time.

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Fishing – and keeping watch for crocodiles!

The drive back to camp seemed a long one to me – a sign that I had become very familiar with that route, I think.

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Back at Mystery Shovel Water Hole

When we got back to camp, found that a ding – probably Lachy – had torn through the fly mesh door of F’s new tent, which they had left zipped up. F’s clothes, which had been folded up in the tent, were strewn around the clearing – with the exception of John’s long trousers. He had lent F these, to keep off insects at night. These were still neatly folded on their camp bed! We decided that was a ding sign that John “belongs” here and F did not! Male territoriality…….

We felt really bad that the tent had been damaged. But I was just grateful that there had not been more damage. It was not a great ending to what had otherwise been a very enjoyable day.


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2005 Travels August 25

THURSDAY 25 APRIL     PUNGALINA

John worked 4am to 10pm. I worked 8am to 10pm.

O and John organized breakfast for the guests – cereals and toast – and I cleaned up after I got up.

The fishing party left for the coast before 5am – well before dawn in these parts.

O was to drive the little Daihatsu, with John following, with the fishermen in the Troopy. They would do this until reaching just beyond the Stinking Lagoons. Then all would transfer to the Daihatsu. O believed that the light weight of this would enable it to traverse the salt flats and potentially salt marsh areas, and thus enable a group to reach the coast for the first time, here. He had surveyed the area in the Jabiru plane, and thought he’d seen a way they might be able to get through.

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Stinking Lagoons

O  had fastened two old car seats into the back tray, to enable such transport for four.

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Modified Daihatsu

John had difficulty following O in the pre-dawn darkness. O was kicking up dust, which combined with the dew to coat the Troopy windscreen with mud. O was also going faster than John was really comfortable with – knowing the track better.

At one stage, near the Lagoons, where the track was very ill defined, John hit a big pig wallow hole that he did not see before hand. The guests thought it was all one big joke. Just part of the experience!

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Feral pig damage around the Stinking Lagoons

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Lower Calvert River

The plan went well and they did reach the sandy shore of the Gulf coast, just west of the Calvert mouth. It was about 10am by then, so they only had a few hours of fishing.

The guests caught lots of fish. Some were returned to the water, after being photographed. Some were kept for food supplies for camp and house. I had “ordered” a thread fin salmon, if one was to be had – and it was. I consider them really excellent eating.

O said they had to pack up at 3pm, to get back to camp between 7 and 8pm. He fired the pistol that he always carried in areas where there might be crocs, as a signal that it was time to start packing up. John made a joke of it and told the boys that they must hurry up and pack, otherwise O would shoot them!

It was decided that O would drive the Troopy back from the Lagoons, because there were some sights he wanted to show the guests on the way. John would drive the Daihatsu back. Unfortunately John had not gone far – O had already departed – when the brakes on the vehicle gave up. Nothing there. John continued on, worrying mostly about how he was going to manage the occasional down slope, and especially the long narrow ridge down to the Calvert crossing.

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Calvert River at the crossing

He managed reasonably well, using the gears alone, until the Calvert ridge. He managed that by putting the vehicle into reverse gear and rolling down with the clutch in. When the speed got too much, he would let the clutch out and thus very abruptly slow the vehicle. This probably did not do the gearbox and clutch much good though! But he got down the ridge unscathed.

A couple of times where there were sharper bends that he miscalculated, he ran off the track and into the bush, scraped trees to slow down.

It was a most uncomfortable trip for John because there was no upholstery on the driver’s seat – it had all been chewed off by the dings. His back was very sore by the time he got back to camp. The vibrations had been such that his heavy-duty plastic fishing tackle box was broken!

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Not a comfortable ride….

John was back before the guests. I had been anxiously watching out for lights once it got dark and was most relieved when John appeared about 8pm.

O was not too far behind. He had taken various side tracks to show things, so had gotten behind John almost from the start. He asked John why the hell he’d gone bush bashing in a couple of places, and was quite surprised when John explained why. I think he may have quietly admired the feat of doing that track without brakes!

The group cleaned up and had a very late dinner. I had cooked a whole barra – Asian style – with chippies and salads. Dessert was pannacotta and berry sauce.

The fishermen were on a real high. They had never had an experience like today’s. O and John were pretty happy too, despite sore back.

Poor O had to drive out, after a few hours’ sleep, to get to Redbank Mine to pick up the supplies from the truck.

I was quite envious of John, having actually gotten to the coast!


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2005 Travels August 8

MONDAY 8 AUGUST     PUNGALINA

A day off, after working 15 days straight! And most of them had been long bloody days, too. Right now I was feeling thankful that the camp was not more heavily booked.

The camping party left.

We needed to go for a drive, just to get away from the camp environs.

Back in July, O had found time to slash the track that went in a circuit, around by Kirkby Waters, on to Bathtub Springs, and thence back to the main track near Mystery Shovel Waterhole. It had been the last track area to dry out enough to take the tractor and we had not had time to explore it yet. So that was today’s destination.

The main track to the north – to the Calvert crossing – was getting pretty well defined by now, with regular guest groups being taken to various sites along it. Of course, the further away from the house and camp it got, the less well defined it became. It was still no speed route – the surface was too rough and there were too many twists and turns for that.

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Our first stop was where the recent caving party had done some exploring and found some new caves. We had no intention of exploring down same, but just wanted to look at the opening and the limestone ridge around it.

When you knew what to look for, the fig trees that could be a real marker for caves, were obvious. They grew in such locations because their roots were able to get right down into the ground and find sufficient moisture way down, to sustain them.

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Cave marker tree stands out from the rest of the vegetation

There were also stromatolites in the area.

As we walked up the hill to the cave opening, caught sight of a very large python disappearing fast, down into the cave. Had we’d had any thoughts of exploring down there, that would have been enough to squash same! Then, as I was wandering about looking at things, spotted a big tree snake up in a tree.

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Cave entrance amongst stromatolites

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Pays to look where you are walking, on this place

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Cave up a slight rise from the track

As we followed the rough and slow track towards Bathtub Springs, came across a few of the feral cattle that were still on the place. They did not seem at all concerned by us trundling slowly along, and just kept on grazing near the track.

It was easy to see that this track had been damp until recently, by the number of bottlebrush trees there were around – and in profuse flower.

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Melaleuca viridiflora?

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The Bathtub Springs area was really pretty. The springs there had created a sort of creek/small swamp, fringed by huge paperbarks.

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Bathtub Springs

There were wonderful reflections in the waters, too.

O had a boat moored here for the season. It was the most recently bought one, considered rather tricky, because of an accident involving its previous owner. So, John knew to be careful operating it.

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The boat at Bathtub Springs

He took us out on the Calvert River. Just downstream from where the boat was moored, the river narrowed to one of its choke points -shallows and jammed trees – but we were able to motor upstream for several kms on a wide, slow, stretch of the river.

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It was scenic, peaceful, pleasant, really enjoyable.

On one of the wide reaches of the long water hole, there was just enough breeze to ripple the surface of the water, which created the illusion of stars dancing on the water.

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The river was lined by pandanus and big old paperbarks.

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The far bank was, for most of the length of the water hole, a low, red rock bluff. The colour contrasts were great. We could see where higher flood levels had caused damage to some of the vegetation at the sides of the river.

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After spending some time on the river, we continued along the circuit track, to where it joined the main one to the coast, not far from Mystery Shovel.

Along there, we deviated to look at another creek and water hole, and saw a huge black feral pig wallowing around in the water, with a white egret on its back, doing whatever egrets do. This was the first feral pig we’d seen on the property.

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Feral pig, with egret

After that, it was the trundle back to camp, via the house, where we reported back to A and W, so they would know we had returned safely from our adventuring.

This was a wonderful day off, after such a busy period.

 

 

 

 


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2005 Travels August 4

THURSDAY 4 AUGUST     PUNGALINA

We worked 6.30am till 9.30pm.

O left very early. We heard the engine noise of the Jabiru departing.

No one wanted cooked breakfasts, just the usual cereals and toast.

I made sandwiches, the usual sort of smoko and extra lunch items, to go out with John and the visitors.

Made up a batch of carrot and ginger soup to chill for tea. Made bread rolls. Made a coleslaw and fruit salad.

I fed the survey men cold meats and salads for lunch, including leftover cold roast beef.

After some sight seeing about the place, John took the guests fishing, in the boat on the Bluff Waterhole. They had no luck with the fish.

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Calvert River water hole

Tea was the soup and rolls, BBQ’d sausages and rissoles and corn cobs, fried onions, the coleslaw, green salad, followed by the fruit salad and cream.

We spent some time sitting round the campfire after tea, with the two men, chatting, but they did not stay up too late, for which we were grateful. In O’s absence, the onus for socializing with the guests fell to us.


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2005 Travels July 10

SUNDAY 10 JULY     PUNGALINA

Our day off.

Had the usual sleep in, then went up to the house to do the watering, as usual.

After that, took a packed lunch and drove to Kirkby Waters – on the Calvert River, to the north.

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The Calvert River at Kirkby Waters

Here, the river narrowed and had shallow sections. A small side stream coming in created a somewhat swampy section. It was a really pretty part of the river.

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Tributary stream entering the Calvert

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On the way, we explored a rough side track that went to a low rise where we thought there might be a cave entrance. The trees there looked right for it. We found a cluster of stones that we thought was an aboriginal stone quarry area.

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Aboriginal stone quarry? Or just a heap of random rocks?

Driving around the tracks on the property was enjoyable recreation in itself. There was something quite special in knowing that we were not sharing the spaces with anyone else – that we were, basically, alone, wherever we went on our times off.

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Upstream view at Kirkby Waters

O came back today, earlier than expected, and not seeming very happy about it. Gained the impression that the boss  had communicated that he should be here, attending to the business needs, like what was going on about the survey booking.


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2005 Travels June 26

SUNDAY 26 JUNE     PUNGALINA

We now had two days off. The first for two weeks.

Decided to take M down to the lower Calvert, which she had only seen, quickly, from the air.

Packed a picnic lunch. I took the back seat, so M had a better field of vision.

We showed her various sights and features along the track, and told her of our various exploits associated with particular spots – like at the creek crossing where we could not find where O had exited.

I took some photos of an unusually shaped tree: like a heavily pregnant one, due to a huge burl!

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We stopped briefly at the Calvert crossing, so she could get out and have a good look up and down the river there. Churned up the steep ridge on the other side in low range.

We drove in to look at Big and Little Stinking Lagoons – we had not seen these before. Horrible names for some really pretty places. Could be because the waters do not look drinkable?

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Little Stinking Lagoon

There was some evidence of feral pig rooting in a few areas at the edges of the lagoons. These were on Seven Emu Station, rather than Pungalina, and I wondered whether they had, at some time, poisoned dingoes and thus allowed the pig population to increase? It was nowhere near as bad as we had seen in places like Cape York, though.

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Big Stinking Lagoon

We were rather cautious around the lagoon edges. This was not that far from the river, and the coast, so it seemed to me more likely than not, that there would be a resident saltie croc, though we saw no evidence of same.

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We had lunch at the Lagoons, walked along exploring some of the banks, then returned to the Calvert.

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Island in lower Calvert – looking back upstream

It was a beautiful day – warm sunny, not too hot, blue sky. Just the best time of the year.

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Lower Calvert River – looking downstream

Spent some time at the river, but neither M nor J was inclined to do any fishing. We just walked around, looking, watched birds.

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Yellow bellied flycatcher

 

It took so long to get down to the “coast” (though the track did not actually reach the sea), that there was not time to spend too long there – unless one left camp at dawn, and we certainly hadn’t.

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Rocket like pandanus on the Calvert bank

The track had not gotten any smoother. O had not brought the visiting group down any further than the Calvert crossing, so the only traffic that had been on the lower part of the track, since we cleaned it up, had been O with L, when she visited.

It was almost dusk when we got back to camp.

 


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2005 Travels June 15

WEDNESDAY 15 JUNE     PUNGALINA

During a chat yesterday, O had mentioned that one job he had to do was to move three canoes upriver, to below the Escarpment, so guests could paddle on the long, wide  water hole there. Or, they could paddle further upstream and look for the Surprise Falls.

We said we would be able to help him with that. Or – to be more accurate – John volunteered “my ladies” and himself! We all knew how to paddle canoes.

Before the craft could be moved, O and W had done a two vehicle convoy out the track to the Escaprment. O left the Troopy there, and W drove him back. Thus, we had transport back after our paddle.

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The stretch of river that we canoed – a series of waterholes and shallows. Green: canoe route. Pink: the vehicle track to the Escarpment. (Zoom)

There were three canoes to move – a single, which John would paddle, and two double, open, Canadian canoes. M and I would take one of these and O the other, alone.

O had something to finish at the house, so said to make a start, and he would catch us up. Seemed he thought we would be much slower than him!

The canoes had been lined up on the bank of the Camp Creek, just down from O’s house. It would be easier to get into them there. The little, fast-flowing creek would act like a shute, carrying the canoes down and out into the Calvert River. The creek was really narrow, with bushes and pandanus lining its sides, but O thought it would work alright.

M and I helped John get settled into his canoe, then gave him a good push off, to get him started in the fairly shallow water. He didn’t help us much, in fact, seemed to be resisting our pushing efforts. He was calling out something, but we couldn’t really hear him, over the noise of the rushing water. We persisted, and eventually the current caught hold of him and he disappeared down the chute.

We got into our canoe and managed to push ourselves off, following him down and out into the open water.

John was waiting for us and was very annoyed. He had been yelling at us to stop pushing him into the chute, because he could see that there were lots of spider webs across the little creek! He had burst through them all – golden orb and St George Cross spiders. These hang about in the centre of their webs, so his face was about at their level as he broke through. Fortunately, he was going fairly fast. By the time we reached him, he had brushed the collected ones off himself. But he was not happy! By contrast, we had not encountered any webs, or spiders. He had done a very effective clearing job.

The Calvert at this point is virtually a pool between rocky sections, and fairly narrow, so it was not long – only a couple of hundred metres – before we had to portage the canoes over one of these sections, into a further fairly narrow stretch. We passed the junction with Karns Creek, on our left, and after some more paddling, emerged into a much wider waterhole section of the river. O caught up with us here.

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A lengthy portage section

It was rather lovely, paddling on the river. Certainly, the day was hot enough for the splashes we made to be welcome. Having to get out of the canoes into water that could be nearly waist deep, to move the craft around obstacles, was quite pleasant – if we didn’t think about what else might be sharing the water with us. Ignorance was probably of benefit, at this time!

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Lovely long water hole section

After some time on the broad, deep section, we came to another set of rocks and trapped fallen timber, making an effective barrier. It was still fairly deep, right by the blockage, and I got out of the back of the canoe into waist deep water, to manoeuvre the canoe. M got out the front – it was shallower there.

Later, when we were mulling over the canoe trip, back at the house, O asked me if I had seen the bull shark that came close to me in the water at that stage? Knowing nothing, then, about bull sharks (had never heard of same), I made some sort of flip comment to the effect that it must not have liked the look of my legs! Had I known of their propensity to kill people by almost severing their legs, underwater, I would not have been so casual. If I had also known there were bull sharks up the river there, I would not have been getting out into deep water that way. I had been keeping an eye out for any sign of crocs, but had not even thought of sharks in fresh water. O was wearing his .45 pistol, but I doubt that would have helped much in a bull shark attack!

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Bull shark water hole

Hauling the canoe over the last, quite extensive, portage area was hard work and we were glad to get back into the canoes for the final couple of kms, to the place we were to leave them. There was a wide rocky ledge there, with a scramble down to it from the escarpment above. We clambered up the scarp, and drove the waiting vehicle back to the house., and then, eventually, ourselves back to camp.

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We left the canoes down below here

The outing had been an exhilarating adventure and we were feeling good.

I had been too wary of the paddle to risk taking my camera, so we had no water-level record of the paddle, more was the pity. However, I was able to use some 2003 photos to illustrate.

A task for the afternoon was to cut John’s hair. Our Honda genset was fired up to power the clippers, the chair was set up in Cane Toad clearing, away from our living area, and away I went.

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Over our happy hour beers, we relived the day’s adventure whilst watching yet another glorious sunset.