This Adventurous Age

Adventures travelling and working around Australia.


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2006 Travels September 1

FRIDAY 1 SEPTEMBER     HOWARD SPRINGS

We drove into Darwin.

I did some food shopping.

There were some galleries at the Parap suburb that I wanted to look at, so we went there. The galleries were worth visiting, but we resisted the temptation to buy any art works.

I came across a shop – Frangipani Fabrics – that sold quilting materials, and went in to look around. That craft had long interested me, but I had not acted upon the interest. It did not seem a really portable activity for this current lifestyle. But one day…… so I joined their “club”, whereby they sent selected fabric quarters to members, each month – they were perhaps tempters to get people to buy larger quantities, but I found the idea intriguing and the materials gorgeous.

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Indigenous quilting fabrics

Bought fish and chips for tea.


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2006 Travels August 31

THURSDAY 31 AUGUST     HOWARD SPRINGS

Another drive into Darwin this morning, this time to go to lunch at the Casino.

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I had arranged to meet there with a long-time colleague, A. We had both started new jobs at the same school, in 1982, and had worked closely together. Whilst I remained at that school for sixteen years, until “retiring” to travel, A had moved to our linked school in Darwin – Kormilda College – and been there for years. He was working part time now, in his main speciality of music teaching.

It was great to catch up with him again. Unfortunately, his wife was at work and could not come.

I was interested to hear of the changes that had taken place at Kormilda over the past six years, since the Principal that I had known there, had moved on. It seemed to me that the school was now was mainly a day school serving Darwin and had shifted some distance from the concept at the time of my school’s original involvement – mainly to provide education to indigenous kids from remote communities across the Top End. It had been an ambitious and worthy undertaking, fraught with all sorts of unforeseen issues.

In the course of discussion I shared a memory with A of the time I had been at a Conference in Singapore with that Principal. At dinner one night he was called to the phone, and came back quite ashen faced. A well meaning teacher, freshly employed from Melbourne, had set up a football game to occupy the boarders. For ease, he designated that one team would be made up of boys from certain communities, and the other from different communities. He was not to know that there were blood feuds between some of the communities, going back into the mists of time. The game quickly degenerated into a cross between brawl and all out warfare. Many of the spectating boarders had run away – to relatives in the greater Darwin area, or just into the bush. It was a considerable crisis for him to manage. Fortunately, the Conference was winding down and he could return almost immediately to Darwin. We could now laugh about it, but it had been really serious at the time.

A talked quite a bit about their lifestyle up here. The initial attraction for him had been working with indigenous students, rather than living in the tropics, per se. He said they found it quite a cultural desert – especially in the Wet. They regularly flew to Sydney to go to shows and the like. He thought  that when his step sons finished their schooling here, in another few years, they would move south again.

I really enjoyed our lunch. It was a pleasant break from just waiting around.


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2006 Travels August 23

WEDNESDAY 23 AUGUST     HOWARD SPRINGS

The mango lady – J – phoned us this morning. She said there will not be any mango work for 1-2 weeks yet – still waiting for them to be ripe enough. She asked if we were still interested? Told her yes.

J phoned again, in the afternoon. She said they were in this same caravan park, and invited us to go round and meet them. We did.

They had a large bus. We sat outside in the shade and chatted. They had worked this shed before, but this would be their first year of running the work force. She said it would be a fair length season, because they also received mangoes from Katherine to pack, and these would be a bit later to ripen. So the season should go into November, maybe even early December.

THIS was the job I wanted to do! Not WA. The latter one was, due to delays, becoming too late for my liking, maybe even running into January. That raised questions like: what would we do about Xmas? What about cyclones? The heat? Would we have to leave the van alone to fly home for Xmas? All of these thoughts were negatives to me.

J said she was going to try to make the shed a 6 day on, 1 day off, rotation, with 10 hour days. They would start at 7am, with a 10 minute break every 2 hours. There would be a 30 minute – unpaid – lunch break. These were much better conditions than the shed we’d worked at Giru in 2002.

We would only pay 13% tax on our earnings. This was because Darwin was classified as a remote zone. That was good news, because it meant that our Litchfield earnings would also count towards the remote tax offset too. I estimated we would clear about $750 a week, each. That was respectable.

We liked J and her husband. I felt they would be reasonable and fair people to work with. I was now feeling really positive about being here.

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Ripening mangoes

M phoned at night. She was now at Elliott, so she had stopped “waiting” for us. I told her we had decided today to do the mango job.


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2006 Travels August 21

MONDAY 21 AUGUST     DARWIN

It was a quiet day for us. It felt really strange without M about.

We spent time packing up our camp and getting ready to move out tomorrow.

We had decided to move out to the caravan park at Howard Springs – closer to where the mango work would happen, if we were still going to do that. It would also be a less costly place to stay.

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Packing up at Hidden Valley

Basically, we were just waiting around to hear about the construction camp job – or the mango one. That manager, R, had been so vague that we really did not know what might be happening there. Had the impression that whatever was holding up access to the site might  prevent the job happening at all. The uncertainty was quite frustrating. I was quietly hoping – hard – that the construction job did not happen at all.

We collected a batch of mail from home from the PO at Berrimah, where we’d asked for it to be sent. Nothing untoward there.

M phoned, at night. She was at Elsey National Park, at Mataranka. She had intended to stay last night at Umberata Gorge, but when she got there, did not like it, so had moved on to Pine Creek for that night.


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2006 Travels August 20

SUNDAY 20 AUGUST     DARWIN

M left to start her journey south. I was sad to see the Troopy drive off.

We went to bowls at the Darwin Club. Over last summer, John bought new bowls, that tracked differently to his former ones. They were bright yellow, so really stood out on the green. After this morning’s effort, I concluded that his yellow bowls were not enhancing his game, at all. I thought he played much better with his old ABT ones.

We were sitting outside the van, having our happy hour, when the air force planes came in low, to roost, just on dusk. Their flight path was straight over us, here, and they were incredibly noisy. On some occasions, they had been out on night exercises and when they were coming back, the noise was so loud that we literally could not hear the TV, in the van! But they were interesting and exciting to watch.

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Hidden Valley – ensuite sites upper right side


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2006 Travels August 19

SATURDAY 19 AUGUST     DARWIN

We went to the shops at Casuarina. Got groceries and the weekend papers.

John picked up the two new pairs of glasses he’d had made. He was satisfied with them.

John wanted to have a look at African Mahogany timber. He had found a timber yard a bit further out the highway, so we all drove out there. Wandered about, looking. They had big stacks of the wood, but the man who handled all that side of things, in what was mainly a landscaping firm, was not there. We would have to try again another day.

African Mahogany trees are – as the name suggests – not native to Australia. They are a fast growing, shady tree, so were planted in large numbers around Darwin, after the devastation of Cyclone Tracy in 1974 destroyed much of the existing vegetation in the town. Now they had become large trees with an unfortunate tendency to drop large limbs, and fall over in storms. So there was a removal program under way, with the result that the rather beautiful timber was available.

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African Mahogany tree

On the way back, John spied a Telstra tower in the distance, so drove down the track to it and parked. There, he had a fiddle about with the laptop and mobile phone and aerials, trying to sort out his connections and internet stuff. He had the laptop and bits arrayed on the Truck bonnet.

We were not far from the airport, where there were the usual Dry Season air force war games happening, based at Darwin Airport. It occurred to me that we could look as if we were engaged in suspicious, subversive activity, here! So I was happier when John abandoned his connecting up efforts.

We had a farewell dinner for M, who had decided that there was now nothing to keep her in Darwin. She may have wanted to get away before John coerced her into remote area work! I cooked a roast chook with all the trimmings. She bought a couple of bottles of wine and we had a little party.

I had a final attempt to persuade John that it would be a good idea if I went south, too. It did not work.


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2006 Travels August 17

THURSDAY 17 AUGUST     DARWIN

John was busy in the van, trying to fix up his new internet connecting gizmo.

M and I left him to it and I went with her to the shops at Palmerston, and then into the city. She wanted to do some more Xmas shopping for various family and friends.

At Target in Palmerston, I bought a couple of pairs of long chino trousers that were on special. I figured they would be useful if we finished up working where long gear was needed. Bought myself a couple of loose, cool, casual tops, too.

Meanwhile, John found out that the Rumble in the Jungle Bowls match, which had been supposed to be this coming Saturday  – after our waiting around for it –  had either been deferred until much later, or cancelled altogether for this year. So there was no bowls commitment this weekend for us. It is funny how things work out. If we had not been waiting around for that, John would not have seen the jobs ads, and we would probably by now have been heading south, being happy tourists along the way! I was quietly annoyed.

In the later afternoon, took ourselves off to Mindil Beach markets again, to get tea, which we ate wandering around. We did not go and sit on the beach with the crowds, but the brilliant sunset was in the background.

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