This Adventurous Age

Adventures travelling and working around Australia.


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2006 Travels September 16

SATURDAY 16 SEPTEMBER   EIGHTY MILE BEACH TO NORTH POINT CAMP   355kms

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Eighty Mile Beach Caravan Park

We were back travelling in good time.

More dreary country to Port Hedland.

Reached there in time to go to the shops at South Hedland and get some weekend papers.

Refuelled there – $1.54cpl.

Port Hedland was a town in two parts. The older town and the original port facilities were on the coast but recent times had seen the main residential section and associated shops built several kms away, at South Hedland. The two were separated by swampy ground and extensive salt harvesting flats. The highway went by the new part.

There was a message on the phone, when we came into range again. It said we would be paid for our days of travel, as well as for fuel and accommodation. Yippee – because we had certainly racked up lots of travel hours!

Took Highway 1 out of Hedland, then the Great Northern Highway to the south. The country was marginally more interesting.

Followed our directions to – at about the 100km range from the highway junction – watch for the second turn off to the right, to the Yandeyarra Community. It was rather more than 100kms, but as predicted, opposite that there was a small sign to North Point, by a track  that went to the east.

We took that dirt/gravel track, which was in quite good condition. Drove through the dry river bed channels of the Turner River, then about 3kms further on, there was a cluster of buildings that had to be our destination?

Pulled into a large parking area and went looking for our contact, H. He proved to be of retiree age, like us. We got the impression he had not known we were coming, but he walked around the establishment with us. Showed us the dining area – tables set up on bare ground, under tarps, outside a catering caravan. There were two shower/toilet dongas, one with a washing machine in – a total of two toilets and two showers, only, and unisex. I didn’t know how many people would be using this camp and was starting to wish that our little caravan had its own bathroom facilities!

There were a couple of rows of dongas containing bedrooms – all looked very pre-used. Other donga type buildings were scattered about. There was a tent too – apparently some of the visiting aboriginals did not like being inside the rather confined donga rooms.

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Fly Camp

Rough “paths” of gravel linked the buildings. A big generator powered the place. Its noise was a constant background.

It was not a camp set up to fill one with great confidence!

H warned us that death adders abounded in the surrounding spinifex bush, so walking about out there required care. Lovely!

H decided that we could park the van right up at the end of a row of dongas, where there were also a couple of old caravans. We could plug our power lead into a power box on the end of the dongas. It was essential that we have power – already it was hot enough to need air con.

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Our power source – quite a few plugs hooked into that one power box

It was obvious from the tour that we would be fed – there were a couple of catering/housekeeping staff.

So, this was a “fly camp” – a temporary, initial camp. It had been set up for some weeks already – by Fortescue, not our company. It had been used by FMG people and those doing environmental and native heritage assessments and surveys. All the start up stuff. Now, our company people were allowed to be “guests”, too, while we worked to get the Rail Village 1 to a point where the company people could move there while finishing off the place.

We followed a track around the camp perimeter to our designated spot and parked the van at the end of the donga row.

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Unpacked and set up. Plugged our power lead into the box  along with several others. Because the lead had to cross a path to the van behind, John dug a trench, found a piece of plastic pipe and fed the lead through that, under the path. In the process, he disturbed a very pretty, well camouflaged  little gecko type reptile.

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Resident reptile

John took some photos of our van and the camp from up on top of the roof rack.

Being right at the edge of the camp set up, we were not far from the scrub that surrounded the camp. It was a pity that our van windows had to look out, though, on close by old vans and dongas, rather than the bush!

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We have camped in more attractive surroundings than this…….

Went to our first dinner at fly camp. It was served buffet style. There was a mixed green salad, potato salad, a mix of prawns and snap peas, hot rice, fish and chips, followed by a Boston bun style cake. Not bad at all.

Had no real idea who was who amongst the handful of fellow diners. Got the impression that there were not many company people here yet. One guy, K, did introduce himself – I thought he might be the site supervisor.

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2006 Travels May 3

WEDNESDAY 3 MAY     LITCHFIELD

John was to start work at 7.30am. His first task every morning would be to clean the toilets. The first step of this involved taking the lid off the cistern and removing all the little frogs that had congregated in there during the night. These were to be put into a bucket, walked down to the creek and released there. I wondered how many people had a job description that began in this way?

I started at 8am, in the kitchen.

We would get one day off each week, although it might be more, depending on how busy they were, and who else was around to work. We were to enter our start and finish times each day in a record book. Broadly, we were to work until 5pm, with a half hour off for lunch. But finishing times might vary, depending on what needed to be done. All fine by us.

Under the instruction of Boss 1, I had a day of much learning – and of making notes in a little pocket notebook. There was a lot to take in all at once, about making the cafe’s salads, and the short order cooking to be done each day.

The business of the cafe was two-fold. Firstly, there was catering of lunches by prior arrangements with several bus companies. A number of these brought day trip tourists out from Darwin to the Park, and brought their clientele here for lunch as part of the deal. The regular ones phoned through, about 8.30am, with their numbers for that day’s lunch. The catering was then set up accordingly, in the bus group lunch area outside, which was delineated from the general public’s eating area by a thick rope barrier. Occasionally, there were other bus  groups too – part of extended coach tours.

The bus groups lunches consisted of cold meats and salads, bread and butter, sliced watermelon. Sometimes, by special arrangement, a BBQ lunch would be cooked for a large tour group. to replace the cold meats. There was a BBQ structure built outside, for these.

The other main business was short-order meals – mostly lunches – for independent travellers. Numbers here were unpredictable, of course. The menu featured a variety of burgers, sandwiches plain or toasted, quiches, poached barra and salad.

I was to quickly learn that there would always be some sort of sweet offering available, displayed in the chilled cabinet at the counter. More on that later.

Reflecting the above division of trade, as mentioned, there were separate dining areas. The general public could choose tables inside the cafe, out on the veranda, or out on the lawns at the front. The bus group dining area was on the creek side of the cafe. Some of it was roofed. The buffet meals of meats and salads, and sliced watermelon, were set out on counters under the roofed part. Coffee and tea were served for them out there too. The dishes were washed in a sink area out there, thus kept separate from the dishes generated by the cafe trade and the cooking – for which I was grateful!

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Bus group area. Serving area at right; fridges and wash up area at far right

If bus people wanted to purchase dessert offerings, wines or soft drinks, they had to line up in the cafe, like anyone else.

The business also ran a small tented accommodation facility, and guests staying there could purchase breakfast and dinner, if required, as could the general public. Some trade in these meals came from the caravan park and campground that was next door. The breakfast and dinner trade was fairly small.

I was to do breakfasts, if needed after opening at 8am. But whichever boss was on duty would do dinners. That suited me fine. I had enough to learn without getting on top of those menu offerings too!

Basically my role would be preparing the food for the bus group lunches, in advance, and doing the cooking of the short order lunches. If it was really busy, the duty boss would help with that.

The cafe made a feature of its coffee – made and served in plungers, and iced coffee. They also served milkshakes and iced chocolate. The coffee beans were specially sourced in Darwin and ground in the cafe as needed. B would help with making drinks if we were busy.

Another special feature of the cafe offerings was their mango cheesecake, which was apparently recently favourably mentioned in a Lonely Planet guide book. Making that would be another of my jobs!

It was probably no wonder that my brain was rather reeling at the end of this day!

John learned about the garden and lawn watering he was to do, daily. A special project, to start with, was to help Boss 1 build a structure by the entrance gate that would be a little gallery to show local aboriginal art works, and maybe have one or two local artists working in there. The bosses seemed to have various close links to local aboriginal communities.

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Lots of lawns to be watered and maintained by John!

There was another staff member – a lady who helped part time with washing up, cleaning and the like. She was the wife of the teacher at the local aboriginal community school, a few kms away.

I tentatively sounded out Boss 1 about whether there might be work for friend M, but he could not see a role for her – as yet. Maybe when the season really heated up?

Boss 2 returned from Darwin, we met him and completed some paperwork for him.

I had made us sandwiches in the cafe, for lunch, but again cooked our tea at the van, from my own stocks.