This Adventurous Age

Adventures travelling and working around Australia.

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2003 Travels June 15


I was on reception again.

In the time before my late starts on such days, and on afternoons when we knock off at 5 or 5.30pm, it was just so pleasant, relaxing out the front of the van, in the Grove. It was such a green area, because of the thick canopy, and things growing in every direction one looked. The thickness of the canopy meant that little grew beneath it, so the ground was covered in leaf litter, rather than scrub or weeds.

I loved the bird life. There was always something to watch, and be entertained by.

The great bowerbirds bounced around our camp area – they were so amusingly ungainly, and always looking for food to steal. The white gaped honey eaters were bold, and would fly right into the main kitchen, through the servery hatch, looking for food.

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White-gaped Honeyeater

There were regular territorial battles, by our van, between willy wagtails and white browed robins. We regularly heard the raucous calls of the blue winged kookaburra.

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White-browed Robin

The pair of barking owls that lived around the Grove could be quite loud with their little dog yapping noises. Sometimes, we would yap and one would answer us!

One day, I’d had a camper come up, while I was on reception. She was very cross because, when I’d booked her in the previous day, I’d told her there were no generators or dogs allowed down in the Grove camp area. She had thought it would thus be lovely and peaceful. Now, she insisted to me that she’d been kept awake for hours the previous night, by a camper’s dog barking nearby. She was quite aggrieved.

I asked her if it sounded like little dogs, yapping. She answered yes. I told her the noise would have been our barking owls. Then she got really angry because she thought I was joking, at her expense, and she scoffed at the idea of owls that bark. I had to get the bird book out from under the counter – very grateful for it being there – and show her the entry, before she would – grudgingly – accept that the sound in the night was from birds.

There was always something entertaining, here!

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Great Bowerbird and his bower

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1998 Travels October 9


We had to be up much earlier than usual for our trip out to O’Briens Creek. This “official”  topaz fossicking area is about 40kms to the NW of Mt Surprise, along a reasonable gravel road.

We had arranged for a lesson on fossicking for topaz, from Sam, at Elsie’s Place, on the fields.  He does the instructing on her leasehold. We had to be there by 8.30am. Starting at this hour made sense on a hot day. The lesson cost $10 each. We had no trouble finding the place, following the instructions given at the PO yesterday, by the lady who booked for us.

The fossicking is easy enough – just dig up the gravelly dirt, sieve it, and look. The hard part is figuring out where to dig, when you are on your own! Sam is an interesting old guy. He and John got on really well. After he had showed us the basics – and we had found a few little pieces – he showed us where he is currently digging at Tourmaline Gully, up O’Briens Creek. We had to drive there, following him, but it was not far. Glad he showed us though, as the area is rather a maze of tracks.

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Sam and Wendy digging for topaz at Tourmaline Gully

We finished with him about midday – by which time it was pretty hot.

On the way back, we called in at Diggers Rest, the main establishment out there. They hire out digging equipment and sell topaz. The owner has sold up and is going back to Cairns. He lent us a sieve. He has lots of fairly tame birds at the place, which is a bit of an oasis. He showed us the bower of a bowerbird that lives in the garden – most intricate and attractive, with an entry “pathway” of white stones. Apparently, every so often the bird finds some topaz and puts it there, so the owner exchanges that for a different white stone! We noted that there were oddments of other coloured things, discarded beside the bower. Some trial and error perhaps? There were also apostle birds around, out there.

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The bower of the Great Bower Bird at Diggers Rest

Back in the township, we bought a fossicker’s  licence, for $7.50 a month, for both of us. That will allow us to go looking for topaz, on our own, out there.

Fuelled up Truck – 76cpl. The price is dearer inland!

We went for a lovely long swim.

There were several people from the Savannahlander train, now on its return journey to Cairns, overnighting here, in the new cabins. They went over to the hotel for a counter tea. This is the first time this has happened – people usually stay at the hotel – and we hope this is the start of some extra business for Jo and Joe, whose enterprise we admire. I think the Savannahlander would be an interesting little trip for people to do; it certainly covers a range of dramatic country.

Tea was sweet and sour fish. I used a recipe for sweet and sour chicken to get the sauce and it was excellent.